Saturday, August 20, 2011

Your Career and You: "There is no 'I' in 'We'"

The thought hit me tonight as I was mentally reviewing projects that I'm involved in that I'm not the only person with some "skin" in one or more of these "games."

The reason I mention this is my feeling that some of my own friends are feeling a little lonely as they pound the pavement in search of a job or an internship or whatever.

It's easy to feel like there's no one else in the immediate galaxy who you can turn to when you either are unemployed after having worked a while or are just embarking on that foray into the professional working world.

But you're not in this alone, as I try to reassure 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 part-time in the graduate Organizational and Professional Communication area.

Don't get trapped in the "I can't find/don't have a job" quicksand. Instead, try to think of it as a team effort in which you can and should turn to your friends/teachers/mentors for some help/advice/ can we help you get through this?

Why? Because, again as I've said a bazillion times before..."We care."

I love it that a friend/former student connected with me a couple of days ago to ask my advice on a cool job offer that she's considering. It's moving her into a little higher level of involvement on the PR side of things, and she just wants to make sure she's heading in the right direction with some ideas she has.

Sure, she could just wing it and hope that she gets it right...and she most likely would. But she's thinking like a professional and asking others... members of her extended "team"...for advice.

It's funny (not "funny ha-ha"..."funny strange") how we so often tend to think after completing a major life-step like graduation from college that the connections we made...the friends we so treasured...the teachers for whom we developed respect...are no longer valid.

They belong to "then," not to "now."

Nothing could or should be farther from the truth. In my world at least, a "friend" is someone I can turn to half a century later for advice. Should be the same for you.

So get out of the "I am in this all alone" syndrome and accept the "Together, we can get through this" mantle of reassurance.

We're a team here...and there is no I in we!

"You don't live in a world all alone. Your brothers are here too."
Albert Schweitzer, On Receiving the Nobel Prize [1952]

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Your Career and You: "Do the Right Thing"

I've been doing a lot of writing lately...letters to the editor, blog posts, online comments...about the importance of ethics in public relations.

It's a topic that my undergraduate Communication (and Management) students at Curry College, where I oversee the Public Relations concentration and teach most of the PR courses, as well as my graduate students at Regis College, where I teach courses in the Organizational and Professional Communication program, hear almost daily.

Although some folks like to wax eloquent on the "deeper meanings" and stuff of the term, I tend to be pretty pragmatic and realistic.

"Do the right thing"...for society, for your organization, for those who have an interest in your organization, and for yourself.

I'm a public relations professional. Belong to the Public Relations Society of America and serve on the Society's national Board of Directors.

We have a Code of Ethics that I embraced when I joined PRSA back in 1981. The Code provides clear guidelines on what constitutes "good" public relations practice, covering interactions with the client/employer, the media, and the many publics (stakeholders) who have an interest in what your client or employer does for a living...and how you, as the public relations "go-to" person, should communicate with them.

Is it easy abiding by these standards? No!

Why? Because not everyone with whom you will come in contact understands or accepts them. For some folks, it's like Admiral Farragut... "Damn the torpedoes; full speed ahead."

And that's general. You should be focused on the goal..."eyes on the prize."

But don't let yourself be tempted to "bend the rules."

Why? Because I've been around and doing this stuff long enough to know that it will come back to haunt you. Don't know when. Don't know where. But it will.

Many professional associations (I would encourage you to research the associations representing your area of interest and join the one that best meets your needs) have a Code of Ethics that identifies the actions that should and should not be taken by professionals in that field.

I've looked at a number of Codes over the years and, while the language in each is specific to that particular area or industry, the overall message is the same: "Do the right thing."

But it all ultimately comes back to roost on your shoulders. You will be the one faced with the situation. You will be the one responsible for action. So you will be the one who has to decide whether or not to do what the situation suggests doing.

I know that sounds vague as hell. But ethical challenges don't come charging in on a mighty steed all dressed in shiny armor. They're hiding in the closets of your professional life, waiting for you to turn out the lights and start drifting off to sleep. THEN they pounce!

It's at that moment that you have to make your decision...and you have to be able to justify it, both to yourself and to those to whom you ultimately are responsible...client/employer, media, publics (for those of us in PR).

You have to be able to say, with confidence, "I choose to take this course of action because I believe it's the right thing to do."

"It appears to me that in Ethics, as in all other philosophical studies, the 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

Monday, August 1, 2011

Your Career and You: "Placing the Blame"

The chain of events on Capitol Hill these past few weeks provides a good, if unfortunate, lesson in "grown-up-ism." Or, sadly, how not to be seen as such.

From my own perspective...a slightly crabby (today) soon-to-be senior citizen who would like to someday retire...our elected representatives in Congress have demonstrated to an excruciating degree the lack of professionalism that can...and does...derail countries and companies.

'Nuff said. The takeway whether you are just starting out in your career or are well past the novice stage is this: Don't attribute your own shortcomings to someone else's actions.

Blaming "the other guy" has become a national pastime for our country's leadership. "I'm blue, you're red; therefore you're wrong."

"Tweedledum and Tweedledee
Agreed to have a battle
For Tweedledum said Tweedledee
Had spoiled his nice new rattle." *

I'll readily admit I'm a peacemaker. Always have been; always will be. And I'm occasionally (ok...I'll admit...according to my all-knowing spouse... "often") wrong in my sense of direction. But, as soon as I figure out I'm wrong, I look for ways to straighten things out.

Maybe I misunderstood. Or maybe I chose the wrong course of action.

Whatever the case, it's up to me to get back on track.

This is where our kindergartners down in Washington are right now...they appear to have lost sight of the reason they were meeting which was/still is to resolve the nation's debt crisis.

Instead, they're spending a lot of time pointing fingers at each other and doing their level best to shift the fault for this mess that they all have caused on someone else.

Too bad we haven't yet found human-type life on another planet. How cool would that be?!? "It's those damned Martians; they just don't think like us!"

This implies, of course, that you know where you're heading with your actions which also requires being realistic.

It means knowing and accepting your own weaknesses. If it's something out of your range of abilities, let someone else who can do it get the job done and get the credit. You'll have your chance later.

Life is too short, and the world too small, to let your ego take control and cause you to do something you may not be up to at this point. Don't blindly push on, botch it, and then point your finger at someone else.

"Alice said afterwards she had never seen such a fuss made about anything in all her life - the way those two bustled about - and the quantity of things they put on - and the trouble they gave her in tying strings and fastening buttons..."  *
* Through the Looking Glass, Ch. IV, "Tweedledum and Tweedledee"