Thursday, December 29, 2011

Your Career and You: “Seize the (Online) Day!”

We’re on our winter break now at Curry College, so I don’t have the daily interactions with my Communication students that are so often the spark for my musings.

But I’ve been able to maintain a pretty steady flow of conversation via Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn that led this morning to this thought… “Carpe diem!”

Yep… “seize the day.” Take advantage of the opportunities that present themselves. Follow up on leads. Dust off and refurbish the resume’. Take control of your destiny.

Granted a lot of folks are on vacation…or at least they're out of the office surroundings…for a few days. But I’ve noticed that the majority of them are still online…a little more relaxed in their tweets and posts, but still there.

I’m assuming, of course, that you’re active on social media as well, so you already have a presence of some sort (not talking about the keg party photos you put up this morning!) and that, if you were to reach out to me through one of the platforms, I could do a quick check to see “who” you are and, perhaps, respond to your message.

So this is your chance to act. The old year’s hobbling toward its end with some pretty remarkable events chalked up; the new year is just around the corner.

Get the momentum started. Do some research first; then do some outreach.

Why? Because I’m not looking for you. You are looking for me for a job, an internship, or simply an informational interview.

The virtual ball is in your court. As Nike so famously says, “Just do it!”

“Knowledge must come through action; you can have no test which is not fanciful, save by trial.” – Sophocles, “Trachiniae,” l. 592

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Your Career and You: "Looking Back to Look Forward"

As we tiptoe into the final weeks of 2011…a year that definitely has presented a boatload of challenges and opportunities…a few thoughts...

First, on the challenges, not the least of which has been the continuing train wreck that is our economy and its impact on my students’ ability to find a job post-graduation.

Some of them have beat the odds and found positions where they’re using the knowledge and the entry-level (or higher) skills gained through classroom studies and (often) multiple internships. Others are still on the hunt, and I’m doing my dead-level best to cheer and guide them on in the process.

I’m tempted also to say a challenge has been these folks’ “stick-close-to-home” mentality, and I totally that realize I’m not the best person to broach this topic.

Had it not been for a little skirmish known as “The Vietnam War,” I would very likely be winding down a “nice but not challenging” career as a college-level English prof somewhere in my home state of Georgia (“Go Dawgs!).

Didn’t happen that way, though. Spent two years in Saigon teaching “English as a Second Language” to the Vietnamese military, a total of eight years in the Air Force working in audiovisual services and public affairs, seven years as a civilian working in Army public affairs, and the remainder in private sector public relations.

So don’t do as I almost did…widen your horizons in your search for a job.

Today, as I inch closer to that mysterious “retirement age,” I’m teaching what I learned and did for all those years to undergraduate Communication students at Curry College as well as to graduate Organizational and Professional Communication students at Regis College. And, I’m having the time of my life!

And…I’m thinking about the immediate future and what’s next!

Still loads of things to learn and to share with anyone willing to listen. Still a burning desire to accomplish something “worthwhile” that will leave an indelible mark on the PR profession, either as a professional or as an educator.

As Leonard Cohen so aptly described it in his London concert warm-up, I’m “just a kid with a crazy dream.”

So what does this have to do with you and your own burning desire to move onward and upward?

Lots…not the least of which is reflecting on what you have accomplished and seeing what makes you smile on reflection and what you would like to take one more swing at.

This is where “opportunities” come into play…

I had a chat earlier this week with an advisee who had just learned that her application for a full-time position with the PR firm where she’s interning is basically dead in the water due to a recent loss of clients.

We talked for a while, and I asked her where else she had applied (I ask this regularly of my advisees just to keep them focused on the target…a job…with a dozen other “must dos” flitting around them).

Turns out she really hasn’t been doing much outreach; she’s been pinning her hopes on this now-defunct opportunity. But as we talked more, we realized that she had actually made and maintained some pretty solid contacts through her internships and family. Add some of my references...she’s off and running!

And this is the point of all this reminiscing…looking back on what you’ve done and who you know…and moving confidently forward in your job search.

It sometimes seems like your job search has hit a sandbar and is stuck. But when you stop and realize that high tide (aka: “a lead”) will lift you up and off, the future becomes a bit brighter.

So take a moment to look back and reflect on what you’ve done; then look forward to what you’ve made possible!!

“The Future…something which everyone reaches at the rate of sixty minutes an hour, whatever he does, whoever he is.”
Clive Stapes Lewis, “The Screwtape Letters” [1941], 25

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Your Career and You: “A Passion for Perfection: Do You Have It?”

I have experienced two distinctly different levels of performance recently that got me to thinking about careers.

