You are supposed to take the road less traveled.
It makes all the difference, according to the Robert Frost poem.
Of course, that presumes you have a choice when you come to the fork in the road.
Sorting through some old papers last week I found a wonderful relic, a rejection letter from Reuters in 1990.
When I moved to New York City after college I applied to the Associated Press, Reuters, Dow Jones and Bloomberg.
The Associated Press never responded. Of course, I didn’t come close to their job requirements of five years of experience.
At Reuters, I spoke to a guy named Jim Jelter. Jim ran commodities at the time. Later he moved to MarketWatch. (He died a number of years ago from cancer.)
I got a Dear John letter back from a woman named Cindy Schwartz in HR.
“Thank you for your recent letter regarding employment opportunities in the Editorial department at Reuters,” it began.
At Dow Jones, I interviewed with Andrew Bary, who even at the time was pretty well known but went on to greater fame writing for Barron’s. I interviewed well, but bombed the three-day editing test.
I didn’t understand the concept and instead of marking issues, I edited too aggressively, fixing gaffes and rewriting phrases. I removed too many words.
Andrew had the courtesy to call me. He was sorry it didn’t work out. He wished me well.
At Bloomberg I interviewed with Editor-in-Chief Matt Winkler. The news group was new, so established journalists didn’t want to take the risk of joining a startup.
Matt gave me a writing test that included an essay portion that asked the question: What is the most important business story of the year?
In case you’ve forgotten there were a lot of big events that year:
–The re-unification of Germany
–Iraq invaded Kuwait
–Mandela released from prison
–The U.S. economy slumped
–Launch of the Hubble telescope
I didn’t write about any of those things. Instead, I argued that the biggest story was talks held under the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade to expand commerce.
Matt loved that choice evidently and by the time I got home there was a message on my voice machine that I had a job.
I ended up working at Bloomberg for another 32 years, half in editorial and half as a product manager.
So, I ended up taking the road less traveled.
But only because I didn’t have a choice.