The Road Less Traveled

Future-PastI’ve been mentoring a student for the past month as a part of my board position with PRSA – Alabama. It always takes me on a walk down memory lane, thinking about why I made some of the job transitions I did. A friend gave me a little desk plaque after a particularly tough transition. It had a fork in the road, with a street sign. One sign said, “don’t look back, no longer an option,” and the other said, “the future.”

As I transitioned through many different jobs (see LinkedIn profile) I always kept the plaque on my desk. It was a constant reminder to not to play the ‘what if’ game with myself.  When I started my own business almost two years ago and set up my office I dusted off the plaque and set it on my desk. After a couple of months I put it away. In fact, I can’t find it. The reason I packed it away is because starting your own business is not a job transition. It’s a life change. It’s affected my perspective on so many things but especially how I think about jobs, work and my advice to students.

When I was in a corporate job I used to talk to students about their resume and how important that is, now I talk to them about networking. Who are they meeting with and what questions are they asking?  They also ask me questions, like how and why did you get to where you are now? Here is a list of the things I believe helped move forward without looking back.

  • Tried not to burn bridges. I can’t say that I was successful at that everywhere I worked, and sometimes I really pissed people off without even realizing it. People are funny that way. They will be mad at you for something and wonder why you don’t understand. It’s because we didn’t know we did anything to make you mad in the first place!
  • Kept my mouth shut. Over the years I’ve seen a lot of things, and heard a lot things. I’ve kept friends because I kept my mouth shut. It is so tempting, especially with social media, to lite up a firestorm. The reality is the only person you end up hurting is yourself. If people, especially your friends, can’t confide in you – then you are not really a friend.
  • Worked Hard.  I still remember the day we laid off hundreds at HealthSouth in the aftermath of the Scrushy scandle. In our office alone approximately 50 people lost their jobs. The rumors had been going around for weeks. I was sitting at my desk when my immediate supervisor came and said he wanted to see me. I said, “Sure let me finish what I’m working on and I’ll be right there.” He was kind of surprised and said okay. About 10 minutes went by and I saw someone else go into the department head’s office… then another. It dawned on me – oh crap, today is the day, I’m about to get canned. I got up and went to my supervisor’s office and there was one other person there. I thought, wow, they are laying-off people two at a time! It turned out we were the only two people staying. The reason why, my work ethic and versatile background.

There are many things I’m good at [not great] so doing these things along the way covered for my other less than flattering traits. (My family says I have a wee bit of a temper.)

What does this have to do with public relations, communications and business? Plenty. I believe these characteristics are still valued by employers and important to keep in mind for those entering the work force. It’s also important if you are running your own business. You have to be self-motivated, keep your head down, and your mouth shut.

Helen Todd, APR
Helen2o: Fluid Communications


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