The first was presentation last week to one of my Curry College PR superstars of the “2011 PRSA Boston Educational Scholarship.”

The second was the all-too-typical shoddy service provided by Boston’s MBTA mass transit system, a sub-standard insult to commuters.

But I digress. My superstar, Jessica Brandi, a Communication major with a double concentration in Public Relations and Corporate Communication in addition to a Sociology minor, is the first Curry College student to receive this important recognition.

What did she do that caught the selection committee’s collective eyes?

Simple…sort of.

Since her arrival at Curry, she has settled for producing nothing less than her best. She has excelled at her studies, and she has equally excelled at her (now two) internships. She devotes 110% of her energies and efforts to everything she undertakes.

I have a vision of shining success on her horizon, and I fully intend to devote my own energies and efforts to helping her achieve that success.

The opposite example is this morning’s commute on the MBTA’s Red Line…the first leg of a three-stage ordeal that I endure each day to get to Curry College, where I oversee the Public Relations Concentration and teach most of the PR courses.

In modern cities, public transit is a marvel, moving you from place to place smoothly and comfortably.

Not the case in Boston. Every day’s commute is a giant crapshoot…sometimes you get lucky and your commute is only mildly annoying. Others…today, for example…what would be a 30-minute ride by car takes you an uncomfortable one hour by mass transit…with minimal attempt by MBTA personnel to inform you of what’s going on when delays occur.

I use these two contrasting examples to drive home a point for my PR students in particular…Others look to and rely on you to help them move forward and succeed. Don’t let them down.

What I have witnessed with my young superstar is the good example. She gets it. She understands that it is up to her to work hard…do her best…and realize the positive results.

I’m not suggesting that you will get scholarships, promotions, or special recognition every time you do something extraordinarily well.

Sometimes the reward will be internal…your own sense of pride and accomplishment for having proven the high level of performance that you’re capable of achieving.

But feeling good about yourself is a huge part of the game called “life.” If you are proud of what you’ve done, that pride will motivate you to even higher levels of achievement.

Sociologist Abraham Maslow referred to this as “self-actualization”…or as we used to call it when I did public affairs for the US Army Recruiting Command... “Be all you can be.”

So don’t settle for just “getting by” in your daily life and your pursuit of a fulfilling career. Set your standards high,  and shoot for the stars.

It’s called a “passion for perfection.” Do you have it??

“You will find rest from vain fancies if you perform every act in life as though it were your last.” - Marcus Aurelius Antoninus, “Meditations,” II, 5

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Your Career and You: "Dodging the 'Dumb' Question"

I’ve been thinking lately about meetings I’ve attended over the years and how, in nearly every one of them, the speaker(s) would say, “There’s no such thing as a ‘dumb question.’”

And then some poor soul in the audience would open his or her mouth and out it would come.

Friends, there truly are dumb questions, and they usually are a reflection of the asker’s not having a clue why he or she is actually at this particular meeting.

I’m not a big question-asker personally (professionally’s a different story). Never have been. Why? Because I’ve always tried to make myself at least reasonably knowledgeable about the topic of the meeting I was attending before going to the meeting.


So that, in the meeting, I would be able to fill in the blanks…flesh out the details on the subject and be better able to fit it into my daily work/life routine…myself.

How does this apply to careers…job searches…and your success?

As I constantly remind my students both at Curry College, where I oversee the undergraduate Public Relations concentration and teach most of the PR courses, and at Regis College, where I teach in the graduate Organizational and Professional Communications area, research (fact finding as well as fact checking) is a key element in any public relations plan. That’s where all program planning should start...and end (as “evaluation,” another form of research).

Any career development initiative should have a fact-finding element. What does a company or a potential job position offer? What skills and abilities do you currently have that would interest that company in you and/or qualify you for that position?

And fact-checking. What’s the company’s reputation? How about others who have held this position? Where are they now? Why (a little trickier to find out but incredibly valuable information) did they leave?

Now…back to the “dumb question.”

The truly dumb question is the one you don’t ask. The “why” question…the “what’s next” question.

Odds are, there’s someone else in the audience thinking the same thing as you. And, the sad thing is, both of you are going to walk out without the answer…leaving you just as uninformed as when you walked in.

Same holds true with job interviews, and I fit nicely into the “been there; done that” category here.

Did that with a previous job. Didn’t do my research before accepting the position. Blew it big time. Wound up getting fired because the fellow who hired me held totally different views about the role that I was to fill from what I thought I was going to contribute to the organization. I didn’t dig deep enough. I didn’t ask enough questions.

