CareerCast.com has just confirmed what many of us in the wonderful world of public relations already knew: we work in a highly stressful field. In fact, according to CareerCast.com, PR is the SECOND most stressful occupation in America, landing just behind commercial airline pilot.
In its rankings, CareerCast evaluated 11 different factors such as: work environment, job competitiveness, physical demands (I'll say. Laptops must weigh, what? Two pounds or more? Talk about heavy lifting), deadlines, on-the-job dangers (our men's room would certainly qualify) and even the job's growth potential.
Zeroing in on PR, Publisher Tony Lee said PR people are '….completely at the mercy of their clients and buyers.' He notes that '….the average PR person's success or failure depends on the actions and decisions of clients, creating a stressful situation because their performance is in many ways out of their hands.' To which I say, 'Amen, brother.'
But, CareerCast really only scratches the surface. Sure, there's a lot of stress in PR, but it varies widely. For example:
– There's far more stress in corporate PR jobs because, for the most part, PR is seen as an 'overhead expense' and, along with human resources, is always the first to be downsized in lean times.
– Big holding company PR firm cultures exude far more stress for myriad reasons that include, but are not limited to:
A) Having to simultaneously serve multiple masters (the holding company CEO, the client and the various predators circling the agency's shark-infested waters looking to consolidate their power bases).
B) Having to walk away from countless new business opportunities because of existing conflicts.
C) Trying to stand out from hundreds, if not thousands, of peers. Being a small fish in a large, politically-charged pond is no fun (I know. I experienced it first-hand at Hill & Knowlton in the early 1980s).
That's not to say that life at an independent, midsized PR firm is a bowl of cherries. Far from it. But, we do exercise a far greater degree of control over our fates. And, in periods of growth, I can't think of a better place to be.
All that said, it took me many moons to figure out I needed a personal escape valve to deal with stress. That valve now includes ice, rock and mountain climbing, cycling, running, stand-up comedy and gyrotonic (check out the latter, btw. I highly recommend it for stress reduction).
PR is stressful. But I'd never equate it with piloting a commercial airliner. While some agency leaders may think they make life and death decisions every day, they don't. There are no 'Sully's' in PR who have miraculously managed to land a jet in the middle of the Hudson River. Our occupation just isn't that bad.
Nor is PR as stressful as some of the occupations rounding out CareerCast's Top 10 list: photojournalist, emergency medical technician or newscaster.
And, I wasn't too impressed with the web site's 10 least stressful jobs either. Dental hygienist, occupational therapist and chiropractor finished fifth, ninth and tenth, respectively. All three require a thorough knowledge of the human anatomy and, while not akin to open heart surgery (and, no one can convince PR is more stressful than operating on someone else's heart), things can go south very quickly if one of these health care providers either injures a patient or, worse, happens to be practicing their craft when the patient goes into cardiac arrest.
So, thanks for the PR profession shout-out, CareerCast, but I suggest you either 're-cast' your methodology, examine the 'real' life-and-death occupations within the medical field and do a better job of segmenting the PR profession. While I wouldn't want the stress of running a global holding company PR firm or reporting to a hard-charging, unpredictable Fortune 500 CEO, I'm really enjoying my life in the independent midsized world.
I have stressful days, but I've yet to find myself on final descent into Reagan National Airport only to discover the air traffic controller is fast asleep. Now, that's what I call stress.