Your Career and You: “What IS Satisfaction?”

Publication1I write a lot…probably too much…about “loving your job” and “following your passion.”

I do this for one relatively simple reason. For what seems like the better half of the past 50 years of my life, people…working professionals as well as young soon-to-be professionals (aka: “students”)…have been asking me for some sort of definition of “success.”

I have heard any number of responses from others over the years, ranging from “you’re successful if you’re making a lot of money” to “success is when you have a big office in a big company.”

There’s probably some merit in each of these definitions, and I certainly have never encouraged my students at Curry College, where, until recently, I oversaw the Public Relations Concentration in our Communication Department, to actively seek out poverty and a closet-sized office.

But success is sooo much more than posh trappings of office and bushels of money being dumped in your lap each payday.

Throughout my own professional career, both as a PR practitioner and as a PR professor, I have had the pleasure of meeting and becoming friends with people from all levels of the working world. Yes, a few of them are, as I term it, “gazillionaires.” Others are living paycheck-to-paycheck. And in each scenario, I have met someone who goes about every single day with a smile on his face because he is doing exactly what he wants to be doing.

Although the Rolling Stones declared quite successfully that “I can’t get no satisfaction,” I respectfully disagree.

You can, but doing so requires that you do a really thorough “Who am I? What do I want out of life?” self-analysis.

Not to get slightly morbid here, but a saying I heard one time a loooong time ago sticks with me: “What do you want your obituary to say about you?”

Short-ish, and to the point. If someone is going to recap your life and your contributions to others’ lives, what do you want him or her to say? Then ask yourself, “How am I going to accomplish that?”

It doesn’t matter where you are in your professional/personal existence…just starting out, mid-way and building momentum, or in the final stages…you can start or add to the final description.

Don’t try to do it alone, though. You need input from others with whom you interact. It’s called “networking,” and my students have heard me preaching this sermon just about every day in every class.

Why ask others? Because you’re too close to the subject…you can’t see the forest because all the trees are crowded all around you. And you’re prejudiced…after all, it’s you you’re talking about…and you’ve known yourself your entire life!

But most important, ask yourself, “What is it that, when I do it, I spend the next three days grinning like an idiot because the simple act of doing it made me feel so good?”

Odds are, whatever that “it” was, it’s something you love doing…it’s something you do well…it’s something you’re passionate about.

Then you do what someone I admire immensely…my step-brother Jimmy Towson…did. You sit down with those who are most important to you, you have a very serious talk, and you make the changes necessary for you to accomplish your goal.

The end result? You will have answered the question: “What IS satisfaction?”

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Your Career and You: “The End and the Beginning”

Publication1I’m in my “Zen” mode today as I sporadically check weather reports on Hurricane Irma’s progress and focus more and more on a week from now when we move lock-stock-and-barrel to Tampa, Florida, to start our new lives as official retirees.

Part of me really doesn’t want to do this. I’ve been hauling around a ton of preconceptions about “retirees” for ages, and I have absolutely no intention of becoming one of those.

On the other hand, though, I’m incredibly excited about this new adventure. New home. New hometown. New way of going about my day. I absolutely love new things, and this phase of my life is bringing a gazillion new things!

This is something I have always tried to pass on to my students at Curry College, Regis College, and several other colleges in the Boston area where I’ve spent some time trying to “spread the word” about the profession that has consumed my entire adult life…public relations.

  • Be open to new ideas.
  • Be open to new ways of doing things.
  • Be open to new opportunities regardless of where they might take you.

You never know what lies just around the corner, and you won’t find out unless you step out of your warm, fuzzy comfort zone and “dive in the deep end.”

For me, it started in 1968 when, in Air Force basic training, while some of my colleagues were vying for assignments at bases around the U.S., I interviewed and was accepted for a new venture the Department of Defense was launching…teaching English in Vietnam.

End result? A sort of indirect introduction to a career in the Air Force (active-duty military), Army (civil service), and private sector (whole bunch of places) as a public relations professional.

