When I was approached by the president of the North Carolina Public Relations Society (NCPRSA) about attending the Leadership Rally in New York with our chapter’s president elect Tony Arnold and website chair Lauren Parker, I was flattered and excited. The Leadership Rally is an annual event designed to help prepare leaders for the next year and beyond with important orientation, networking and of course leadership sessions. It was an amazing experience! Not only did I have the pleasure of meeting industry leaders and getting a lot of great ideas, I also got to spend three days in the Big Apple (but that’s for another post).
I gleaned important information on topics ranging from increasing engagement among members to financial literacy, and the highlight for me was keynote speaker Fred Cook. He is the CEO of GolinHarris, one of the world’s largest and most successful PR firms. Cook has worked with big companies including Nintendo, McDonald’s and Walmart, and big names ranging from Sheldon Adelson to Steve Jobs.
Cook’s presentation discussed highlights from his new book “Improvise: Unconventional Career Advice from an Unlikely CEO.” He told us about his unusual path to success that began with odd jobs ranging from tour guide to chauffeur. Eventually he found his passion for PR and realized there are many paths to success. Cook gave us his best advice from his long, winding and (what many would consider) unconventional path.
Here are a few of my favorite tips from Cook that can be applied to evoke the leader in us all, no matter where you are in your career.
1. Expose Yourself – No, it’s not what you are thinking. It is about getting outside of your comfort zone and experiencing new things. Pick up a magazine that is not necessarily of interest to you. For example, I often find myself reading Southern Living, Better Homes and Gardens and People, but in order to expose myself Cook says I should be reaching for the latest issue of Guns & Ammo. The idea is to get you to experience new things. You will benefit from exploring ideas outside of your comfort zone and learn a lot about the world around you.
2. Ask the Captain – By literally asking the captain, Cook was able to talk his way into a job as a cabin boy on a tanker ship heading to Asia. In the business world the “captain” is usually a senior executive who can be intimidating to anyone just starting their careers or new to a profession. But Cook’s advice is to not be shy because the captains are the one who can guide your career. He says if you aspire to be a captain, you should talk to them and ask questions every chance you get. After all, you never know where it might take you.
3.Enlist an Entourage – You’ve probably heard the phrase, “It takes a village to raise a child.” Well this saying can also be tailored and applied to successful people too. Behind every successful person, whether it is a billionaire, a politician or an entertainer, there is a team of people responsible for making them look good. According to Cook, there is always someone one step ahead of you, and you are always going to be competing with people who have more experience and better connections. So in order to get to the top, you need to start compiling your entourage now.