AND YOU THOUGHT you were good at schmoozing.
Bill Murphy Jr. once flew from Washington to London for the day just to attend a party and chat up a fellow University of Connecticut Law School graduate who worked in the film industry.
By taking some calculated risks and “betting on myself,” as he puts it, Murphy, 38, has transitioned from federal tax attorney and Army reserve officer to Bob Woodward‘s research assistant to published author (“In a Time of War: The Proud and Perilous Journey of West Point’s Class of 2002“). Express recently talked with the Adams Morgan resident about why hardcore networking doesn’t have to connote sleazy backroom deals.
» EXPRESS: You bid $350 at a National Press Club auction and won lunch with the then-editor of USA Today.
» MURPHY: I had applied to work there, and I thought I would make my own interview. That was a big deal for me, paying that much. In a perfect world, I would have saved more money.
» EXPRESS: What are some of the less-costly things you did to move from practicing law to writing books?
» MURPHY: I told lots of people that I wasn’t sure I wanted a legal career, and that I wanted to be a writer instead. I was always writing on the side: novels, screenplays. In my third year of law school, another guy and I had launched a magazine called JD, which had about 75,000 readers [when it folded].
» EXPRESS: How did the Woodward thing come about?
» MURPHY: I had been called up for a year of reserve duty in Arlington. When I wasn’t putting in my hours there, I did a lot of informational interviews trying to figure out what I wanted to do next. In January 2005, one of my friends heard Woodward was looking for a research assistant to work on [his 2006 book] “State of Denial.” She said, “You probably won’t be interested, but just in case.”
» EXPRESS: What was it like?
» MURPHY: It is the world’s best apprenticeship for someone who wants to write a book. It was total immersion: interviews, research, checking facts. A lot of people get a big break like that, but it just doesn’t come out of the blue.
» EXPRESS: You’re writing a new book now, about graduates of Harvard Business School and the entrepreneurial paths they’ve taken.
» MURPHY: I went through a gazillion other [ideas] before I picked that one.
» EXPRESS: What do you tell people who aren’t sure what to do next?
» MURPHY: Three things. One: Take bold action. Even going the wrong way is taking some kind of action. Two: Believe in yourself. And three: Accept the risk [inherent in trying something new]; the worst that can happen probably isn’t that bad, when you think it through. It’s easy to let your fears become excuses for inaction.
Written by Express contributor Amy Rogers Nazarov
Photo courtesy of Bill Murphy Jr.