Our Industry

The Fusion Workforce: Let’s Make Work More Delicious for Everyone

By Afrika Nieves-Bentley on November 13, 2023

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A man smiles as he points to his laptop screen while his two female colleagues smile as they provide feedback.

My thoughts are on something broader than the PR and communications industry this month. I’d like to address the situation of working in both communications and another industry. I will touch on issues that resonate with people who work multiple jobs in any industry.

Setting the table  

When I went back to college, I decided I wouldn’t work anywhere but an office after graduating. Of course, that’s just not how life is for Millennials.

I work for a PR agency, doing work I love. But it’s contract-based, so sometimes there are many clients, and sometimes there’s a lull. During the slower times, I still have bills to pay. That’s why I have my other job, working at a healthy pet food store. I went to college to escape retail, but here I am again.

And you know what? It’s not something that I have to “escape.” I am a better employee at the store because of my formal communications training. I am building relationships with local community members. I am taking client feedback and brainstorming with my team to improve our services. These are all things that the professors at Durham College wanted their comms students to learn. I am the public face of my organization, whether working as a publicist or “just” as a retail worker.

Now, I am in an especially privileged position because my boss trusts me and lets me do things like start a blog (coming soon), post on social media and design visual media. She gives me more creative freedom than many supervisors, and I’m grateful for that.

Even if I weren’t part of an exceptional team, I would still be doing communications work wherever I was. Wherever you work, your training will come in handy.

Sizzle vs. steak

On the one hand, it’s good to keep this in mind when looking for work in your chosen field. Take everything in stride, even if you thought you’d be out of the service industry by now. On the other hand, I have a few things to say to employers who aren’t rock stars like mine.

You are in charge of managing workers with more formal education than ever. These are folks with two- and four-year post-secondary qualifications. They would have been running the world in another lifetime, but the economy hasn’t kept up with those expectations. You don’t have to coddle anyone or make up a new position for them, but you do have to treat them like the adults they are. These are smart, well-read people. Put some faith in them.

And to those hiring in white-collar jobs, respect people’s work experience. Not everyone can pad their resumes with fancy internships. If someone has the formal training you’re looking for but hasn’t had a chance to break into your industry yet, give them a chance. They’re probably much more trainable than you’re giving them credit for. If someone has a degree or diploma, the soft skills will come with experience.

Let’s get this bread

This is what I want readers to take away from my post this month:

  1. Keep your head up if you’re trained in one thing but working in another. This is the reality of work today, but you should still be proud of your accomplishments.
  2. Service industry employers should remember how educated and capable their workers are.
  3. Employers in office settings, PR agencies or otherwise, should remember to take a chance on professionals who haven’t yet broken into your industry. You don’t want to miss the proverbial diamond in the rough!

Let’s celebrate all professional achievements and give hard-working folks the credit they deserve.

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