Saturday, November 24, 2012

Your Career and You: “’Tis the Season…for Action”

I’ve noticed a “trend” these past few years that I’ve been teaching…that of some…not all, mind you…some…of my students putting their brains on cruise-control in mid-November and not re-emerging into reality until mid-January.

Need a spring internship? “I’ll look during the holiday break and hopefully find ‘something.’”

Need a recommendation for an internship or job? “I’m sorry to bother you this (Sunday) evening, but could you write a letter of recommendation for me…oh, and they need it tomorrow morning.”

Sadly, these are all real-life examples not only that I have run into at Curry College, where I teach most of the Communication Department’s Public Relations Concentration courses, but that my colleagues at other schools have experienced as well.

I realize that college is considered by many to be a “transitional period” between high school (youth) and working life (adulthood) and, therefore, deserving of good times.

Fortunately, though, there are enough others (hence the some up above) who recognize the seriousness of this time in life and dive headlong into the “maturing” process…and have fun along the way as well!

These are the ones who I champion and shepherd carefully along the way.

My belief is that these young men and women will go out, heads held proudly high, and get those entry-level positions that will put them solidly on the road to success.

The others? Well….

This time of season (mid-November until mid-January) is a great time to take stock of your assets - resume…work/internship experience…network of contacts - and start fine-tuning each.

Things change. Priorities shift. Does your resume reflect those changes?

Even at this point in my sketchy career, I re-visit my resume regularly to see if what it says about my previous life as a public relations professional and my current life as a public relations professor still “sounds” like me.

The same holds true for work and/or internship experience…does your resume show you at your best?

I always remember the young fellow who asked a human resources colleague and me if his summer job as a waiter in a restaurant back home should be listed on his resume.

We simultaneously asked him, “How long have you been doing this job?”

His response: “Five years.”

Us: “Yes! You’re demonstrating longevity. You’ve been developing customer service skills, relationship skills…all the things that go into the making of a public relations professional!”

Networking…I’m gearing up for the PRSA Boston/Publicity Club of New England “Holiday Party” in a couple of weeks. I always look forward to this event…no agenda…just an evening of camaraderie…and networking, and I’ll walk away with at least a half-dozen new contacts that I can turn to for possible internship opportunities…or jobs…for my students.

Start today…reach out to someone…a professional who you’ve met either as a speaker in one of your classes or at a professional meeting (or on the golf course, as did one of my students a few years back when he was working as a caddy)…and send him or her an email expressing your appreciation for the advice he or she shared.

It’s a small gesture that can pay big dividends by starting a relationship. There’s no guarantee that anything will come of your effort, but you never know until you try!

The main thing is to take positive steps so that you will be prepared for the inevitable event…graduation and…gasp!...”real” life! Take action…today!

"I will not steep my speech in lies; the test of any man lies in action."
Pindar, "Olympian Odes," IV, l. 27

Monday, November 12, 2012

Your Career and You: "Social Media...Why Not?"

I presented a session recently at Regis College, where I teach part-time in the graduate “Organizational and Professional Communication” area, on social media’s role in career progression.

We had a good turnout comprising, interestingly enough, mostly grad students and faculty from Regis’ nursing program.

Social media is an area I’ve gotten even more interested in after having noticed that my grad students at Regis, as well as my undergrad Communication students at Curry College, my full-time gig where I oversee the Public Relations Concentration and teach most of the PR courses, are not as “fluent” in social media as I had expected.

This realization really hit home when I launched a “Social Media Communication” course at Curry and discovered, when I polled the class, that less than 10 percent were active on any social media platform other than Facebook.

Now I’m not advocating devoting your life to hanging out on Twitter, Facebook, and the other “usual suspects” all the time.

But I am suggesting that you acknowledge the realities of the 21st-century and accept that online communication…in addition to…not in place of…face-to-face dialogue…is here…and expected.

The gist of my Regis presentation was that human resources folks as well as hiring managers are turning more and more to social media as a means of identifying potential candidates for jobs they’re trying to fill…and to get a sense of who the person is that they’ve pinpointed (personality, interests, etc.).

