CAREERS: Pandora's Problem Page

Q I am 27 years old and own and run my own boutique PR firm. After college, I started working at a multinational firm, where I was fortunate enough to have a great boss who allowed me to develop and take responsibility for many client relationships. Through an acquaintance, I eventually saw an opportunity to land a pretty sizable account on my own. This enabled me to set up my own firm. In spite of the economy, I have done pretty well, and have been able to hire an executive to handle some key clients.

Q I am 27 years old and own and run my own boutique PR firm. After college, I started working at a multinational firm, where I was fortunate enough to have a great boss who allowed me to develop and take responsibility for many client relationships. Through an acquaintance, I eventually saw an opportunity to land a pretty sizable account on my own. This enabled me to set up my own firm. In spite of the economy, I have done pretty well, and have been able to hire an executive to handle some key clients.

The guy I hired was someone who was laid off from a corporate job, and has been in the business for around 16 years.

He seemed totally into the job before I hired him, but since he started, he seems to have taken on a bit of an attitude about his years of experience. I will say we should do something one way, and invariably he will pull out some anecdote from the Reagan administration that is somehow designed to prove that we should go in a different direction. He knows a lot, of course. I mean, I did hire him, so obviously I want to tap his skills. But I'm the boss, right? Shouldn't what I say go?

Mr. F, New York

A Faithful Pandora readers will know I answered a similar question recently, only from the other side of the generation gap. Having a young boss is not an unusual scenario for many, and it is not restricted to the PR industry.

I am pleased to tackle this question from another perspective.

It sounds as if you have a tendency to present your game plan without consulting this staff member. Why is that? Presumably, you wanted to hire someone with experience. Why do you hesitate to tap it? Are you afraid he will outshine you, and that clients may gravitate towards his seasoned countenance?

You may have a lot of client experience at such a young age, but do not underestimate what someone with more experience can bring to your agency.

You have a decision to make, my friend. Either you utilize the resources in front of you, or hire yourself a college graduate who will take your every word for gospel.

Remember, your employees are a reflection on you, they are not supposed to be in competition with you.

Q Does appearance really matter in PR? I work in the corporate communications department of an office supply company.

I keep getting these signals from my boss that I should do things like dress better, even when we aren't going out to meet with the media or customers. I am basically a jeans-and-sneakers kind of person. The boss at my last job never minded that at all. I don't want to pretend to be something I'm not, you know?

If there is no pressing need for me to dress up, why should I?

Ms. R, San Diego

A The answer to this question depends on your ambition. In some companies, you could wear a paper bag to work every day and it would not affect your career trajectory. Clearly, you work for a different kind of organization, and if you want to succeed there and progress to positions of greater responsibility, you are probably going to have to suck it up. Otherwise, you may want to look for a new employer.

I would urge you to consider this, however: It would behoove you to find a "corporate style that you will feel comfortable donning. We all put on a persona when we go to work, and clothing can actually become part of that facade that helps us separate work from our personal lives.

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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