Retired from Prudential Insurance Company in 1994. Past president of the Public Relations Society of America (1994) and the PRSA Foundation. Recipient of PRSA’s Paul M. Lund Public Service Award (2001) and the Gold Anvil Award (2002). Held numerous leadership positions in a variety of professional and community organizations.
As you prepare for a career in public relations you undoubtedly have a lot of questions. Will I find a job? Can I succeed? What kind of competition will I be facing? Is public relations really for me? The truth is, there are so many variables involved nobody can answer these questions with real clarity. Most of the answers are very specific to you.
Are you a joiner? Do you like working pro bono for community and charitable organizations? Do you have that vital something called drive? I can’t define drive for you. For me, it is never giving up. It wants to solve problems other people have only given lip service to. And most important of all, I believe drive is the will, ambition and desire to succeed.
You know, of course, you are contemplating a people career. Love and try to understand people with all their faults. Resist feeling you are in competition with the media on the other side of the communications business. Use technology, don’t let it use you. There’s nothing better than working on a person-to-person basis whenever possible.
Maybe it will be helpful if I told you about my career path. I wanted to be an electrical engineer, but that went down the drain when it was discovered I had no talent whatsoever for mechanical drawing, a prime requisite.
I did, however, feel comfortable writing, so I looked for a career in that direction. I did a lot of things many of you probably did or are doing in school. Worked on the high school and college newspapers. Worked par time as a sports columnist for a local weekly.
After graduation, I got a starting job on the local daily newspaper. What I learned about tight writing, organization, collecting accurate facts and, most of all people, proved invaluable. I recommend newspaper training if you can get it.
After four years with the daily, I went on to editing a house publication for a national brewery. Then fate stepped in and provided entree to my 30-year Prudential career. On the very day I was ready to accept an offer with an electronics company, a PR job at Prudential opened up.
Was it all wine and roses? Hardly. It took years before earning a PR manager position and years more before reaching vice presidential rank. Along the way there were many obstacles, and you will face many obstacles, too. It will take a lot of personal courage to overcome them.
Not all will agree with me, but I firmly believe you must be prepared to risk your job in pursuit of doing it right. It is easy to give in to the opinions of others, and many times difficult to fight for what you believe in. The best supervisors will be those who respect you for defending your positions.
If you are as fortunate as I, you will have discovered public relations has it all. It’s exciting, challenging and satisfying.
I will all of you tremendous success.