I also met and subsequently married my wife of now-45 years, Margaret, so BONUS!!

Then, later in my private sector life in PR, I was “involuntarily separated” (aka: “fired”) from a position that I didn’t “love” but paid the bills.

Coincidentally, a friend called to ask if I had an interest in teaching. As far as I was concerned, I was totally unqualified to teach young men and women the ABCs of public relations as a profession. I don’t have a PR degree…only took one PR course as an elective for my second undergraduate degree. But I did have close to 20 years’ professional experience in public relations and have (patting myself enthusiastically on the back) orchestrated some pretty awesome PR programs and activities for various employers.

After babbling like the idiot I’m so incredibly capable of being from time-to-time, I wound up in the classroom teaching, first, graduate Communication students and, later, undergrads at several colleges in and around Boston.

Absolutely LOVED it! And still DO! But…

Had I not taken my friend up on her offer to get me in the door at the college where she was teaching, though…who knows? I don’t spend a lot of time doing “what if?” exercises, so I don’t have an answer.

So flash forward to 2017 and my current state of affairs.

We could have stayed here in Massachusetts. Margaret absolutely hates, hates, hates New England winters, but we’ve put up with them for close to 40 years. And I have a very solid network of professional colleagues up here who I would miss terribly if we were to move.

But the old, now-familiar “itch” led us to look at Florida and, in spite of my own misgivings, we have found a new “home” that promises to offer a whole laundry-list of new adventures, opportunities…and challenges, of course.

So that’s it for now, my friends. I’m nearing the end of what truly has been an amazing life as an actively-practicing PR professional and, now, PR professor.

And I am rounding the corner to head for the beginning of an amazing new life. What lies ahead? I have no clue. But I am so very excited, and I promise to keep you posted!

Ciao for now!

Posted in Action, careers, Communication, Curry College, Evaluation, Graduate Communication, Inspiration, job hunting, job search, Planning, pleasure, PR, PR students, public relations, Regis College, Thinking, Undergraduate Communication | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Your Career and You: “Chaos…It’s Normal”

Publication1_editedThe past four months have been a test both of my sanity and my patience. Dealing with banks. Dealing with real estate developers. Everything in preparation for a major change in my life that involves leaving what has been “home” for the past 25 years and heading off to a new location (Florida) with a new career (retirement).

It’s by choice, though, so I’m gritting my teeth and “patiently” waiting for it all to end.

It occurred to me this morning, though, that this is what my students at Curry College, where I headed up the undergraduate Public Relations Concentration and taught most of the PR courses, as well as at Regis College, where I taught in the Graduate Communications program, face at the end of their pursuit of a college diploma.

Nothing seems to be what it was. Something new and often unexpected is always popping up to throw what had been a pleasantly comfortable routine into a total tailspin. Also known as “graduation.”

Now on a good day, I’m apparently a disorganized mess. At least that’s the diagnosis I get from my long-suffering wife, Margaret, who is a mega-linear thinker and doer. She hates it when things don’t go as she has meticulously outlined in her daily planner. (And she gave up on organizing me decades ago!)

But that’s my “life,” and it always will be that way.

Yes. It is possible to establish a semi-organized lifestyle in which things putter along neatly and predictably. But I would (politely) argue that that type of existence is boring with a capital “B.”

Your brain thrives on the challenges of dealing with and finding solutions to the unexpected.

But, more important, progress occurs when changes occur, both in the world in general and in our own lives in particular. Changes don’t happen quietly or while you’re sleeping, though. They happen because someone…you??…makes them happen.

And this is the message I try to pass on to the troops. Yes, the prospect of graduating seems to throw everything into a giant whirlpool and life is spinning around like crazy. It seems like everything is changing by the minute, and you’ve lost control of everything.