The good news is that I went on to better, more rewarding, opportunities afterwards. But the question will always be there…What if…?”

So what we have learned here, as my friends on South Park like to say at the end, is that the truly dumb question is the unasked question.

“It appears to me that...difficulties and disagreements, of which history is full, are mainly due to a very simple cause: namely to the attempt to answer questions, without first discovering precisely what question it is which you desire to answer.”- George Edward Moore, Principia Ethica [1903], preface

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Your Career and You: "Jobs Don't Wait for YOU"

As we hobble toward the end of the fall semester at Curry College, where I ride herd over the Public Relations concentration and teach most of the PR courses, I seem to be having more frequent conversations with students who are desperately trying to secure an internship for the spring.

It’s not like this is a new thing…I’ve been bugging them since September to get their stuff together and start planning for the future.

“Go online and look at what’s listed in Career Services”… “What are you interested in?” … “Stop by my office for a chat.”

Wishful thinking, Kirk. For the most part, this advice fell on stone-deaf ears…

…until spring course selection time rolled around.

Suddenly the air was filled with the panic-tinged wails of would-be interns who had nada.

Nothing. Zero. Zipperoonie.

Yet, when asked if they had looked online at possibilities, the response was “Oh, no. I haven’t gotten around to that yet.”

When asked if they had given any thought to areas of interest, the response was “Oh, I really don’t know…anything, I guess.”

Comes the killer question: “How’s your resume? Do you have that ready to go?”

And the response, “We’ve been working on that in our [internship prep] class.”

In other words, we’re sitting here now talking about something that should have been done yesterday, and you’re saying you’ll probably get it done tomorrow!

Here we go again…Where’s the disconnect?

I’ve been doing a lot of online commentary about the immediacy of communication today. Things are moving at warp speed, especially in the public relations area.

(Sidebar: I actually had a student last week who was planning to mail her resume and cover letter to potential internship sites! How quaintly Emily Dickinson-ish!)

So back to the “triggering event.”

One of my troops…with whom, by the way, I’ve been having pretty regular chats about applying for internships…informed me that the internship that she really wanted (or so she said nearly a month ago) was “already filled.”

When did she send in her application??

Two days before this revelation!

Not a month ago, when we first chatted. Not two weeks ago, when we chatted yet again.

Nope…two days ago!!

So now she’s scrambling once again since she has set up her spring course schedule to leave room for this crucial step in her preparation for a future career in public relations.

Don’t know what else I can do. Nagging doesn’t seem to have much effect. I’m not into out-and-out yelling, although I probably should start training.

We’ll sort this quandary somehow. But we shouldn’t be in this position to begin with.

The solution is a two-sided remedy.

First, I’m going to morph from the nice guy who gently urges you to take those actions that I know from personal experience will benefit your search to the fire-breathing pain in the tuchus who will haunt your every waking moment.

Second, you’re going to start reporting weekly (at a minimum) on your outreach activities starting the second week of the new semester.

Comes the plaintive whimper, “Why?”

Because life…and good opportunities…don’t sit around waiting for you to act.

Tomorrow isn’t 24 hours away anymore.

The future, whether you want it to be or not, is now.

“Often do the spirits
Of great events stride on before the events,
And in today already walks tomorrow.”
Schiller, “Wallenstein” [1799-1800], pt. II, act V, sc. 1

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Your Career and You: "Write Right. Right?"

Had a heart-stopping email chat with a student earlier this week. I won’t throw this individual totally under the bus, but…

…An “honors student” at a local college. (I teach at a couple…Curry College and Regis College; have taught at several others; stay in touch with former and current students from all.)

…A self-identified “scholar,” implying a high level of already-demonstrated excellence in academic studies and desire to do even better.

This particular student wanted to start applying for public relations intern-ships and figured I would be a good person to turn to for advice…and editing assistance.

I’m okay about helping you find the occasional errant comma or misplaced verb phrase. We all miss things from time to time.

But GIANT typos…that’s a whole ’nother issue.

Especially when you’re looking for something in the communication field…my turf.

What set me off on this?

In my first quick glance at the student’s resume, I found four major errors.


What really set me off?!?

The student’s response when I pointed them out.

And I quote…

“Oh, haha. Thanks. I’ve always had trouble with spelling.”

Nothing in there about “OMG, I am so sorry. I should have caught those mistakes and fixed them before sending my resume to you. It won’t happen again.”


“Oh, haha. Thanks. I’ve always had trouble with spelling.”

As I ask so often in my posts, “Where’s the disconnect? What is it that you don’t understand about the need for attention to detail and a sincere desire to do your best?”

