PR Pros Defining a New Benchmark for Career Success

Sept. 11. The current economic situation. A corporate crisis in confidence. All these factors have coincided to change the way we do business. As we navigate this next era of business and contemplate new meanings for both our personal and professional lives, we begin to observe how freedom and respect for the human capital dynamic will be a key influencer in the future ... a key driver of how senior management reorients its thinking about corporate structures, how employees fit into those structures, and how they will become the pacesetters for new perspectives on the employer-employee relationship. I am already witnessing the net result of this "new beginning" as corporations and individuals alike begin to change the way they go about the search for employees and employers. Individuals are redefining priorities as they relate to career paths and goals, as well as renewing their thinking about what shape they want their lives to take since our perceived loss of freedom one year ago. Whether perceived or real, the notion of something being taken from us is disturbing, even though we may not have thought about it on a daily basis. Even though many of us may have taken "it" for granted. Related to this loss of freedom is a dramatic shifting of values connected to career navigation. Communicators are rapidly rethinking their commitment to traditional career paths sought after by corporate hiring entities, and they are abandoning measures of success that were once favored for the allure of defining their own benchmarks for success. Professionals nationwide are regaining their freedom by taking charge of their careers in ways that we have not seen in decades, through serious contemplation of work-family life balances; through re-ordering of personal priorities; and through a search for professional opportunities that will allow them to believe they are in control and have a vote in their lives once again. I see communications professionals: Being much more willing to make lateral career moves; Accepting positions that represent a different career path, like moving from a publicly held company to a nonprofit that allows them to achieve goals for a cause that is important to them; Accepting positions of lesser compensation that allow them to avoid leaving communities in which they have family ties and roots; Changing careers altogether to pursue passions unrelated to the public relations profession; Taking part-time positions that allow them to spend time with children and families. Empowerment of the Past The last time we witnessed this level of empowerment was during the dot-com era of the late '90s when, virtually by default, professionals gained control of the hiring markets due to the literal lack of qualified and available talent for hire. Corporations struggled mightily to develop strategies to counter the magnitude of control that professionals had gained in what seemed like a moment's notice. Self Discovery Today, however, this is not the case. The shift in mindsets of the professionals who support and drive corporate success is self-discovered, self-initiated and self-driven. It is not as a result of pure luck, it is a direct result of pure contemplation and reflection. Professionals at all levels have taken control of their lives, and this is forcing the hand of corporate management teams, challenging them to strike a new deal with employment forces. The new deal for the future will be a framework of respect, a willingness to display a degree of empathy toward the human capital dynamic, and ultimately, the redesigning of freedom. This new freedom will allow professionals to identify career opportunities that will immerse them in situations defined by intellectual challenges, creative stimulation and satisfying career achievements, while also offering greater stability both personally and professionally. Will employees still give 150 percent? Of course they will! Passion is not defined by volume of work; it is inherently part of the soul. Reordering one's priorities such that a greater sense of life balance is achieved will only fuel the passion we seek in our professional lives. Imagine the sense of satisfaction when a professional can have balance personally and professionally. Ironically, when terrorists set out to steal our freedoms, they inadvertently gave professionals the opportunity to finally "have it all." Employer Response Whether you own your own agency, manage a corporate communications staff or work with human resources on overall employee communications, there are ways you as an employer can keep your top staffers satisfied with and enthusiastic about their roles: Work with employees to devise work hour strategies that will allow for flexibility for additional family time; Create work environments that include more empathy for the employees; Provide career "perks" such as extra days off for jobs well done; Be more sympathetic with professionals who have taken time away from their career tracks to care for aging parents or take care of young children. All of these things should be done in the spirit of renegotiating the employee-employer relationship, in an effort to rebuild the trust that many employees feel has been lost. Smooch Reynolds is president and CEO of The Repovich-Reynolds Group, a national executive search and management consulting firm specializing in investor relations, communications and marketing functions. Contact her at 626/585-9455 or

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