by Skip Cohen
On February 6, I shared a post celebrating my 50th anniversary in this industry. On that same day, my good buddy, Don Komarechka, had me as a guest on his podcast, Inside the Lens, which is part of Photo Geek Weekly. Don planted the seed for this new SCU series, based on things I learned along this wild, crazy and incredible journey. This is the second chapter in what I hope will help you learn from my mistakes so that you can make new ones of your own!
"Don't tell people the new house is yours until you've passed papers and have a signed contract!"
If you've followed a little of the backstory of how I stumbled into the photographic industry, then you know it all started with washing bottles in a lab at Polaroid. It was a job; it was the 70's and one of the major magazines that June had a picture of a college grad in cap and gown pumping gas. Unemployment was high but at least I had a job.
About two years into what would grow to 17 1/2 years at Polaroid, I started looking at their internal job-posting system. They had a program for sharing open positions in the company, always trying to hire from within. Everything I knew about research and chemistry was being learned on the job, and I knew there was no long-term future for me.
In my division, a job came open on the posting board. It was an S.I.T. (Supervisor In Training) in the Microscopy lab, and since I saw myself as a people-person, it seemed perfect for me. I interviewed with the hiring manager, and after two to three weeks following the normal timing for filing an open slot, she told me I was their leading candidate.
My life at Polaroid was about to change. I remember my folks were visiting from Ohio and excited about the change in my career. I headed off to work for that last day before taking a few days off to spend time with them, ready to enjoy the accolades with the new job.
Oops! On the last day before I was told the announcement was going to be made, a technician within the Microscopy lab raised his hand. He had more seniority than me; he was already in the department, and in all honesty, he was more qualified. The announcement came out, and it was about "Jack," not "Skip." It took me by complete surprise, and I was crushed.
I remember getting home for what was to be my celebration dinner with my folks about my first big promotion. I had tears in my eyes, and that quote above was word for word my Dad's advice at the time. And there's the lesson learned...
There's that old expression about loose lips sink ships. As your career grows in this industry, there are going to be a lot of milestone moments to share. Hold back on sharing with other people or celebrating until it's in your hand. Don't speculate about how something is going to go until it's actually happened.
And if you need to share news about something with somebody and can't keep quiet, this is where the most inner circle of your network comes in with your spouse, partner, or best friend. I know how hard it is to keep a secret - but treat good news and bad under the "Cone of Silence" until you know for sure it's a reality.
That seems to bring out one more lesson - use your network. Besides some incredible friends over the years, my Dad was always my best buddy. He knew nothing about photography, but everything about business. Over the years there would be hundreds of times I'd confide in him. In fact, he may have passed away four years ago, but I still find myself thinking about what he might do in various situations.
"My father gave me the greatest gift anyone could give another person: He believed in me."
Check out "Why?" one of the most popular features on the SCU Blog. It's a very simple concept - one image, one artist and one short sound bite. Each artist shares what makes the image one of their most favorite. We're over 100 artists featured since the project started. Click on the link above and you can scroll through all of the episodes to date.