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17 December 2013

Burnout in Financial PR and Corporate Comms?

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Is there is burnout going on in our industry? For the last fortnight I’ve been talking to people in Corporate Comms and Financial PR about a mid-level post at one of our agency clients. It’s a good job by any standards. But the message coming back is: I want to move in-house. A great many of those not thinking of moving jobs immediately see their next role being in-house. Why do people want to turn their backs on agency life? And can we afford this exodus?

It’s not untypical to start your career in an agency with a view to moving in-house later on. Everyone knows that it’s fast paced and demanding being agency side. You thrive if you’re robust and prepared to work hard. It’s where you cut your teeth and learn your trade. It’s also very exciting and usually great fun and importantly you are learning from some of the best and brightest in our industry. But the demands for 14-hour days, holidays with your Blackberry and the shadow of the old boy network do begin to take their toll if you can’t see a clear path through it and out the other side.

People will put up with most things if they can see where they are going and how it benefits their career. It’s deeply frustrating if you don’t feel you are on a structured career path. Right now, clever and savvy people are voting with their feet and this is bad news for agencies. The economic climate hasn’t helped – budgets for hiring and for promoting have been limited.

It’s true that agency life isn’t for everyone but if you’re smart and feel suited to it why not stay? There are plenty of agencies that get it absolutely right for their employees. Katie Branch, Talent Resourcing Partner at MHP Communications, agrees that there has been a shift in the market: “more Financial PR candidates are holding out to move in-house and salaries are increasing with agencies trying to keep and attract people.” But she says that agencies can respond very positively. “We have made changes in our review/appraisal systems and it’s important now, more than ever, to offer a challenging but rewarding work environment where employees receive the recognition for their hard work and have a clear development path. People’s perceptions of their own careers & workplace are changing; employees want their Managers to understand them, their ambitions and development and for this to be continuous.”

Burnout is a psychological term that refers to long-term exhaustion and diminished interest in work. It means you simply have no more to give. Burnout is bad news for everyone. What do you think? Has the culture of 24/7 been pushed too far? Do you work for an agency that gets it right? We’d love to know.

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