In 1973, with a newly minted PhD in American History from the University of Chicago, I was interviewing with a gentleman for a job in public relations. He wanted to know if I knew how to type. (Even though I did, I was not about to follow his advice and go to secretarial school.) It’s true I didn’t have the journalism skills that most applicants had, but I had worked in public relations while getting a what-now-seemed worthless degree.
I landed my first job at Amoco as the corporate historian. Because I knew how to research – back in those days it was done in a library, not on line – I soon moved into research and planning in public affairs. And, I got my MBA at night because my doctorate seemed to be a liability. My academic advisor had looked askance when I joined the business world. Now, my business colleagues were concerned about my being impractical. What I found, and what I continue to find, is that what employers need when hiring for a job in communications is someone who can think strategically about business problems and find ways to engage effectively and positively the company or institution and its many different stakeholders.
Here are the companies worked at, and at each one I learned a great deal. I’ve also taught investor relations as an adjunct professor in the Integrated Marketing Communications program at Northwestern’s Medill School for the past 18 years. What I’ve always told my students is that the communications profession allows anyone with curiosity and an open mind the chance to keep learning for an entire career:
- Amoco Corporation, 1973-1977;
- American Hospital Supply Corporation, 1978-1985
- Baxter Healthcare Corporation, 1985-6;
- United Airlines, 1986-1988;
- Morton International (formerly Morton Thiokol), 1988-1999;
- Grainger, 1999 to Summer 2010 (retired)
- Will continue teaching at Medill