Career Guide

Dear Careernomers: Should I take a promotion or leave to explore my career options?

WE have experts on career management, HR and office issues who will address your questions weekly. We refer to them as Careernomers – experts in career matters who will help you in your career journey. So if you have burning questions, send them to and we will get the panel to answer your questions. This week, Datin Nancy S Y Sim-Lim, senior vice-president and head of human capital, Great Eastern Life Assurance (M) Bhd and Emily Wong Hie Ling, vice-president, head of organisational development and learning, Alliance Bank answer Sheela’s question.

Dear Careernomers,

I graduated in mass communications from a local university and I’m in my first job as a public relations (PR) executive in a boutique PR agency. New entrants to this company are bonded to serve, upon confirmation, for a minimum of 12 months.

I’m nearing the end of my 12-month period and can tender my notice if I wish to. Many other executives have left this agency after their bond, due to unhappiness with the bosses, dissatisfaction with the hours and pay, etc.

Whilst I’m not terribly unhappy with this job, PR was not something I definitely wanted to do after university and I’ve always wondered if there were other careers I could explore.

The idea of leaving this company or the PR industry and exploring the world out there is very tempting. However, my boss has given me an offer for promotion and increment – I think in an effort to retain me beyond the bond period.

The increment would really help with my car loan, but I’m worried that I would feel obliged to stay even when I want to leave. If I accept this promotion and leave shortly after that, I’m afraid that my skills would not be up to senior executive level and I will struggle in my next job.

What is your advice?


Dear Sheila,

Thank you for your question and I will attempt to answer the more salient parts.

1. Mass communications degree and career options

You stated that PR was not your main choice of career when you graduated but you have been fortunate to get into one of the better boutique PR agencies.

It does sound as though you have joined a pretty decent company which offers good training but has been subjected to some level of long hours, people challenges and also possibly low pay.

Let me help establish a few important points. In today’s market conditions, a career in marketing and communications is still in demand and there are plenty of options for a graduate in mass communications.

Obtaining a first job in a PR consultancy is a natural progression and this would enhance your resume in the medium to long-term.

Having a start in a boutique PR agency is a bonus as you will be exposed to PR methodologies and frameworks of international consulting firms, have a chance to interact with clients that value PR as an intervention and strategy, and also meet with members of the press. You have the opportunity to use your core strengths which mass communication graduates should possess – analytical skills and writing abilities.

2. Employee turnover, promotion and increment

PR is quite a market facing job and whether you are strong or weak in your work will show.

To illustrate the point,how good are you in:

· Developing an account with a client?

· Establishing or following up on a new account?

· Promoting or advocating an idea using the various communication channels and also various media?

· Influencing and getting to know the business?

Turnover in communications is common because it is an industry where opportunities abound and where personalities need to be patient, tolerant and at the same time deliver at a very fast pace. This is a fast moving industry where deadlines are always around the corner.

But, it does not mean that just because there is turnover, you should follow in the footsteps of your previous colleagues.

Bosses are also not perfect and he or she could have inherited the problems as well.

Looking at your current situation, my suggestion would be:

· Stay and help your current boss.

· Be practical and do save the extra increment.

· The promotion is a recognition of your abilities and a chance for you to lead projects and meet senior clients.

· Your current company sounds like one that invests in people’s development and training, which is good for you in the longer-term.

· Here’s your chance to help your current boss recruit a new team, and plant new ideas. Building a new team is always exciting. You will have a chance to do interviews, and also observe what kind of talent is out there and shape them into the kind of PR consultants that you think the firm and industry needs.

· Take your boss out for coffee and diagnose the problems with him or her – why are people leaving? You have nothing to lose.

· Don’t worry about obligations to stay. I think if your boss has made the decision to increase your salary and promote you - he/she might be grateful that you have stayed on in a time of crisis.

3. Long-term career aspirations

I know you mentioned that venturing out is tempting and PR might not be the first career of choice. You sound as though you are still young and my suggestion is for you to stay and try this out for a minimum of three years and a maximum of five years.

During this period, you will be giving yourself a chance to work with a multitude of clients and also meet many people of various ranks and industries.

It will also give you a chance to work with various media which is very important if you are in communications.

When we are young, most of us are more agile and flexible and it is good to work without having a fixed mindset about things. Don’t have too many pre-conceived ideas. When you start out in a career, it is always important to look at a few things:

· Can I draw knowledge from what I studied and use it at work?

· Will my first job give me a chance to learn and develop?

· Am I working with a fairly decent brand name?

· Is there a future in this kind of field and can I grow into senior management from here?

If your answer sounds like a yes, then stay on. Don’t let your peers distract you.

I hope this helps you make a better decision for the immediate term. As a fresh graduate, you have a world of options and spending a minimum of three years in a role which you have become quite good at is not too much to ask. It is a worthwhile investment.

Nancy S Y Sim-Lim

Dear Sheela,

Many new graduates would not have a clear idea of what they want to do after getting their degrees. But most of them do find their feet after starting work in “accidental jobs”; and have gone on to be very successful in their professional lives.

You are currently working with a boutique PR agency – an area which is related to your training and qualification. I would think that this would be the envy of many who would want to make PR their career of choice.

However, it sounds like you are torn between having an exciting and fulfilling career versus rewards and remuneration.

You would therefore, need to ask yourself what you really want to do – as this would affect the direction in which you develop your career. It is also an important consideration for you to remain engaged, productive and committed in your drive for excellence. Hand to heart, ask yourself the following questions:

· What makes me happy?

· What are my principles in life?

· What does success mean to me?

· What am I good at?

· What do I really love doing?

· What am I really interested in doing?

Speculation is not healthy – if you want to know exactly the reason for your promotion and increment, ask your boss.

Perhaps he/she sees that you have the aptitude and capability to grow in your PR role at the agency.

Discuss the value of your contribution to the role that your boss has in mind for you.

Do not rush into a change just because many of your colleagues have left the company.

Before taking the next step, you may want to consider carefully the options that are available to you.

If PR was not your first career choice, what was it? Reflect and review if this current PR role can enable you a smoother entry into the job of your choice. Ask yourself if you have learned enough in this first year to give you an edge in your career of choice.

Whatever you learn and do now has to provide you with a solid foundation for a fulfilling career.

Before you make that career shift, here are some considerations you may want deliberate over:

· What are my long-term career plans?

· Is the job mentally stimulating?

· Will I be proud to be associated with the company’s brand and products?

· Is the company culture in line with my values?

Be patient and focus on things you love to do. Remuneration and rewards will follow when one excels in one’s career of choice.

“No man is happy unless he believes he is.” - Publilius Syrus

Best wishes,

Emily Wong Hie Ling

The opinions expressed are those of the authors and not necessarily those of Leaderonomics or