The Harbinger Group

The Importance of Pivoting and Loving What You Do: Advice for Young Professionals from Rob Johnson

Advice for Young Professionals from Rob Johnson

Former WBBM-TV Chicago News Anchor, Rob Johnson, sat down with The Harbinger Group’s 2021 Intern Class to provide some insight into his time as a reporter and how he has pivoted to now working as a successful communications consultant.  

Rob Johnson is a well known journalist whose career has spanned over two decades. You may recognize him from WBBM-TV’s local news, Can You Hear Me? Podcast, or Special Olympics Illinois. Wherever you know him from, you have most likely noticed his fierce dedication to every project he takes on. We as an intern class were delighted to pick his brain about how he stays so engaged in all of his projects.

Johnson expressed that the secret to staying motivated in the working world is passion. Even though it may not be easy along the way getting to that “it” job, being everything and doing everything is the only way to work your way up and become recognized in your industry. With this, he stressed the importance of taking value away from your mistakes.

“I was passionate about what I did. So, when I got kicked in the teeth, it was like, you know, I love what I do,” Johnson said. “I had a bad day. What did I learn from it? And how am I going to make sure I don’t make that mistake again.”

We certainly are no strangers to mistakes. In fact, it seems as if every day comes with a different set of mistakes and failures which can be extremely discouraging. However, Johnson says feeling overwhelmed and out of place as a young adult entering the workforce is perfectly normal. His advice for when you feel overwhelmed and confused is simple: learn. 

“That sort of thing, being plucky, being determined, having a good attitude, being a team player, all those things matter,” Johnson said. “I think that’s sort of the bigger picture about how you go about becoming a professional.”

Exit Stage Right

In March 2019, Johnson announced that he would be leaving his role as head anchor of WBBM-TV Chicago. This unexpected announcement took many Chicago natives by surprise. However, for Johnson this was not a sudden decision.

In the two years before, Johnson noticed that the anchoring gig that had once given him much joy had lost its allure. Upon this realization, he reevaluated what he was passionate about.

“I didn’t love it as much. That’s when I was like, hmm what else can I do? That’s why it’s important to make sure that you love what you do,” Johnson said. 

Once he understood that his role was no longer serving him happiness, he looked at his options; as a professional who was persistent in learning about every role in the journalism field, he had many.

Ultimately, he pinpointed his passion for brand-building and philanthropy. Once he recognized his love for these areas of work, he quickly made his vision a reality. 

Johnson now enjoys running his own communications strategy firm, RJ47 LLC, where he specializes in crisis communications, brand building, marketing and much more. He has always had a hand in branding, but he is now ecstatic to do so from a different angle.

“I was the brand at the TV station. I would be in the marketing and branding meetings all the time, but I was the brand cause I was the main anchor. And it was really cool to be doing it for something else,” Johnson said.

Two projects that are close to his heart are Special Olympics Illinois and the Can You Hear Me? Podcast. His work with Special Olympics Illinois is not a new project by any means. Serving on the executive committee of this organization has been a constant highlight of his adult life. 

The Can You Hear Me? biweekly podcast for leaders and rising professionals in the communications field is a new project that he took on with The Harbinger Group’s very own, Eileen Rochford. Johnson enjoys being able to dive deep into the communications industry with a fellow professional.

On this new and exciting journey, Johnson uses what he learned from his long career as a news anchor and is also extremely grateful for his experiences in that role.

Johnson still recalls the magic that he felt as an anchor. Barack Obama’s presidential campaign, the Blackhawks Stanley Cup win, the Cubs World Series Win, the Republican & Democratic Conventions are all stories that Johnson covered and he remembers these moments fondly, feeling as though he had a front row seat to history. 

How to Pivot

We as an intern class would like to thank Rob Johnson for his time and commitment to helping the upcoming generation of leaders in the communications industry. We signed off of our meeting feeling energized and more knowledgeable.

Johnson shared the key aspects of how he has been able to pivot during his career: 

  • Learn in every situation. Especially when you experience failures, it is crucial to learn from them because you are opening yourself up to new opportunities. 
  • Love what you do. In a fast paced environment with school, work and figuring out how to be an adult, it is easy to forget your why. Johnson’s words of wisdom have reminded us to slow down and understand what we love and what we don’t. 
  • Give back to your community. Johnson emphasized no matter how much success comes your way it will always be your duty to give back. 
  • Focus on what you can control. Not every situation is going to be in your hands. There may be times when decisions are made that you do not get a say in but what you do get a say in is how you respond. Respect yourself and others with your response.
  • Have Transferable Skills. It’s not enough to just know how to do your job. It is essential to be well versed in every area of your industry. 

Johnson’s story and his words of advice have given The Harbinger Group’s 2021 Intern Class a fresh perspective on adulting and professionalism in 2021. We hope you gained insight as well.