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 (you...me...others...) 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 experienced...work 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 college...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]

6 comments:

  1. And that waiting on tables job offered something PR professionals often ignore as a core skill: sales skills.

    Bet your student got rewarded whenever she "sold the desert," or got diners to order whatever the chef over-ordered the day before. Those skills translate into being able to "sell" your services or a project idea to your client and then "sell" your client's story to the editors.

    Dick Pirozzolo,APR

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  2. Thanks, Dick. You're absolutely right...although many of our colleagues shudder at the very mention of that dreaded word "sell"!

    It truly is something we do each and every time we interact with clients, publics, media...you name it.

    I appreciate your feedback!

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  3. It's awesome and interesting to read. I came to know that whatever small thing we did in our life to learn and earn our bread find place in a resume.

    I really appreciate it.

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  4. Thanks, Divakara. Sometimes it IS the small things that we do.

    My favorite quotation comes from Kahlil Gibran's "The Prophet": "In the dew of little things, the heart finds its morning and is refreshed."

    Small is beautiful...and important to life!

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  5. Kirk,
    I'll bet your student got stiffed more than once, when the service was too slow...kitchen's fault, not hers. This, too, is translatable into lessons of worklife: you won't always get the credit, and sometimes will get the misplaced blame.

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  6. We've all been there at least once, David! :-)

    I do my best to help my students and others understand just that...you're not always going to get the praise for the job well done, but you very likely will catch the fallout from the snafu!

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