Sunday, June 24, 2012

Your Career and You: "I found a day!"

Once in a while I seem to not have my head glued on completely. For those of you who have already crossed my path, you know this.

My undergrad Communication students at Curry College in particular, but also my grad students at Regis College...figure this out fast.

I'm known for saying: “Of all the things I’ve lost in life, I miss my mind the most.”
Ø  Absent-minded? Yes.
Ø  Disorganized? Absolutely.

But I’ve learned over the years to roll with those minor afflictions and, most of the time, to find a way to capitalize on the outcome.

This week is a case in point.

I am a long-time member of the Board of Directors of Boston Harborfest, a nonprofit organization that coordinates a week-long series of events in Boston that attract thousands of people from New England and around the world.

As part of my involvement, I volunteer my time to help out where needed…in the Information Booth that will be located on Boston’s City Hall Plaza and as the ticket-collector at the gate for Chowderfest.

Well…I signed up for my stint in the Information Booth and dutifully blocked the hours off on my calendar (10 a.m. – 2 p.m.) for the Monday I would be there.

I then went about organizing the day and the remainder of the week.

Easy enough.


I realized this morning as I was eating breakfast that I had marked off the wrong date...I was a week early in my planning.

Instead of getting all flustered and chewing myself out for being (for me) “normal,” though, I was delighted.

I “found a day”! A day for which nothing is scheduled!!

I now have an “extra” day that I can use to take care of some projects that I have been putting off “until I had time.”
Ø  I can write posts for this blog as well as for “Waxing Unlyrical,” an amazing blog created and managed by the equally amazing Shonali Burke.
Ø  I also can continue reading The Social Media Bible and preparing for my new course at Curry… “Social Media Communication.”

I have time!!

I know this sounds a little weird, but there’s a point to this.

The lesson we should learn, to re-phrase my South Park idols’ favorite saying, is that flexibility is key to job…and life…satisfaction.

Things don’t always go as planned.
Ø  Meetings get cancelled…or scheduled…at the last minute.
Ø  Clients “remember” projects that they “absolutely must have completed by the end of the day” (Friday, usually) at noon on Friday.
Ø  The electricity goes out.

The “trick” is to quickly identify an alternative solution or course of action.

It can be maddening at first, especially if you are like my wife, who plans everything out to the Nth degree. She absolutely loathes schedule changes…sees them as a direct insult.

But, over the course of some 40 years of marriage, she has mellowed and has learned how to adapt…to either find something else to fill in the unscheduled gap or (gasp!) simply do nothing…to relax and enjoy the downtime.

I’m not suggesting doing nothing if you are in the workplace. What I am suggesting is that you learn to adapt quickly and quietly.

Not only will you find yourself less stressed. You very likely will impress others around you with your adaptability and ability to “roll with the punches.”

Trust me…It's possible, and that’s a good thing!

“'There’s no use trying,’ she said: ‘One can’t believe impossible things.’

‘I daresay you haven’t had much practice,’ said the Queen. ‘When I was your age, I always did it for half-an-hour a day. Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.’” – Lewis Carroll (Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, ‘The Walrus and the Carpenter’” [1865]

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Your Career and You: "We're out of mayo"

I posted some thoughts a while back about “passion and recognition” and sat back feeling pretty good about life in general.

Then I went to my local supermarket to do some shopping.

Since it was a little after noon and I was feeling a smidge hungry, I swung by the deli counter to get a sandwich…pre-made…just needed the “fixins.”

The young fellow behind the counter wasn’t, as my late Uncle Sam liked to say, “bothered by too much business.”

He was standing there, either contemplating the future of the world…or his navel. Hard to say which.

Then he saw me rummaging through the basket of condiments looking for a packet of mayonnaise.

“Ah,” I thought. “He’s going to help me.”

Now I have to insert here that I was also fresh back from three weeks in Taipei, Taiwan, where the concept of “customer service” has risen to a remarkable high.

Ø  In the neighborhood coffee shop where I regularly have breakfast, the staff bring your coffee to your table instead of making you wait for it to be brewed (Starbuck’s, are you listening??).

Ø  The amazing woman who manages the local dry cleaner calls customers
to let them know their clothes are back and ready to be picked up.

Foolishly, I thought something akin to that experience was going to happen
at the supermarket.

Then came these words, spoken in a monotone: “We’re out of mayo.”

Not a peep about “Gee, let me look below in our fridge…right in front of
me…to get some more.”

Definitely not a “sorry, we’re out.”


We’re out of mayo.”

This is a great…and sad…example of someone who has a job. He punches in, puts on his worker’s duds, and goes through the paces until his time’s up. Day after boring day.

