Oi! Get out of the country!

Once you grow up it can be difficult to draw the line between contentedness and complacency. Two years ago I was a Senior Account Executive at EVC Group, a boutique investor relations firm in San Francisco. My company gave me a great role dealing with two dozen CEOs and CFOs and tremendous support to back me, but I was always concerned I wasn’t fully developing a broader range of PR skills. We all crave new challenges and when contentedness turned into complacency I fled in search of warmer pastures.

Sixty per cent of Australian graduates say they plan on working outside of Australia at some point in their career, so I’m here to encourage every Baz, Pez and Loz to make the move – now.

Of all the thousands of professions, public relations is perfect to practice abroad. It’s a budding industry where international and local demand is growing just as quickly as the supply, and it’s a profession that is similar enough across cultures to allow for success, but different enough to provide a challenge. It is one of the few professions where getting a job abroad can benefit the foreign individual personally and professionally, and where hiring a foreign professional can benefit the company or agency reciprocally.

Here are ten reasons why you should consider practising public relations abroad:

There is a global PR skills shortage.  You’re reading a certified Roger Christie®  and Gemma CrowleyTM blog, so you must be smart, skilled and social media-savvy. You’re a winner! Now look around you. One out of five people at your PR firm is reading News.com.au or worse, The Punch. He or she just doesn’t get it. Now look at the internship applications you just received. Where are we recruiting some of these people, at a Ke$ha concert? Every consultancy needs a skilled practitioner, a solid writer and a strategic thinker. Every agency salivates for a guy or gal who can give excellent client service and rake in new business. Every firm is hiring if it’s an outstanding candidate, so go and sell your skills.

Working abroad will enhance your resume, allowing you to work with thought leaders from a range of nationalities and backgrounds, and helping you make global contacts and relationships that will open countless doors in the future. Practising abroad helps broaden your skills as you work with new clients, new publics, new media and new challenges. Your CV will most definitely reflect the benefits you earned while working in another country. 

It’s not permanent!  Yes, I understand how great Australia is and why Australians are great and why no place in this world can compare. We all understand. However, this is by no means a permanent move, and you are free to come back to Australia on anything other than a boat. In the meantime, watch MasterChef online and follow your friends’ updates on Twitter. And don’t worry: Collingwood ain’t winning any Grand Finals in the next two decades.  So ask yourself, what are you leaving behind that you couldn’t come back to in one, two or three years’ time? 

You like challenges and you love adventures.  There’s a reason you completed Movember despite the pathetic patch of hair that grew from your face. And you didn’t just go to New Zealand to laugh at the locals – you jumped off of cliffs and tubed down rivers too. Australians love adventures (e.g. surfing and hiking) and challenges (e.g. national broadband). Living abroad is an adventure unlike any other, and practising abroad is a challenge that even Canadians have taken on in the past. Go for it.

There is no better time than now. You’re young, you’re new to the profession or you want to do this now before you get married and raise a family. It’s much easier to make this move when you’re in an entry-level or mid-tier position, and much harder when you’re too experienced and have children running around, dragging you down financially and emotionally (according to my mom). You’re young and you’re growth-hungry. Tony Abbott is about to be our new Prime Minister. There is no better time to flee than now.

Learn a new public. Talking to Australians is easy when you’re Australian. You know how and where to reach them and you know what messages are likely to resonate with them. You know Aussies. Talking to Mexican-American immigrants or French retail consumers is hard. You’ll learn to rely less on your instincts and more on your studies, your new colleagues and your own inquisitive knowledge.

Meet new people. Embrace new cultures and make new friends. You’re in public relations so you’re obviously popular and extremely well-liked. It won’t be difficult to meet the locals and learn about their traditions, their beliefs, their interests and their obsessions. Every person has an interesting story to tell, and every story will help give you a bit more perspective.

Learn about yourself. Perspective can only be obtained when you have different situations to compare them with. I thought Americans treated their politicians harshly until I saw Q&A. I thought Glee was terrible until I saw Packed to the Rafters, and I thought San Francisco was awfully gay until I moved to Sydney. Perspective is great so keep an open mind and learn more about what you love and hate about Australia by living and practising abroad.

Teach others. You have more to offer than just your skills and rugged Australian good looks. Just as you can learn about another culture and another way of practising PR, you can also teach others. During your interview, illustrate your experience in Australia and the different kinds of companies and campaigns you worked on, and demonstrate your eagerness to learn other strategies. The world can learn a lot from people like you, so don’t feel shy to teach! 

Who doesn’t love an Australian? You’re funny, tall, relatively intelligent and have what many consider the second- or third-best English-speaking accent in the entire world. You rescue koalas from burning brush and profit from koala wildlife parks, proving you can mix a strong business acumen with corporate social responsibility. You’re an above-average swimmer and flexible enough to drink any kind of beer at any given moment, making you fantastic for networking events, client parties or PR box socials. Aussie Aussie Aussie, etc. etc. etc.!

Don Takaya, Senior Account Manager at Sefiani Communications

One Response to “Oi! Get out of the country!”
  1. Iain Hopkins says:

    Hey Don, not only have you convinced me to join the darkside, you’ve also convinced me to flee my home country! I think it was your comment about the possiblity of Tony Abbott becoming our PM that did it.

    Actually, all the points you raised are valid, and I think most if not all PR people would benefit from overseas experience. This must surely be the case for all those working in global agencies. Why not use the existing network? And for anyone who does make the move, the first port of call would have to be a social/professional network like PRINKS.

    Great post – it made me smile, and I discovered a thing or two about PR (eg global skills shortage)!

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