Home > PR ethics > Your First PR Job Shouldn’t Suck THIS bad

Your First PR Job Shouldn’t Suck THIS bad

For the last couple of months now I’ve been surprised by the number of PR blogger that are offering up career advice. The one (fairly) recent post that particularly caught my attention was Todd Defren’s Open Letter to Millennials blog in which he ends with a note that Shift is hiring. In this blog (and his follow-up post) he makes a very compelling point that entry level PR folks should stick it out in their first job because ‘it is supposed to suck’.

I have mixed emotions reading that line. First I wish someone (with Defren’s cred) had told me that when I started out, but I also know that it wouldn’t have changed anything for me early in my career.

I won’t disparage the agency by name (and you won’t necessarily even find it on my resume), but I have to share an early PR agency experience. The agency I worked for had lots of ethical issues – too many and too long ago to get into here – but the final straw for me was after working there for about 6 months my mother died. I took a week off to be with my family attend the arrangements etc. when I returned to work I was forced to attend a ‘company outing’ which was so forced and contrived that it has soured me on all future corporate outings to this day. (a little insight here to my current co-workers who wonder why I don’t attend company events)

After the uncomfortable cruise around Boston Harbor was over, I was informed that I was being warned about my performance. I should also mention at this time that I had already received an almost immediate promotion (also based I assumed on my ‘performance’) – anyway, they informed me that my being out of the office for a week put my account teams in a difficult position. Apparently, they were trying to send me a message that if my dad were to die I better get back in the office the next day.

Needless to say, I couldn’t leave that job soon enough. I was fortune enough to land at a very good agency, but unfortunately I made the mistake of leaving there too soon. But at least that was my mistake and it was on good terms.

I’ve made a few more bad job choices along the way, but I have no regrets leaving that first agency. Over the last decade and a half I’ve worked for some really good organizations and some not-so-great organization. If I had my early career to do over – yeah, there are a few things I’d do (very) differently, but leaving that first job wouldn’t be one of them.

I don’t feel like I’m in the position to be dishing out career advice, BUT I will say that — simply based on my experience — sometime along the way, yes, you need to stick it out at a less than ideal situation BUT sometimes it is best for everyone if you cut your losses.

Maybe HR folks will tell me I’m wrong, but just like your GPA becomes less and less important the more experience you get, how long you stay at your first job will become less important eventually too. I’ve been at my current position for over 6 years which makes my early short stints seems less indicative of the kind of employee I am.



  1. July 20, 2010 at 11:29 pm

    This is a good post Paul. I can sympathize with this. Some of the things I experienced while working within an agency is the stuff to fill books with. It is an experience that I will NEVER forget. Glad to see I’m not the only one.

  2. Jules Zunich
    July 22, 2010 at 5:50 am

    Comment provided by zgrouppr http://zgrouppr.wordpress.com/ said…

    Paul, I am so sorry about your loss. Everyone needs a mom and every mom needs to grow old with their kids & grandkids.

    OK, I think you are right about cutting your loses. Sometimes the best response to a difficult situation is to just walk away. And I am going to read the blog where Todd Defren says your first job is supposed to suck, because I think I might disagree with that. It may be difficult, challenging and stressful, but something sucking means to me that there is no benefit. It’s just a black hole of lameness.

    First jobs are supposed to introduce you to the real world and give you some motivation to move forward (possibly negative) but either way, it’s a starting place, not a no man’s land.

  3. August 1, 2010 at 7:49 pm

    Once I hit the door I have an exit strategy, and that’s the mentality that most newbies should have. Perform well. Give 100 percent and take 100 percent, but know once your performance declines—due to bereavement or illness—the true mask of your team will reveal itself. I’ve had wonderful team members who empathized, but worked with many who didn’t care about my illness. Give 100 and take 100 and run somewhere else with it!

  4. August 10, 2010 at 7:26 pm

    That sucks that a first job is supposed to suck. I feel fortunate. I wanted to work in a small, nonprofit communications team work environment and lucked into one as my first job. 4+ years later and I hate that I am looking for a new job (relocated and the drive is horrible).

    I do feel that I have missed out on the experience of the agency setting though

  5. August 14, 2010 at 10:45 pm

    Thank you all for reading and for the comments.

    Larry and Jules, as always I appreciate your thoughts and insight. ‘SparklyTemp’ and Jay Zeis, thanks for coming by. Hope to see you again.

    I’m not sure I agree with Defren on this one. My first PR job was less than pleasant, but if I thought that was the way it supposed to be, I wouldn’t have left so quickly.

    I guess you chalk it up to whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.

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