Michelle Tennant Nicholson, 42, a public relations consultant based in Asheville, North Carolina, likes to fit some white-water kayaking or a quick hike into her workday. “We live a few minutes away from a national park with great rapids, so I tend to plan my schedule so I can go play when the sun is out,” she says. “I do schedule 40 hours of work each week, but I'm hired for the results I produce. If I produce those results quickly, I work less. I have complete freedom in terms of how I use my time.” Her clients have been featured in the Wall Street Journal and on Dr. Phil, but Nicholson is quick to emphasize that in PR, “you're only as good as your last placement. And if you can't handle urgent deadlines and lots of details, this is not your field.”
The profession is relatively barrier free for newcomers, since it doesn't require a specialized degree. A communications, marketing or sales background is useful, as are Web expertise and language skills (to help operate in a global business environment). “Your best strategy is to find a mentor who can teach you the ropes and help you figure out your niche,” Nicholson says. If you're passionate about your clients and their stories, the rest should fall into place. “The rewards of this job get me out of bed excited each day,” she says. “I love that I get to counteract the bad news everyone complains about by sharing good news that makes a difference for people's health, careers and family relationships.”
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