Sunday, December 26, 2010

Your Career and You: "Five End-of-Year To-Dos for Your Future"

We're in the final countdown now to the tottering end of 2010 and the teetering start of a brand-new year.

But before you send this first decade of the new millennium packing, though, here are five things you should do to ensure that 2011 truly is a winner.

1. Cover Letter and Resume

By now, the eggnog-induced euphoria of the Yuletide season should be drifting gently away. Pull these two puppies up on your computer screen and give them the icy glare of Father Time being booted into the closet.

Is what you see what you want to say and would like to be remembered as? Not only from the content aspect but from the appearance as well?

Format organized and professional? Font readable (minimum 11-point; maximum 12-point)? Your name/address/contact info the same for both pieces? Margins even (1 inch for the sides)?

2. Network

It's the start of a new year, and you're actually allowed to reach out to folks who you may not have been in contact with in a while as well as to recent contacts to wish them good fortune in the coming year (and remind them you're still around...hint...hint).

Short email is best. ("Dear X - As we prepare to enter the new decade, I wanted to send you my best wishes for a success-filled 2011. My own resolution for the coming year is to find a/an new opportunity/entry-level position that will allow me to fully use my communication skills (etc., etc.). Wishing you a Happy New Year! - (you)")

3. Schmooze

'Tis the party season. Take advantage of the many opportunities to gather with friends, family, casual acquaintances.

You never know. Uncle Fred, who you haven't seen in dog years, may know "someone you can talk to." As I noted in a recent guest-post I did for Sidney Maxwell Public Relations, talk to "family, friends of family, family of friends." You never know where the connection might lie.

4. Navel-Gaze

As I sit watching what has been billed by eager-voiced weather-prognosticators as "THE BLIZZARD OF 2010!!!", I'm finding myself thinking about my own skills and abilities and mentally making note of places that could use a little touch-up. You should do the same!

Do some prioritizing. Looking back on the past year, what have you done that you're really, really proud of?

Make a list. It might be one or two accomplishments; it might have been a remarkable year, and you have four or five! Whatever the number, take note of what you've done...they're "previews of coming attractions"!

5. Be Proud of Who You Are

As a college freshman, I had a summer job working in a woolen mill in my hometown. I remember meeting and becoming friendly with a fellow whose job it was to operate a cloth-folding machine. He pushed a button to start the machine. When the container into which the cloth was being folded was full, he pushed a button to stop the machine and get another container. Then he pushed the button again...

What has stuck with me in the ensuing 46 years was the visible pride that this fellow took in his work. He was the maestro of this machine and had a mission of producing containers filled with immaculately-folded cloth.

Where I saw "mundane," he saw a masterpiece. Where I saw blinding boredom, he saw beautiful bundles. He was...rightfully so...proud of who he was...a professional in his field.

The year's coming to an end, and a new beginning is right around the corner. If you follow these five simple pieces of advice, you'll be prepared to dive in and make a yourself, and to the lucky organization that recognizes your enthusiasm and potential.

"'Twixt the optimist and pessimist
The difference is droll:
The optimist sees the doughnut
But the pessimist sees the hole."
McLandburgh Wilson, "Optimist and Pessimist"

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Your Career and You: "Your Internship...Putting It in Perspective"

We're wrapping up internships at Curry College, where I oversee the Public Relations concentration and teach most of the PR courses offered in our Communication major.

A couple of students whose internships I supervised from the faculty side absolutely outdid themselves, garnering rave reviews from their site supervisors and indicating in their post-internship "Reflection Papers" just how excited they are about ultimately working in my chosen career field.

Other students...not so much...and a couple stand out.

One thinks she wants to work in events planning, and she chose to get her "experience" in one of the major restaurants that specializes in weddings, corporate functions, and other big-crowd mob scenes.

On the "plus" side, she definitely experienced the behind-the-scenes insanity that goes into staging a large event, including how to properly arrange a place setting and what kind of shoes are appropriate if one is going to be working an event. (Hint: Your Manolo Blahnik high heels won't cut it!)

But she didn't learn a thing about promoting events...about planning events as a means of accomplishing corporate objectives...about getting corporate buy-in to even stage an event.

Was this internship a waste of time?

No. There were some lessons learned in the course of the semester.

But I would argue that the time could have been better spent working with a public relations firm learning all the ins and outs of dealing with clients, media, bosses, underlings, would-be dictators...

Another student was talking with me about an internship that he wants to take on in the spring. He's having difficulty finding the "right" one.

It's not that there are no internships...I've given him easily a half-dozen possibilities along with the names and contact info of friends who head those organizations.

But nothing has happened...he informed me that "none of those are 'good enough' for me."


Let's want to learn about a particular segment of the business world because you kind of know what you want to do post-graduation... but none of these organizations "are good enough."


This one has all the makings of a genuinely rude awakening, and I'm going to be standing on the sidelines watching.

Which brings me back to "perspective." Real life is made up of two pieces: aspiration and reality. The "trick," if that's what you choose to call it, is to line those two puppies up as closely as possible...know what you want to do with your life...and know, at least in starting out, what you can do.

My wife Margaret once drove a salesman to the point of exasperation in the course of buying two matching table lamps...a two-hour exercise, I might add. She kept finding and pointing out microscopic flaws in one or the other of the lamps until finally the guy gently chided her with a "Nothing's perfect, little girl." (We bought the lamps and enjoyed them for nearly 20 years!)

The same holds true in professional life as well. Counting my current relationship with Curry College, I have had two nearly-perfect jobs in 40-plus years...the other (check with any of my students; they can tell you about it in a heartbeat!) was the Blood Bank of Hawaii.

Did I "settle" with either of those opportunities? Absolutely not. Would I take on either of those challenges again knowing what I know today? You better believe it.

Why? Because I knew what I wanted to accomplish in my own life, and I knew from experience that only special environments would make that possible.

And I have been right in both cases.

So my advice, for what it's worth, is this. Figure out what it is that you want to do with your life...what makes you proud?...what do you enjoy doing?...for whom?

Then set off on a march through life toward that goal. Accept that you will hit some potholes along the way. But keep a clear focus on what, at some point in the future when you're sitting on your verandah in Key West watching the sun set, you want to look back on with pride.

As was sung so eloquently by the Rolling Stones:
"You can't always get what you want,
But if you try sometimes, you just might find,
You get what you need."

