I got my first job out of college because I had a small amount of knowledge of the Internet and a whole lot of bravado. It was 1994 and I wasn't 100% sure exactly what the words World Wide Web meant. But I had taken a college course that involved using newsgroups and I was reasonably skilled at talking a good game even when I had no idea what the hell I was talking about. Between the two, I managed to carry on a somewhat intelligent conversation about interactive publicity during the interview process. The job was with a tiny NYC-based PR firm, and my boss-to-be was pitching big media companies with a fairly new idea -- promoting themselves online. I knew enough to know that his plan had promise. He knew enough to recognize the fire his ideas lit in me. And pretty soon, I had myself a job.
The grassroots interactive publicity I did in the next few years was rudimentary at best. In addition to my traditional PR job responsibilities, I started fan discussion groups on AOL, CompuServe and Prodigy (remember CompuServe and Prodigy?) to promote upcoming movies, visited special interest sites to promote niche cable networks and used online news and information outlets to garner editorial publicity for print publications. I encouraged my clients to create websites and develop an online presence and I managed to position myself and my firm as interactive experts, though in truth I often felt like I was barely half a step ahead of what I was talking about in these meetings. I faked it quite a bit at first. But I turned out to be pretty good at faking it and eventually I got pretty good at interactive publicity, too.
Taking that college course on newsgroups turned out to be the smartest thing I'd ever done, because all of my subsequent employers ended up hiring me for my (now genuine) interactive experience. I left the PR firm to work for a cable network, where I made managing the corporate website as important a PR function as writing press releases and pitching reporters. A few years later, I moved on to a "real" dotcom -- a now-defunct social networking site that was way ahead of its time. I stayed there for a year, talking about things like viral marketing and analyzing daily stat trend reports in impromptu 9pm meetings with 24-year old geniuses before I'd had quite enough of that. Then I moved on to a "name brand" television network as the PR liaison to the new business development team, which meant that I sat in on countless meetings about investing old media dollars into new media technology and promoted the resulting deals. After the dotcom bubble burst, my role expanded to include traditional business development promotion, as well as HDTV and other technology-focused business ventures. It was a very cool job, and a neat culmination of my previous work experiences. My initial gamble that I could fake the interactive thing had paid off.
And then I got pregnant and started having babies and everything I've just written about became completely, totally and utterly irrelevant.
I left Professional Me behind to become Mommy Me and I embraced the Gymboree circuit and the when-to-start-solids debate and the sleep training skill set without a backwards glance. I do think about my old career sometimes, and I do miss the pace and the intellectual stimulation and the opportunity to wear dry clean only clothing. But I love being home with my children more. I enjoy keeping my writing skills sharp and my memories preserved in this blog, but sharing my family's exploits with a small online audience is the closest I come to interactive publicity these days. Even though I know it would probably be wise to keep a toe in the door, I've frankly been lousy about keeping my contacts and my industry knowledge fresh. It just doesn't seem important right now -- my kids are still too all-encompassing, and I've let myself get sucked in to playground politics and the PTA to the exclusion of all else. When I do contemplate rejoining the workforce, it makes me a little nervous to think about how much my old area of expertise has probably grown and changed and how little I've done to keep up. I've frankly assumed, when I bothered to think about it at all, that when the time comes that I'm ready to work again, I'll be such a dinosaur that I'll just have to find a completely different line of work.
And then I was in the pediatric dentist's office yesterday and the cover of BusinessWeek caught my eye. I used to pitch BW regularly, but I haven't even read a copy in, oh, exactly 3 years and 4 months now. But this was a headline that made me look twice, because the story was entitled Blogs Will Change Your Business
. There was no point trying to read a magazine in a waiting room with two small energetic children underfoot, so I waited until they went down for their afternoon naps and then pulled the article up online. And suddenly, I was immersed in a world I had nearly forgotten about. It turns out that understanding and penetrating the blogosphere is where it's at in the world of interactive publicity these days. There were links to all of these names I used to know and I found myself nodding in recognition as I read what they had to say about what blogs will mean to businesses as they market and position themselves for the future. PR experts are serious about blogging now
, I discovered hungrily -- hell, even my first employer has a blog these days.
Suddenly, I felt that same fire I'd felt in that job interview years ago. Figuring out how to use blogging as a PR tool is heady stuff, its potential both exciting and rich with possibility. And everything these marketers are struggling to understand, this new language they're speaking? It's all stuff I know, or at least know how to fake knowledge of, thanks to my little personal experiment in self publishing here. Clearly, I can't just walk into an interview and proclaim that my silly little Mommy blog qualifies me to re-enter the workforce. But some of the things I'm learning because of this blog might just be keeping me fresh and cutting edge enough to be able to speak the language of future employers. Just the idea makes me laugh. But for the first time yesterday, I began to think that I might be employable again someday. And I was shocked to discover how almost appealing that sounded.
I opted to stay home and raise my kids in large part because I knew myself well enough to know that I don't do things halfway. There was no way I was going to be able to be the kind of employee I wanted to be and the kind of mother I wanted to be all at the same time, and the idea of doing anything less was unthinkable to me. The realities of that balancing act still exist, and I know I'm not rushing back to my career any time soon. But it's worried me a bit over the past few years that I might have become so immersed in this mothering thing that the professional side of me might not even exist any more. The urge I felt yesterday to get back in there and do
something both surprised and pleased me. I have every intention of burying it again for the time being. But I'm glad to know that it's still inside of me waiting until I'm ready to dust it off and put it to good use again. And in the meantime, I think I'll add some industry blogs to my current reading list. It can't hurt to stay informed.