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In conversation with a millennial


Staff turnover is a common problem in the agency world, and the PR industry is no exception, especially when it comes to millennials.

“Job hopping” may have its upside in terms of the experience you gain — but I’m not sure it does your career path any favours. At the same time while a revolving door policy ensures new life is injected into an agency, it may not be that healthy for the agency’s business objectives and client relationships.

Being a millennial myself, and having experienced three jobs in various PR agencies over the past few years, I asked myself the question: Why? Why are so many millennials battling to find their place in one of the most exciting and creative fields to work in at the moment? And what can agencies do to stem the tide of millennial resignations and retain young talent?

No mentorship and poor management 

For an industry that thrives on disruption, millennials can bring a lot to the table when it comes to thinking of creative, out-of-the-box campaigns and pitches that can make a big impact.

We embrace any opportunity to flex our creative muscles and get involved, but we also want (and need) proper guidance, mentorship and direction from our more senior colleagues.

And, while we may have been top of our class, or be the best thing to happen to copywriting since the guy who invented sliced bread (or the copywriter or coined the term), there are certain tricks of the trade that ONLY come with experience.

It’s easy to feel overwhelmed, despondent and discouraged if we make a mistake and there is no one to turn to for help or guidance.

My advice: Choose an agency that has a solid mentorship program and where senior management are hands on and lead by example, not delegation. A manager or mentor is meant to protect, guide and nurture you, and it’s a vital part of your career growth.

On boarding? What on boarding? 

Another common problem is a lack of adequate on boarding. While some of us may enjoy the “baptism of fire” approach, most millennials don’t really want to go into a meeting and be expected to add value when we know nothing about the client or the business.

My advice: Before you even accept the job, ask about the on boarding procedures that the agency has in place to help you get to grips with your clients as well your agency’s work culture so that you’re not left floundering in the deep end.

Not being paid what you are worth 

Whether you are a complete newbie to PR or you’ve been in the game for a year or two like myself, you’ll know that entry-level salaries in this field aren’t exactly going to be breaking the bank. But just because you’re starting out doesn’t mean you need to get by on a pittance. You are still an adult with adult responsibilities like student loans, rent, medical bills and petrol to pay for.

My advice: An agency that values your skills, talent and hard work will reimburse you accordingly. If you know what you can bring to the table and you are willing to do the hard graft, don’t settle for anything less and don’t let anyone take advantage of the skills you have to offer.

Upskilling and growth 

Most of us grew up in the 90s. We remember the days when there were no cell phones or social media, we remember the torturous experience that was dial-up internet and we remember when apples and blackberries were just fruit. As millennials we know first-hand how easy it is to become redundant. We want to upskill constantly and ensure we stay relevant.

My advice: Any agency that is with the times understands how quickly the world of PR can be turned on its head. Choose an agency that offers training and take as much advantage of these opportunities as you can. You may hail from Gen Y, but remember Gen Z and even Gen Alpha are snapping at your heels, so always make sure you are one step ahead of the game.

Work hard, play hard

Lastly, one of the most important things to have in an agency is fun. We are all creative souls and the old adage of “Work hard, play hard” rings true for most millennials. We want to come to work with a sense of purpose and leave with a sense of satisfaction.

My advice: It’s so important to choose an agency that has a collaborative work culture and horizontal structure. When you join an agency, make a concerted effort to get to know your colleagues, always offer to get involved in different projects, don’t engage in internal politics and petty office squabbles, and remember to have fun.

Jillian Penaluna is an account executive at WE South Africa

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