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Your Career and You: "Count Your Blessings"

Every once in a while, I get whacked up side the head (a "southernism") with the realization that I wouldn't be where I am today had it not been for the belief that a legion of friends and colleagues had and/or still have in my abilities as a public relations professional and now as a public relations professor.

The foundation of this support is Margaret, my amazing wife of more years than she will allow me to publicly herald, who seems to be convinced that my casually strolling across Lake Superior is not only imminently do-able, but probably is going to happen some day soon.

Other believers include professional colleagues, many of whom I have known for better than a quarter of a century, family members scattered from here to Georgia and the Far East, and students whose paths have crossed mine and who have become inextricably tangled in my web.

And I'm not alone in this happy situation. I would offer that you are in exactly the same place, whether it be through family or friends or both.

We all have a tendency to beat ourselves up psychologically from time to's part (or so I believe) of taking responsibility for our own actions...of "growing up."

But it's not really necessary. If you find yourself slip-sliding into that dark abyss called "self-pity," put on the brakes and take a minute to reflect...on the encouragement that you got from a colleague for a job well done...on the thank-you note that you got from someone who you spent some time chatting with about careers in public relations...on the good feeling you got when you slipped a dollar into the Salvation Army kettle when you were leaving the grocery store.

I've heard from a couple of Curry College and Regis College students over the past week thanking me for making this past semester a fun learning experience. My response to them was "thank you for giving me a reason to get up in the morning."

That is my "blessing" at this stage in my professional be able to get up every day and go into the classroom where I can share my own knowledge and experience with young future professionals eager to learn and willing to work hard in the process.

If you take a minute to reflect, you have these moments as well. Learn how to appreciate them. Take the time to bask in the warmth of a laugh shared with a friend or the comfort of a quietly-spoken "I understand."

Linus has his blanket. These moments can be yours. Enjoy them. Revel in them. Count your blessings!

"For this I bless you most:
You give much and know not that you give at all.
Verily the kindness that gazes upon itself in a mirror turns to stone,
And a good deed that calls itself by tender names becomes the parent to a curse."
Kahlil Gibran, "The Prophet" [1923]

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Your Career and You: "Take Pride in What You've Accomplished"

I participated in a PRSSA program on careers last week with a group of interested, engaged, and ambitious young men and women in the audience eager to learn from PR pros what it takes to get started.

Advice ranged from "internships are crucial" to "make your resume stand out." The panelists represented both corporate and agency, with representation from high tech, consumer, technology, and academia... a good mix that covered most of the bases.

Two of the panelists were young, fairly recent grads, one working in consumer PR for a company, the other in tech for a PR firm. Another is a corporate communications director for a technology company, and the fourth is a human resources VP for a major PR firm. And yours truly, representing a previous life in all sorts of PR environments... now teaching PR full-time at Curry College (undergrad) and part-time at Regis College (grad).

Most of the questions from the students were the standard "what should I put on my resume?" types, but one student asked that particular question in a way that really got my attention and started me thinking.

To paraphrase: "Should I put my summer job on my resume? All I do is go home during the summer and wait tables in a restaurant in my hometown."

Question from a panelist: "How long have you been doing this?"

Answer: "For the past four years."

And we're off! The HR VP and I exchanged glances to see who was going to dive into this one first...she won!

"First, you need to describe your job in terms of your interactions with customers...look at the things you do as part of your job and put them in a client service perspective."

"Second," she continued, "Wow! Four years! You have held that job for four years while also going to school...that is something to be proud of!"

This is something a lot of us ( miss. Even though you don't recognize it, and probably no one has ever taken the time to point it out to you, you probably have some type of accomplishment on your life record that is significant...something you should be proud of.

A number of my undergrad students at Curry have part-time jobs as nannies, and they tend to look at that job as "just a job to pay bills." I try to emphasize, each time I meet with one of these folks, just how the requirements of the "nanny job" are so similar to those of an account executive at a PR firm or communications specialist in a company.

You're managing expectations. You're dealing with clients with varied temperaments. You're practicing time management by balancing your school responsibilities with those of your job. You're being held accountable for your actions. You're practicing interpersonal communication.

Hmmm. When I look at my job descriptions from previous PR jobs that I've held...pretty much the same!

We...your "elders" (having trouble accepting that title)...need to be proactive in pointing out the accomplishments that you have racked up in your young (or not-so-young) lifespan. Some awesome stuff there!

You, by the same token, need to be more proactive in pointing out the things that you have and hobbies. I can't read your tea leaves, so I don't know all the things that you've done.

So point them out and let me respond, either positively or negatively. Hey...I managed a poolroom during my sophomore year in addition to staying on the Dean's list for the year. My parents weren't particularly pleased, but I learned a TON from dealing with the varied clientele...and keeping abreast of my studies.

So, again, take pride in the many things that you've done...and keep on doing those things that make you proud. In the end, those are the life experiences that you will be able to call on in your professional life.

An angry diner in your restaurant is exactly the same as an angry client or boss. Neither likes the fact that there's a fly in the soup!

"Your true pilot cares nothing about anything on earth but the river, and his pride in his occupation surpasses the pride of kings."
Mark Twain (Samuel Langhorne Clemens), "Life on the Mississippi" [1883]

Friday, November 26, 2010

Your Career and You: "The ROI of a Handshake"

I've been reading Charlene Li's excellent book "Open Leadership" this weekend, and one line sticks in my mind: "What's the ROI ["return on investment" for those folks who haven't delved into business-speak] of a handshake?"

She leads into this with another spot-on observation: "Inevitably, we base many of our decisions on just the thinnest sliver of information and evidence or, even more likely, our gut feeling."

Wow! Such simple statements that say so much about ways in which business decisions are made.

How does this apply to your situation as you either prepare to enter the workforce after college or embark on a search for a new position that offers greater opportunities than the one you currently hold?

Simple. The decisions that you make are "investments" in your future. You conduct your market research, and you devise a plan of action. That plan includes such things as networking, job analysis, and the plain ol' gruntwork of meetings and follow-up.

The key in all this is to undertake those activities that you feel will deliver the best results...your "return on investment."

As I tell my students and advisees (probably more times than they really want) at Curry College, where I oversee the Public Relations concentration within our Communication major, sometimes it just boils down to a "gut feeling."

And sometimes you just take chances...something I've talked about numerous times.

The bottom line for you as the job-seeker is to take actions that, in your opinion, will result in something positive happening...a referral to a job possibility...a job offer...a new busines contact.