How this relates to you, my loyal reader, is that, if you don’t have a presence on at least some of the major social media platforms, you may be missing out on opportunities to move up in your profession…to expand your career beginning or advancement possibilities.

My questions to you…
  • Does your Facebook page give an indication of your interests (outside of keg parties and other generally inane activities)? How about photos of interesting places you’ve visited? Or links to other websites with interesting information?
  • Are you on Twitter? If I looked at your recent Tweets, what would I see? Thoughtful comments or retweets of others’ equally thoughtful comments? Or profanity-laced diatribes directed at the football game du jour??
  • LinkedIn? This platform has taken firm hold as the de facto job and job candidate resource. Do you have a LinkedIn page and, if so, does it give a clear picture of your experience, your knowledge, and your professional capabilities?

These three represent just the tip of the iceberg, with many others also available.

The question for you is…if you’re on these social media platforms…are you maximizing their potential in helping you either find a job or move up in your profession?

And, if you’re not using social media as a means of “getting the word out”…why not?

"The codfish lays ten thousand eggs,
The homely hen lays one.
The codfish never cackles
To tell you what she's done.
And so we scorn the codfish,
While the humble hen we prize,
Which only goes to show you
That it pays to advertise."
Anonymous ~ "It Pays to Advertise"

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Your Career and You: "PR 'Foreign Policy'"

I had a cup of coffee with a new friend the other day who wanted to try out some ideas on how, after completing her Master’s degree, she might further that education with “real-life” experience in the U.S. before returning to her home and family in Beijing.

We spent about an hour…first “session,” more to come…discussing her practical experience in China, which aspects of that experience she really enjoyed, and how she could build on the knowledge she has gained both from her previous worklife and from her graduate studies.

As might be expected, I was firing off ideas right and left, and she was taking everything in and processing it in terms of her own goals and objectives.

We parted with the agreement that I would introduce her to colleagues at upcoming PRSA Boston, Publicity Club of New England, Social Media Club of Boston and other events.

You’re probably sitting there thinking to yourself, “Okay, Kirk. This is ‘interesting’ but what’s the point?”

Good question. And one that we all, as professionals or soon-to-be professionals, should be prepared to ask and answer.

What’s the point?

Our world is shrinking at warp speed. At the recent Public Relations Society of America International Conference, I met and spoke with dozens of PR professionals from across the globe. They represented a host of practice areas as well as the gamut of public relations experience levels.

The one unifying theme in all the conversations was a desire on the part of each to practice public relations in a way that would make them…and their respective employers…proud…that would represent the public relations profession for what it is…an honorable, ethical field of endeavor.

No surprise here, but 21st century public relations has become a global concept.

What is tweeted in Boise is retweeted from Beijing to Bangladesh.

“Casual” statements in a CEO’s blog in Memphis are seen and responded to by readers in Moscow and Mozambique.

The challenge for us as professional communicators, then, becomes one of thinking “outside the box,” or, better yet, “outside the borders.”

I had a great chat with our Academic Dean at Curry College a few days ago during which he asked me a series of questions about my definition of the ideal learning environment for today’s (and tomorrow’s) students.

My response, in a nutshell, was that I wanted/expected students to be well-grounded in the liberal arts…to be familiar with history, literature, the sciences…and to be aware of events in the greater community outside their campus.

I always try to be crystal clear that the students I’m talking about are my Public Relations Concentration troops. Ideally this would encompass other disciplines as well, but I’m being the conservative here and am sticking with what I can (sort of) control.

Happily, the Dean shares my vision, so I see, as Rick said to Louis in “Casablanca,” the “beginning of a beautiful friendship.”

But that’s the reality, again. Our “world” no longer consists of friends and neighbors within driving distance of our hometown. And the impacts of our actions no longer affect merely those who are the immediate recipients of our message.

Ours is a world without borders which means that we must be aware of cultural and other differences and be prepared to communicate successfully with our various audiences.

It’s not a “new” world that we live and work in, but it is a different and rapidly-evolving world.

It’s a world in which, as communicators, our “foreign policy” will prepare us for events and opportunities that impact us and our clients.