Mark Beal has written a book titled “101 Lessons They Never Taught You in College” and you might wonder what qualifies him to write something like that. As it happens, he knows about as well as anyone can: he is a college professor in addition to being a longtime marketing professional.
Beal is a managing partner at Taylor in New York, a major consumer public relations agency. He has a master’s in communications from Kent State and a bachelor’s in journalism from Rutgers, but his career has been in business, not academia. Nevertheless, Rutgers invited him to be an adjunct professor at its school of communication in 2013, and ever since he has regularly taught a pair of undergraduate classes.
“They invited me to be a professor based on my career experience, which at the time was 25-plus years in marketing and working with brands and developing campaigns,” he says. “I didn’t have any experience as a professor, but what they wanted was to bring that real-world experience into the classroom.”
In his recently published book Beal draws on his time as a business professor to answer many of the questions that recent graduates frequently asked him: How do I get experience? How do I create a resume? How do I network? How do I meet people who can help me in my career? How do I get a job? How do I get an internship?
His book also covers a topic aimed at those who may have graduated some time ago: how to be a lifelong learner. It’s this audience that Beal will address at the Professional Service Group on Friday, August 18, from 9:45 a.m. to noon at the Princeton Public Library. For more information about this free event visit www.psgofmercercounty.org.
The group is for mid-career professionals, and Beal is gearing his talk toward people in their 50s or 60s who are ready for a “second act.” “You should always be learning,” he says. “You should be a transformer. Never settle for what you know today, but transform yourself.”
Beal has some first-hand experience with transformation. A few years ago Beal had never been a college professor and had never written a book.
It wasn’t a total career reboot, since he was lecturing on topics he was familiar with, but it was a good example of how to transform a career in its third decade. “An individual may not be going from a career doing a complete turn, but leveraging experiences and seeing if they are applicable in an adjacent category or an adjacent industry or doing different kind of work,” he says. “I am leveraging my past. For other individuals, it may be something that they have had a passion for their whole lives. Maybe they were passionate about music, or travel, or the arts, or fashion, or food. Maybe it’s a matter of a hobby turning into a new business.”
Beal grew up at the U.S. Military Academy in West Point where his father was a colonel who worked in the admissions office. “I went to kindergarten through eighth grade at the Military Academy, which was an incredible place to grow up,” he says. “Every day I would see the cadets marching, doing morning PT, and all that stuff.”
When he was in high school, the family moved to Spring Lake Heights, and Beal developed an interest in journalism. He worked for the school newspaper and freelanced for the Asbury Park Press, where he covered local sports events. As an undergraduate at Rutgers, Beal called basketball games for the local radio station and worked as a producer on a sports show at NBC Radio in New York.
In 1989, just after graduating, he landed his first job in public relations, at Fordham University, and has been in the business ever since. He has worked at Taylor Communications since 1990 and has stayed with the firm as it grew from a tiny shop of fewer than 10 people to a large marketing agency with more than 100. “It’s been fascinating to see how the growth of digital media has transformed the PR industry,” he says.
Beal’s first love was writing, and he has long harbored a desire to write a book. His experience teaching at Rutgers and answering questions from young students gave him the idea he needed to get going.
“There are lessons that are applicable whether you are 20 years old or 50 or 60 years old,” he says. “What’s important is that age didn’t stop any of us from pursuing our dreams and our passions. Anything is possible in today’s world, whether it’s a first, second, or third career, we should be able to pursue it and achieve whatever that might be.
“Maybe for 30 years someone has worked at a big company and now they want to start their own small business. Maybe they’ve worked for a small business their whole career and now they want to work for a big company. Age and experience should not stop any of us from pursuing and achieving our next dream, or next act, or our next goal in life.”
#b#Excerpt: ‘Lessons They Never Taught’#/b#
Editor’s note: When a book is titled “101 Lessons They Never Taught You in College — The Essential Guide for Students and Recent Graduates to Launch Their Careers,” you might guess that the number 101 is not mean to be taken literally. But in the case of Mark Beal’s book, just published in paperback and available on Amazon, it is — literally — 101 lessons presented in that same number of chapters.
The lessons are organized in four separate sections: Foundational elements for your career; preparing for your career after college; insights for interviewing; and for the next 30 years. As Tony Signore, the CEO and managing partner of Taylor, the public relations firm with which Beal has been associated since 1988, writes in the foreword of the book:
“Mark recognized early in his career that while experience was critically important in moving up the ladder, he did not have the time, patience, or interest to wait in line to see what the manager to determine what was next for him. . . At each level he demonstrated an uncanny ability to transform himself and the responsibilities put forth by his supervisors.
“Mark saves the best for last with Lesson No. 101, ‘Be a Student for Life.’ This embodies the man I have come to know as my business partner and life-long friend. It’s a lesson that also reminds me of a very powerful quote from a truly remarkable individual:
‘Live as if you were to die tomorrow,
Learn as if you were to live forever.’
— Mahatma Gandhi
#b#Lesson 101: Be A Student For Life#/b#
As I undertook the challenge of earning my master’s degree, it occurred to me that the process of two years of reading, research and writing isn’t something I would recommend for everyone on the verge of turning 50 – or even for you at 22. But my first course work in more than 25 years reminded me that there is tremendous value in being a student for life.
The legendary singer Tony Bennett said, “It’s best to really study your technique as much as you possibly can so you can have a long career instead of a quick one that’s a failure.”
Being a student for life means different things to different people. For me, it starts every morning by reading the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, and USA Today to learn about innovative products and ideas, disruptive marketing campaigns, and thought leadership from those at the helm of start-ups as well as Fortune 500 companies. It also means taking advantage of every opportunity to learn something new whether via a one-on-one meeting with a mentor or someone you admire or by attending a roundtable discussion or a seminar. You will never be able to satisfy your hunger for insights and information, but accept the challenge to continuously and consistently feed that hunger in as many ways as you possibly can.
Now you have the opportunity to start the next leg of the marathon by designing your own syllabus to support your career evolution. Your customized syllabus can feature as many guest lectures and research projects as you want – or none at all. But now your syllabus should be a living document that has no end but rather an endless series of learning experiences.
Your career will be full of research projects, pop quizzes, debates, peer reviews, and exams. You aren’t chasing a grade, you’re building a career. It will be hard and sometimes it will feel like you are on a treadmill instead of making your way along that marathon route. Just remember this, you are taking the first steps — make them fun, demanding, and rewarding.
You will never stop learning no matter what profession you pursue. Instead of taking a reactive approach to advancing in your career, be as proactive as possible in continuously furthering your education and be a student for life. — Mark Beal