I took a chance like this years ago (seems like yesterday to me, but the calendar now says 20 years ago!) with a move from Massachusetts to Hawaii. Didn't know a single soul in the entire Aloha State. Had no clue what lay in store. But the feedback and encouragement I got from folks with whom I had been in contact gave me the feeling that something good would come of this.

Reader's Digest version of the outcome? Best job I've ever had as a public relations professional.

Landing this job, though, required my reaching way beyond the limits of my comfort zone. As odd as this may sound, I'm a card-carrying introvert, and I don't do well in crowds where I don't know at least 90% of the people.

But I also knew that my "gut" was telling me this was a worthwhile effort...that something good would come of my reaching out to total strangers and asking for help. So I put myself out there, met a bazillion people, made a gazillion new friends, shook a boatload of hands, and succeeded...big time.

As you start gathering your information and preparing for your own journey, do so with this in mind: "What is the possible outcome of this effort? What might I expect?"

If you answer these questions up front, you will be better prepared to act on unplanned opportunities. You will have a better idea of where the conversation might lead you.

You will know the potential ROI of that handshake.

"Know the other, know yourself,
And the victory will not be at risk;
Know the ground, know the natural conditions,
And the victory can be total."
Sun-Tzu, "The Art of Warfare: The Terrain" [6th Century B.C.]

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Your Career and You: "Thinking Critically is Critical"

I just wrapped up the penultimate (always wanted to use that sounds so cool!) class for this semester's "Conflict Management and Resolution" graduate course at Regis College, and I came home jazzed. has been an insane week...but today left me enthusiastic and re-energized!


Because we (the members of the class and I) spent a good portion of the time firing ideas and concepts around as we dealt with various conflict situations and were brainstorming ways in which to address them.

Same happened yesterday, I should add, in my undergraduate public relations classes at Curry we discussed consumer relations.

And what does all this blithering have to do with "critical thinking," you ask?

"Elementary, my dear Watson," quoth Sherlock Holmes.

According to Robert H. Ennis, author of The Cornell Critical Thinking Tests, "Critical thinking is reasonable, reflective thinking that is focused on deciding what to believe and do."

How did it apply in the situations above?

We took information at hand, analyzed it, compared it with our own experiences, beliefs and prejudices, and made a decision.

Why does that get me all excited, you ask?

Because critical thinking is life. Critical thinking is business. Critical thinking is, or should be, part and parcel of everything that we do as human beings.

How does that apply to your current or future career?

Because rarely are you going to be brought the solution to a problem, challenge, or opportunity on the proverbial silver platter. You're going to have to take a boatload of raw data, sift through it, find the key benefits (or risks), and draw a conclusion...

...without the benefit of a textbook's clearly laying out the steps in the procedure.

The training wheels are off the bike, and you're heading for the tree. What do you do?

The one thing I do that drives many of my Communication students nuts at Curry is ask a ton of open-ended "what do you think?" questions. I see them feverishly leafing through their textbooks trying to find the answer.

Then the inevitable question comes from the anguished crowd..."What page is the answer on?"

To which I respond, "It's not. You have to take the information I gave you and draw your own conclusion...find your own solution."

Comes the muttered response: "That's so not fair."

Yep! :-)

Welcome to grownup-hood where the roads are unmarked, and the streets have no names. You make your way, lantern in hand, searching for the elusive answer.

But, my friends, if you do this often enough, and you accept the fact that you are a living, breathing creature with a marvelous thing called a "brain," you will develop critical thinking skills.

You will learn how...maybe not easily or quickly...but you will learn how to gather the data about you, sift through it and categorize the various facts, and draw a conclusion based on your own experience, your own knowledge, and your own human instincts.

You will add critical thinking as a necessary weapon in your arsenal of skills, and you will be ready to take your own place in the world as a professional.

"When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth."
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, "The Sign of Four" [1890]

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Your Career and You: "You ARE the Future...Are You Ready?"

As the semester winds its way to the end at Curry College, I seem to be having more and more conversations with bleary-eyed seniors looking for the "answer."

"Will I find a job when I graduate?"

"What should I do when I graduate?"

Both very good questions that merit some serious thought and equally serious response.

Will you find a job? Yes. Probably not as quickly as you would like, and maybe not exactly what you were hoping for right out of the gate, but you will find a job.

I've talked at length in previous posts about planning for the future. But here's another thought: "You are the future...Are you ready?"

This is, in itself, a worrisome thing. In some cases, my own response is, "Yes, you're ready. Go forth and make us all proud!"

But, in other cases, I'm not so sure...there are still some rough spots that a few folks have to take care of...things like being able to write coherent sentences in a professional manner...being able to identify potential employment opportunities without someone else having to do the upfront research...the basics.

Am I discouraged? Far from it.

Am I bubbling over with exuberant enthusiasm? Ditto.

What I have to professor, mentor, friend, continue to make it crystal clear in my classroom discussions as well as one-on-one counseling with my public relations concentration students that finding a job is hard work. And the competition is fierce. But I deeply and sincerely believe in your ability to succeed.

Those of you who get it...who understand the deeper meaning of the term "public relations professional"...will rise to the top of the pile.

And you will do this by excelling in your studies; by undertaking one, two, or three internships; by regularly participating in on- and off-campus professional activities; and by networking like crazy.

Employers are looking for that "extra something" that differentiates the "ok" applicant from the "must-have" applicant. That "something" is intangible but it's definitely there.

It's that attitude of quiet self-confidence...that eager but not fawning interest in the opportunity at hand...that passion that I so often talk about and so seldom witness.

The world truly is just around the corner waiting for your arrival. And you truly are the future of my lifetime profession of public relations.

The question that you have to answer...and believe with all your heart once you find that, "Are you ready?"

"Reading maketh a full man, conference a ready man, and writing an exact man."
Francis Bacon, "Essays...Of Studies" [1625]

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Your Career and You: "Why Are You Here?"

I came up to Massachusetts in the late 70s as a bright-eyed, bushy-tailed Public Affairs intern slated to step in as Public Affairs Officer for the US Army Intelligence School, Devens.

I was at the tail end of an 18-month internship and had been through the gamut of training including the Defense Information School and a three-month assignment at Ft. Lewis, Washington. This was on top of my previous eight years in the Air Force with varying assignments and duties around the US as well as Asia.

Knew what I was doing and going to do...or so I thought!

Then I walked into the School Commander's office for my introductory interview.

The way this was going to play out (in my mind) was that he was going to welcome me, ask about my background, commend me on a decent stint in the Air Force, and send me along to do my job.

