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Further Your Career By Getting Published: Years ago, as an employee of a small consulting firm in Connecticut, I approached my boss during a slow period in the work week and asked what I could do to help the firm. He suggested writing an article, an activity that would never have occurred to me, a B- student in English composition with no aspirations of writing.
After several false starts, I hit on a simple formula to help me through my first piece. The title of the article was "Ten Tips on Survival for Small Business." The concept was simple. I came up with 10 different tips that would be the start of a paragraph or two. I would then add opening and closing paragraphs and that would be my whole article. The article was easy to write. I later found that when you attach a number to your title, such as "Eight Ways" to do something, you finish the article with less struggle, even if you don't come up with eight ways. (You might only reach six.)
I mailed my manuscript out to a publication that sat on it for five months and then rejected it. I then mailed it to another magazine, The New Englander, which sat on it for four months. One day, without advance notice or word of any kind, a package arrived. It was thick. I opened it and found that my article, "Ten Tips on Survival for Small Business," had been published in the current issue of The New Englander.
Success at Last!
It was the last article in the issue--the least of my concerns. The graphics and artwork that they had done were wonderful, and the article made an attractive reprint. I was so excited to have my name in print that I
Although the magazine paid me nothing, I learned a priceless lesson. Up until then, I thought that only superstars and the privileged classes got their names in print. When I discovered portable dictation equipment a couple years later, I began dictating articles at the pace of about one a month, increasing within a year to one per week.
Much later, I wrote an article entitled, "How to Build a Law Practice," following a consulting engagement I had with a Washington, D.C. law firm. The article essentially followed a "14 tips" format, although I didn't use that title. I sent the article to Case and Comment in Rochester, New York, which accepted it for publication.
The Ideas Start Popping
About a year later I was going through my files and came across the article. It dawned on me that with little time and effort I could convert that article to "How to Build a Medical Practice." In the previous year I'd worked with a couple of doctors and dentists and was now familiar with their terminology and the differences required to restructure my earlier article.
I reworked "How to Build a Law Practice" 14 times, including versions for dentists, real estate agents, insurance agents, accountants, graphic artists, consultants, and others.
Around the time I started to get articles published, I also began public speaking. I can vividly recall the first time I ever spoke to a group professionally. I was speaking to about 75 entrepreneurs at the Hartford District Office of the Small Business Administration. At the time, I was working for a management consulting firm that provided marketing and management assistance to small and medium-sized businesses. One of our marketing activities to gain exposure for the firm was to serve as seminar leaders at SBA-sponsored workshops.
Although I had only been with the company six months, this Tuesday in May was to be my public speaking initiation. The presentation was to last 30 minutes. I was prepared and qualified, having offered the same type of advice to individuals on a one-on-one basis for two years.
When I got in front of the group, everything changed. The words were coming out and what I was saying had impact, but my stomach was doing somersaults. By the end of the session, a feather could have knocked me over; I was lightheaded, dizzy, exhilarated, and glad I was finished.
A Minor Miracle
In the months that followed, the presentation became easier and easier to give. I think it was after the sixth time that the butterflies left and my feet were firmly planted. A funny thing happened by the next year--I actually started looking forward to speaking before groups. All of the things that I had read about the nervous energy that never dissipates didn't seem to apply. In succeeding years I was better prepared to communicate on the job, impressed bosses and coworkers with the names of groups I had spoken to, and acquired confidence that spilled over into other areas of my career.
I began writing books and unleashed several that topped 60,000 sales, such as Marketing Your Consulting and Professional Services (Wiley), The Complete Idiot's Guide to Managing Your Time (Alpha), The Complete Idiot's Guide to Managing Stress (Alpha), and Simpler Living (SkyHorse). All the while I kept an eye out for P.R. opportunities.
My friend Robert Bookman lives in Chevy Chase, Maryland, and frequently reads the Washington Post "Style Plus" column. He noticed that one of the staff writers, Don Oldenburg, wrote on topics that were particularly intriguing. My friend began a professional, somewhat aggressive, letter-writing campaign to influence Oldenburg to write about Bookman's team productivity programs. In a matter of weeks a major article appeared in the Washington Post featuring Bookman's team productivity program. However, the story doesn't end there.
A few weeks after the article appeared, my friend suggested that I contact Don Oldenburg to do a story on me, concerning the value of promoting yourself to get ahead in your career. Robert was nice enough to write Don Oldenburg to let him know that I would be making contact. I called Oldenburg, followed up with a package of career marketing materials, and followed that up with another call.
Fame at Last
Several months went by before he interviewed me. And several more weeks went by before the article was published. Soon enough, however, there it was, splashed across the Style Plus section of the Washington Post -- an article entitled "Putting Your Best Self Forward," which reflected my 90-minute interview.
Even better, Oldenburg was a member of the Washington Post Syndicated Writer's Group, and the article appeared in hundreds of other papers across the country. Since the article prominently mentioned my first book, sales picked up nationally, and, within its first year, the book was in its third printing.
In the years since, I've been fortunate to have had some dramatic results for my readers, audiences and career.
What about you? Isn't it time to get articles and books out of your head and on the page? - Jeff Davidson