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. :-)

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Your Career and You: "Check Your Voicemail"

Okay…today (Thursday) got off to a rollicking start with rain coming down in buckets, me with a splitting headache…and a 10 a.m. dentist appointment on the books. Bus was 15 minutes late, but I walked like the proverbial “bat out of hell” and made it to the dentist’s office just three minutes after 10.

Only to be gently asked… “You do know your appointment’s for 11:00?”

As anyone who reads this blog from time to time knows all too well, I readily and somewhat cheerfully admit to not necessarily being the most organized and focused human on earth.

Margaret (my long-suffering and relentlessly-understanding wife) told me on Tuesday when I got home from school that she had saved a message from the dentist’s office reminding me of my appointment.

I looked at my Outlook calendar and saw that I had dutifully entered the appointment back when it was scheduled…for 10:00 a.m.

No need to check the message. I had it scheduled.

Which brings me to today and the fact that I’m sitting in the waiting room writing this…since I have an hour to kill!

What’s the point of all this, Kirk?

We’re all busy. We all have more on our respective plates than we can sanely handle. But that’s not someone else’s problem. It’s ours, and we have to take control.

Simple…sort of. “Baby steps.”

Keep a calendar…with you at all times!...and make sure you enter your appointments, to-dos, classes (regardless of whether you’re a student or a teacher).

And, if someone follows up to confirm an appointment, double-check your calendar to make sure you have the correct date and time. (Note: This is a “do as I say, not as I do” piece of advice!)

Why is this important? Couple of reasons, one of which should be obvious based on the fact that I’m now at 45 minutes and counting on my “early-ness” for my appointment.

More and more, we are relying on electronic communication to schedule things. The obvious problem is that there is no longer a “paper trail” that we can use to double-check. It’s either stored in our fuzzy little brains or stored in bits and bytes on a computer.

The inherent danger in this virtual existence is that, sooner or later, the chipmunk’s going to get tired, the computer is going to crash, and life, as we have comfortably gotten to know it, will come to a screeching halt.

It’s okay if you blow off a get-together with friends or family (not really, but I’ll let you have a “gimme” on this one).

It’s NOT okay to blow off a meeting with your boss, potential internship supervisor…professor (listening, Curry College PR students?!?).

Being on time…for classes, for meetings, for just about anything (Margaret and I were late for our own wedding!)…is an indication of professionalism and goes a long way toward creating a favorable impression that will pay dividends in the future.

So…organize your life. Get control of your calendar.

Check your voicemail!

’Nuff said.

“The horror of that moment,” the King went on, “I shall never, never forget!
You will, though,” the Queen said, “if you don’t make a memorandum of it.”
Lewis Carroll, “Through the Looking-Glass” [1872], ch. 1

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Your Career and You: Enthusiasm Rocks!

Fall semester at Curry College, where I oversee the Public Relations concentration and teach most of the PR courses, has gotten off to a rocking start. Great classes. Engaged students. It's going to be fun!

I've also had a series of invigorating conversations as well with friends, some now-graduated and working as well as others just on the brink of graduating, that really got me going. The takeaway for me was the energy and enthusiasm all exhibited during our chats.

Bobby has been out in the working world for a little more than three years, and his resume already displays some very cool experience as a public relations professional. He currently works for an international hotel/resort chain and is having the time of his life.

Erika and Katie are seniors, both (to my dismay) graduating early and heading off to make their respective marks in the world as budding PR pros.

Erika is closing out her time at Curry College with three awesome internships and as president of the Curry College Public Relations Student Association.

Katie, as I learned during the Communication Department’s “New and Transfer Student Welcome” event, will embark on her sixth internship this semester. O.M.G.!!!

What all three have in common is a budding yet already unbridled passion for the public relations profession...its many challenges as well as its numerous opportunities,

They’ve all experienced enough to sense that PR…as much fun as I say it is in our classes…can be maddeningly frustrating as well as deliriously exhilarating. Every day is different with the various situations that pop up; every day is the same…ditto.

What remains a constant for me as a PR professional-turned-PR professor is the love that I have for the field of endeavor that has been my life’s work and the passion that I try to share with my students…all of whom I view as the next generation of communicators.

Not all of the folks who pass through my classes will work in public relations. In addition to those who have gone into pure public relations positions, others are making their respective marks in television or radio or on the stage as budding actors and actresses or in higher education administration…the list goes on and on, with me smiling all the way!

I keep up with these wonderful people through Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, email, phone calls, lunches…you name it. But we remain connected, and I continue to be amazed at their enthusiasm for and pride in what they are accomplishing.

And that’s the “secret” to success in this life…enthusiasm for what you’re doing and pride in what you’ve done. Of course, it helps to be reasonably good at what you’re doing, and I’m happy to report that these young superstars are just that…good at what they do.

Make mistakes? Of course! I manage to thoroughly bungle things once in a while (a LOT according to some sources!). But they…and I…learn from these boo-boos and move on.

I hope you will be this lucky at some point in your life...doing something you really enjoy doing, working with people you really enjoy being around, and making a difference.

And when you do...let me know. Enthusiasm rocks!!

"Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm."
Ralph Waldo Emerson, "Essays: First Series, Circles" [1841]