Not exactly the way it went.

I walked in, introduced myself and, after being invited to do so, sat down. He looked at me over the top of his glasses and along the length of his mile-long cigar, and asked one question: "Why are you here?"


Fortunately, I had arrived a couple of days before with my wife to check out the area and figure out where we were going to live. I also had some time to visit Ayer, the town adjacent to Ft. Devens, and chat with a few business owners along the main street. Got some interesting insights.

Back to the question at hand.

I looked the colonel in the eye and said, "Sir, I have had a chance to talk to some of the folks in downtown Ayer...our neighbors...and they don't seem to know who we are or what we're doing here. You have an image problem that I believe I can help fix."

Cut to the dramatic sunset and romantic music in the background...I spent the next three and a half years rebuilding our public relations program basically from the ground up.

Left with the School actively involved in post-wide activities, holding open houses that allowed our neighboring communities a glimpse at what we were doing behind the barbed wire and frosted windows, and getting regular, positive coverage in local, regional, national and international publications.

But it all started with my doing my homework. My rationale was, if I didn't know what this organization was all about and I was going to be the chief PR guy, what did our publics know?

Any time you have a reason to meet with someone, whether it be for an informational interview, an internship interview, or a job interview... do your homework.

Find out as much as you can about the organization itself and the key players within the organization. Find out what the public thinks about the organization. Find out who the competition is. And prepare your questions...write them out and refer to them during your meeting.


Because, even if the question isn't asked openly, it's sitting there beside you during your meeting, eating grapes and spitting the seeds on the floor.

"Why are you here?"

Show that you're curious...that you like having  control of the facts in a situation. Even if it's an informational interview and you're really not interested in working at this particular organization, show your research skills.

Be able to at least ask a question about a recent news item mentioning the organization or about a product that catches your attention during your research.

Why? Because you will make an impression. You will leave your interviewer with the perception that you have the makings of a know how to do your homework.

Why is that important? Because this individual just might either have an idea of a job you could apply for or might, at some point, have a conversation with a colleague who is looking for someone with your general qualifications.

Which would you rather have said?

To you: "Gee, I really don't know of anyone who's looking for someone like you."

Or to a colleague: "You know. I met a young person the other day who had really done his(her) homework before our meeting and was asking some very insightful questions. Might be worth your talking to him(her). I know I was impressed."

Do your homework. Be ready to answer the unasked question: "Why are you here?"

"Every why hath a wherefore."
William Shakespeare, "The Comedy of Errors" (act II, sc. ii, l. 45)

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Your Career and You: "Get a Focus"

I've had a number of conversations this week with students, advisees as well as others, about the future...the "future" in this case being the coming semester (Spring) and, for some, impending graduation.

Just about every one of these chats began with "What courses should I take?" And that's a very logical thing to ask since neither time nor the registrar are going to sit around and wait for them to make a decision.

My question in return was "Well, what is it that you're interested in?" To which I usually got a panicky look that told me the individual being interrogated didn't have a clue and hadn't really given the matter any thought.

Not a good way to start a discussion about your life and your future.

One thing I'm crystal clear about in my work with students at Curry College, where I head up the Public Relations concentration and teach most of the PR courses, as well as serve as Faculty Adviser for the Curry College Public Relations Student Association...get a focus.

This holds as true for college students as it does for young men and women just getting started out in the professional world. Figure out what it is that gets you excited and start shaping your academic or career path in such a way that you will be prepared to move into that area when the time is right.

When I was starting out in college, I was convinced I wanted to be a civil engineer building highways and bridges in my home state of Georgia. Went off to Auburn University with all intentions of becoming an overnight success.

Long story made very short...damn near flunked out of college! Among other things, couldn't draw a straight line with a straight edge if my life depended on it!

Not a good sign.

I switched to an English major and transferred to the University of Georgia where I discovered my passion (at the time) was 18th century British literature. Took every possible course related to that area and had the time of my life. I also had a dream of going on to get an advanced degree in English and becoming a tweedy prof wafting through the halls of the English department and exuding some semblance of brilliance.

Then, after graduation, I joined the Air Force and wound up in Saigon, Vietnam, teaching English as a second language...and developing a knack for public relations.

(Note: Don't try to make a connection...there was none. It's just that the opportunity came up during my second year there to manage a mini-nightclub for our instructors, and I took to it like the proverbial duck to water. Promoted the dickens out of the operation, built the business exponentially, and left the country with a very good notion of how community relations can benefit an organization.)

I served a total of eight years in the Air Force, with assignments at various bases in the States as well as a stint in the all cases and places further refining my PR skills and getting a sense of what I really wanted to do in life.

When I left the Air Force, I had the good fortune to qualify for a civilian Public Affairs internship with the US Army and subsequently spent a little over seven years fine-tuning my PR skills and figuring out exactly which areas of the profession I was best equipped for.

The point to this recitation is just the beginning, I didn't really have a focus. I just was enjoying something that interested me. But it really wasn't preparing me for a viable future.

With the Air Force/Army experience, I got a focus. I figured out what it was (a) that I was very good at, (b) that I could get excited about, and (c) that I wanted to do for the rest of my life.

And I've never regretted that choice. For nearly 40 years, I have worked in/ succeeded in/revelled in a career field that was simultaneously maddening and exhilarating. Today that includes being allowed to share the knowledge and experience of those amazing years with young future public relations professionals.

Has it been all roses? Absolutely not.

There have been days when I wished I was back in Saigon checking classrooms for bombs before the start of the day. But there also have been days when I just sat and marvelled at the amazing opportunities and experiences I have been blessed with.

That's the goal in all find that one thing that is you and focus on it. Give it your all. Throw yourself body and soul into the deep end and start working to make your mark.

It doesn't come easily, and there may be some missteps along the way. That's called "life," and you can learn from everything you encounter.

But it will come together, and you will find yourself, as I have, revelling in the sheer joy of doing what you love to do and...most important...want to do.

It all starts, though, with the most difficult have to get a focus.

"'The time has come,' the Walrus said,
'To talk of many things:
Of shoes - and ships - and sealing wax -
Of cabbages - and kings -
And why the sea is boiling hot -
And whether pigs have wings!'"
Lewis Carroll, "Through the Looking Glass"

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Your Career and You: "Never Stop Learning"

I attended the Public Relations Society of America's 2010 International Conference in Washington, DC, last week and came away, as usual, even more excited about my chosen career field.

