I Coulda Been An Estate Agent.......
August 1988. The last time I was unemployed. Straight out of university and head first into Thatcher's Britain with no discernible career path ahead. My father wanted me to be a bus driver but, even in my early 20s post-education confusion, I could see that manning the number 44 from Redhill to Crawley wasn't a spectacularly good use of a decent BA Hons in Modern History.
University friends suggested various job opportunities. One even mentioned estate agency (realtor, in the American dialect). Everything sounded awful. Then an ex-girlfriend mentioned PR. I had no idea what it was, nor what it stood for, but I did a bit of research and indeed it sounded like a jolly jape. Better than the buses at any rate.
I went to the PRCA (Public Relations Consultants Assocition) in Pimico and made a list of 30 top PR companies who, I thought, would be doubtless eager for a willing young graduate to train up and enthuse with promo know-how. I wrote off to each of them, explaining my aptitude for their particular line of business and my unsuitability for work in public transport. I waited for the offers to flood in
After two weeks, I had had four replies, each of them a polite, "thank you but go away". Then the phone rang. It was from Paul Winner Consultants of 141 Sloane Street. Someone had just resigned. My letter was top of the pile. Could I come for an interview the following afternoon?
Back to the PRCA I trotted to find out everything there was to know about Paul Winner Consultants - this was pre-Google when life was more innocent and more bonkers. The kindly chap at the Association told me that Paul Winner, the CEO, had written a book on PR and he could lend it to me for the day. The next three hours were spent in a park in SW1 devouring every morsel of knowledge from this most bountiful of tomes.
The interview hour came. A kind-faced director named Martin Francis went through the motions of asking about my writing experience, extra-curricular interests and suchlike. After 20 minutes, the door opened and there stood Paul Winner himself. "I'm so glad to meet you, Mr Winner," I beamed. "I've read your wonderful book!" Reader, he hired me on the spot. Now I just had to figure out what the hell the job was about..........