Friday, August 05, 2016

Falling in love with your profession

I've been thinking of a way of making one of my biggest weaknesses on my CV into something of a strength, namely the fact that I've never really worked for a multinational (the closest being an internship in Citibank and two weeks at RappCollins) or the government (the exception being two and a half years in National Service and three months as a school teacher.)

I've thought of it and its tough because I live in a society where anyone with a brain cell would have made it a point of serving in either of these entities by the time they reach my age - the grand old age of 42 (well not quite until November) and they would be established in their careers. Normal people my age would be able to call themselves an "Industry" person.

Since I've not reached that stage in life, I think the approach should be to avoid it altogether and be grateful for what's not taken place. This is not to say that I don't have a skill that makes me marketable. I believe that more than a decade in PR and meeting the most socially diverse range of people I could ever imagine (street walker and jail birds to ambassadors and central bankers), I have enough people management skill to get me through most jobs.

What I mean by the blessing of not having "multinational" or "government" work experience, lies in the fact that I've never had the luxury of falling in love with a particular profession to the extent that I see everything in life through the prism of my chosen profession, which I believe is one of biggest failings of many working professionals. We become so involved in the "industry" where we build our "careers" than define our "lives."

I like to think that I've never fallen into that world view and I like to think that I've managed to stay human and therefore grounded. I think it was my Uncle Jeffrey, who was also one many bosses, who would drum it into me that I was my own best judge of what was newsworthy.

Too many PR and Comms people get obsessed with the fact that they are PR and Comms people. They spend so much time with a client or product that it becomes the centre of their lives and they expect everything to evolve around it. This becomes very worrying when they pitch to the press and discover that the press won't write the story as they think it should be written. Erm, sad fact of life - the press isn't paid to write the story you want them to write. If they did, the client wouldn't need you, the persuasive PR person - they'd get the ad sales people to take care of things.

We forget that we're also consumers of the media as well as the people who plant the stories in the media. We are part of the process of news creation and to be effective at that, we need to know the people what people watch and read and want to watch and read.

Being obsessed with your profession isn't limited to the PR field. In the restaurant game, you get to chefs who forget that they exist for the customer's taste buds. Yes, the customer likes your cooking and eating at your restaurant but they need to taste something that they like to taste. A good chef instinctively knows what appeals to the pallets of the customers because ...well, he or she inevitably someone who eats the food as well as cooks it.

At the end of the day, we're all human beings with the same needs. We live in the same ecosystem doing our part within that said eco-system. Unfortunately too many of us become so obsessed with our part of the system that we forget that we are part of the larger system.

If you fall in love with your part of the system, you tend to lose sight of the larger picture and ironically, you lose sight of the value that your part of the system contributes to the wider system. Advertising people used to be accused to being obsessed with winning awards (among themselves) that they forgot that their industry was merely a part of the larger business cycle. Today, agencies are struggling to find relevance and revenue.

Remembering your insignificance can be a blessing because it makes you more aware of everything else. You become aware of what the other sides of you think and do, which makes you more effective. I write for the press because it makes me more effective at pitching stories to them. I eat at the restaurant I work at because it makes me see things from the customers view. I am a consumer as much as a producer, which actually enhances things. -

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