Philly Play. What I Learned.

The banner I designed for Philly Play event materials.

The banner I designed for Philly Play event materials.

Thirty minutes into the interview I was hired to direct marketing and outreach, and was whisked off to the first project meeting. During the meeting’s introductions, everyone laughed when they realized how brand new I was. The project I had been launched into was Philly Play, a pilot program for a city-wide initiative aimed at encouraging 60 minutes of play a day for kids, and revitalizing Philly’s recreation centers. Unanimously backed by City Council, in partnership with Parks and Rec, Health Promotion Council, and Drexel University, this was no joke.

The various jobs one has over the course of life shapes us all. Especially with independent contractors, you never know what experience will be around the corner. Working on Philly Play was one of the those transformative positions that accelerates thinking and experience exponentially.

6th District Councilman Bobby Henon launching water balloons at Vogt Rec Center's Pop-Up event.

6th District Councilman Bobby Henon launching water balloons at Vogt Rec Center’s Pop-Up event.

What started as offering free activities for kids during weekdays at 5 recreation centers throughout the city, grew to 10 recreation centers. A couple of pop-up events turned into almost 20 over just two months. The still upcoming end of summer bash has ballooned similarly. Perhaps the rapid growth of the project reflected the need for it in Philadelphia. Learning to rapid fire adapt with changes, participating in such widespread collaboration, and designing outreach literature that reached over 50,000 kids in Philadelphia was a delightful challenge that was full of valuable lessons. I picked my favorite and more unusual insights, in the hopes that they’d be new and helpful.

1. Do research on how other people have handled similar situations. Whether it’s on salary negotiations, an assignment you’re unsure of, or something you think you have in the bag, do yourself a favor and read a couple of articles on the subject. One little tidbit you pick up could save you a huge headache. Even if you are totally on top of everything, the best time to expand your knowledge of something is when you’re working on a project that relates to it.

2. Keep impeccable records of your collaborations, and take on (much) more than just your share of responsibility. The more people involved in a project, the fuzzier lines and duties become. Especially if your contribution to the team is a large percentage of the total efforts, take as much extra responsibility as needed to ensure that the rest of the steps are completed thoroughly.

Councilman Bobby Henon putting together one of the 10 rec center equipment kits.

Councilman Bobby Henon putting together one of the 10 rec center equipment kits delivered as a part of the Philly Play program. Photo credit: CBS

3. Never assume anyone else knows how to do your job. In delegating tasks, always set clear instructions and share some tips of your trade with the person responsible. For instance, if you ask someone to take pictures at an event, don’t assume they know to avoid pictures with people’s backs facing the camera. While it may be obvious to you, perfectly brilliant people make mistakes like this all the time because they’re not used to thinking in a specific way. After all, that’s why they hired you!

Most importantly, stay positive! The best jobs are the ones that challenge you, and no worthy challenge is easily conquered.


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