Friday, December 28, 2012

Your Career and You: “On the Eve of the New Year…Reflections and a Fresh Outlook”

I was camped out in a local mall recently while my wife was at her acupuncturist’s getting treatment for a variety of aches and pains.

Although I had survived the holiday season with minor damage, I was in a spectacularly foul frame of mind...all prepared to grouse my way through the waiting period.

Then I stopped off in one of the department stores where (unknown to me) they were having a “door-buster sale” with amazing markdowns on stuff. Wound up getting an awesome deal on a shirt. Whee!

But it’s what happened while I was in the process of paying for the shirt that changed my mood.

The fellow ahead of me was chatting with the salesclerk…a genuine gentleman himself…and mentioned that he had just returned from Afghanistan…he’s a State Department veteran and has been embedded with the troops there for a while. Now he’s home and looking forward optimistically to the safe return of our other personnel.

The three of us talked for a few minutes as he was wrapping up his purchase; then he left and I, too, made my purchase.

Turns out the salesclerk had studied Communication in college (Radio major) and then had worked in the business for a number of years. His daughter is now also studying Communication…love it that some “traditions” run in families!

I, of course, got in my usual plugs for the Communication major at Curry College where I oversee the undergraduate Public Relations Concentration and teach most of the PR courses. And, since my unknown friend (I totally forgot to ask his name…uncharacteristically absent-minded of me) was a former radio guy, I also plugged Curry’s student-run radio station…WMLN-FM.

Hey! I’m a PR guy…what’d you expect?!?

Cutting to the inevitable “chase” here…my outlook on life in general changed dramatically, and I walked out…and started this post…in a splendid frame of mind.

What happened, you ask?

A simple interaction with other people whose life experiences I found fascinating and who reminded me that we all go through a series of changes/bumps in the road/challenges.

Some of us emerge from our challenges re-invigorated and ready to take on even more challenges. Others, sadly, don’t wind up this way…and there’s not a whole lot I, personally, can do for them other than listen, sympathize if possible, and empathize if appropriate.

The “secret,” if there be a secret, is find...
> satisfaction in what you’ve accomplished,
> encouragement in what you can do,
> comfort in knowing you’ve done your best, and
> confidence that you are ready and able to take on what lies ahead.

The New Year is on our doorstep, my friends. Let’s make it a great one!

The sun'll come out
Bet your bottom dollar
That tomorrow
There'll be sun!

Just thinkin' about

Clears away the cobwebs,
And the sorrow
'Til there's none!

When I'm stuck a day

That's gray,
And lonely,
I just stick out my chin
And Grin,
And Say,

The sun'll come out

So ya gotta hang on
'Til tomorrow
Come what may
Tomorrow! Tomorrow!
I love ya Tomorrow!
You're always
A day

“Tomorrow” from the Broadway hit, “Annie”

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Your Career and You: "I'm Positive You're Negative"

It’s the end of the semester. It’s the end of the year. Tensions are running high.

Work is piling up. Deadlines to meet. Expectations to satisfy. Which can mean only one thing.

Attitude assessment time!!

I simply canNOT allow myself to wallow miserably in a deep, dank dungeon of despair. I’m not wired that way.

So I get really uncomfortable when I encounter someone whose whole take on life is doom-and-gloom.

Even when I was a kid and was making one of many trips to the doctor’s office to get sewed up after yet another collision with a tree, the ground, or whatever the impact medium might have been, my thoughts weren’t on the pain du jour but, rather, on the “cool, the stitches will be out in a week or so and I’ll be back in action!”

A positive attitude gets you through the dark nights.

A negative outlook, on the other hand, just piles more darkness onto the heap.

This approach to life is something that I try to convey to my Communication students and advisees at Curry College, where I head the undergraduate Public Relations Concentration and teach most of the PR courses, as well as at Regis College, where I teach in the graduate Organizational and Professional Communication area.

Not all of them listen to what I say, and I don’t expect them to.

I can’t possibly know what they’re dealing with either personally or professionally. What I can do is listen, sympathize if necessary, and empathize when appropriate.

But it’s the holiday season, and “stuff” always comes crowding in on our comfortable routines.

It takes some doing, but you have to do your best to find the good things that wander into your daily routine...
v  Maybe it’s the cute baby passing you in a stroller as you’re people-watching in the mall.
v  Or maybe it’s the glint of sunshine peeking through your dining room window at breakfast.
v  Or maybe it’s just a song you hear that brings back wonderful memories from long ago.

It can be anything that triggers a good feeling. Just sit back and allow yourself to enjoy it!

And…Happy New Year!

"Some of you say, 'Joy is greater than sorrow,' and others say, 'Nay, sorrow is the greater.' But I say unto you, they are inseparable. Together they come, and when one sits alone with you at your board, remember that the other is asleep upon your bed." - Kahlil Gibran, "The Prophet: On Joy and Sorrow"

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Your Career and You: “Three Wise Moves”

Okay…I’m reluctantly allowing myself to get into the holiday spirit and, since “bah…humbug” isn’t part of my vocabulary, I guess I’ll go with three tips on how to jump-start (or refresh) your job or internship search.

One of my recent posts talked about resumes and networking, and that chat still applies…and will continue to apply throughout your professional career.

