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]