Rick Sykes is a professor and assistant
director of the School of Broadcast and
Cinematic Arts who spent nearly 24 years
in the communications industry. Since
1996 he has served as faculty adviser
for News Central 34, CMU’s studentrun
live television news program.
I love it when students tell me, “I’m
done with school. I’m done with
education.” And I say, “No, you’re not.”
It doesn’t matter which arena you’re in.
You will be doing three or four different
jobs throughout your career, and the
third or fourth job probably didn’t exist
when you first got out of college.
You have to develop a mindset that
you are your own franchise, just like
an NBA player or a movie star or a
musician. You are responsible for
your success. The bottom line is: your
success is based on your street value.
Street value is the value that others
assess when you’re out there looking for
a job. If you’re not constantly assessing
where you need to continue to grow,
then that street value starts to decline.
failure are not
along the same
line. You’re not
going to be
you have failures.
Failures tell you
working and what
areas you need to
continue to work
on. This means
that you have to be willing to take risks.
You have to be willing to put yourself
in an uncomfortable situation to grow.
You periodically have to say, “Am I
doing what I still want to do?” and then,
depending on the answer, make some
decisions. And the older you get, the
harder it is to make those decisions.
I remember when I went from
news to public relations. I wanted
to do something different. I got
an opportunity to go in as an
agency’s vice president. I understood
some aspects of public relations,
but it still was pretty scary.
I was switching out of what I had been
doing for 17 years. I was fretting over it
and talking to my wife, and she’s like,
“Well, if that’s what you want to do.”
I then sat down to have this serious
discussion with my son, who was at
that time 12 years old. I told him, “You
know, I’m getting ready to make this
really big change in my career, and I just
wanted to let you know it has a risk to
it and it may not work out, you know?”
I got through this sort of soul-searching
conversation, and he looks at me and
says, “So, who’s going to take me to
school?” I said, “Well, I’ll continue to
take you to school.” And then he said,
“Fine,” and walked out of the room.
And I sat there thinking, “Geez! I just
spent 30 minutes telling him all of this
stuff, and he really didn’t care other
than who’s taking him to school?”
That was his point, and he brought my
scary decision back into perspective.
But I was continuing to learn. Taking
risks. Enhancing my street value. I
remember the words of a public
relations mentor of mine who said,
“You have to decide your future
because if you don’t, somebody
else will, and you won’t like it.”