PR Resumes: How Long is Too Long? When is Short Not Enough?

 According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average number of years that U.S. workers have been with their current employer is 4.6. But for younger employees (ages 20 to 34) it's only 2.3 years.   So it looks like across the boards, people stay in jobs less time lately.  

It's an interesting factor when considering Millennials.  It's true that job hopping was much more of a stigma years ago than it is now.  Any recruiter or hiring manager has to understand for example, that no matter where you worked and for how long, if you were let go in 2008-2009 it's forgiven.  And if you took a job during that year and only stayed long enough to land someplace better, that is also understood.  The same goes for the dot com craze, where many terrific candidates were lured away from secure jobs by start ups promising offering huge salary jumps and a shot at the gold ring.

Because the media has changed so dramatically over the last 10 years, professional communicators have had to change with it.  If your company was slow to embrace these changes, your professional development is stunted and you have to move on.  Similarly, if a company wants to get up to speed, they need to hire "new blood" that has digital in its veins.  Considering this, a PR resume will have more job hops than many other professions. 

Additionally, in public relations, the more exposure senior PR people have to how various publics respond today to political, social and economic changes, the more confidently and correctly they are able to counsel their company's leaders.  Sure, the company may hire outside counsel but still, the ability of the chief of communications to embrace all aspects of the new directions will remain of topmost importance to the success of the company's PR strategy.  New happens faster than ever and having a PR leader who has experienced various issues and endeavors that may be new to his current company is definitely a good thing.  Hiring someone who has seen and handled a lot of action is more desirable than it was in the past.

So how long is too long, and how short is too short?  I use this rule of thumb:  For every ten years of experience I allow one move after less than a year with no demerits.  If there are two stints of a year or less, I look for three or four years at one or two places to make up for it.  If i don't see that then I consider it a little red flag and I will make sure to ask for specifics on the move.  Being recruited away or getting downsized are good reasons.  On the other end, when I see more than six years at a company with no significant change in scope of the job, it's a definite demerit.  Promotions are nice to see -- but with more than six years I also want to see additional areas of responsibility or there is the consideration that the person might be stale and the job has become too safe. 

Although there are exceptions to every rule, these are the assumptions I tend to make.  Once I size the resume up this way, I always talk to the person to find out if it's true or not.  Although I always use these rules to make a preliminary assessment, I then look for the other factors like brightness, personal engagement, intelligence, spunk, desire to learn, willingness to change and other such things.  These are the gems I'm looking for. Once I twig on why too long or too short doesn't tell the real story, that's when the magic happens -- that's where I can really help my clients to find hidden talent and it's what I love about my job.


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