Where Do We Go From Here?

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No surprise here…I have NO idea what the future holds for any of us.

The optimist in me says “Hang in there. Things WILL get better.” The world has been through other, at the time equally daunting, challenges and somehow has always come out bruised a bit but wiser for the experience.

My internal pessimist, on the other hand, keeps muttering “The world is going to hell in a hand-basket, and no one anywhere has any idea how to deal with the situation.”

I’m old enough to know that there’s not a whole heck of a lot I can do other than “do the right things.” Not crazy about the disruption of my routine and daily feeling of uncertainty about what lies ahead. But certain previous life experiences have taught me that somehow, someway, I’ll get through it.

But others, in particular my amazing students from my previous Curry College and now my University of Tampa days, don’t have this personal “been there” reference point. They’re just starting out on their life’s adventures, and this pandemic pestilence is totally gumming up the works.

I can’t fix things, as much as I wish I could. All I can do is be “be there” for them and encourage them to talk to me when they’re feeling overwhelmed or at a loss for next steps in their lives.

Yeah, it really sucks. Companies, as much as they would dearly love to get back to “life as usual,” are just as much playing it by ear as my student friends. They’re slowly and carefully easing back into previously “normal” work/office routines, but they’re reluctant, for all kinds of good reasons, to make a definitive “we’re back” declaration.

So what do we/you/I do in the meantime?

First of all…Do. NOT. Give. Up! You got where you are because you put your heart and soul into everything you did. Believe in yourself, and believe even moreso in your ability to overcome the challenges that you will encounter.

Second…talk to others…friends…professors (current and past)…parents. Sometimes just the simple act of talking helps put things in perspective and you see more clearly what you need to be doing.

Third…go kick a squirrel. Just kidding, folks. It’s not the squirrel’s fault that things are this way. He (or she) is having enough trouble finding extra acorns to stash away for the winter!

I truly believe that things will eventually return to a modified form of “normal.” I recalled the other day a conversation I had with a student back in the early 70s when I was teaching English to the military in Vietnam. We were chatting about the current state of affairs (our school was on yet another “high alert” status due to reports that we might be attacked by enemy forces).

I asked the student if, at his age…mid-20s, he could remember a time of peace in the country. His answer, very simply, was “No.”

Wow! Talk about “normal.” For him, being on constant alert for possible danger was “normal.”

So welcome to our “new normal.” We will resume doing so many things that we have grown so accustomed to doing…only slightly differently. But we will resume doing them. And we’ll get used to the new way of doing them.

Or as Admiral David Farragut famously said to his fleet during the Battle of Mobile Bay in August 1864, “Damn the torpedoes. Full speed ahead.”

Posted in Action, careers, Communication, Critical Thinking, Curry College, Education, Evaluation, feedback, Inspiration, internships, job hunting, job search, Leadership, mentoring, networking, Planning, PR, PR students, public relations, The University of Tampa, Thinking, Time management, University of Tampa | 2 Comments

Patience…A Virtue That Must Be Nurtured

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I’ll be the first to admit it. When I think of something that I want or want to do, I want it NOW. Not “later.” Not “tomorrow.” NOW!!

I’ve “kind of” mellowed over the years, but this trait has always been my fall-back attitude. And, truth be told, I’ve had a couple of supervisors over the years with whom I’ve had a “let’s face facts” conversation about this tendency.

It’s probably a good thing that, in the latter years of my professional activities, I’ve been in the classroom introducing young men and women to the public relations profession, a career field that occupied the first 30-plus years of my working life. I’ve learned, albeit not without some “differences of opinion” expressed by a few students over the years, to temper my expectations…and my temper.

The deal is, from my perspective, that when you ask (or tell…memories of my active duty Air Force days) someone to do something, you’re making that request for a reason. It’s not “make-work” stuff; it’s REAL. And, especially in public relations, if there’s something that needs to be fixed, reputations and/or customers can be lost if nothing is done.

