Find Your Level of Discomfort and Force Yourself to Stretch

Jessica Nielsen, VP, Communications  and marketing  Lockheed Martin
Jessica Nielsen,
VP, Communications
and marketing
Lockheed Martin

What’s helped you rise in the PR profession? I’m very astute at networking and very good at meeting people within the profession. That’s helped me to create a support system throughout my career of great communicators and marketers.

Were there pivotal moments in your life and career that have helped you? One was when I went to Northwestern to get my master’s degree. I got to meet some very intelligent people whom I’ve maintained friendship with. The second is the activities I’ve done with the Arthur Page Society, specifically a group it formed a few years ago called Page Up. I’ve met some incredible vice presidents and directors of communications at Page Up. That network has allowed me to discuss issues in an open environment and feel I’m getting the best advice I could from my peers. I think career success also is about finding that level of discomfort and allowing yourself to say yes. I’ve looked for the opportunities that have made me stretch as a professional and as a leader.

Is there one person who’s been particularly influential in your career? My husband. He has made sacrifices that have allowed me to take these risks and have the diversity of roles within different industries, companies and parts of the world. That’s helped me to guide my career and learn about the different facets of communications and marketing.

Tell us about a risk you took. I took an assignment as chief of staff to a chief communications officer in London for three years. In that role I was able to lead the development of 350 communications officers worldwide. It opened my eyes; I gained a global perspective from that role. In the era of globalization that we find ourselves in today, I think that expereience has been essential for my career.

What do you look for when you hire? People come into PR and often think they want to do glamorous jobs, like celebrity PR, fashion PR or sports PR. I did. Now, I look for people who want the less-exciting jobs. Those are the jobs where you can end up learning the most.

Jessica Nielsen was honored during PR News’ Top Women in PR luncheon earlier this year. She can be reached at

This article originally appeared in the July 20, 2015 issue of PR News. Read more subscriber-only content by becoming a PR News subscriber today.