Project Wonderful

Friday, July 11, 2014

What I Wish I Had Known At 30 With Bridget Cusick

Bridget Cusick, 38, Vice President at Berlin Rosen Public Affairs

You may remember my friend and sorority sister, the amazing Bridget Cusick, from the time she taught us about direct mail. Now she talks to us about the best and worst advice she's gotten and why she's still trying to learn.

1) Tell us a little about your career path.
I majored in journalism and communications (focus on PR and advertising) and -- because it was 1998 -- stepped right into a job in a big advertising and PR agency after college. (OK, I probably had something to do with it, but it was a very different economy.) I stayed there for six years, but during that time had started volunteering on a campaign and become very involved politically. I heard about an opportunity to become an organizer on a congressional race and jumped at the chance, 50% pay cut and all. But the great thing was that, because I had valuable prior experience in another area relevant to campaigns -- communications -- I was very quickly able to move into campaign management. I've been back and forth a bit since 2005: back to a small ad agency, onto a few more campaigns, and then ultimately into consulting in 2010.

2) What are you most proud of?
I'm proud that I had the get-up-and-go to leave a relatively stable and comfortable job (but one I was increasingly unhappy with) to try something totally new and then parlay it into a career. Too many people stick around in jobs they dislike or that they have outgrown because they are afraid of change or afraid of moving or afraid of making less money or a million other excuses. Now, I can't discount he role my parents played: While shaking their heads at me a bit, they agreed to pay the rent on the apartment I was leaving behind in one city to go to another city for my first organizing job. I'm proud I had the courage to do what I did, and I definitely had to live more frugally for a period of time even with their help, but I'm not going to sit here and pretend I did it all on my own.

3) What is the best advice you've received?
"Find something you're passionate about and figure out how to make money doing it." Perhaps I would replace "make money" with "support yourself"; it doesn't have to be about (often isn't about) getting rich, but rather making a living doing something that makes you feel good. If you are able to do that, you are a fortunate person.

4) What is the worst advice you've received?
"You should become an actuary." (This was in about 5th grade, so my dad can be forgiven for not fully knowing what my skill sets were going to be.)

5) What lesson are you still trying to learn?
Patience and letting things go. Paraphrasing Erin Brockovich (or, at least, Julia Roberts playing Erin Brockovich): My work is personal. It's the time I spend away from family and friends. It's also my social conscience and my right-brain poured out onto a page. So that is pretty personal, and it's easy to get worked up when things don't go as well as you wanted on a project or when someone pooh-poohs your ideas. I'm getting better at taking things in stride (and occasionally just saying, "whatever." Sometimes you just have to).

6) What was the best thing about being in your 20's?
I had a great time. I tried different things, met a lot of people, had a lot of fun, learned a lot. But honestly: Not that much has changed in my 30s, except that I am more confident in my skills and knowledge and what I bring to the table.

7) What one thing should I absolutely do before I turn 30?
I'm not a big fan of rules like this. There are too many stories of people who change careers or have their first big success way after 40 to make them. Everyone develops at their own pace. Basic rule is use your best judgment.

8) What's the best thing about being in your 30's?
People think you know a lot and have good advice. =)

9) What are you looking forward to?
You never know what's around the corner. I try and keep alert to all kinds of opportunities in my life. I don't know if or when I'll change career courses, but I know that there are plenty of places to do good in the world, and that there are always new challenges to apply my skills to and opportunities to learn new things! I'm always learning.

Thank you, Bridget!

Campaign, Alpha Love and Mine!

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