PR people...successful PR people...are learners. They grow up absorbing all that life has to offer; they go to college to add to that knowledge. Then, when opportunities like this annual conference come along, they turn out in droves to learn even more.

Not only were there a couple thousand PR professionals and educators in the mix; the Public Relations Student Society of America held its annual conference a few days before...also in DC...and more than 1,000 students...future PR professionals...were in attendance as well!

How cool is that?!?

All these people, young and old, men and women...more than 3,000 in all...gathered together to take advantage of additional educational opportunities outside the workplace and outside the classroom.

I realized, as I was sitting in keynote speaker sessions with more than 1,000 other attendees and in breakout sessions that had, on average, 50 people eagerly listening and taking notes, that the "secret" to success, if there is a secret, is keeping your mind refreshed with new information.

I got back to Curry College on Wednesday and spent the remainder of the week sharing my experiences with my public relations students. Then, today, I taught my graduate communications class at Regis College and did the same.

Why? Because I want to emphasize the importance of learning...the value of seeking new information.

The world is changing, and what was "new" yesterday is now a standard part of everyday business. Something new has taken its place, and you, as a public relations professional, have to be aware of that change and be able to incorporate it into your daily routine as a counselor and advisor.

The way I see it, which would you rather have happen? You suggesting a communication strategy involving, for example, social media as a means of reaching target audiences? Or your boss asking you why you're not using a communication strategy involving social media?

I, for one, would prefer to suggest the concept and have my client say, "What a great suggestion. I'm lucky to have you as my PR counsel."

For those of you who moan piteously, "I'm so busy. I just don't have time for all that extra stuff," I say, "Your choice, my friend." Then I say to myself, "And don't come whining to me when your boss or client decides that the grass is greener elsewhere and invites you to move on."

There are any number of ways through which to take advantage of educational opportunities. In today's world, this includes online activities including webinars and chat sessions as well as traditional in-person events.

I was talking with one of my PR concentration students (a future superstar, by the way, of whom I expect great things!) at Curry yesterday about the various communication-focused organizations in the Boston area and came up with a list of six whose programs I attend whenever I can...there are probably more...these are the ones I know about and go to.

If you look in your area, you'll find at least one or two, probably more. Seek them out. Go to their programs when the topic sounds interesting.

And, while you're at You're in the midst of like-minded people, so take advantage of their knowledge as well!

In the end, when it comes to either looking for your first job or looking for a move in a new or more challenging direction, these efforts will pay off. You will be able to show your determination to succeed. You've never stopped learning!

"Properly speaking, for the public relations man, as for every other person whose life is more than unthinking routine, the processes of education should never cease."
Edward L. Bernays, "A definitive study of Your Future in Public Relations" [1961]

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Your Career and You: "Find Your Inspiration"

I read a truly inspiring feature this morning in the Boston Sunday Globe about a young man...Lane Sutton...from Framingham, MA, who at age 13 has established himself as a social media maven.

I also read some genuinely idiotic comments from some Globe readers who apparently are appalled that this young man has emerged as a budding leader in the social media world. Seems like some folks are not prepared for the fact that some young men and women actually do care and actually do such shockingly adult things as read, use grown-up language, and have a vision.

This might explain why some of the young adults with whom I come in contact both at Curry College, where I teach undergrad Communication courses and oversee the Public Relations Concentration, and Regis College, where I teach graduate communication courses, are clueless about where they would like to go in life. They have gotten zip as guidance from their parents!

This is obviously a problem as we are talking about young men and women who are within shouting distance of their entry into the professional working world and are investing a not-inconsiderable chunk of cash into their educational preparation. They don't know why they're doing it!!

It's not entirely hopeless, though, and this is why I (and many other of my colleagues) take the time to meet with students to guide...nudge... shove(?) them along a particular path. We see the glimmer of a possibility, and we make it our crusade to help those who will accept our help find their way.

So what does all this mean for you?

It means you look to others...teachers, peers, parents, whoever you respect...for guidance and advice.

And you start paying attention to the success stories of those who have found their way and see how what they have done might apply to you.

What fascinated me about Lane Sutton's story is the fact that, in spite of his being, to use the trite phrase, "ahead of his time," he is a normal, decent kid who does his homework, has friends in school, and rides his bike.

Where he diverges from the norm is the fact that he reads newspapers and magazines. He associates with and talks to adults. He has figured out where his interests lie, and he's doing something about it. OMG...he reads?!?

Maybe this isn't you. Maybe this isn't where your interest lies. And that's ok. You don't have to be like someone just because he or she is successful.

What you do have to do is ask yourself, "What is it about this person that made him what he is today?"

When you answer that question, you're ready to find your own role model...someone who you would like to be like...someone whose interests are similar to yours.

Pay attention to what he or she does...reads...says...thinks. Ask yourself, "Am I like that? Do I want to be like that?"

I'm not saying become a mindless clone. What I am saying is you don't have to create everything yourself. Someone, somewhere, has done or is doing what you would like to be and do.

I would venture to say that, when you do find this person and pay attention to all these things, you will start getting a sense of how you would like to conduct yourself. You will start doing things that bring you a sense of satisfaction, that make you proud of your abilities. You will find that others are starting to listen to you and, sometimes, asking you for advice.

It may feel a little unnatural in the beginning, but as you grow into your new "you," you will become more comfortable and sure of yourself.

It all starts, though, with the initial challenge...find your inspiration!

"Yet this we ask ere you leave us, that you speak to us and give us of your truth.
And we will give it unto our children, and they unto their children, and it shall not perish."
Kahlil Gibran, "The Prophet" [1923]

Monday, October 4, 2010

Your Career and You: "It's Okay to Change Things"

We had a meeting of the Curry College Public Relations Student Association last week with guest speaker Whytnee Bush, Events & Media Coordinator for Boston Harborfest.

Whytnee is an up-and-coming PR superstar who came into the field somewhat by accident and discovered to her delight...and to mine as a Director of the world-renowned organization...that she loves the challenges of nonprofit public relations.

She shared her experiences getting started in an organization that, for going on 30 years, has been attracting nearly two million visitors annually to Boston from around the globe for a week's worth of family-oriented, affordable entertainment and education.

Advice flowed fast, furious and factually, with attendees chiming in with questions to learn more about actually getting a start in public relations. One recommendation, in particular, resonated with me and gave me the idea for this posting.

Among her "lessons learned," Whytnee advised listeners to "be willing to change things if you think you have a better idea." She followed up with examples of how she had revamped the news releases that were sent out regularly and often by Harborfest to the media.