Would-be bus drivers are expected to exhibit a certain level of proficiency if they wish to secure permanent employment.

Carpenters have to be able to hammer a nail into a piece of wood without (a) missing the nail and damaging the wood or (b) bending the nail.

Communication professionals are expected…at the very minimum…to be able to write coherent sentences and spell words correctly.

This obsession with accurate and error-free writing should live deep inside your soul. To get all CSI-y on you, it should be in your DNA.

It should torment you every time you put pen to paper or fingertips to keyboard. Check. Double-check. And then…as a back-up…run spellcheck…just in case!

As much as I inherently distrust spellcheck programs, regardless of the creator, they do offer some “red-flag” services to draw attention to potential problems. Among these is the seemingly ever-present red underlining that indicates either a misspelled word or a nonexistent word. Another is the green underlining that indicates a possible incomplete or grammatically incorrect sentence. I tend to get a lot of both because of the way I write.

In either case, when you see one of these warning signs, check it out!! You might be correct in your intended use of a word or structure of a sentence, but at least check it out to be sure you wrote what you intended to write.

And that, my ever-attentive friends, is my diatribe for today. I invite you, when you think you see a boo-boo in my own writing, to call me out on it. Lord knows, I’m not perfect (except in my own fuzzy mind!)…and I will know you actually read my post!

Sneaky, no?!? J

"Writing is easy. All you do is stare at a blank sheet of paper until drops of blood form on your forehead." - Gene Fowler, Attributed
[Also attributed, in a variant form, to sports columnist Red (Walter Wellesley) Smith]

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Your Career and You: "Holiday List-Making"

Okay…I know you’re still munching on leftover Halloween candy. But now’s the time to start on this important part of your career development or job search…holiday networking.

I’m constantly on my students both at Curry College, where I head the undergraduate Public Relations concentration and teach most of the PR courses, and at Regis College, where I teach part-time in the graduate Organizational and Professional Communication area, to do this one thing and do it well…network.

If you’ve kind of been letting your outreach to folks you’ve met at professional and/or social functions lie fallow, now’s the perfect time to ramp up activities.

It’s not rocket-science, friends. It’s a simple direct message on Twitter or Facebook or whatever social media platform(s) you’re on…please tell me you’re on several!! It’s a (legibly) handwritten holiday card or simple note. It’s an invitation to get together for coffee. It’s networking at its simplest and finest!

Now…today…this weekend…is the ideal time to comb your contacts and identify those individuals on whose radar screen you really, really, really should be seen. (Even as I write this, I realize there are two people with whom I haven’t communicated in eons and with whom I must reconnect…
so this post has already been of value to me!)

Then plan your outreach. Who via Twitter? Facebook? Snail mail?? Sort it out…the task won’t seem so daunting.

When? Make it an organized operation…not hit-or-miss. Set aside an hour two or three days a week (early morning/evening…whenever you can without throwing your regular work or school routine into a tailspin).

Finally, keep track of your efforts. Sounds simplistic, but if you’re reaching out to a boatload of people, you want to make sure that (a) you do and (b) you don’t duplicate…kinda makes you look disorganized if you contact me through Facebook and snail mail at the same time. I tend to think “okay, mass mailing…not personal.”

Of course face-to-face is the best way to do your networking, but that’s obviously not always feasible. The energy that I always gain, though, from having sat and chatted with a friend or professional colleague over a cup of coffee is sooo worth the extra effort.

And that’s your assignment for the short-term. The holiday season, when everyone is all about friendships and giving and camaraderie, is an ideal time to re-kindle relationships.

Granted, you should be doing this all year long. But, just in case…start now making your lists!

“There are many ways to increase your knowledge of people through personal contact…Talk to people beyond the confines of your own business, social, professional, or even community group. Get new points of view.”
Edward L. Bernays, “A Definitive Study of Your Future in Public Relations” [1961], p. 122

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Your Career and You: "Be Proud of What You Do"

I had the honor recently of emceeing PRSA Capital Region Chapter’s 4th annual “Empire Awards” program. Flew to Albany, NY, in rain, arrived in snow, and had a ball.

The attendees represented all facets of the communication as well as the education world...from senior PR practitioner to senior PR student. The energy pervading the event was enough to light up the western hemisphere.

I had a chance to chat with some of the folks both before and after the program, and one common thread bound us all together...a firm belief in the power of PR to influence opinion and more audiences to action.

What I found particularly interesting was in chatting with the more seasoned practitioners whose entries had made it into the finalist category. They were the epitome' of "cool." Been there; done that...for years.

