Ketchum recently became my new home when I made the move from the publishing industry. My move – one from Johns Hopkins University (where I studied English) and the book-filled floors of my first internship at HarperCollins – felt comparable to another move I was making… a native, never-left-the-West-Coast, Californian’s heading to New York. I was entering unfamiliar grounds, and it was both daunting and tantalizing.
My account team in the corporate practice welcomed me, a newly-minted Ketchum Summer Fellow, with smiles and birthday cupcakes – a gesture emblematic of what I’ve come to learn is Ketchum’s close-knit culture. My new neighborhood (or office space) was bursting with bright green walls flowering with opportunity. My office seemed to have a life of its own, one that inhaled talent and exhaled success. My neighbors were quick to teach me the things that do not come neatly packed into an introductory handbook. Something I really love about this industry is that new tasks can pop up at any time, and at times they challenge not only me, the newcomer from California, but also my more senior colleagues.
Since the days of Instant Messenger, I’ve considered myself a pretty tech-savvy communicator, but when I arrived at Ketchum I realized I entered the domain of true warp-speed communications. I noticed my co-workers navigated everything with unbelievable speed, while for me message chains initially read like a foreign language: OOO, bites, vets, UVM, SMT?
Sitting in on calls felt something like trying to understand the New York subway system without HopStop. It was a lot to take in, but I began matching clients’ names to faces, digesting the history of my account and reading e-mails with greater fluency.
Throughout my first week, I had some inevitable moments of panic – understandable considering the irony of my new field compared to my undergraduate focus in English. I had chosen to forgo the ornate, figurative and esoteric for the clear, concise and efficient – and ultimately realized that the two can (and should) successfully coexist.
These moments of anxiety passed as I began to recognize the diverse backgrounds of not only my fellow Fellows, but of my senior colleagues. I now strongly believe that it doesn’t matter what you study in college; what matters most to your success as a young professional is how you work with others and apply yourself (click to tweet). Four years at a structured institution cannot simulate full workweeks, or lead to a better understanding of the roles you will play within the teams you will be a part of. This, I believe, is where personal character takes the reins.
The best thing about moving to a new place is the opportunity that begs to be unveiled. New neighbors transform from friendly-faced mentors to valued friends. A bare home (or cubicle) assumes its own personality and begins to feel familiar. Play-Doh reinstates its presence in your life (thank you brainstorms) and concepts that once seemed lofty become so second-nature that those around you might just think that you were born and raised to be in PR: that you’re indeed a native.