"They obviously had not been updated in years," she said. "Interns working at Harborfest just plugged in new dates or other information but didn't do anything to the basic copy. I rewrote just about every one to make them sound more 'fresh.'"

The end result? An increase in media interest and use of the materials in publicity about Boston Harborfest.

While this advice from a "junior" practitioner might cause some of my more "traditional" colleagues to swoon, I am totally behind the concept. Something might not be "broken," but it very likely could be improved with a little tinkering.

I did this as an intern myself. Back in the dark ages, I was assigned to the US Army Training and Doctrine Command's Editorial Branch to get some experience editing training materials.

One step of the editing process required that we calculate reading levels for individual manuals, and I noticed right off the bat that my more experienced colleagues were painstakingly creating columns of numbers and then transcribing calculations onto a second piece of paper...a long, drawn-out process.

Being somewhat "labor-averse," I decided that there had to be an easier way, and I experimented with a couple of templates into which I simply plugged numbers and performed calculations. It was the same amount of adding and multiplying, but the process was more orderly and less likely to produce errors.

End result? When I completed my assignment with the Editorial Branch, the commander presented me with a letter of commendation citing my proactive approach to simplifying reading level calculations...that was now an official part of the editing process.

I didn't ask for permission. I simply looked at what was there and identified a simpler, more effective way of accomplishing the task.

This is one thing I try to instill in the minds of my Communication students at Curry College...that it really is okay to be proactive and change things.

I'm not advocating going in willy-nilly and trashing everything that's ever been done. But I am championing the idea of questioning the status quo. Just because they've "done it that way forever" doesn't mean it's the most effective or efficient way.

Experiment on your own time with your own concept of how something could be done more quickly or easily. Once you've proven to yourself that it can be done your new-and-improved way, propose it to your supervisor...or try it out on a colleague to get his or her feedback.

Bottom line...change truly is good, as long as it's done with thought and consideration for the results. "It's okay to change things!"

"God, give us grace to accept with serenity the things that cannot be changed, courage to change the things which should be changed, and the wisdom to distinguish the one from the other."
Reinhold Neibuhr, "The Serenity Prayer" [1934]

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Your Career and You: "Connecting the Dots"

It occurred to me this morning as I was checking in with my
Curry College PR Student Association executive board members that there is a step missing in the communication of information between those of us on the professional side of the equation and those on the hoping-to-become-professionals side.

I asked a simple question: "Does anyone plan to go to the Massachusetts Lieutenant Governor Candidate Forum that's being held at Curry College on Monday?"

To put it mildly, the silence has been deafening.

Apparently no one has given even the slightest thought a member of the student-run pre-professional public relations organization's leadership team...going to a FREE, once-in-a-blue-moon major public relations-driven opportunity...right there on their campus!!

Now those who have known me for more than 20 seconds know full well that I can go off in a heartbeat when it comes to taking advantage of opportunities to see and be seen...and to learn something outside the classroom.

It's all about "connecting the dots."

It's all about asking yourself and then answering the question: "If I do this, how might it help me in my ongoing efforts to learn all that there is to know about becoming a public relations professional?"

This is where the process apparently breaks down. Unless someone stands in front of you holding a ginormous poster with a message written in big block letters that clearly tells you why doing something is going to be good for you, you're not going to do it.

Will some of my "Principles of Public Relations" students be at this event? Yes...because I offered them the chance for a good grade if they attend (or watch it on our campus television channel) and write me a short paper outlining the candidates' main themes and how public opinion played a role in the candidates' responses.

My hope in doing this...and offering this that at least one or two of them will get it...will see the huge role that public relations plays in government, in business, in everything.

And, by making this connection, they will get as excited about going into the public relations career field as I have been for the past 40-plus years first as a practitioner and now as a professor.

To's all about "connecting the dots."

"The people may be made to follow a path of action, but they may not be made to understand it."
Confucius, "The Confucius Analects," bk. 8:9

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Your Career and You: "Time's Up...Where Were You?"

I love it when the topic for my next post is waiting in my email inbox when I log on in the morning! we go...

Most folks know that, in my "previous life," I was a public relations professional. Still am, but now I teach it rather than practice it.

One thing that was etched into my mind as I was working my way up the ranks was the absolute necessity of setting, as well as meeting, deadlines.

Was I perfect in observing either? No. Did I suffer gigantic pangs of remorse when I missed a deadline? You better believe it. Still do.

But one thing I'm noticing more and more, particularly with students, is their apparent belief that a deadline is merely a target to come close to, not meet.

To awaiting me this morning: "I know the paper was due last Friday and I didn't have a chance to tell you in class that I hadn't done the work...but I can hand it to you on Monday [three days later]...I really don't want to start out the semester with an 'F'."


Another example: A former student (five years ago) suddenly pops up with a flurry of emails to every address he can find that I've ever owned with an "urgent" request for a recommendation so that he can apply for a program. He even called me at home. He was told that I was out at a meeting and to call back which he responded, "I can't do that; I'm going to be out."

So, the way I understand your request, former student, is that you've waited until the absolute last minute, have never communicated with me since you graduated five years ago, and are now in a panic because you need this recommendation tomorrow morning and are just now getting around to asking?

To quote the estimable Dr. Phil: "Good luck with that!"

Maybe I'm shouting into the wind. Maybe I'm old-school. Maybe...

But the fact of the matter is, businesses survive by setting and meeting deadlines...for products, for services, for customer...and media... response. If you can't meet my needs in a timely fashion, I'll find another supplier who can and will.

I doubt that my little hissy-fit here is going to do any good...although I can guarantee you that my Communication classes at Curry College are going to get a double-barreled earful come Monday morning!

But I've gotten it off my tray of things that send me straight up the proverbial wall and passed it along to you for consideration.

You're looking for a job? Or a recommendation? Or just a good grade in our class?

The assignment was due yesterday...Time's up. Where were you?!?

"Better three hours too soon than a minute too late."
William Shakespeare, "The Merry Wives of Windsor" [III, ii, 332]

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Your Career and You: "Speak Your Thoughts... Others Will Hear You"

Today has been one of those really cool days when I've come to realize that the things that I've been writing about in this blog are valid and meaningful.

First, the Boston Globe had an article in the "Money and Careers" section entitled "For the ambitious, entry-level jobs are far from a dead end." The advice, as provided by Globe staffer Katie Johnston Chase, was dead-center what I wrote about back in June.

