In September 2011, I made the transition from full-time PR practitioner to full-time professor at a small, New England private university. This was after 20 years of agency and client-side experience, including the obligatory stint at a New York agency. I still pride myself on being a Jersey Guy, although I wonder why I was crazy enough to deal with that commute.
One of the joys/challenges of being a professor and academic adviser is counseling students as they make the transition to young professionals. I’ve come across many from New England that seem destined to live up to the regional stereotype of never moving/living more than about 20 minutes from the town they grew up in. For many, that means in Boston’s New Hampshire suburbs.
Boston’s a great “town,” but doesn’t spending the first five years of your career in the Boston ‘burbs limit you? A New Hampshire salary will certainly start you out with a deficit compared to Boston. Despite being talented and personable, some of my students from New Hampshire consider Boston a big city.
That seems in direct “conflict” with my advice and observations about the PR industry that one really needs a New York City agency on their resume as early as possible in order to open up more career doors.
The anecdotal observation I have is that if you’ve worked for a New York firm, you’re capable of working anywhere. Without the NYC firm, you’re just small potatoes. I think there’s some geographic snobbery in our industry, but it does exist right or wrong.
It’s that not a NYC agency does any better work – it’s just perception. I always ask clients that want a “downtown” agency whether they’re paying for results or the view from the conference room.
This may also be similar to the career mobility question of going to a small company vs. big brand name corporation early on. Sure, getting major media coverage is easy working for a company like Apple (low hanging fruit – pun intended), while at a small company you can make a big difference and learn so much more. But the big name on your resume still impresses people more – and will sell you into more jobs.
What do you think?