But looking into their eyes, I saw excitement. They wanted to pretend this was just “business as usual.” But the eyes gave it away…they were excited to be there, and they were proud of their entries…of the accomplishments realized through the program’s success.

In my introductory remarks that evening, I cited this quotation from Edward L. Bernays, who many of us regard as the “Father of Public Relations”...

“Public relations does not mean selling a product, an idea, or a personality. Instead, it depends fundamentally on doing – action and deeds that are geared to public understanding and acceptance. Words are only incidental to the process.”

And this was the reason for the pride that I saw glimmering in these folks’ eyes…the pride of having done something on behalf of an employer or a client that truly made a difference…that changed opinions or motivated people to take action.

Public relations is a wonderful science. It takes into account individual perceptions and behaviors in the development and implementation of programs that result in groups acting in a desired manner.

PR practitioners recognize that, while no two people are exactly alike, when presented with rational and persuasive reasons to act in a certain way, groups of people will, in fact, do just that.

This is something I try to pass on to my undergraduate Communication students at Curry College, where I both oversee the Public Relations Concentration and teach most of the PR courses.

Public relations is a powerful tool that can be used to inform, inspire, and motivate individuals, societies, and nations to consider and, if appropriate in their minds, adopt a particular course of action.

In my various previous lives as public relations representative for organizations ranging from the US Army to Honeywell Electro-Optics Division to the Blood Bank of Hawaii, I have developed and managed communication programs that got attention and helped accomplish our mission.

I would never claim that everything I dreamed up was a screaming success. Some things actually went up in spectacular flames. But, at the end of the day, what I did (we…sometimes I actually had accomplices in my schemes!) made a difference…to the organization…to the people served by the organization.

And that’s the point here…to make a difference by doing the best you can do for your employer or client…and to take pride in what you do.

“He [Columbus] enjoyed long stretches of pure delight as only a seaman can know, and moments of high, proud exultation that only a discoverer can experience.” - Samuel Eliot Morrison, “Admiral of the Ocean Sea” [1942], ch. 49

Friday, October 28, 2011

Your Career and You: "Rule Number 1: 'Write It Down'"

“Of all the things in life I’ve lost, I miss my mind the most.”

I was walking back to my office at Curry College last week when I caught up with a student who, interestingly enough, chose us as her place to study in part based on a mock class that I taught and in which she was a participant.

I say “participant” because, when you come into one of my classes, you kind of get sucked into the whirlpool and become an unwitting member of the conversation whether you planned to or not. Well, she did, and we had a ton of fun!

But…back to our chance meeting. She had been planning her spring semester classes and had tentatively signed up for my “Principles of Public Relations” class.

After some exploratory chatting, though, she and I both agreed that perhaps she should take another course first, “Introduction to Mass Communication,” in which she could get an overview of the whole “world” of communication and better identify where her interests lie.

Her parting words have stuck with me ever since: “I’m getting so much good advice from everyone. I really should start writing things down.”


So we had just spent an invigorating 15 minutes parsing her nascent communication studies, and my carefully-considered advice will most likely have floated past the ozone layer before I’m even out of sight.

We’re all busy. We all have three more things on our respective plates than any sane human being could hope to accomplish in his or her allotted lifespan.

Stuff gets lost in the shuffle. Good intentions fall by the wayside.

But that doesn’t have to be the case. In just three words, there is a remedy. Write it down.

I’m not offended if you ask me to hang on a sec while you find a piece of paper and a pen to jot down a note. In fact, I’m impressed that you are engaged enough and interested enough that you want to make sure you capture the essence of our conversation.

But that “capture” isn’t going to happen unless you take the proactive step of recording the information.

That “memory” that you’re so proud of is going to bail on you, and you’re going to be left with that uneasy feeling that something is missing. You can’t remember what. You just know it’s missing.

I tried for a very brief period carrying a miniature tape recorder (you do remember tape recorders, don’t you?!?) so that I could capture thoughts, ideas, recommendations, etc., for future use.

The exercise was simply too weird for me. Talking to myself…or in this case, talking to a machine…didn’t work.

So I started carrying a pocket-sized notebook and made sure I always had a pen…just in case.

Can’t tell you how many times I pulled that puppy out to jot something down…and then referred to it later on.

It’s the mark of a professional to be attentive to detail, which includes capturing information and ideas as they arise…not trying to “reconstruct the scene of the crime” hours…or days…later.

So consider this conversation today as the first step in your professional evolution.

Then, put yourself in situations where you are having conversations that are valuable and filled with information you need to move ahead.

