Answering the rising salary demands of youth

In a perfect world, young PR job-seekers would start their careers concerned only with gaining experience. And in this scenario, the important cities in the industry would also sit near the top of any cost-of-living survey.

In a perfect world, young PR job-seekers would start their careers concerned only with gaining experience. And in this scenario, the important cities in the industry would also sit near the top of any cost-of-living survey.

In reality, though, young PR candidates - often lured by the promise of a glamorous career in a chic metropolitan locale - are increasingly disillusioned with entry-level salaries and are sometimes making staggering counteroffers.

Asking for more money without experience to justify the request will inevitably backfire. But there are some ways young PR pros can build a solid case for more money - yet it often involves defying conventional negotiating wisdom.

For instance, while young PR pros can offer agencies social media know-how, they should be careful about overestimating the value of these skills. As social networking moves mainstream, simply having real-life experience with the sites is losing potency.

"Just because you know how to use social media doesn't mean you [can] manipulate it for your clients benefit," says Michael Rogers, president of Michael Rogers PR.

Todd Defren, principal at Shift Communications, says young candidates who keep personal blogs can often make a compelling case for their higher value.

"If it's not just a blog about the parties you've been to, but some thoughtful pondering about the state of PR, marketing, and social media," he notes. "That's someone who I'd be more interested in, that's someone who has leverage."

But the barriers to entry into the blogosphere have never been lower, and in turn, mediocre blogging is becoming a standard resume marker, decreasing its leveraging power, Defren warns.

Additionally, Defren cautions young PR pros from being too focused on money and forcing ultimatums on employers.

"The people who make the most money here never ask me for a raise," he reports. "They knew that I knew they were performers."

David Reich, founder of Reich Communications, says interest in coveted practices area, like health or pharma PR, can give job-seekers bargaining power. Additionally, while some young pros go to large agencies for name recognition they hope will translate into more money later - his hiring strategy challenges this tack.

"I have a preference for folks from smaller agencies because they have been able to put their hands in everything," he notes.

Janet Van Rysselberghe, staffing manager at Waggener Edstrom, says only a small percentage of the firm's entry-level candidates negotiate salary. "Most are willing to accept an appropriate entry-level salary if they know there is room for growth," she adds.

Yet the young pros who ask for higher salaries often cite cost-of-living. She cautions against using expensive rent or car payments as grounds for more money.

"That won't take them as far," she says, recommending candidates offer specific examples of the value they can bring to the agency.

Whether the higher expected salaries reflect a generation gap, or if the glamorization of PR in pop culture has resulted in a flood of young graduates, entry-level salaries are a challenge that young pros have to face, Rogers advises.

"If you want this career, you're going to have to [live with] with a few friends for awhile," he adds.


Key points:

Maintaining a well-written blog with insights about PR and marketing can give entry-level job candidates a salary edge

Simply using social media isn't enough to push for a higher salary, unless the experience is different from the standard user

Don't use cost-of-living issues as grounds for an increased salary, focus on your value

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