Then, I received a tweet from Valerie Simon at BurrellesLuce about a blog ("Culpwrit") written by Ron Culp, a Ketchum PR exec who has some very keen insights into the quagmire known as "careers and job searching." Ron has provided some great observations on the importance of "passion," a topic I examined in August.

I can hear you asking: "So what? What does this have to do with my situation?"

Well, for one thing, it should reassure you that you're not in this all by yourself. If people are offering advice in national publications and on global social media platforms, there's a reason...and that reason is that others, just like you, are asking for advice and guidance.

Another more to-the-point reason is that Ron and I, and countless others, are writing blogs, articles, name it...putting in words our experiences and our opinions in the hope that we will offer some tidbit of advice that will help you.

I can't tell you how many times one of my students at Curry College or at Regis College has come to me asking for advice on how to better position him- or herself to stand out among the hordes of similar job seekers trying to get a toe in the door of a PR firm or in the PR department of a company or nonprofit organization.

Guess what? You've all taken the same courses....often studying the same texts! You've all done two or three (or more) internships. You've all excelled in your studies. And you've all been involved in a gazillion on- and off-campus activities to help flesh out your knowledge and experience.

So what's left? Well, here's a suggestion. Put your thoughts...your experiences...your observations...down in written form.

Blogging is one obvious way. Writing for your college newspaper or some other publication is another. Even updates on Facebook or Twitter...something besides the fact that you partied way too well last night and are paying the price today...can be valid. If you read (you do read, don't you?!?) something that catches your attention, post a link and a comment on Facebook. Or fire off a Tweet.

Why? Because professionals like Ron, Valerie, me and countless hundreds of others pay attention. You apply for a job; I'm going to pop your name into Google to see what bubbles up.

What would you rather have me see? Your most recent blog about your very cool trip, describing the scenery, the ambience, the excitement of visiting and learning about a new location/culture? Or a photo on Facebook of you getting up-close-and-personal with a trashcan after a party???

Read other people's blogs, and get a sense of how they're expressing themselves. Then think about it and decide what topic you might like to write about. Sports? Cooking? Travel? Art? It doesn't matter. Just put your thoughts down...demonstrate interest.

Set yourself a schedule. I do this blog weekly simply because I seem to encounter enough people and situations to always have at least one topic to sound off on weekly. Just try to be regular about it... demonstrate consistency.

And, finally, keep at it. Don't do one or two and stop, telling yourself, "Ok, I did what Kirk told me to do." Demonstrate dependability.

See what you've accomplished? In addition to having now established a written "picture" of you, the individual, you now have answered three of my top questions as a hiring manager!

So now you're a couple of notches up on the job search chain. Your resume looks good because of all the cool things you've accomplished. And now you and I have had a virtual mini-interview thanks to your having written your blog or whatever published form you choose. I've "heard" you!!

"'Do not worry. You have always written before and you will write now. All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence you know.' So finally I would write one true sentence, and then go on from there."
Ernest Hemingway, "A Moveable Feast" [1964]

Monday, September 6, 2010

Your Career and You..."What Will YOUR Legacy Be?"

We had a special orientation last week for first-year Communication majors and COM majors who have transferred to Curry College from elsewhere. Members of the Curry College PR Student Association executive board were conveniently on hand in case someone had an interest in Public Relations as a concentration.

Nearly 70 young men and women had a chance to meet Communication Department faculty members and learn about the many opportunities that are available to them while at Curry and in the future.

The program wrapped up with this question: "What will be your legacy when your time is up here at Curry College?"

I suspect that most of the young men and women in the audience were stunned to have been asked this. After all, they haven't even really figured out where the bathrooms are in the academic buildings yet!

That's a pretty heavy thing to think about when you're just getting a foothold on what it is you want to be doing for the rest of your life. But it's a fair question to ask: "When all is said and done, what will you have accomplished for which you will be remembered?"

I rarely bring personal personal stuff into these conversations, but I think I can offer an example from my own life that can help you get a sense of what "legacy" is all about.

My stepfather, Judge William Malcolm Towson (ret.), is, to me, the personification of a "good" man. "Bill," as I have presumptuously called him from Day One, is a genuinely kind, caring, giving human being. And he does it without fanfare, expecting nothing in return and always willing to do more.

He has stuck by me and endured my shenanigans through the good times and the not-so-good. And he has firmly established himself in my mind as a role model...someone who I would very much like to resemble when I grow up.

That, to me, is what a legacy is all about...setting an example and living your life in such a way that others say "That is a good person. I want to be like him(her)."

So let's bring this back to you and your own legacy.

First off, don't obsess about this. A legacy isn't a commodity to be bought and sold. It's a natural occurrence that will come over time as you "find yourself" and learn what it is that makes you feel good to do.

But you have to be comfortable with who you are and what you represent. And that's what life is all about. It is, to use one of the old banalities, a "voyage of discovery" during which you will encounter challenges, opportunities, disappointments, and moments of absolute, unbounded joy.

Use all these experiences to shape your persona and begin making your mark. And in the end, when all is said and done, when you've seen all there is to see and done all there is to do, you will have left a "legacy."

People...friends as well as those who you've never met...will say "Yeah, I knew XYZ. He(she) really made a difference because of [fill in the blank]."

Your legacy will define who you are, what you did and believed in, and how you traveled through this world. It will be the real you.

"'If I should die,' I said to myself, 'I have left no immortal work behind me - nothing to make my friends proud of my memory - but I have lov'd the principle of beauty in all things, and if I had had time, I would have made myself remember'd.'" John Keats, "To Fanny Brawne" [c. February 1820]

Monday, August 30, 2010

Your Career and You..."Be All You Can Be...and More!"

...with a nod to the US Army Recruiting Command for whom I worked for a few years.

Once again, young up-and-coming professionals with whom I have had the honor and pleasure of studying are amazing me with their ambition, their abilities, and their determination to succeed. Here are a couple of examples.

I heard recently from a former student now working at a university in Texas. We chat occasionally on Facebook, and she updated me on her plans for the future, which include graduate school. She wants to remain in higher education and...get this...her goal is to eventually become Dean of Students at a college or university!

How cool is that? She has found her place...working with college students. She knows what she ultimately wants to be...Dean. And she knows how to get there...continued studies and hard work.

I have absolutely no doubt that Catie will reach this target, and I plan to be around to celebrate the occasion!!

