Dad + Garage+ Stuff Breaking = Powerful #PR Lessons
Sitting at my desk the other day, I began thinking about how working in my dad’s garage helped me prepare for the somewhat unpredictable, stressful career in public relations. My dad was Mr. Fix It. There wasn’t anything that he couldn’t build or fix without ingenuity, duck tape, and nails. I spent many summers working with my dad on his “diamond in the rough” truck, housing projects like updating the bathroom, or anything that struck my dad as needed to be fixed. This is exactly what every girl wants to do: get dirty, use tools, and hangout in the garage. But looking back at it now, I can appreciate some of the lessons I learned during my “on the job training” courteous of my dad.
Keep Calm and Carry On.
How many times have you picked up the phone and on the other end is some type of crisis. Big or small, it will most likely derail your day. The equlivant to this is when my mom would say, “Hey, the drain isn’t working and <insert something exaggerated>.” Calmly, my dad would go into the garage, grab his toolbox, and come back into the house. Of course, dad needed an assistant. My function was super important; I was chief flashlight holder looking on as my dad tapped, bang, and cursed his way to a solution. He didn’t complain. He looked at whatever the problem was and fixed it. Few words in between, but in the end it was completed. Now, I address challenges in the same fashion: no theatrics and maybe a few expletives along the way. You can get frustrated behind closed doors, but in front of your clients or stakeholders, calm and collected will get the job done.
Any homeowner knows that things are bound to break. Our house was no exception, but instead of calling a professional, my dad tried to fix it himself. These were the days before you could type in “fix <insert item>” on YouTube. My dad without fail would bring the toolbox out, take a look at what ever was “broken” and attempted to fix it. Sometimes with duck tape, sometimes banging on it, or creating some type of DIY solution. Crazy enough this worked. Many times, PR folks have to make things happen and fast. Last minute interview and no expert? No problem. Creativity is one of the best assets a professional can have in their tool belt. Learn to think on your feet and be prepared for anything. Sometimes it is the crazy ideas that work and get the job done.
Be Fearless, but not Stupid.
Working in the garage had it benefits. I learned how to hammer a nail, use a level, and change my own oil. All great skills to have, right? Most importantly, I learned when to take a risk or when not to. Dad may have been Mr. Fix-It, but there where a few things he didn’t touch: electric, demolition, and electric (twice because you can’t be too careful). Similarly, you can be fearless, but don’t take unnecessary risks. Early on in my career, I definitely took some risks that I probably should have not. Like learning when not to say, ” I told you so” to your boss or sharing your “honesty” to a coworker. Like dad said, “don’t be stupid.”
I had no idea that helping my dad with his weekend projects would help me build vital skills for my career. Thanks dad for teaching me I could do anything if I put a little elbow grease and tenacity behind it.