One of the late John Wooden’s favorite sayings was a “failure to prepare is preparing to fail.”
Whether you are playing sports, interviewing for a job or making an important speech, if you haven’t adequately prepared someone else probably has, and that person might eat your lunch someday.
Preparation in our industry — I’m talking specifically about professional development and training — certainly improves the odds of a successful career. I am reflecting on this now because I recently took part in two significant events that shined a light on quality training and preparation at very different places on the career spectrum.
The Early Years
Last week I met a wonderful group of students who were receiving LAGRANT Foundation Scholarships. Fifteen undergraduate and five graduate students, all people of color, and all studying public relations, marketing or advertising, were treated to a daylong career development workshop capped off by an inspirational speech by Shelly Lazarus, Chairman of Ogilvy & Mather Worldwide. The students met and interacted with more than 100 professionals; they asked for career guidance, such as how to get a great internship and parlay that into a meaningful career, and how to learn more about key sector specialties. This is called doing due diligence. It’s also demonstrates how the next generation is preparing to succeed.
Kudos to Kim Hunter, founder and chairman of the Foundation, for his unwavering commitment to the LAGRANT Foundation and the students they have championed over the past several years. It’s hard not to be excited for their futures after spending time with them, and seeing their optimism and ambition. Our responsibility now, as an industry, is to make sure they find internships, then jobs, and, finally, choose to make a career in public relations.
Fast forward a few years down the career path…
For many people who work their way through a public relations firm, the reward for doing great work is often the assignment of managerial duties. We often take this advancement for granted – the transition from producer to manager – but to succeed at it requires a different set of skills – and even more preparation.
Last week, 50 senior agency managers spent two days in a provocative and intellectually rigorous agency leadership program, led by Dr. Ashish Nanda of the Harvard Law School (Disclosure: The program, now in its 7th year, is organized by the Council of PR Firms).
Using Harvard case studies as disparate as a famous Arctic expedition (leadership), auto racing (teamwork), a tragic case of friendly fire (processes & procedures) and various client service scenarios at professional service organizations (team building, leadership), the “students” debated many of the intangible, multifaceted requirements of leadership. It was the Socratic approach at its most instructive and it was fascinating.
One of our members wrote this to me about the program a few days ago: “This was an excellent and mentally-stimulating session that will help me step back and reconsider the nature of leadership and what that truly means to the business of public relations.”
To advance in our careers, we must first visualize how this might actually happen. In addition to having the requisite skill set and confidence, we must prepare to succeed. Last week I witnessed how our future and present leaders are preparing for the future, and I was impressed.
In a related note: next month, we are launching our High Point Series, an ongoing training program for high potential agency people; the first module will be “Motivating and Managing People,” being held in Washington, D.C. on July 15-16.