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Jumbo Shrimp

We’re taught that things are one thing: big or little, black or white, jumbo or shrimp.

But in my life that’s not the way most important things work. They’re often what they are and the opposite of what they are. Threats are often opportunities. Weaknesses can sometimes be strengths.

As COM PR students, we assume you’re here to learn how to succeed in the field; how to adapt to “the way it is.” How to learn from those who came before you and chip-away at weaknesses until you acquire the requisite knowledge, skills, and strengths to fit into the profession. That’s important. Keep doing that.

But, I hope you’re also doing the opposite: ignoring how to fit-in and focusing on how to stand-out. In other words, in addition to looking from the outside-in, look from the inside-out. Consider embracing what makes you you – even if the field doesn’t seem to.

Why? Because the communications biz is changing so fast, lots of employers aren’t quite sure what the standard is any more.

Why? Because you just might stand-out from the crowd.

Why? Because you might waste less energy wishing you were something else and have more energy to be what you seem to be. (In our biz, teams want to work with real people, not robots.)

Why? Because it’s hard to change who we are. I’ve tried. I’m a lousy long-term planner. Years of workshops, spreadsheets and day planners later, I’m still lousy. I haven’t completely given up but I’ve accepted the fact that it’s not one of my strengths. (That’s why I try to make sure that teams I’m on include at least one great long-term planner.) I’ve also realized that I’m gifted with the opposite quality: the ability to adjust to change without freaking out. I’m highly adaptable. It’s the “jumbo” to my planning “shrimp.”

Finally, don’t take my word for it. Take it from Michael DiSalvo, a 2009 COM PR grad who’s now an account supervisor with Ogilvy Public Relations. When Mike spoke at 2013 PRAdvanced he explained one of the reasons for his success this way (my paraphrase):

“When I first started at Ogilvy I was convinced the way to be successful was to keep Work Mike and Play Mike completely separate. I left Play Mike at the elevator in the morning. After a while Play Mike snuck into work and to my surprise, the more he appeared the better I seemed to do. So I let him show-up more often and I did even better. Now, I don’t even try to keep them separate and things are working out pretty great.”

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