But…there is an end to all the madness. You will find a job in which you can use the knowledge gained and the skills developed over the past four(-ish) years. You will be able to settle down and become the productive, successful professional you’ve been dreaming about all this time.

It may take a little longer than you hope. That’s the reality of today’s working world. Nothing is guaranteed. But, if you believe in yourself and in your ability to succeed, you will succeed. I know. I’ve been you…many times over.

In the meantime, take a deep breath and dive into the chaos called “life”…it’s normal.

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Your Career and You: “Frustration”

Publication1 (2)We’ve just stumbled out of the infamous “dog days of summer” and are more-or-less building up courage for the inevitable frigid blasts of winter. And for many of my Curry College COM/PR students who graduated this past May, the tension is mounting.

They’ve been firing off resumes right and left, scheduling interviews, combing job sites…doing everything they possibly can to put their hard-earned diploma to good use.

Unfortunately…but not surprisingly, to me at least…it would appear that the entire universe has come to a screeching halt.

Expectations are high. “I studied my butt off for four years, stayed on the Dean’s List for the entire time, did multiple internships. What’s going on?!?

I try to reassure anyone who turns to me in frustration over this seeming frozen-molasses pace that there’s nothing wrong. It’s perfectly normal. Things typically slow down in the summer while working folks take vacations and the overall pace in offices slows a smidge.

But this is little reassurance to someone who is staring at two pieces of paper…the vaunted “college diploma” and the dreaded “student loan’s due bill.”

Then I hit a personal snag this summer that was basically a “welcome to reality” slap in the face for me. My wife Margaret and I are preparing for what we think will be the final chapter in our own careers…retirement, moving to Florida, and building a new (first for us) home.

Things started off sooo well. Found a location that met 99% of our retirement requirements. Found a new house design that was as close to perfect as we could hope.

Then the mortgage application paperwork torture started…in late April. No problem on the amount…we’ve been preparing for this for years. But the minutiae…

I kept count. We answered…and provided written documentation for…ONE question FOUR times.

We’re now three full months into the process, and, as of this writing, the paperwork is STILL unfinished… “hopefully next week.”

Frustration, for me as a public relations professional, is literally just a part of the game. I’ve worked for days/weeks to get a story placed in the media only to be told “sorry, it got bumped for something ‘more important.’”

I’ve learned over the years that patience truly is a virtue, so I’m taking multiple deep breaths and telling myself everything will work out.

And this is the message I try to pass on to my students, past and present. Things don’t always go the way you think they should. “Stuff” happens. But if you’ve truly done your best and are focusing on something achievable, it will happen.

So charge ahead, my friends. I will be here on the sidelines cheering you on…while I’m relaxing on the patio of my new home!

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Your Career and You: “Check Your &#%@ Email”

Publication1This past week has been nothing short of annoying on the electronic communication front. I have sent out more than a dozen emails to various people ranging from presidents of nonprofit organizations to…of course…students. Crickets.

In the case of the students, I’m not completely surprised. Not happy, but not surprised. My Curry College COM/PR students and Curry College PR Student Association members have all learned that I WILL track them down on social media if they don’t answer their Curry email. Facebook and Twitter are my two main “gotcha” platforms, but I’m not above resorting to Instagram or even LinkedIn if necessary.

But the organizational leaders??? Apparently the concept of “professional courtesy” got swept into the trash at some point in their respective careers.

I’m not selling anything. In fact, I’m offering them the opportunity to put their organization’s name and expertise in front of an audience of more than 20,000 PR professionals.

Sadly, I’m not the only one who has experienced this lack of common courtesy. I had lunch recently with a friend…PR director for a college…who unloaded about a certain faculty member who point-blank TOLD her he doesn’t respond to emails in any sort of reliable manner.

Say WHAT?!?

Yeah…I get it. You’re busy. Here’s a news flash for you… “We’re ALL busy.” But some of us appreciate the fact that other human life-forms are trying to communicate with us…and we show our appreciation by returning the courtesy.