Ø  Never stop networking. Just like houseplants and goldfish, your networking contacts have to be nurtured and nourished…keep them alive by keeping them fresh.
Ø  Update your resume…regularly. When you do something that you feel reinforces your case for being hired, add it to your resume…if necessary, remove something that’s older and possibly less relevant today.

And here’s more for your “to-do” list.

1.    Read!  I know some…not allsome of you are muttering eggnogedly, “I read enough for my classes including yours, Kirk. Why should I read more??”

I constantly remind my students both at Curry College, where I head 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, that I’m always reading…both for pleasure and for work/pleasure.

I read and write reviews of new PR and marketing books for Emerald Publications’ Journal of Consumer Marketing and Journal of Product and Brand Management. This hobby/ habit keeps me up-to-date on current trends in the public relations field as well as connects me with thought leaders in PR, social media, and marketing.

You should do the same. You want to be regarded as an up-and-coming ”superstar,” don’t you? Expanding your knowledge through reading is a way to accomplish that.

2.    Write! 
Send handwritten (legibly written) notes to folks that you’ve met recently at the networking events you’ve attended (you have been networking, haven’t you?!?).

As I’ve said time and again, the holiday season is especially suited for note-writing. You find a nice holiday card, write your note, address the envelope, stick on a stamp, mail it...Done.

And start becoming more visible on social media and other opportunities for commenting. If you read and are interested in others’ thoughts online and elsewhere, take some time to comment…to express your own thoughts. Communication is just that…communicating!

3.    Research! 
I’m going out on a long, thin limb here, but I’m going to suggest that, in your reading (see # 1), you probably came across some companies that caught your attention because of the work they do or the people who work there…both legitimate reasons to look at a company for possible employment.

Use your computer for something besides posting snarky comments and suggestive photos on Facebook or tweeting profanities about your favorite sports team’s massive mistakes.

Do some research on the companies or the people that caught your interest. What’s their background? What do they do that you think is exciting or that you know something about?

Not only does this knowledge give you some talking points in an interview (informational or job). It’s a lot more fun working with someone whose products or services are something you’re interested in! I once did public relations for a cemetery…for a very short period of time. Nice people; obviously a needed and important service. It just didn’t work for me.

So do your research.

So there you have it…reading, writing, and research. It truly can be as simple as “one…two... three wise moves.”

Happy Holidays! Mele Kalikimaka! Maligayang Pasko! 聖誕快樂!

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Your Career and You: "Professional Development: 'Periodic Maintenance for Smooth Performance'”

Moment of truth here. I’m sitting in my local tire dealership waiting for my chariot to get a new set of “shoes.” There’s a mind-numbing soap playing on the television in the lounge area, and the magazines on display would suck the intelligence from a rock.

So ample time for “thinking.” This exercise, for me, entails lots of soul-searching and angst…mostly angst.

For any of you who have read anything I’ve written, you know that I’m all about education, continuing education, and never-stop-learning education. I blog regularly about experiences both in my previous professional life as a public relations professional and in my current life as a public relations professor.

One thing that I hear time and again from my undergraduate PR students at Curry College is “I’ll be so glad when I graduate and won’t have to study all the time. I’m ready for ‘real’ life.” (I don’t hear this so much from my grad students at Regis College because most of these folks are working professionals who have figured out that ”getting ahead” entails much more than just doing what’s in the job description.)

My unchanging mantra is just this: “You have to conduct regular professional development checkups to make sure that your knowledge base is current and your skills are ‘cutting-edge.’”

What this means is that you have to read literature relating to the communication profession, including current discussion of public relations, marketing, social media…the list goes on and on. The message is…read.

It also means staying current by participating, either live or virtually, in professional development programs on topics that you are either unfamiliar with or feel that you could use a “tune-up” in.

This should be “no-brainer” advice, but we all can benefit from reminders once in a while.

I’m a pretty pragmatic guy…see an issue…examine it…deal with it. The “fluff and stuff” come as a part of the overall program planning. (And I’m pretty sure someone among you will yell at me for this wording. Sigh…)

So start local with your research. What does your local PRSA chapter have on tap for professional development? What about other communication organizations in the area?

Then, or simultaneously, look at what PRSA has to offer…both on-site and on-line. PRSA has a boatload of reasonably-priced as well as no-cost programming on a variety of topics.

Finally, look at your local colleges or universities. Do they offer programs or courses that you might be able to take advantage of? Check ‘em out. You might be surprised!

The bottom line is that professional development…your professional development…is critical to your continuing ability to provide the public relations services that your employer or your client wants and expects.

One of the "Provisions of Conduct" addressed in PRSA’s Code of Ethics is “enhancing the profession.”

This, to me, means that we…public relations professionals…have a responsibility to demonstrate our commitment to continuing education and learning in order to provide clients, employers...or students...with the most current advice and counsel possible…periodic maintenance for smooth performance.

To paraphrase my hero, South Park’s Eric Cartman, “What we should have learned here…”

See you in class!

“Properly speaking, for the public relations man, as for every other person whose life is more than unthinking routine, the process of education should never cease.” (Edward L. Bernays, “A Definitive Study of Your Future in Public Relations,” Chapter VI: Education and Public Relations)