I had been a mom for a little more than three years when I made the career switch from reporting to PR. Now, 18 months later, I realize that many of the skills I need to fill my role as “Mommy” to a very precocious and adorable daughter are also beneficial in my job.
While I am sure that many of my parenting skills help me at work (and vice versa
), here are five of the most significant:
Juggling many tasks
One of the first things any new mom learns is how to do multiple things at the same time. Feeding a baby while brushing your teeth, sorting the laundry, and checking email—no problem. Now that my daughter is older, juggling often involves keeping her entertained while cooking dinner and making sure her soccer uniform is ready for that evening’s game (and checking email of course).
In PR, we often have the same need to balance various tasks while doing them all well. Our clients have different needs and priorities, and it is essential that we move seamlessly from pitching the media about one client to monitoring social media for another, while responding to urgent emails for a third.
Reacting quickly in a crisis
As a parent, I need to respond quickly to the crisis du jour
, either real or imagined. That means finding the right solution for the problem—from healing a scrape with a Band-Aid and a kiss, or hiding invisible monster traps at night to help my daughter fall asleep.
Although the challenges are different, the role of the PR professional requires that same ability. Whether it’s bad publicity, potential legal problems, or a tough legislative environment, my job is to think quickly and creatively to generate the best possible outcome for my client.
It’s no secret among parents that once the baby is born, the good night’s sleep is gone. It may be staying up all night with a crying infant, taking care of a sick preschooler, or worrying about a teenager, but parenting is a 24-hour a day job. And while you may not always like the hours, you accept them as the nature of the job.
The same can be said of PR. I have needed to catch pre-dawn flights for early client meetings, stayed up late to meet a deadline, and dealt with a client crisis on a Friday night. When you take on the job, you accept that it will not always be strictly from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
While never knowing exactly what the day will hold is one of my favorite things about both being a mom and working in PR, it also requires some flexibility in scheduling and an acceptance that everything on the day’s to-do list may not get done.
Before becoming a mom, I was definitely a planner. While I still have that tendency, I am now more comfortable with going with the flow. Otherwise, I might risk missing a last-minute opportunity to secure some great media coverage for my client or a special moment of blowing dandelion fluff and making wishes with my daughter.
Answering tough questions
Like many preschoolers, my daughter is inquisitive, and we’ve hit the stage of the “Why” question, which on any given day can run the gamut from, “Why do some people have brown hair and some people have blonde hair?” to “Why is ice cream cold?” I have to be prepared with an honest, easy to understand answer, no matter the question.
Similarly, in PR, I am often asked tough questions—from clients seeking more information before making a decision to journalists weighing whether to use a client as a source. I must respond as openly and honestly as possible, providing them with the information they need in a timely manner.
As my daughter gets older, and her needs, wants, and interests change (I anticipate that the teenage years will bring on a whole new set of challenges), I expect to gain even more skills and insight that will help me grow as a mom and as a professional. But for now, I am prepared to keep juggling multiple tasks, reacting to crises and answering tough questions—at home and at work. Are you prepared?
Michelle Rash, a senior account executive with Greensboro, N.C.-based RLF Communications, spent 11 years as a reporter before making the move to PR. She works with a variety of clients on media relations, social media, advertising, branding and community engagement, but her favorite role is that of “Mommy” to her four-year-old daughter. A version of this story appeared on the RLF blog Orange Slices.