So two parts to this rambling…

One, be real and be realistic in your request and your expectations. I once lost it with my commanding officer at one Air Force assignment because he had no clue what my job entailed and he kept demanding, basically, the impossible. I “made” him take on my job, and I took on his role. It took him about five minutes of this role-playing to realize that what he was asking/demanding that I do simply could not be done. (Note: It helped that he and I were personal friends in off-duty life, so he didn’t perceive my actions as being insubordinate.)

Two, learn from your own mistakes and those of others. No one is perfect. Period. We all have our flaws, and we all manage to muck things up once in a while. I learned as a very young boy that sticking a metal fingernail file in a wall socket is not advisable. Things go “bzzzzt”…the lights go out throughout the house…and you turn, according to my Mother, a very interesting shade of purple. I also learned in Hawaii during my tenure as Communications Director for the Blood Bank of Hawaii that it’s not a good idea to have a pile of metal poles dumped into one of the four lanes of a heavily-traveled city street. Something about “impeding traffic,” according to the Honolulu police commissioner.

At the same time as all this, though, you must not lose sight of your goal. What is it that you hope to accomplish?

And, what’s required to make it happen?
> Who do you need to help you get it done?
> What resources do you need? Are they readily available?
> What’s the timeline? When does it HAVE to be done?

All this doesn’t come easily to everyone. But if you really want to stand out as a leader, you have to get comfortable with the process. And you have to accept that you, too, will probably stumble along the way. Guess what? You’re human, just like the rest of us!

So tighten up your shoelaces and get started.

Oh, by the way, even tying shoelaces takes patience! How many times have you rushed to tie your shoelaces only to have one or the other come undone while you’re rushing to get “somewhere” on time?

Patience truly is a virtue. Don’t rush it!

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Hurry up…and wait…

Publication1Maybe I’ve got the “quarantine quibbles” or something, but I feel like I’m seeing a lot more of what I have always described as “unprofessional behavior” these days. You would think grownups would act like grownups, but noooo.

I wrote about this just last week and, lo and behold, I ran smack dab into another glaring example right after that post was published. (For an update on last week…still haven’t heard from the colleagues I wrote about…and I have yet another one to add to the list…all three from the same organization!!)

I know. Waah…waah…waah, Kirk. Get over it. People are busy.

That’s just the point, though. We’re all busy. Even if we’re not working full-time (moi), we still have things we have to do. We’re not sitting around twiddling our thumbs. Which means that when we set an appointment or promise to have something done by XX time, someone else is standing by waiting for us to follow through. And vice-versa.

Why am I talking about this? Because I am acutely aware, in my present roles as adjunct faculty at The University of Tampa, director/ethics officer for PRSA Tampa Bay, and director/ethics chair for the Global Listening Centre that what I do or say will be noticed by others. The unasked question that I have to answer is, “What kind of example am I setting for others…students, current and prospective association members (…the list can go on for miles)?”

In particular these days, I want my students to see how I conduct myself as a professional and say to themselves, “Okay. That’s what a professional looks and acts like. I need to do the same.”

So here’s the deal, my friends. If you say you’re going to do something, do it. If you can’t do what you’ve been asked to do, say so. Don’t leave others flapping in the wind waiting for you to come through with something that, in your heart, you know you’re not going to be able to do at that time.

Yeah…sometimes we hurry up. Sometimes we wait. But the two should not be jammed together. Don’t be Alice’s White Rabbit who kept muttering, “I’m late, I’m late! For a very important date! No time to say ‘hello, goodbye,’ I’m late, I’m late, I’m late!”

#justsayin’

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Professional Courtesy…It’s Not Rocket Science

Publication1Okay. You haven’t heard from me since forever. Let’s just say things have been “different” these past several months and let it go at that.