Sad…and not uncommon.

You have to ask yourself, though, should it be this way? Should people incarcerate themselves in “jobs” when they could be doing something that really calls on their strengths and inspires them to excel?

And, maybe more important, what defines a “job” versus one’s “life’s passion”?

This is where you, as an individual, come in.

Looking back on your college and/or work life, take a mental personal inventory.

What was it that you did that you really, really, really liked doing?


Now look at what you’re doing now…do you feel the same way? (Or, if you’re searching for an opportunity, does what you read about it make you feel that way?)

My students, both at Curry College, where I manage 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 Communication area, hear this from me all the time.

And…if you’re a regular reader of this blog, you’ve heard it…and will continue to hear it…a bazillion times.

Don’t sell yourself short, and don’t write off what you’re doing right now as a “waste of time and talent.”

Some of the coolest “PR” people I’ve run into were team members at a restaurant or business that I’ve frequented.

Why do I say this?

Because of their attitude and the fact that they “get” the concept of relationship building.

I just dropped off some clothes at a drycleaner (Sun-Rite Cleaners) in downtown Belmont. As soon as I walked in the door, I was greeted with a cheery smile by the manager.

I handed over the clothing and, without asking, she typed my name into the computer and printed out the receipt…she knows who I am.

She also remembers that I’m a teacher, so we chatted briefly about my summer “downtime.” I walked out smiling.


Now there used to be a drycleaning establishment right up the street from where I live. I went to them for a very brief while. Rarely got a smile. Seldom got a “howdy-do.” Just a simple “name?” and a brief “thanks” as I left.

They’re gone now…and not missed.

So, to get to the end of this monologue, it doesn’t have to be just a “job.” It should be about satisfaction from both sides…the satisfaction that you get from making someone feel good about interacting with you, and the satisfaction that that person gets from the same thing.

Public relations is about creating and maintaining relationships. The mark of a good PR person is the ability to use that talent to develop and grow a business.

It’s not about greeting a potential customer with “We’re out of mayo.”

“I have often thought that the best way to define a man’s character would be to seek out the particular mental or moral attitude in which, when it came upon him, he felt himself most deeply and intensely active and alive. At such moments there is a voice inside which speaks and says: ‘This is the real me!’”William James, “The Letters of William James.” [1920]…To his wife, Alice Gibbons James, 1878”

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Your Career and You: "Passion...Recognized"

I received an email recently from a colleague commenting on a Curry College alum (a Communication major...Public Relations Concentration, I hasten to add) who he had recently met. With permission of my colleague, here’s what he said:

“…I had the most delightful lunch with Bob Nolet. He is now the Director of Communications for the Plymouth Chamber and is right in the thick of everything social and project oriented. He is such a wonderful advocate for Curry College. From Plymouth Rock Studios right out of school, to The Plymouth Radisson and now the Chamber. This is a story worth telling of a young professional making his way with the tools he learned at Curry College.”

This a testament to passion and the joy that it can bring.

The colleague who wrote this didn’t know that “Bobby,” as I still call him, is a good friend/former student who found his calling and has excelled. There have been some “bumps” in the road, but he has confronted them, dealt with them, and moved onward and upward.

I write often about passion...for a simple reason.

To me, that’s what makes the difference between simply having a “job” and being engrossed in one’s life’s calling.

Passion is what makes you smile in the morning as you’re preparing to go to work.

It’s what keeps you at your desk a “little longer” at the end of the day because you are so excited about the project you’re working on.

And it shows in your face and your actions when you’re having lunch with someone!

Not everyone “buys” this seemingly over-the-top optimism, but I do…and it’s reinforced again and again by feedback I get from others, like my colleague above (who wasn’t aware of my connection to Bobby and, therefore, wasn’t “embellishing” his comments to make me feel good).

I’m not suggesting that a job that you’re passionate about is going to be perfect. I’ve learned over the years that there’s no such thing.

But it can be personally and professionally rewarding, and you will do everything in your power to make it as close to perfect as possible in the process.

The idea is to focus on those aspects of the job that really get you excited and throw yourself 100 percent into them. The other “stuff” you will simply have to deal with…that, for me, is the “professionalism” aspect.

Don’t spend valuable time fretting about the “warts.”

The result of this approach is going to be a level of personal satisfaction that will reveal itself to others…and will be recognized…as was the case with my friend Bobby.

“The return from your work must be the satisfaction which that work brings you and the world’s need of that work. With this, life is heaven, or as near heaven as you can get. Without this – with work which you despise, which bores you, and which the world does not need – this life is hell.” – William Edward Burghardt Du Bois, “To His Newborn Great-Grandson; address on his ninetieth birthday” [1958]