This is a guest post by Alison Kenney.
Working a part-time schedule is attractive for many reasons and PR is an industry that lends itself to flexible schedules. Or is it?
On the plus side:
Part-time can equate to freelance status in PR which can be more lucrative than salaried work – although non-salaried workers don’t receive benefits through their employer, they typically charge an hourly rate or project fee that equates to more money per hour than what their salaried counterparts earn. See my previous blog and the reader comments about tips for solo PR practitioners if you’re curious about how to make a freelance career work.
Working part-time can be a good way for older workers to ease out of demanding schedules and prepare for retirement — staying employed, even part-time, enables older workers to continue to accumulate savings (through income and employer contributions) and to postpone paying retirement expenses (like contributions to health insurance). A recent report from the Employment Benefit Research Institute says that part-time employment is a growing trend among older workers.
Some parts of PR work can be done anytime, anywhere – non-urgent PR work, such as building a media list or editorial calendar or writing executive bios or materials for a web site, don’t necessarily need to get done during certain hours of the day.
Technology makes it easy to stay connected and accessible – as long as you have access to the internet and a phone you can probably accomplish 90 percent of the PR work you need to do. Skype and other video conferencing tools have made it even easier and more acceptable for people to work remotely. Why is this important? First, more people working remotely blurs the lines around work schedules which makes working part-time more acceptable, i.e. it becomes lumped in with other flexible work arrangements. Second, it’s often assumed that if you work a part-time schedule you’ll be able to check in after-hours and be accessible if something urgent comes up and technology makes this possible.
On the negative side:
The opportunistic nature of PR makes it hard to predict that your job can be accomplished during a set time of day – many PR duties are deadline driven or arise suddenly – such as responding to a competitor’s news, handling communication during a crisis and responding to a reporter who is on deadline – and therefore require PR staff who are available around the clock, or at least during traditional office hours.
PR is a service-driven practice – PR is often perceived as a service business. If you work at an agency, you service external clients. Even if you work in-house you are servicing other functions of the company, such as supporting the sales team, collaborating with HR and furthering the executive management team’s agenda. Depending on their needs and expectations for your services, these clients may not want to accommodate your part-time schedule.
It can be difficult to land a part-time position – As Lindsay can attest, most career positions are not recruiting part-time candidates. I would hazard a guess that many part-time PR employees negotiated their hours after working full-time for that employer and building up a positive track record. That’s not to say that part-time jobs don’t exist or aren’t advertised – but they are outnumbered by full-time opportunities.
What do you think? Is PR the right field for workers who want part-time hours?
Alison Kenney an independent PR practitioner with more than 15 years of PR consulting experience. She is based on Boston’s North Shore and has worked with organizations in the technology, professional services and consumer industries. She writes a bi-monthly PR column on LindsayOlson.com. Learn more about Alison Kenney.