Advertising Age's interview with the legendary Shelly Lazarus is a MUST read for any aspiring marketeer, industry veteran or someone who is simply lost at sea.
Lazarus, who is currently chairwoman emeritus at Ogilvy & Mather, confesses she had no idea what to do with her life after attaining her master's degree.
Shelly wound up in advertising because she “…had nothing to do on a Saturday morning in New York.” So, she accompanied a friend to an Advertising Women of New York seminar for college students, and “…was mesmerized.”
But, after getting her MBA, she took the first job offer that came along: a gig at Clairol, simply because she “…liked the people there.”
It wasn't until a headhunter called and persuaded her to take a copywriting job at O&M (which was looking for a copywriter with hair care experience) that Shelly struck gold.
She says of Ogilvy, “I went over there and kind of fell in love and never left.”
Lazarus says she found a place where she loved what she was doing every day.
Shelly advises young people (or those at sea) not to stress about not having a career plan. “The advice I give is you have to recognize an opportunity, and then if it feels right, if it feels good in your stomach, just jump. Chances are, it'll be right,” she said.
Amen, I say.
Like Shelly, I had no career plan when I graduated from Northeastern University with a B.A. in journalism. Two years of relevant work experience in the newsrooms of The New York Times, CBS Newsradio and WGCH Radio in Greenwich had taught me two things: I loved news and newswriting, but hated the cynical, back-stabbing culture of the newsroom.
So, I asked Bill Kurtz, my N.U. professor, for advice. “Have you thought of PR?” he asked. “What's that?” I responded (at the time, N.U. didn't offer a single course in the field).
Long story made short, Kurtz advised me to read back issues of O'Dwyer's Newsletter, compose a cover letter and start reaching out to PR firms.
Like Shelly Lazarus, I struck gold at Hill and Knowlton. Like Shelly, I went over there and kind of fell in love (but, I didn't stay). What did stay, though, was my love of public relations.
It took Shelly Lazarus a while to find her passion. Ditto for me. And, ditto for many of you.
So, take it from arguably the most successful woman in advertising history: you WILL find your passion. Just listen to your gut. If it feels good, jump!