With some fresh new faces, we’re renewing the “Most Interesting Summer Job” Series at Bateman Group. In this post, Scott Martin, Matt Coolidge and Paula Cavagnaro …
This is part of a series profiling the most interesting summer jobs of the Bateman Group inspired by the AdAge article “Guess Which Adman Used to Be the Kool-Aid Man.” The series started two summers ago in 2011 (see Bateman Summer Jobs Part 1, Part 2, Part 3 and Part 4).
Job: Poverty Change Agent (read: I held a clipboard on busy downtown streets for 8+ hours a day and tried to make you feel bad about the fact that you weren’t helping feed needy children in the developing world…)
Lesson Learned: Perseverance is key — and learn to make your case in a concise, compelling manner
That’s right, I was that guy… You know the one. Picture this: You’re walking down the street at lunch hour, savoring those precious few moments to yourself, not surrounded by crazed co-workers and demanding bosses — when all of a sudden, a way-too-perky 20-something jams a clipboard in your face and says something like, “Hey smiley! I can just tell by the look on your face that you’re the type of person who wants to make a difference in a Guatemalan child’s life for only 25 cents a day!”
Yep, that was me… And let me tell you, that is the most demoralizing, soul-crushing job I’ve ever had (and this coming from somebody who also once spent a summer cutting up fresh fish in a dark, dingy back room at a cheap seafood restaurant). You’re lucky if you can get two, maybe three people to stop and talk to you during a full eight-hour day — all while your demanding, throwback-to-Cold-War-era-Eastern-Europe taskmaster of a boss is constantly hovering in the background and chiding you for not standing up straight enough or not keeping a smile constantly glued to your face.
I’m not going to say that I particularly liked that job (shocker, I know), nor will I claim to have lasted more than four weeks at it (I didn’t – but by that time I was actually the second-most tenured in an office of 15+ people. Turnover is, unsurprisingly, quite high there). That said, I don’t think there was a better way for me to get a crash course in how to make a compelling, convincing pitch to an otherwise disinterested audience, and convince them to take a closer look at a topic they may not have otherwise cared about.
I guess it was no surprise that after that, PR was a pretty easy fit for me. While pitching media can always be a challenge, it’s a PR person’s job to be able to make a convincing case for a given topic/client — and after what I dealt with holding my clipboard and making pleas for the children, pitching the media was far less intimidating than it otherwise would have been (though I will say that it’s still probably a wash in terms of who could come up with the coldest, most brusque responses when they’re not interested in talking, the general public or the media…).
Director of Content and Media Strategy
Job: Newspaper carrier
Lesson Learned: Rise early, anticipate shenanigans and use alcohol as advantage
I delivered the San Francisco Chronicle in Palo Alto when I was 13 years old, a summer job that should have scared me about more than just my neighbors.
At first, folding newspapers, snapping on rubber bands and stuffing them into a fat double bag worn front and back like a sandwich board was an adventure at 5:00 a.m. I’d bomb the block on my BMX bike and finish by dawn covered in black ink after lofting papers at doormats.
The fun soon ended. My $45 monthly salary required collecting payments by knocking on doors. This was troublesome for many reasons. Collecting money wasn’t easy as a shy, pubescent teen with a cracking voice. Plus, the extra work had me earning well under $1 per hour. But worse than all of that were my neighbors. If they weren’t drunk by 7:00 p.m., they inevitably lied about losing their checkbook, and I uncomfortably pretended to understand. Return visits usually met with some hiding in the house. I learned fast about the art of bill dodging and a general lack of good will toward the newspaper business.
I learned to adapt to Palo Alto’s dodgy news consumers. My “not in my backyard” neighbors across the street were the most difficult case. They were a cranky older couple obsessed with their rose gardens, which I would bat tennis and whiffle balls through with my brother on a regular game schedule. Pink-faced, the elderly man would bark at us, and whenever a home run landed one in his backyard, we’d have to alternate who would have to grab the ball and run. The trick at collecting money at their house, I would learn, was coming a little later, when the old man was slurring in front of the TV. The wife was usually rambling and sloppy by then, and if I played my cards right — listening to some incoherent babble and nodding — I’d land a $5 tip.
Still, by the end of any month I was lucky to net $30 for delivering the paper seven days a week, owing to Palo Alto’s deadbeats and the San Francisco Chronicle’s dicey business. This all should have been a red flag as to what lies ahead for an ink-stained, wretch working overtime in the newspaper business. If it wasn’t apparent then, it surely is many years later having worked in the news business most of my career.
Despite it all, I learned early some important business takeaways: Rise early, anticipate shenanigans and use alcohol to your advantage.
Job: Recruit 4,000 volunteers to build a playground
Lesson Learned: When people understand their individual contributions, the collective can do BIG things
As I graduated from University of California, Santa Barbara in the summer of 1993, I was careful not to get too crazy with the celebration. I was one of the “lucky” ones. Instead of taking off for a fun-filled backpacking trip across Europe, I had received a position right out of school, and it required me to start the summer just after graduation (well, actually the very morning after graduation for a 7:30 a.m. staff meeting). That summer would be spent getting to know the community of Santa Barbara as I worked hard recruiting her citizens to build a playground called Kid’s World.
The 8,000-square-foot playground was scheduled to open in November, and as of June, it had about 10 percent of the volunteer force needed to successfully build what would later be referred to by the LA Times as a Monument of Play. My job was to find the other 90 percent of the volunteers needed, and then schedule them and keep them engaged for the months leading up to the build, when I would need to manage their roles and contributions on site.
For the community playground to be built, we needed a total of 4,000 volunteers including, people responsible for child care, food preparation, builders, electricians, craftsman, artists and more would be needed, per the community engineers’ instructions. In addition to having people on hand, much of the hardware, wood and tools also needed to be sourced and donated to support the goal of the playground being a project for and by the community of Santa Barbara.
Needless to say it was a herculean effort and many of the tricks I learned that summer are still useful to me today, from mail merge to desk-top publishing tricks to database management and promotional strategies—not to mention how to use a power sander, pictured here. However, after recruiting, inspiring and coordinating 4,000 people, the most important lesson I learned was that if you can give each individual person on a team an understanding of how their individual contribution fits into the big picture, you can collectively achieve great things together.
The playground was created for children in the Santa Barbara community by people who loved their city and knew they could make a difference in their community by working together. Twenty years later, it has brought tens of thousands of children delight as a place where their imaginations and boundless energy can expand.