Successful people don’t operate in a vacuum. They get their inspiration and their creativity from the interactions they have with others…sharing of ideas…“test-driving” concepts…“reality checks.”

And that’s the message, as a PR pro until recently teaching the next generation(s) of PR practitioners, I’ve tried to get across in my PR classes and in my personal/professional lives. No, you don’t have to respond within microseconds of having received a message. And circumstances may prevent you from immediately responding.

When I’m in the air flying from New York to Taipei, I don’t obsess about the fact that I’m “off the grid” for umpteen hours. But I DO make a point of responding as soon after I land as possible with a brief explanation of the delay.

Once again, it’s common courtesy. AND it’s professional courtesy. I’m saying to my contacts, regardless of who they might be, “You are important to me, and I appreciate your communication with me.” Whether it’s an old college roommate or a reporter…or my boss…the same applies.

So make this action a habit. Check your email…and your social media platforms…regularly. And, if you have a message, don’t ignore it. Above all else, check your &#%@ email!!

Posted in Action, CCPRSA, Communication, Curry College, Curry College PR Student Association, Curry College Public Relations Student Association, Inspiration, PR, PR students, public relations, social media, Time management | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Your Career and You: “Success…A ‘Moving’ Experience”

MovingTo say that this summer has been “different” would be the grandest understatement in the history of the spoken word.

Margaret (my wife) and I are in the final throes of building/buying a new (our first) home…in Florida (a new state for us).

This will now make seven states and, counting the U.S., of course, three countries that we have lived in either permanently (jobs) or temporarily (assignments). Not bad for 45 years of marriage!

Seems like my entire life has been about moving and changing. Just growing up, my family moved SEVEN times in the SAME town! Then I meandered through THREE colleges in pursuit of my first undergraduate degree.

The weird thing…at least with most of it…is that I/we somehow came out a little bit better each time…reassignments…promotions…expanded job responsibilities…good stuff.

I’ve tried over the past decade-plus of teaching at Curry College and elsewhere to help my COM/PR “disciples” and others recognize and accept that, in order to progress in one’s chosen career field, change is often necessary. It’s not likely to just happen, though. You have to make it happen.

Yes…it’s possible to succeed in one place in one job. But I would argue that this is becoming more and more the exception rather than the rule.

The idea, at least in my opinion, is that you should be open to and be willing to explore new opportunities and, if you’re not finding anything locally…to either reassess your goals or expand your parameters.

This is something I don’t think we do a very good job of as educators/advisors. We present “life” as a neatly-organized textbook, with each chapter logically building to a tidy conclusion. The end result is that our students blithely walk off the stage at Commencement with a diploma and the expectation that everything will fall neatly into place.

Sorry, my friends. Doesn’t usually happen this way.

Hoops…lots of hoops…have to be jumped through, some of them burning rings that offer a bit more of a challenge. You have to believe in yourself and your ability to get through them with minimal damage. You can, though, so charge forth!

More than anything, you have to explore your options when it comes to your career. Go? Or stay? For PR folks, in-house or agency? What industry? What are the opportunities for professional growth? The list is long.

And here’s where you initiate your networking campaign…reaching out to and connecting with other professionals both locally and around the country/world. Find out what’s “out there” and weigh the positives and negatives. If at all possible, visit those places (cities/countries) that you think sound promising to make sure the “vibes” are there. Trust me…you don’t want to uproot and relocate to someplace that you dislike from the get-go.

For us, it was Seattle…really like the city…would love to visit again. But we made three trips from Honolulu to Seattle in the hopes that something would “click.” Job opportunities? Yes. Reasonably affordable? Yes. But we just didn’t love it. So we came back to Boston where we’ve now been, this time, for 20-plus years (first time was for 12 years), and both of us have done very well professionally.

It was a gamble…as my former boss in Hawaii said as we were leaving, “I hope Boston is everything that you think it’s going to be.” And it has been.

