Wednesday, May 14, 2014
Before I went to law school, I worked in the video game industry, first for the industry trade association, the Interactive Digital Software Association (now known as the Entertainment Software Association). From there I moved to public relations for the public relations firm Golin/Harris in Los Angeles where my work was focused on product launches for Nintendo. (This was from 1998-2000.) In those jobs, I had the chance to work with some amazing people (and clients), and the experience has served me well, even as I went on to become a lawyer and professor.
One of those people was the managing director of the Los Angeles Golin/Harris office when I was hired, Fred Cook, who is now the CEO of Golin/Harris. Fred recently wrote a book that has caught the attention of the business world and is a top-25 book for corporate customers according to 800-CEO-READ. His book is Improvise: Unconventional Career Advice from an Unlikely CEO, and it’s worth a look.
Here’s an excerpt:
People entering the business world today are a commodity. They’ve gone to the same schools, taken the same courses, read the same books, and watched the same movies. Every summer they’ve dutifully worked at internships in their chosen field in hopes of landing the perfect job the day they graduate from college.
. . . .
While a college education is a prerequisite for most jobs, a life education should also be required. School delivers information. Life delivers ideas. Ideas that drive business. Twitter was an idea. Red Bull was an idea. South Park was an idea.
When I participate on industry panels, someone in the audience always asks what attributes make for a successful employee. My fellow panelists rightly answer that they’re looking for skilled writers, articulate communicators, and aggressive self-starters. My response? I would trade ten of the above for one person with a big idea. But brilliant ideas aren’t created in a vacuum. They’re formed by the experiences we have and the people we meet.
As usual, what Fred is talking about here is broader than just business or public relations. It applies to business lawyers, and non-business lawyers, and law professors, and pretty much everyone else who has a life to live and goals for a fulfilling career. We all have the chance to find our passion, if we’re willing to live, take chances, and find out what we are capable of doing.
Fred’s unique path to being a CEO is rather similar to my path to becoming a law professor in that it would be reasonable to call me an “unlikely law professor.” I was a mostly terrible undergraduate student at three major universities, and I did not go to a top-14 law school. I did well in law school (and practice) and that made it such that when I went on the job market a leading business law academic told me that my candidacy was “plausible.” And so it was. Fred is an unlikely CEO, perhaps, but he is most certainly an appropriate one. I like to think the same is true for me in my role.
My life experiences helped me in practice and helped me get my job as a law professor, and those experiences continue to help me as a lawyer, a scholar, and a teacher. By having had a career outside the law, I have additional experiences that inform my thinking about the law and the legal profession. I know (among other things) what it means to hire and fire people, make media calls, and schedule caterers for huge events. Of course, lawyers can do these things, too, but it’s different as a lawyer.
Beyond that, the people you meet along the way inform you, and guide you, and help you see the kind of person you want to be. I’m thankful for the large number of good people who have been a part of my work-life experience so far, and Fred is one of those people. I’m glad he has written a book that will share some of his insight with a much broader audience. Check it out.