Putting the word out that I would offer someone the chance of a junior position at my agency, I sat and waited for the expected avalanche of applications from hungry young things passionate about the entertainment industry, and desperate to get on the first rung of the ladder. OK, the pay would be nominal, but the chance to learn the about the trade is priceless. All I wanted in return was enthusiasm, dedication and hard work – no-one had to go up a chimney or down a mine.
The response? Big fat zero. The majority of today’s youngsters, it seems, consider it beneath them to start in a low-paid junior role, expecting to fast-track to greater things without first putting in the graft.
How times have changed. My first job was in a London record shop with an equally gobby teenager called Danny Baker (yes, that one) and one of our regular customers was a 20-something Elton Hercules John.
When Baker started Rocket Records I pestered him endlessly until he finally employed me as a runner. I had no qualifications to speak of but my passion for music and capacity for hard work couldn’t be questioned.
That was the start of my journey through the music industry, which took me to vice-president of Sony Music UK, and on to The Corporation, which now has a client roster including Gordon Ramsay, Joe Cole and the man who gave me my first break, Elton John.
Simon Cowell started with nothing and worked his way up, so did Jo Malone, Gordon Ramsay and David Beckham, to name but a few. All had a raw talent and worked damn hard to develop it. In PR today, one wonders where the next Lynne Franks, Will Whitehorns or Matthew Freuds will come from?
Perhaps this fast-moving, multimedia, sound-bite world is to blame, creating young minds with the attention span of a gnat with ADD. If at first they don’t reach dizzy heights, they give up.
An obsession with further education has cultivated a generation all waving the same top-grade certificate, harbouring high expectations but with a reluctance to start at the bottom.
University is essential if you want to be doctor, vet or dentist, but if it’s entertainment, media or being entrepreneurial that interests you, then you’ll learn more at the pitface than from a lifetime of college lectures in ‘meedja’ studies.
Gary Farrow is chairman of The Corporation. Ian Monk is on holiday