And that’s your challenge, too. You’re going to be faced with choices. And you may come to the point where changing jobs…or changing professions…or changing locations is the wisest thing for you to do.

That’s the thing about success…it’s a “moving” experience.

Posted in Action, careers, Communication, Curry College, job hunting, job search, networking, Planning, PR, PR students, professional organizations, PRSA, PRSA Boston, PRSSA, public relations, Public Relations Society of America, Research | Tagged , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Your Career and You: “I’m a ‘Vampire’”

VampireNow that I’ve got your attention…lemme ’splain (as Ricky Ricardo so often said to Lucy).

I talk and write about the fact that I’m an introvert. And yet, ironically, I have a burning need to be around people. My Curry College COM students, especially those in my PR classes and members of the Curry College Public Relations Student Association, have heard this…a LOT.

Weird? Yep. The two don’t match? You betcha.

But there you have it. Maybe it’s a counter-reaction to having grown up on a farm in rural Dublin, Georgia, and having spent countless hours/days by myself, exploring the woods that surrounded our house and basically being my own best company.

School was “in town” where most of my classmates lived. Or, if they didn’t live in town, they, too, lived on farms miles away from me. At the end of the school day, I got on a bus, rode for half an hour or more, got off, and walked up the lane to our house. Alone.

I was happy, I guess. Or, if not “happy,” at least I was content. I assumed (if I even thought about it) that everyone else lived and felt the same way.

Then I went off to college and found myself surrounded by and interacting with hundreds of other humans 24/7.

I didn’t have a ton of friends at any of the schools (three, in fact…Auburn University, Middle Georgia College, University of Georgia) that I attended in pursuit of a bachelor’s degree in something. But I had a few with whom I hung out and did all the things that, looking back, I would have been much wiser not to have done. And I thoroughly enjoyed each and every moment I was with them.

We talked. We laughed. We bitched and moaned about classwork, professors, other classmates…you name it.

Then I graduated…worked a couple of jobs (short-order cook for my Dad; record salesman for a friend’s family) in Dublin waiting for the inevitable “please join us” from the military (1968…Vietnam…etc.).

The “invitation” came, I joined the Air Force, and, in a demonstration of my incredible planning ability, wound up in Saigon, Vietnam, in 1969, teaching English as a second language to the Vietnamese military. And, once again, I found myself surrounded by millions of other humans 24/7.

And, once again, I made a few friends with whom I hung out and did all kind of things that, looking back, I would have been much wiser not to have done. This time, though, brought the realization that I really liked being around other living, breathing human beings.

I also found myself seeking out and taking on part-time jobs (bartender, library assistant, audiovisual support services) that had me interacting with other human beings. And I loved it!!

But…my introversion started making itself painfully evident. Yes…I interacted with others, but only to provide whatever services the particular job required that I provide. Otherwise, I was quite content to just sit in a corner and watch everyone else having a good time.

The key word here is “content.”

I didn’t feel “neglected.” I didn’t feel “unloved.” I didn’t feel “unnatural.” This was the way I had always been, and it felt perfectly “normal.”

Granted, I always did and still do admire those around me who appear perfectly at ease interacting both with friends and with strangers who they’ve just met. It’s just not “me,” and I’ve accepted that I’m not going to change.

And that’s the moral of this tale, my friends near and far. Recognize and come to terms with your frailties. Then find a way to use them to your benefit.

I’m happiest when I’m with living, breathing human beings…as long as I’m not forced to do anything more than simply be with them.

But I draw my energy from their own energy. I draw my creativity from the rich variety of personalities that are around me. And with that energy and creativity, I have been able to be something of a success in my professions of public relations practice and public relations education.

But I need living, breathing human beings around me for that to happen. In other words, I’m a vampire!

Posted in Action, careers, CCPRSA, Communication, Curry College, Curry College PR Student Association, Curry College Public Relations Student Association, Education, Inspiration, PR, PR students, public relations, Thinking | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment