I recently conducted a phone interview with Carla Hargrove McGill, president of Hargrove Inc. Hargrove is an event planning company that was started by Carla’s family and has its headquarters right outside Washington D.C. The company has been well established for many years doing the presidential inaugurals every year since 1949. Carla and her husband Tim run the company. I know Carla because she is my mothers sister in-law. I learned a lot of things during the interview that I had not previously known.
In our interview Carla stated that, “no week is the same that’s for sure.” She detailed a typical week as Monday is for catching up, you come into the office and check emails and phone messages and respond immediately. The middle of the week is for things like luncheons, meetings with clients, and production meetings with the staff. Friday is for catchup for the weekend. You have to get things done Friday so that Monday is not so hectic. Also, there are many weekends where there is an event so there is no time for other work. If it is an event day or week she said that she is on site at the event and that her Blackberry keeps her in touch with the office and other clients.
Carla told me that speaking for the company the most important event that they are proud of is the recent G40 Nuclear Summit in D.C. Over 40 leaders from countries around the world attended, and she stated that it is Hargroves most prominent event to date. Personally, Carla is proud of being part of a local hospitals Gala event where they raised over $400,000 for the hospital.
I asked Carla about how she stays current with things in the industry and she told me that she is part of two organizations. She is on the Maryland Chamber of Commerce’s board which helps her stay current with state events. She is also involved in Industry Associations which many of her competitors are involved in so it helps her to see what they are doing as well as find out about new things in the industry.
One of the other questions I asked was what she wishes she would have known before starting her career. Carla was rather stumped on this question. She grew up with the business her whole life so she knew much of the ins and outs. She did say that the only thing she wishes is that she would have experienced opportunities at other companies. She also said that if she had to pick something she wishes she would have known about it would have been the amount of stress involved with the job.
Another question I asked was if writing is important to her career and Carla said it’s very important. However, she now has people who do the writing for her. She also answered my question about what pointers she would give a budding PR student. At first she laughingly said not to have kids because there is no time for them. She is actually a wonderful mother. Then she got serious and told me that you need to be organized, understand that this career is your life it is not a 9-5 job, never lie be completely honest, own up to your mistakes, and keep a positive attitude even when things are not going as planned.
As a follow-up question to the pointers I asked her what advice she has on interviews. Carla said that you need to be organized, polished, experienced, and have a fun upbeat personality to impress her. She also said do not chew gum and told me about when this one guy came in for a first interview and she could not focus on anything but his incessant gum chewing. He ended up not bringing gum to the second interview and got the job.
Overall, I would say that I learned a lot about what it is like to be a PR professional and some good pointers for when I head out into the job market. I would say that I am more likely to continue to a career in PR after the interview because Carla told me about a lot of really cool things that her company does and I really would love to be a part of that. Also, she didn’t really say anything negative enough to throw me off. It takes more than stress to change my plans.