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December 23, 2015
4 Lessons From My Rolodex
“A Rolodex? Is this 1977?”
—54% of you

“A Rolodex? What’s that?”
—The other 46% of you

So we’re cleaning our home office, and tucked in the far corner is my dusty old Rolodex. And hoo boy, is this thing full of memories. Phone numbers of long-forgotten friends and study buddies. Contact info for landlords, landladies, and landpersons.

And a few interesting lessons picked up from 20-something years of careering — and an obsolete, business-card-holding piece of round plastic.


#1: Be ambitious.
Clearly, I had big — but REALLY VAGUE — career ambitions. I had written out cards with phone numbers and addresses for Major League Baseball, the National Football League, and the National Basketball Association. Also, the major newspapers and TV stations from my hometown of Philadelphia. And a few magazines like GQ and Esquire.

Did I ever actually USE this contact information? Not that I can remember. Maybe the local newspaper, when I was fresh out of college and looking for my first real job.

But there’s something cool and nostalgic for me about thinking about that time in my life — when my professional life was all still in front of me, and the possibilities were endless. (What a naive little dork I was.)

#2: Be organized with your interview prep.
When it came to preparing for job interviews, I did some serious legwork. I’d create a card with the contact person(s), phone numbers, and address. Maybe include some client names and other little notes of importance.

And on the back of each one, directions both to and from their location. Simple, clearly written bullet points to get me there and back.

As the years went on, I’d transfer all this information to a handy one-pager with even more detailed information about the people I was about to meet in person and the company itself.

Because hey, you’re nervous enough for a job interview. It helps to have done your research.

#3: Ya gotta network.
I wasn’t super-great at it, but I was networking long before social networks. I did meet some pretty cool professionals along the way — some of whom served as mentors for years, and some who even became colleagues.

But you can be sure that after my first meeting with all of them, I came home and made up a Rolodex card for each one. (If I hadn’t done so already.)

You never know when you might need some help or advice — and my Rolodex had a fair amount of people in there who could do just that.

And low-tech or not, that’s a great thing to have.
#4: Never throw anything away.
OK, that’s a bit tongue-in-cheek. If it’s something you haven’t used in more than 10 years, it’s probably OK to toss it in the trash.

Honestly, I’m not sure what to do with this thing. The vast majority of information contained in my Rolodex can be found online in a heartbeat.

And I’m connected to most of the relevant people in there via Facebook and/or LinkedIn. At the very least, I have their email address.

But as far as mementos go, this one has some pretty cool career (and personal) memories.


Flipped through your Rolodex lately? I’d love to hear your stories — do you still have one? Do you use it? What’s the funniest/weirdest/most interesting card you have?

Please share in the comments below!

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With 20+ years of experience — both at agencies and "on the client side" — Harley David Rubin has enjoyed many challenges and opportunities in his career. He's currently freelancing, with an eye toward starting his own creative communications company. And he loves to share the stories and "wisdom" he's accumulated over the years. (Because what writer doesn't love talking about himself?) He's truly thankful for the opportunity to write for TalentZoo.com, and he's happy to connect via LinkedIn or even on Twitter at @hdrubin.
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