Cold feet: my difficult year

11 Dec

This is awkward, embarrassing even. I'm often asked by students and graduates to be a referee and frequently find myself giving careers advice. Yet I'd not recommend anyone follow my path.

My decision of a year ago to leave a big course in a big university for a small course in a small university (well, 'small is beautiful' right?) has not proved to be a wise one in hindsight. Or, if wise, then circumstances have not proved auspicious. So I'm leaving (again).

MCheltenham-Dec-weby final teaching week ended on a high, with one group delivering some strong work – and then joining me afterwards for drinks (see picture). Other groups presented ideas for a 'safe, sensible, social' anti-binge drinking campaign at police headquarters, with the winners receiving concert tickets donated by pub chain JD Wetherspoon.

Meanwhile, I've been glad of some continued involvement at my old university – and distance has changed my perspective. It was a pleasure to join the team's seasonal celebration last night, and I'm impressed by the way many students are developing.

On other fronts, I've been kept busy as a specialist CIPR Diploma tutor (online and face-to-face); I'm looking forward to leading a summer school in Italy for an American university next year, and I will soon have some capacity to take on more private training and consultancy work.

I've traded security and status for uncertainty and independence – and the arrangement may suit me. But I realise it's not for everyone. 'Do as I say, not as I do'.

But there is a lesson in this for everyone. We live in a surprisingly small world and the most valuable thing we can accumulate is our reputation. The lesson is to never burn your bridges and to treat everyone with respect. I'm writing references for students now, but who knows when I might need their references and recommendations?

11 Responses to “Cold feet: my difficult year”

  1. Katya Trubilova 11/12/2009 at 11:38 am #

    Richard, I totally agree about reputation and am sure that you’ll have only positive feedback and great references. I’m glad that I had a chance to learn from you when I studied at Leeds Met. I really enjoyed working on my dissertation about Social Media under your supervision. I wish you all the best on all your fronts and hope to see you in the real world. Please, keep blogging.

  2. Zainab Rahman 11/12/2009 at 12:09 pm #

    I must say I was genuinely sad to hear that you were no longer going to be teaching us because I was very much hoping to have you guide me through my dissertation next year.
    Having said that, that’s the selfish side of me speaking. So I’d just like to wish you luck in the future and the only tiny piece of knowledge I can pass on is to see things as a learning curve and not a regret, but obviously you know that already!
    I’m sure I can speak for many when I say it was a pleasure to have you as our lecturer and will be sorry to see you go.
    But you can’t get rid of me that easily and I will be writing a news story for your magazine quicker than you can say “behind the spin”… 🙂

  3. Richard Bailey 11/12/2009 at 12:15 pm #

    Thank you, Katya. You’ve reminded me of the year I supervised three Russian-speaking students. This year, I’ve been reduced to one Lithuanian.
    Thank you and well done Zainab. I very much welcome writers for Behind the Spin and applaud your determination (a great quality in public relations – and for your final year).

  4. Andrew Wake 11/12/2009 at 12:21 pm #

    Richard, we took a giant leap relinquishing safe & steady jobs to set up Don’t Panic and have never looked back. There’s a lot to be said for independence and we wish you all the very best with your plans,
    Andrew & Nicky

  5. Helena Makhotlova 11/12/2009 at 1:20 pm #

    Very wise words, Richard! Reputation and intergrity are timeless, and you never know how your future path will turn. From a PR-perspective, its further important as you never know who your next potential client is and whom he knows.
    However, when it comes to your choices last year, here is my take. I’d exchange save,big secure and boring for small, risky but exciting – over and over again. I actually did do it this year, changing a save good-paid job in an established agency for a low-paid one in a start-up firm. Maybe not right for everyone, but turned out perfect for me.
    I think life passes too fast not take chances when they first come along.

  6. simoncollister 13/12/2009 at 10:44 am #

    Good luck with your new ventures Richard! Fortune favours the brave, as they say.

  7. Deborah 13/12/2009 at 12:03 pm #

    Very best wishes wherever your career choices take you. I have made quite a few errors in my own career, but you learn from them and value and appreciate even more when you do find your niche.
    You have a true gift for enthusing your students and bringing to life academic subjects. I hope your next choices will enthuse you too. It was a pleasure studying with your help and support.

  8. Michael White 14/12/2009 at 1:58 pm #

    I heard a couple of rumours before you announced that you would be leaving to my class. At first I didn’t believe the rumours but sad that they turned out to be true. You have been a great lecturer who has helped influence my ideas of PR, how it should be done. All the best for your future and I will write for Behind the Spin before not too long. Might give it a bash this Xmas break?

  9. Richard Bailey 14/12/2009 at 2:40 pm #

    Thank you all for the encouraging thoughts.
    Michael: While curiosity is said to have killed the cat, it’s the basis for journalism and you’re getting good (as I’ve said elsewhere).

  10. Sheikh Arfat 16/12/2009 at 7:48 pm #

    Hey Richard,
    Didn’t know that you have left the university now! U have always been an inspiration to me to do better. It goes without saying that u were one of the best tutors in our university. I always thought i was not meant to do PR and percieved it extremely feminine. U changed that stereotypical mindset and looking at u teaching us would make me feel proud of what i was doing!!
    I think wise men take risks to be safe and we cant be safe without risks!!
    Wish you all the luck!

  11. Richard Bailey 16/12/2009 at 9:03 pm #

    I’m touched, Sheikh, but surprised.
    Look at the photo in this post and tell me if PR isn’t feminine!
    You raise an interesting issue, though. Perhaps it’s too glib to assume that ‘feminine’ communication skills (verbal and non verbal) and multitasking mean that the future is necessarily female.
    ‘Male’ skills of focus and goal-orientation remain important too.

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