Use this triangle to evaluate your career

This month I celebrate the 10th anniversary of the day I carried a box full of personal effects out of the office and drove off into my new life as a self-employed (meaning “salaryless”) PR pro.

One of the best lessons I’ve learned through this journey is a framework you can use to gauge your career development and make adjustments if you’re not completely happy where you’re at.

Imagine a triangle. At each corner are the three most important factors in career satisfaction: compensation, autonomy, and function (the type of work you do every day).

The ideal is to have all three of those factors where you want them. That’s very difficult to achieve. The key lesson I learned? To reach the ideal, you usually need to sacrifice one of the three. The cool thing is that you can make the choice – which one is up to you.

Here’s an example. An agency pro may decide to go all in on earning a high salary. She’ll sacrifice most of her personal life for clients and bosses, giving up autonomy, while she saves a lot of money and establishes her market value. She’s learning a ton getting to do all aspects of PR. Later she’ll choose to transition to a leadership role at a cause or charity she believes in, where she dictates the terms of her workday and the type of work she does. She can afford the inherent decrease in salary because of what she socked away.

A counterexample is the pro who does PR for her alma mater. She knows she’s not making what she could earn if she switched to a tech company. But she’s proven herself, so she sets her schedule and she loves writing features about brilliant faculty.

Those are somewhat extreme – The reality is usually a bit more nuanced than that. The key point is to recognize that you can have it all, but only if you accept the trade-offs required to get there.

In my case, I basically worked two jobs for several years. I got my business off the ground while I still had steady employment. Then I kept grinding to build my client base. I was close to the ideal of controlling all three factors . . . then endured a total freak-out when COVID wiped out my IRL speaking/training business overnight (a third of my revenue). After calming down and turning some knobs on my business model, I’m now blessed to have the salary and autonomy I want while doing the type of work that’s entirely of my choosing. Yes, I’m actually really enjoying writing you this email. It’s the thing I most want to be doing right now. Granted, the NCAA tournament hasn’t started yet :).

I shared five more big career lessons with my Inner Circle earlier this month. Tips and principles that immediately affect your PR career growth that you don’t see elsewhere.

Register here for our Wait List, and you can get free bonus excerpts from trainings like that. And you’ll be the first to know when we open up again for new members so you can get access to my full presentation.

This article was originally published on March 16, 2022

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