The road less travelled

When talking about personal interests, I find the various terms that people use rather interesting. Most seem to stick to a few common choice words, but the two that have come to my attention recently are “passion” and “drive“. As in, what are you passionate about or what drives you.

The automotive/transportation allusions are going to be heavy in this post. I should have started with that. 

All roads lead to somewhere

All roads lead to somewhere

I have taken notice of these being prevalent in the last week as I’ve been trying to figure out why things aren’t working for me like they should be. My pursuit to employ my skills, has lead me to take a turn and go down a road I have not travelled on enough. I have sought to improve myself and taken a path geared toward a certain career – one that has yet to yield me anything meaningful – yet, I push on.

A few years ago, during a rather disconsolate time in my life, my brother — recalling some of the weekend adventures taken when we were younger — said something profound, something he had come to realize that we both had learned.

“For all the driving around we did, going from one fishing hole to the next;
the truth is, it wasn’t the destination that mattered, but rather the journey.”
– My brother, somewhat paraphrased

The truth is… when we were younger, the destination matter more to us. It mattered to us because Dad’s car was a Pontiac Fiero and the two of us in the passenger side made for annoying and uncomfortable trips. Despite these experiences, as grown-ups we’ve come to appreciate the journeys we once had.

So, it’s the journey that’s important. And in my journey to develop myself professionally, I’ve driven to a variety of different places – each destination being a part of the movement towards a greater goal.  To wax not so philosophical, life is nothing but one long journey.

In my professional development efforts today, I began taking a PD course in Stouffville, ON. The concept behind the course is to get its participants to re-evaluate their approach to finding work and to try new tactics within our greater job-finding strategy. One such tactic, which I learned about while attending CCPR at Centennial, was conducting Informational Interviews.

Now, I’d like to point out that it was only a tactic that was discussed and not one that was actually put into practice, as far as assignments go. Had it been part of the curriculum, I’m sure the practice would have given me a different perspective on the process.

At some point shortly after the class lesson and discussion regarding Informational Interviews, I attended a networking event where questions about Informational Interviews was brought up (a few times) and what did not help us fledgling PR pros, was being told by current PR pros, NOT TO DO INFORMATIONAL INTERVIEWS. In more than two separate cases, the PR pros were quite firm, stating that while the concept is a good on paper, it’s absolutely annoying and a complete waste of (their) time. The world of PR and Corporate Communications is one where its practitioners are busy folk who wear several hats, none of which allow for a break in their day, to talk to someone about the inner workings of their agency/organization.

I think the exact words from one particular PR pro were: “We [PR practitioners] simply do NOT have the time to deal with questions from someone who is neither a client or an employee.” These words effectively dissuaded from engaging in the practice. It didn’t help that I was feverishly taking down notes of what was being said. So, not only did I hear it, I wrote it down – the combination effectively burning the statement into my mind. Recently, I came across the notes and was reminded yet again. The strange thing is, I didn’t write down the name of the individual who said it (first) but I wrote down what they did specialty-wise: consumer product and crisis comm.  Without further conversations with that particular individual, I cannot be sure if they were aware of the irony of their statement, given one of their supposed specialties.

Now with my recent engagement in professional development, a new perspective has been developed in regards to the informational interview. I now have a new understanding and appreciation for this road in terms getting myself to the next waypoint in life. In heavy retrospect, I really wish we had been assigned the task when I was in CCPR. In fact, as part of the internship aspect, it may have made the process much easier for quite a few of us, and we would’ve benefitted greatly in the long term from a standpoint of skill-building and networking [Perhaps I should make a suggestion to my coordinator].

So, now taking a PD course on my own, I have been tasked with carrying out an informational interview. Along with a set of pre-set questions, we were given a list of places NOT TO GO TO.

“Do not travel to these places. Do not use these destinations as part of your personal development journey. Many others have done so before you and we are sad to say that going to any will result in those companies being really angry with you and US.”

Fair enough. I understand.

After scanning the list for places that might have interested me, the thought crossed my mind. I know where I need to go. Let’s make this assignment fun and interesting. Let’s add in a touch of adventure. Let’s make the journey to someplace interesting. Let’s go to a business where the people are ultimately driven by their passion.

After packing my stuff and getting back behind the wheel, I headed across Stouffville Road to the 404. My ultimate destination for the task at hand was the Canadian head office of an automotive company. Incidentally, as I drove west towards the 404, I would see an example of Canada’s infamous “sportscar,” the Bricklin SV-1.  (a rare automotive sight if there ever was one). 

Rolls Royce “Wraith”
– A beautiful beast of automotive technology.

So, that road less travelled? It was more like the road less indicated, hidden away, unmarked and kind of in need of a repaving.

So where did my journey take me? What destination did I have in mind?

None other than the Canadian head office for the Ultimate Driving Machine: BMW Group Canada – which is also the Cdn HQ for Mini and Rolls Royce (hence the pic at the left).

Just under a year ago, I had sent my resume to BMW for consideration for one of their positions. I was called. Having just accepted and started an internship elsewhere, I had to decline the interview opportunity. Not exactly the best manoever I have ever taken. I admit that readily. But I also will admit that the road I took at that time was the right one ethically.

I suppose at the back of my mind, I sought to carry out my informational interview at BMW as a way to absolve myself from the doubt from my decision. I suppose at the back of my mind, I sought to do it because it was the road I had not taken and the experience was one I had to have, one I could still learn from and for lack of better words, ultimately use to understand my own passion and drive.

Of all the takeaways, the one I want to share is how the corporate culture was described to me. “We’re very much a ‘work hard, play hard’ kind of company”

While the information I gathered from my time may not benefit me in the immediate future, it definitely will help me in the long run. Even though BMW sells cars, what my contact there sold me was fuel for my mind and my soul.

If I had gained nothing from this excursion, I at least got to see a really cool car. But, I did gain something from the excursion. Inside perspective and a better understanding of a company for which I would love to work.

Repeating some key terms to maintain a theme for this post, I can’t help but feel that I need to end it off on a bright note. Thus I am going to post a snippet of a song’s lyrics which cannot be denied as being somewhat appropriate to this post and my situation.

Working hard to get my fill,
Everybody wants a thrill
Payin’ anything to roll the dice,
Just one more time
Some will win, some will lose
Some were born to sing the blues
Oh, the movie never ends
It goes on and on and on and on

Don’t stop believin’
Hold on to the feelin’ 
Streetlights people


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