Then…write it down!

"I remember the way we parted,
The day and the way we met;
You hoped we were both broken-hearted
And knew we should both forget."
Algernon Charles Swinburne, "A Match" [1866]

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Your Career and You: “Passion is the Un-Secret”

I’ve just returned from my usual invigorating experience at the Public Relations Society of America’s International Conference where 3,000-plus PR professionals and PR students converged on Orlando to learn, network, and get inspired.

I did all three…very well. Not much sleep as a result, but a TON of contacts, new  ideas and information, and “energy boosts.”

Teaching as I do at Curry College, where I ride herd over the undergraduate Public Relations Concentration and teach most of the PR courses, and at Regis College, where I teach graduate courses in the Organizational and Professional Communications area, and PRSA programs and conferences are mandatory in my opinion.

Why? Because I must…not “should”… I must…be at the top of my game.

Why? Simple…my students depend on me to introduce them to and help them become reasonably knowledgeable about or proficient in the communication tools and tactics that they will be required to bring to an employer’s table after graduation.

So I spent a boatload of time over the past few days soaking up the collective knowledge of some of the nation’s leading communicators.

“Social Media Policy” with Deirdre Breakenridge and a panel of social media gurus. “SEO and Social Media Marketing” with Lee Odden.  “Regaining Trust amidst a Crisis” with John Deveney. And “Leading Communication Teams to Success” with my friend Rear Admiral Vic Beck, Vice Chief of Information for the US Navy.

General Session speakers included CNN’s Soledad O’Brien, social media wizard Chris Brogan, and idea generator extraordinaire Peter Diamandis.

My take-away from every single event was the blatant enthusiasm that each speaker projected in his or her presentation. The overriding sentiment was total and complete passion for public relations as a means of communicating with stakeholders and building relationships with them that will lead to understanding and support.

I also had a chance to chat with some of the Public Relations Student Society of America members who were attending their own awesome conference and getting just as excited about their respective futures as I am now, have been for centuries, and will continue to be for eons to come.

I’ve said it a bazillion times. “Passion is key if you really want to make your mark in this world.”

Most of us can learn the “tricks of the trade.” We can become, as I often discuss in my PR classes, “public relations ‘technicians.’”

And that’s okay to some degree. We need people who can organize and micro-manage events of all sizes. We need folks who can take written copy and turn it into eye-catching print or online material.

But we also need those of us whose forte’ is interacting with others and persuading/convincing them to embrace our employer’s or client’s reason for being.

And that requires an extra skill that these other folks either don’t have or haven’t figured out how to exhibit…a passion for what we represent.

In my own case, it’s a simple matter of “get out of my way; I’m on a mission” when I’m talking about my employer or my profession.

As one young lady commented when I started talking about my love for public relations and, now, public relations education… “My God, you really do believe in what you do.”

Yep. I do. And my hope is that you, too, will embrace the essence of your own chosen career field and will become a card-carrying, rabid disciple with the mission of helping others understand and support you and your client/employer.

It’s no “secret.” The secret is passion.

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

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Your Career and You: "Never...Ever...Stop Learning"

I’m gearing up for a marathon Public Relations Society of America commit- ment next week. Two days of PRSA Board of Directors meetings followed by a day-long PRSA National Assembly. Then three seminar-packed days of the PRSA International Conference.

When it’s all over, to use one of my favorite expressions, “my brain is going to explode.”

Why? Because I will have spent roughly one week in the midst of the collective wisdom, experience, and expertise of 2,000-plus public relations professionals from around the world.

Some of these people I have worked for. Others I currently am serving with on the national board. Others are friends I haven’t met yet.

And I will learn something from each and every one of them.

Sometimes it will be tangible “lessons learned” advice and information in the course of casual conversations and/or program-related seminars. Other times it will be the nuances of a remark or an action.

Whatever the case, I will have learned how to address a situation, solve a problem, or conduct myself as a professional.

Now if you’ve been following my posts and done the math, I’m not exactly a newbie at this business.

I’m a newly-minted, card-carrying, certified “senior citizen”….sort of like being 21 all over again. And, after having worked in public relations for something like 35-plus years, I’m now teaching the next generation of PR practitioners at Curry College as full-time Associate Professor of Communication as well as at Regis College as part-time Lecturer in Communications.

It’s a ton of fun, and both gigs require that I stay on top of my game…keeping current in the latest trends in public relations and making sure that I pass along that knowledge to the students who trust me to provide them with at least the basic skills and abilities they need to make their own marks in life.

