It's so easy to have regrets, usually over the things we didn't do. But nor is there necessarily a right way, or a correct sequence, for gaining experience. Here are some of the jobs I've held before working in public relations that I still draw on today in my university teaching:
- Special needs carer. We're all different, we're all unique and there's something special in everyone. You just need time to find out what it is.
- History teacher. Experience of school teaching is valuable in the lecture theatre. I even called on a lesson learnt in a difficult client presentation. The new boss of my main client was talking audibly to a colleague as I presented. How to respond? I did what always works best to quell unwanted noise. I stopped talking and waited.
- Typesetter. Not quite hot metal, but the system pre-dated Apple, Microsoft Windows and visual displays. Learning a code language early on means that HTML has never seemed too scary. Acquiring the principles of typography and visual design was a valuable lesson.
- Researcher. It often seems that everything is just a Google or Wikipedia search away. Gathering accurate facts in the world before the web involved patience, persistence and perfectionism. I was surprisingly good at it.
- Editor. This is the most underrated and most valuable skill of all. How to spot dull copy? How to transform it into something readable? How to cut 1000 words down to 200 while keeping the meaning?