A report in the London Telegraph by way of For Immediate Release states that
A study from the Royal Economic Society underlines the received wisdom that the longer someone is out of a job, the harder it is to get work.
…Using new evidence from the German jobs market, the researchers discovered that the wage offered to someone who has been out of work for six months was on average 14pc lower than they previously received.
After a year, the amount they can hope for is 19pc lower, and it is some 33pc lower after two years.
This erosion of potential workers’ pay prospects occurs quickly, and those who are unemployed for just three months could see their salary prospects fall by 7pc.
The research found that although unemployed people do not necessarily look for fewer jobs as time goes on, the higher paying jobs gradually become closed to them.
Public relations practitioners are in the lucky position that we never really need to be “out of work.” In fact, many résumés of PR practitioners that cross my desk show a history of interspersing freelance work with full-time jobs.
Neville Hobson speaks about the difference between people who adopt the mindset that they are out of work and looking for a job vs. those who engage in either volunteer or ad hoc project work while conducting their job search. He says that this tells you something about the person and affects how they are perceived by others, including potential employers. Shel Holtz adds that, given that better paying, more senior positions take longer to land, communicators are well-advised to position themselves as consultants and attempt to pick up freelance assignments while looking for a permanent position.
I think that Neville and Shel are absolutely bang on in their observations. And while they are talking primarily about people seeking corporate positions, their observations are even more apt for those looking for positions with consulting firms.
In fact, public relations practitioners who use the time between jobs to pursue and land freelance work can increase their value to consulting firms. When reviewing CVs, I interpret freelance time as an indicator of initiative on the part of the job applicant. Moreover, I feel that having to handle the business fundamentals – negotiating a contract, setting a fair rate of compensation, tracking time and issuing invoices and, yes, managing receivables – gives the freelancer valuable insight into the business of PR. It can also translate into better service to our corporate clients through communications practitioners who can relate to the business realities facing those clients.
So, my advice to those who have just found themselves out of a job: Hang out your shingle and pursue freelance assignments while you are looking for the right full-time job fit.