choose the right practice group

A little over four years ago, I kicked off my public relations career at a small boutique agency in San Francisco. My accounts ran the gamut from consumer to consumer technology to business-to-business (B2B). During my two years with the company, I started to realize that I definitely felt partial towards my B2B accounts. Now that I’ve had some time to reflect, I can chalk this up to my analytical personality and preferences. I like learning about businesses and their products, understanding business pain points and considering the myriad of variables that can affect a business’s success (technological trends, geopolitics, policy, financial turmoil, etc.).

While I was still figuring this out, I received word of an opportunity with SHIFT. Eager for a change and excited to take on a new challenge, I jumped at the opportunity to join SHIFT’s consumer practice group in the summer of 2013. One year later, I was still at SHIFT – but in the process of transitioning to the B2B group. Career-ending move? Not with these folks.

Understanding that everyone’s experience is different and no employer is one and the same, I’ve shared key takeaways about how to successfully make the transition from one practice group to another. Before we launch in, let me state the obvious: you need to be working for a company that is flexible and open-minded to this possibility. In my case, that wasn’t an issue.

Know What You Want- And That It’s For “The Right Reasons”

Ultimately, it’s up to you to determine if your group is the right fit for your interests, strengths, and overall career development. It’s okay if you’re having an (internal) career crisis, but know that the world will continue to spin and clients will continue to have needs. Don’t wax poetic about your indecisiveness with colleagues and don’t look for signs from the Universe. Instead, sit down and think about what drives you. Make a list. Consider what types of publications you gravitate towards when you’re reading for pleasure. Reflect on what you find intellectually stimulating. Be honest with yourself: do you want to move practice groups because you’re genuinely more interested in the clients on the other side? It should come down to more than not liking someone on your team, or feeling like you’re in a rut. In those cases, the grass isn’t always greener. To borrow a phrase most recently uttered by Kaitlyn Bristowe, it should be “for the right reasons.”

Know What You’re Getting Into

If you’ve come to terms with what you want, your natural inclination might be to go full speed ahead. I get it; I, too, am quick on the draw we call life. But, it’s important to slow down and do some fact-finding first. Speak with people working on the “other side.” Ask them what they do and don’t enjoy on a day-to-day basis. Request they give you examples of the types of projects they are working on and clients they are working for. When push comes to shove, there shouldn’t be too many surprises.

Open Your Mouth And Ask – But Be Thoughtful

If you’ve done your due diligence, your next step is to set up some time with your direct manager to talk through a transition. Be honest and upfront with them about why you’re setting up the meeting, so they’re not on pins and needles. Once you actually meet, clearly and logically present your case for why a transition is best for both you and your employer. Because that’s also what it comes down to, right? A happy employee is a generally a more productive and engaged one. A productive and engaged employee is exactly what an employer wants.

In my case, I went straight to the VP instead of my direct manager. No good reason for this – I was just excited. But, it wasn’t a very thoughtful or respectful thing to do. So unless you’re dealing with some unusual circumstances, don’t do the same.

Be Ready To Roll With The Punches

So, you’re making a career pivot! A million girls would kill for that job…oh wait, this isn’t a movie with Meryl Streep and Anne Hathaway? All right then, a few more things to keep in mind: Be open and ready for change. Your new group probably doesn’t do things exactly like your old one. And by “probably” I mean “definitely.”

Be open and ready to take feedback, work with and manage new personalities and self-educate about your clients. Be ready to screw up once or twice. Lastly, get ready to have fun.