My Big Why
“Go out into the world and do well. But more importantly, go out into the world and do good.”
— Minor Myers
Minor Myers was president of Illinois Wesleyan University when I was a student there, majoring in creative writing and dabbling in political science, philosophy and working on my Spanish language skills.
As I look ahead to a new year, I wanted to share this quote with you, as it sums up perfectly the balance I’ve always tried to achieve in my work. For me, professional success is not only a measure of how much money you make or the respect you earn (although those do matter to me), but also of how much good you’re able to do in the world.
Through my first PR agency job, I chanced into public affairs, and I credit much of my path with that lucky accident.
Public affairs is a specialization focused on government relations. Either you work on behalf of the government to help them educate the public around a certain program or policy, or your client is a corporation hoping to influence public opinion and legislators in favor of their preferred policies.
I loved working at this firm, where I got to work on campaigns for the AFL-CIO and Planned Parenthood. But, alas, I was one of 9 interns, and only one was to be hired.
My next job was in the public affairs division of one of the largest PR agencies in the world, where I worked on government, corporate and nonprofit clients. At this firm, I had so many amazing opportunities. Speech writing for CEOs, working closely with major news outlets in Chicago, and learning from some of the best talent in the industry.
But there was also a shadow side to working for a big agency — I didn’t get to choose my assignments. And, inevitably, I spent quite a bit of time on what I felt to be the wrong side of a controversial public issue.
It was still early in my career, but I saw that if I wanted to pick the issues I represented, I would need to strike out on my own.
But I knew I wasn’t ready to go alone. I needed to gain more experience first. I worked at another, smaller agency, where I gained experience in corporate PR and then, finally, worked at a nonprofit trade organization as their marketing director.
Four years went by before I felt prepared to strike out alone. My consulting business has taken many twists and turns for the past 5 and a half years, but one thing has remained constant.
I’ve stayed true to my commitment to only work with clients whose ideas and projects I believe in.
I’ve turned away more business than I’ve accepted, and the projects I do take on are incredibly fulfilling. Even though the sectors I work in vary dramatically, I get a lot of personal joy from being a part of my clients’ successes.
In other words…
Never believe anyone who tells you that you can’t pick your clients!
I’ve recently started to see how forging my own path allows me the freedom to take on meaningful personal projects as well. A good example of this is when I took 2 weeks off to volunteer on a presidential campaign in 2016.
I wanted to share my story with you today, because I know how important it is to work with people who are aligned with your values.
I have a lot of new projects that I’m eager to share with you, but first, I wanted to take this moment to help you understand why I do this work and what drives me.
I’ll be back very soon with an update on what’s on deck for 2017.
Happy New Year!