Inspiring story for the underestimated PR pro

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If you are better than you are being treated…

If the quality of your work exceeds the recognition you’re getting at the moment…

If you’re working hard somewhere in the vicinity of the bottom of the career totem pole…

…an experience I had last week should give you some hope.

This story is longer than what I usually post . . . there’s a reason for that.

It started about three years ago, when an organization in Alaska inquired about bringing me in for a training event. I was intrigued because I’d never been to that beautiful state. But I didn’t pursue it because of timing and because I (wrongfully) presumed I wasn’t in their budget.

But each year they kept coming back. This year the lady said, “Just give us a date and we’ll work around your schedule.”

So here I was with a paid invitation to Alaska.

I planned a vacation with my boys and my brother and we made it fit within our budget. But then word got out that I was coming, and two other Alaska organizations reached out to invite me for training events!

By the third one, the temptation to raise our vacation budget was irresistible. We booked a helicopter tour of the glaciers in the Chugach Mountains.

As we took off, my son said, “I CAN’T BELIEVE I’M IN A HELICOPTER!”

The highlight was landing on a glacier. No roads – or even hiking trails – within 50 miles.

The pilot gave us plastic cups and we drank pure sparkling glacier water in the blazing summer sun.

My brother jokes that this next photo should be our “album cover.”

At one point we flew up and over a mountain. . . the ground dropped away. . . and the brilliant blue-green waters of Prince William Sound glistened beneath us.

You could see the sea otters playing in the water just below. Too magical to even take photos. It was one of those transcendent moments that you go back to again and again in your imagination.

When I got to one of the events I was speaking at, Carla Browning, one of the organizers, approached me.

“I don’t know if you remember, but I was in New Orleans in 2003 the first time you spoke at the PRSA International conference.”

Whoa, that was a long time ago. She added, “You came up to me in the hallway and gave me your card and encouraged me to come to your session – I think you were worried nobody was going to come! I took your advice and I’ve been following you ever since!”

I’ll confess I don’t remember talking to Carla in 2003. I don’t even remember hustling people in the hallways. But I do remember what that year was like:

-Working for the man day in and day out
-Desperately trying to find another stream of income because at the beginning of the month we had exactly $27.50 of discretionary spending money
-Anxiety about being able to cover the bills and wondering if I even have what it takes to just…. deal
-Two little girls (every trip to anywhere is non-stop “wheels on the bus go round and round”)
-Expecting baby #3
-Living in a 2-bedroom townhouse (“Honey, are we moving our bedroom into the living room so there’s room for the crib?”)
-Scrimping to save up for a down payment on a house with another bedroom

We weren’t miserable… but we were grinding. Not having a whole lot of fun. My friend Grant would always say “let’s go to lunch.” I would decline, because I didn’t want to spend the $4.52 for the Wendy’s bacon cheeseburger meal so I would always bring a sack lunch. But he wanted company so he would offer to buy me something on the dollar menu. And I would take him up on it…ouch.

That fall in New Orleans in 2003, I was full of fear before this speech because the event was a big deal and I was up against 11 other speakers during that time slot.

The point is, I had NO idea that my hallway hustle would lead to a fantastic vacation with my brother and my yet unborn sons in 2018 (!!!) (did that year even exist back then????)

This past Monday, when she introduced me before the workshop, Carla was kind enough to share that she’s been quoting my tips since our fateful introduction in that hotel hallway.

I just want to remind you – especially those of you who are in the early stages of your career – that there’s a lot of hallway hustles. A lot of experiences where you push yourself out of your comfort zone and don’t necessarily see an immediate payoff. And a lot of people whom you think you’ll never see again…. but they keep circling back over and over and you’ll continue to bump into them for the next decade or two.

Your interactions with those people are a lot more important than they may seem at the time.

The payoff for doing what’s right may come far, far into the future.

But it still comes.

You may someday be with wildly different companies, clients, or employers than I am, but the point is still the same. The point is that diligence and conscientiousness and risk-taking do get rewarded.

So… keep grinding and keep looking beyond the horizon. There are great journeys yet to be traveled.

P.S.: During the lunch break at one of the other Alaska events I lost a battle with the make-your-own-tacos. The white napkin was in my lap but a big hunk of guacamole fell out of my tortilla and splashed in the salsa on my plate and splattered all over my shirt.

Fortunately, the event was at the same hotel where I was staying.

“No problem, I’ll just head up to my room and get a new shirt!”

Turns out I locked the key card AND my wallet in the room when I left.

So I had to go down to the front desk – and with NO ID ON ME – had to ask to be let into the room. I took my place in line.

The clock was ticking and I was due to start the afternoon session of the workshop soon. Finally, the guy in front of me finished checking in.

Then he turned around and handed me his luggage! I realized he mistook me for a bellboy.

“You look like a good tipper,” I said, trying to turn an awkward situation into a compliment. “But I don’t work here, sir.”

He and the front desk attendant both got a good laugh.

I’m grateful to the universe for the guac and salsa on my shirt, the wallet locked in my room, and the man who thought I was a bellboy and the cosmic reminder not to let the helicopter trip go to my head 🙂

This article was originally published on Jul 26, 2018.