Never stop learning” has been an ongoing theme in my writings and my classroom lectures. It comes from having “been there and done that.” It comes from having figured out that you’re only as good as those skills and abilities that you currently have.

This applies to “seasoned” professionals as well as to recent graduates who think that, having gotten the sheepskin, they’ve finished their responsibilities in the “student” arena.

Learning should be an integral part of your daily routine. Whether it’s in the workplace, where opportunities to acquire additional career-enhancing attributes usually are dripping off the wall, or on the homefront where new challenges pop up regularly, be proactive in enhancing your knowledge.

In other words, “learn from your mistakes.” Ask yourself what you’ve learned from your experiences, good…bad…or both.” Then ask what you would do differently the next time around.

Don’t get too cocky, though. Just because you “learned a lesson” this time is not your “get out of jail free card” for the future. Things will change...often.

The public relations profession…my home for the past umpteen years…changes seemingly by the day/hour/minute. Which means that you need to constantly be looking for and learning new things.

Which means you have to keep on the lookout for new trends, new challenges and opportunities, and new learning moments.

So my challenge to you is just this… “Never…ever…stop learning.”

“Leadership and learning are indispensible to each other.” – John Fitzgerald Kennedy, Remarks prepared for delivery at the Trade Mart in Dallas [November 22, 1963]

Sunday, October 2, 2011

“It’s Your Life…How Will You Spend It?”

As much as I love to just dive in and get things done, once in a while I have to stomp on the brakes, slow it down a smidge, and remember the old “Rome wasn’t built in a day” thing.

When I actually do “slow it down,” I’m always fascinated by what’s going on around me and how some folks are living their lives and spending their time. On the surface at least, most seem to be enjoying themselves and doing some pretty cool things.

I see others, though, who seem to be bogged down, slogging from one day to the other without any motivation to perk things up a bit.

It’s easy for me to get reflective at this point in my career. Been there and done it. Had some great successes; had some equally catastrophic disasters. Learned from both extremes.

If you’re just starting out, the question of “How will I spend my life?” can seem overwhelming. You’re more focused on getting through school with minimal damage to your ego and grade point average. You’re hoping against hope that, two minutes after you accept your diploma and shake the college president’s hand, an awesome job opportunity will fall out of the sky and land in your lap.

For those of you who are a little farther along in your career, the question morphs into “What’s next and how do I find it?” You’re focused on moving onward and upward, snagging that great once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that will validate your existence as a professional.

In both cases, the “end” is really just the beginning. You’re stepping out of your comfort zone in most cases, and there’s no absolute guarantee that whatever you choose as that next great adventure is going to work like you’re planning.

But that’s part of the deal. As I tell my students at Curry College, where I oversee the undergraduate Public Relations Concentration and teach most of the PR courses, and Regis College, where I teach part-time in the graduate Organizational and Professional Communication area, nothing is guaranteed in this awesome safari known as “life.”

But you have to be willing to take those chances, to try the unknown, to fall backwards with confidence into the waiting arms of your “buddy.”

This doesn’t work for everyone, and I’m not suggesting you should throw all caution to the winds as you plan for your future. You need to really get a handle on who you are, what you want from your career, and how you are going to achieve what, in your mind, is success.

How do you do this? You talk to people…your parents (yes, they actually do have a clue!); your teachers; your close friends (who actually have a view of you that others don’t…they’ve seen your up days as well as your down days); networking contacts (I’ve talked about this in at least one previous post).

It’s all about preparation…laying the groundwork and getting a handle on available resources that you can draw from. Yes, there’s work involved here, but it’s work that can and will pay off.

Hate to put it like this, but you don’t really have a choice. After all…when all’s said and done, it’s your life…how will you spend it?!?

"We should all be concerned about the future because we will have to spend the rest of our lives there." - Charles Franklin Kettering, "Seed for Thought: [1949]

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Your Career and You: "Fall Harvest Time"

Once in a while you have to sit back and take stock of where you are in life. What you’ve accomplished. What still needs to be done. What you would like to do when you have the “time.”

What got me thinking about this was a chat I had with my Mother this weekend. 89 years young and still chugging along in spite of an unfortunate tumble a couple of years ago that left her unable to walk and dependent on others for just about any semblance of mobility.

Yeah, she went through a period of “Why me? Why did this have to happen to me?!?”, but she has come to grips with the reality of her situation and has regained much of her vim and vigor.

She realized that she has been blessed with a family…loving husband, doting sons and daughters…most of whom are within driving distance and can pop in somewhat regularly. Unfortunately, I’m a two-hour flight plus three-hour drive away and can’t match them…and don’t try.

