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