Contrary to popular belief, the world’s tallest man does not greet you at the door when you arrive at Guinness World Records’ offices.
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Contrary to popular belief, the world’s tallest man does not greet you at the door when you arrive at Guinness World Records’ offices. And, no, the world’s oldest person doesn’t work the copy machine dispensing nuggets of age-old wisdom, nor does the woman with the world’s longest fingernails hang out in the break room offering back scratches.
But working for GWR – while it might not include the daily circus-like atmosphere most imagine – is certainly unique, and it definitely takes a special type to make it in this line of work.
One of the most common questions I get as Head of U.S. Records Management Team is, “How did you start working for Guinness World Records?”
Well, once you break 10 records of your own, they hire you to start working on the inside.
That, of course, is completely untrue.
I, for one, would never have guessed I’d be in my current position coming out of college. Graduating from Syracuse in 2007, I took my broadcast journalism degree and headed south to embark on a two-year journey in minor league baseball and college sports broadcasting, with some dabbling in freelance newspaper reporting on the side.
But turns out that all the experiences I had calling play-by-play of a 16-inning baseball game or interviewing student athletes live on the air after a tough loss prepared me exceptionally – if unexpectedly – for a job overseeing our U.S. team of record verifiers.
(And when your organization deals with everyone from a bachelor in Thailand who wants to run the fastest 100m in flippers to a family in Topeka that can’t believe their dog doesn’t have the longest tongue in the world, you draw on a lot of different professional experience.)
Thanks to my education and background in TV and video, I have no problem getting on camera and in front of large crowds. This helps when I have to appear on Jimmy Kimmel Live! to judge a record for “most balloons burst simultaneously by arrows;” or when I have to give a speech in front of a festival crowd of a few thousand who have come for their free sample from the “largest serving of roast pork” (6,821.54 lbs., by the way).
My history in newspaper reporting and editing blessed me with a clinically worrisome attention to detail, which comes in handy when you judge an attempt like the “fastest text message” being completed suspiciously quickly – to find out upon further examination that two words were omitted from the required text.
And people always wonder how we could possibly have the heart to break the news to someone that their record needs to be rejected. Well, after spending enough time talking to the point guard who missed the game-winning shot or the shortstop whose error cost his team a spot in the playoffs, you get seasoned enough to know how best to break it to someone that their “tallest stack of shoes in one minute” has to be discounted on a technicality.
Some career paths come pretty well-defined. Doctors, lawyers, accountants – they all basically come with a checklist of how to get from step 1 to your goal, like a reality version of the board game “Life.”
Other careers, like mine at Guinness World Records… not so much.
What I’ve learned is that personality has a lot to do with it. Everyone has their own marketable skills coming out of college or their first couple jobs. The important thing is having the wherewithal to adapt what you’re good at to an environment where you can flourish.
Just like Batman uses the same utility belt to fight all his different crimes, any person’s core skill set can translate to any industry, provided they’re adaptable, amenable, and open-minded.
So while I couldn’t have known it at the time, all those school lectures in Communications 101 and all those long hours prepping for radio broadcasts turned out to prepare me pretty well for what I do now.
Except for meeting Snooki during a record attempt on New Year’s Eve. Nothing can prepare you for that.
As Head of U.S. Records Management for Guinness World Records, Mike Janela has traveled to 10 countries and 19 states to adjudicate more than 60 record attempts. Show him your talent at www.guinnessworldrecords.com, www.facebook.com/guinnessworldrecords, or on Twitter @GWRnews.