I beat myself up some early on…eldest son and all that…not doing my “duty.”

But then I gave it some thought, took stock of things,  and realized that what I have chosen as my lifestyle and life choices don’t match those of my parents and my siblings.

I’m very happy, though, with my situation, and I am in no rush to change it.

And that’s what these thoughts are about today…taking stock of your own situation and all that you have going for you…and taking action when...and if...necessary.

No surprise to anyone who has ever read anything that I’ve written…I’m a card-carrying optimist. Like the “optimist” described in the closing quote of my last post, I “see the doughnut,” not “the hole.” I believe that good things come to deserving good people, and I also believe that the majority of humanity are “good people.”

Back to you and the harvest…do some personal “harvesting.” Take a look at things you’ve done…papers you’ve written…books you’ve read…projects you’ve completed. What, on this re-visit, do you see that you’re proud of? And, by the same token, what would you do the next time to make whatever it is better?

I’m often pleasantly surprised when I chat with students at Curry College, where I oversee the Public Relations Concentration and teach most of the undergraduate PR courses, and at Regis College, where I teach part-time in the graduate Organizational and Professional Communication area, at what these young…as well as not-so-young…people are doing and accomplishing.

They’re involved. They’re committed. They’re focused. They’re hell-bent on making their respective marks in the world. And I am delightedly riding beside them on the roller coaster!

But I also spend a bit of time with many of them reviewing where they are at a particular point in time…what skills, knowledge, and abilities do they have that will prove an asset when their studies are done?

Many times…not all the time, mind you…we uncover some pretty cool stuff. Awesome internships. Active on- and off-campus involvement. Part-time jobs where they’ve been given authority and responsibility that tags them as a “professional.”

They’re busily positioning themselves for the future either consciously or unconsciously.

And that’s the value of the “fall harvest.” As the Biblical saying goes, “For whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.”

These folks are sowing the seeds of future success. And I am determined to do what I can to help them realize a bumper crop of good fortune!

"The direction in which education starts a man will determine his future."
Plato, "The Republic" [bk. I 425-B]

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Your Career and You: "Love Hurts"

I had coffee with a friend yesterday…one of my budding PR superstars from Curry College, where I oversee the public relations concentration and teach most of the PR courses…who has been out in the “real world” for about three years now.

She wanted to talk through her plans to re-purpose her business, and she figured, I guess, that since I’ve left more jobs than most people have actually held, I might have some wisdom to share.

Aaahhh, the innocence of youth!

We chatted for an hour or so, and I got more excited as the time passed.


Because I found myself talking with an incredible young entrepreneur who has a heartfelt passion for what she’s doing and the willing curiosity to explore new ideas.

What does this have to do with “love” and “hurting”?

Quite a bit, actually.

I’ve said time and again that I want you to go out and find something that you are passionate about and can’t picture yourself not doing.

Finding your passion isn’t a clearly-defined thing. Sometimes we don’t know what it is that gets us excited and makes us want to jump out of bed in the morning and dive merrily into.

For me, it was a 10-year quest that got its focus when I accidentally took a course called “Introduction to Public Relations” as an elective for my second bachelor’s degree. Read the book, realized that what it was talking about was what I actually had been doing for the past six years…just didn’t know that was what it was called.

Flash forward some 34 years, and I now am teaching the next generation of public relations professionals as much as possible of what I have learned over the course of my career.

But it wasn't easy. There were some tough decisions along the way…a lot of moves (some voluntary; others not so much) in pursuit of a satisfactory “relationship.”

Which brings me back to my young friend. For the past three years, she has been up to her ears in what, at first, was the career of her dreams.

And she has had a fabulous time in the process.

But she has now realized that what she has been doing isn’t exactly what she wants to do. She has refined her list of interests and identified a more specific area in which she wants to make her name.

And now she’s off and running…again…totally charged up…eager to realize the success that she knows is waiting.

Success in life…in work…in love…takes determination, limitless patience, and absolute belief in your ability to achieve that success.

But it’s going to put you through some gut-wrenching exercises in the process. It’s going to make you doubt yourself on occasion. And, once in a while, it’s going to slap you in the face.

That’s called “life,” and everyone, regardless of his or her perceived strengths and weaknesses, has to go through it and learn to accept the “hurt” along with the warm glow of a job well done.

“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"

Note: On a totally unrelated but immensely personal note, as I write this today, my wife Margaret and I are celebrating the 39th year of our undying commitment to each other. The road hasn't always been smooth; there have definitely been some challenges. But it has all been worthwhile. :-)