Quick admission before I introduce you to D’Anthony. I was a little nervous about meeting him before our session last month. I interacted with him once over a “Community call” and he appeared to be an extremely serious and busy guy.
To my surprise, the first thing he said when we met was “You’re soon going to feel that this is less of my interview and more of yours, but trust me, that’s okay”. Within 15 minutes, he took over the conversation with stories of work, his home state of Alabama, and of trying new places around New York city; I sensed I was up for an interesting conversation. But by the end of two hours, I knew that he was a person who wakes up happy and excited for the work he is doing, for the change it brings about, and the sense of fulfillment it gives him. And that’s when the conversation went from interesting to illuminating!
If D’Anthony’s journey had to be conveyed in one quote, it would be “I never dreamed of success. I worked for it” by Estee Lauder. A simple guy from Alabama who moved to New York City with a dream to work in a big PR firm. But if you think this is another small-town story in NYC, boy you are wrong. He knew the big move would mean an insane amount of hard work, considerable time and effort for networking, and quite a few disappointments. So he spent two months connecting with the right people, using his network of friends and family to line up interviews and coffee chats. It’s amazing how such a simple idea of laying out your groundwork can make for a very important lesson when looking for a job.
His most interesting interview experience was with a company that took him through three rounds of interviews, offered him a role and bypassed the formalities of having a candidate formally accept the job offer. The CEO literally took him at the end of their chat and introduced him to his future "teammates". To D’Anthony, this was disorienting but also slightly insulting. Why would a company just assume that he would say yes? More importantly, was he going to stay? Or was there a way to respectfully say no and keep a relationship alive? Bugged by these tricky questions, he focused on the one thing that was at the heart of the situation – did he like the role? Turns out, he didn’t. “It’s easy to get swayed by the first offer that comes your way and say yes. But unless you like the role, it just won’t feel right”. So, he ended up calling and graciously rejecting the offer and kept looking till he found the right one.
Today, he does Digital PR at Cohn & Wolfe and has discovered his true calling in the field of medical PR. From managing Live Twitter conversations to launching multi-platform campaigns, it’s evident D’Anthony lives on social. Ask him about the clients he works for and you will see a strange sparkle in his eyes. Using his strengths to promote pharmaceutical products that cure illnesses like diabetes, makes him feel like there’s a larger purpose to his work. He goes to bed thinking about how his work can impact lives and that only makes him work harder. Just like his role model -- Oprah Winfrey -- he wants to make this world a better place. And to me, he seems to be doing a very fine job!
Quick learnings from D’Anthony’s experience
Set yourself up for success. Especially when moving to a big city. Reach out to people, industry experts, school professors, and friends. Use LinkedIn. Schedule coffee chats. Set an agenda, fix a timeline and treat job hunting like a real job.
Research and more research. Find out everything you need about the role, company, and industry. Also, do some deep thinking to truly know what you want. Don’t settle for the first job you are offered. Wait and see if you’re convinced if this is what you want. If you’ve done your background work, you will have fallback options and won’t be desperate to settle for whatever role is available.
My biggest takeaway: No matter what career, industry or role you choose, find that drive -- that passion-- that gives meaning to your work. For D’Anthony, promoting healthcare is his way of contributing to a cause that will benefit lives across the country and even his family back home. And that makes the struggle all the more worthwhile.