CAREERS: Pandora's Problem Page

Q The agency I work for has been retained by a certain client for five years. My boss was on the team that originally pitched for the business, and he has been the lead on the account ever since. She is really good friends with the corporate VP, and they even go out on social occasions together.

Q The agency I work for has been retained by a certain client for five years. My boss was on the team that originally pitched for the business, and he has been the lead on the account ever since. She is really good friends with the corporate VP, and they even go out on social occasions together.

Last month, my boss was promoted and the management of the account was handed to me. This was a promotion for me, obviously, but I have been part of the team for over two years and I felt ready to take on more responsibility.

My problem is with the VP. Whenever there is an issue to deal with, she still calls my boss instead of me. My boss is part of the problem too, because she often will just deal with the situation herself, rather than refer the client to me. I'm starting to feel like neither the client nor my boss trust me - but if that's true why did they promote me? What should I do?

Ms. L, Salt Lake City, UT

A Changing work patterns and relationships can be hard, as you've discovered.

You have only been in charge of this account for a month - that's not a long time. Remember that this is not only a change for you and the client, but for your boss as well. She may be finding it tough to let go of the day-to-day running of an account that she clearly cares about.

You need to tap your boss' expertise about the client in order to move this transition along. Set up a meeting with her. Ask her advice about what you can do to improve your relationship with the client. Tell her you want to make sure that she is not bothered by calls when it is you who should deal with those issues. Most likely, she'll be more than happy to offer you the benefits of her experience. Don't try to cut her out of the loop - keep her informed of developments. With your boss' help, the client will gradually come to see you as her primary contact.

Q I am a VP in a boutique firm specializing in healthcare. I have been working in PR for six years and think I do a really good job. I have a deep understanding of many significant healthcare issues, and have a real knack for developing relationships with patient constituencies.

Unfortunately, I've grown tired of the agency world and the constant need to find new business and track billings. I want to move in-house and hopefully get a job with a pharmaceutical company or biotech. There are a few clients I've worked with who I'd really love to approach about possible employment. But I am not sure if I should contact them or not.

Is it unethical of me to try and get a job that way?

Mr. D, New York

A Provided there is nothing in your contract prohibiting you from contacting clients about employment opportunities, there is no legal ban to your doing so. Some people do believe that it is ethically dubious, but others see nothing wrong with it. Bob Madison, director of strategic communications for Porter Novelli, falls squarely in the latter camp. "The practice - ethical or not - of looking for jobs among the client base is as old as PR itself, and it presents a number of benefits and pitfalls.

Madison warns that the client may not react favorably to your inquiry.

"But this can also be a very good thing for your agency and its relationship with the client,

he continues. "If you leave on good terms, and the agency retains the account, then you are in place as an in-house advocate, a cheerleader for the agency team."

He concludes, "If it feels right, do it. While you owe your agency good work and diligence, you owe yourself whatever is in the best interest of your career."

Do you have a problem that no one else has been able to solve? Try Pandora. E-mail her at pandora@prweek.com.

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