Constant Need to Learn New Tricks

@Culpwrit got a Twitter “Follow” this weekend from Bill Nielsen, retired head of PR at Johnson & Johnson.  I quickly replied by following Bill, and we then engaged in an email exchange that reflected on how things have changed since we started practicing PR many years ago. 

When I began my career as a newspaper reporter, I was assigned a manual Underwood typewriter and a ream of flimsy yellow paper.  My stories were edited manually by news editor John Rutherford, who sent copy to typesetting where someone re-typed the entire story as each steel letter clinked into forms that eventually would print the actual newspaper.   Shortly after learning this process, we got our first IBM Selectric typewriters, followed quickly by computers that printed out long yellow tape that were fed into the automated typesetters.  When I moved into a PR job, I was back on a Selectric for the next several years.  Bill reflected with similar observations from his early career at the then-legendary Carl Byoir & Associates.  “My first client assignment was in residence with the client in San Francisco,” Bill recalled.  “The agency sent me a Royal manual typewriter and a care of scratch paper.  That was it.  Times have changed.”  He also remembers that account executives were required to produce a minimum of 200 clips every week and a placement in the New York Daily News only counted as one clipping.

I don’t think constant learning is resisted by most PR hopefuls today, but I am surprised that many anxious job seekers lose sight of the need to continue learning even while they look for opportunities to begin their careers.   Over the past two weeks, I’ve talked with two May graduates who had totally different mindsets to continual learning.  One said he is through with studying and now just wants to land a job, while the other has enrolled in an advanced computer technology course where he hopes he’ll learn “some new tricks for the trade.”  I predict the latter job hopeful is going to land first and will go further in his career.  

Point of this post:  It’s never too late to learn something new.  Bill and I accomplished a lot during our corporate careers because we surrounded ourselves with constant learners, who taught us a lot along the way.

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