Yet another friend, starting her senior year now at Curry College, never ceases to amaze me with her abilities as a communicator. When I first met her, I wasn't sure which way she wanted to go as a Communication major. But she ultimately focused on Public Relations, and she has surpassed my wildest dreams as a budding professional.

Three internships under her belt as of this fall, stellar grades from the beginning, active involvement in the Curry College Public Relations Student name it, she either has done it or will do it as part of her professional development.

Where will she go from here? Who knows? But I can guarantee you that wherever Donna goes she will blow them away. How can I say this? Here's an excerpt from a speech she gave today to the incoming freshman class at Curry College about her evolution: "I am a stronger and more motivated person than I thought I was during my first few weeks in college."

I could go on forever, but the lesson here is that you can do just about anything you set your mind to. Your own inherent abilities, skills, interests, desires and passion will guide you along the way.

And, at the right the right place, you will find that you are capable of exceeding your expectations...that you truly can "be all you can be"...and more.

"I want, by understanding myself, to understand others. I want to be all that I am capable of becoming...This all sounds very strenuous and serious. But now that I have wrestled with it, it's no longer. I feel happy -- deep down. All is well."
Katherine Mansfield, "Journal" [1922], last entry

Monday, August 23, 2010

Your Career and You..."Always Have a Plan"

I had lunch today with one of my PR superstars from my adjunct teaching days. I've tracked her progress from the day she graduated and never cease to be amazed at what can be accomplished with a little determination and a lot of planning.

Amanda has been been working at a Boston-area PR firm since graduation and, from my observations over lunches and occasional conversations, is doing very well. Maybe not rising through the ranks as quickly as she would like, but she has racked up a pretty impressive track record there.

What I particularly like about our conversations is my awareness that she's always thinking ahead...not wondering so much "what's next?"; more like "will this path that I'm considering get me where I want to go and does it make sense?"

I don't think it can be said frequently or loudly enough: "Have a plan!"

I am constantly prodding my students at Curry College, particularly those who are concentrating in Public Relations, to do some self-analysis and figure out, at least in general, where they would like to be in 10 or 15 years.

I know that seems like a lifetime for most of these young people. But Amanda has now been out for five years, and the days/weeks/months have flown by like (to use an old southernism) "greased lightning."

Amanda has a plan. Right now, it's pretty general and very long-range. But she has a sense of where she wants to be years from now. And she has an equal sense of what she needs to know, do, and learn to stay on track for that goal. And she is very good about testing ideas on others, to get feedback and guidance.

She's very carefully assembling all the blocks to build that future, and I am thoroughly enjoying the opportunity to watch from the sidelines as she progresses.

The nice thing about this sort of "pre-planning" is that you are able to set standards that you know you have to meet to move on to the next know what you need to do or where you need to be next to keep moving.

I just wish I had been that organized and focused when I was her age! Engineering to English to Business Management to Public Relations. Oh yeah, great planning!

These young, future professionals are graduating into a world of intense competition where their peers, armed with college degrees with stratospheric grade-point levels and multiple internships, are vying ferociously for a scarce resource at this particular point in entry-level job.

But that's only a starting point. While it's nice to have an actual salary that allows you to start trimming your college loan burden and eat something besides mac-'n-cheese, you need also to be looking over the the future.

Amanda's in the healthcare space where tangible credentials are valued, so she's now focused on a doctorate in some area of healthcare... already has her master's, so she's two steps ahead of a lot of her competition. But she has identified this higher degree as the differentiator.

She also thinks that she would like to teach at some point in the future, so this doctorate will kill the proverbial two birds with one stone... credibility and eligibility.

Is she the only bright star in the sky? Happily, no. But she certainly sets an example for others.

She does this by a wholehearted commitment to her current professional requirements, all the while weighing experiences and opportunities to make sure that what she's doing fits into the plan.

"We never know how high we are
Till we are called to rise
And then, if we are true to plan
Our statures touch the skies."
Emily Dickinson [c. 1870]

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Your Career and You..."Passion" Is Key

Earlier this year
, I wrote about one of my favorite topics, "Passion."

Not the steamy Victorian heaving bosoms and sweaty brows type of passion.

This was the "I love what I do for a living and can't think of anything else in the world I would rather be doing" kind.

The kind that, sadly, seems to be vanishing from the workplace with all sorts of not-so-good results. The kind that I shout about daily from the podium to my Communication major students at Curry College.

There are, of course, two sides to the "Where's passion?" story. One is that of the manager who seems to have forgotten what the most crucial piece of a successful business really is...the employee.

The other is that of the employee who more and more is looking at his or her place of employment as a "job."

I was delighted to read a Harvard Business Review post by John Hagel III and John Seely Brown entitled "Six Fundamental Shifts in the Way We Work" this morning that speaks to just this issue (among others).

Hagel and Brown list as their sixth change that of "Passion is everything." Here are two excerpted statements that, for me, sum up the whole thing: "Passion is when people discover the work that motivates them to achieve their potential by seeking extreme performance improvement...If you can help make your employees more passionate, you can create value in today's economy."

So what does this mean for you as the job seeker? It means two things.

First, identify and zero in on the type of business that really gets you excited. You do this through various types of experience...internships, summer jobs, informational interviews, networking.

The second step is a little trickier...when you go on actual job interviews, try to assess the passion that your potential boss and others in the organization have for what they're doing. Look for the fire that tells you they wouldn't want to be any other place than where they are.

I once had an informational interview with the CEO of a major PR firm in Boston. She was so excited about what she and her employees were doing that she had to show me everything. And when I talked with various staffers, I saw the same enthusiasm. When I left the hour later than intended...I was hooked! Even though I wasn't looking for a job, I wanted to work there!

Is this a fool-proof plan, though? Nope. I often regale my PR concentration students with the story of an actual job interview that I went on.

Met with the guy to whom I would be reporting and was impressed with his seeming enthusiasm for what he was doing and his vision of how we would work as a team.

Didn't meet any other members of the organization. Hmmm.

Long and short stories? Potentially great opportunity. And the working relationship from Hell.

As I've also said in a previous post, "Stuff happens." You learn from it.

To circle back and close out this conversation, though, it's all about passion...yours and theirs.

Learn as much about yourself as possible...likes, dislikes, wants, needs, dreams, and nightmares.

Then learn as much about the area that holds the greatest amount of interest for you...the people, the expectations, the rewards, and the punishments.

Finally, look for the passion.

"We may affirm absolutely that nothing great in the world has been accomplished without passion."
Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, "Philosophy of History" [1832]