But I haven’t just been goofing off…at least not all the time!
> I taught an “Intro to PR” course Spring semester at The University of Tampa, and I’m prepping for an online “Intro to Organizational Communication” course Summer II.
> I’ve gotten actively involved in a cool international organization, “Global Listening Centre,” as a Director and Chair of their Ethics Committee.
> I’ve been (slowly) organizing an ethics program for the Public Relations Society of America‘s “Ethics Month” in September with an amazing guest (details coming soon).
> And I’m doing my best to adjust to this new existence called “Florida retirement” which is proving to be a bit of a challenge.

So be it. One thing I have noticed is the annoying habit of some individuals (who will go unidentified in this rant for a number of reasons) to not respond to legitimate requests for information, etc., via email. For those of you who know me, apparently I live on email. Regardless of where I am or what I might be doing, I read…and respond to…any and all legitimate emails that I receive.

My Curry College and Regis College students figured out early on that I might be relaxing in my favorite city, Taipei, eating amazing food and generally having the time of my life, and 12 hours ahead of them timewise…but I was available and I responded. My University of Tampa troops are coming to realize this as well.

Why? Simple. I consider myself a professional. I make a commitment to my “clients,” in today’s cases, students, that I am and will be there to help them when and if they need my assistance.

That’s what we’re here for, folks…to lend our professional assistance when and if needed. And, sometimes, that means “sensing” that there might be a problem and offering a helping hand without being asked.

It’s called “professional courtesy” or, simply, “professionalism.” And one thing I have learned over the years is…it’s not “rocket science.” It’s simply a case of doing the right thing at the right time for the right reasons. Or, as the “Golden Rule” suggests: “Do unto others as ye would have them do unto you.”

So, to close out this little rant, “Check…and answer…your damned emails!”

Posted in Action, Communication, Curry College, Customer Service, Education, feedback, Graduate Communication, Leadership, mentoring, networking, PR, PR students, PRSA, public relations, Public Relations Society of America, Regis College, The University of Tampa | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Paying It Back…and Forward!

Publication1Let’s face it. We don’t…not a single one of us does…get where we are in life without the encouragement and help of others. If you look back on it, there has been someone who you have turned to at some time in your life for help, for advice, for reassurance.

As I look back on my own life, I remember the many people…family members, school and college friends, friends from my various professional lives…who helped me, an insecure introverted loner, move onward and (usually) upward. I’m not sure if all of them realize just how grateful I am for that support, but, believe me, I am.

So we move forward to today as I ease slowly into “senior” status (note: there are a few out there who are already muttering, “You idiot. You’re already there!!), I find myself wanting to do more to pay back the past kindnesses and pay forward for what inevitably will be my next adventure.

The “pay back” part is pretty self-evident…I just talked about that part. But the “pay forward” part??

Well, I’ve known myself long enough to know that there is inevitably a next great adventure on the horizon. I have no clue what it might be. But, as many of you reading this post know, I’m on “Page 1” of “Chapter XX” of Kirk’s lifetime adventures. Margaret (my wife) and I are slowly but surely adjusting to a new way of life in a new-ish environment here in the Tampa Bay area.

I’m teaching part-time at The University of Tampa and am heavily involved with the PRSA Tampa Bay Chapter…kind of a repeat of just what I had been doing in Boston for the past umpety-ump years and in Hawaii for a few glorious years as well. But I’m getting a smidge itchy…I need more. In Boston, I had Boston Harborfest…devoted 30+ years to helping this amazing organization. I was also involved in my communities, serving on various nonprofit boards over the years.

So I know me, and I know my passion for “being involved.” I also know that I’ll need someone’s help to make that happen. So I’m hoping by “being there” in the community that something will come my way. Fingers crossed!

This is something I try to pass on to my students…previously at Curry College; now at UT. Don’t just sit, waiting for something to happen. Get out there. Be proactive. Make connections. Ask questions. Only you can make you you!

So to turn the conversation back to you, gentle reader. What have you done, what are you doing, and what will you do to pay back the countless acts of kindness and support that have helped you get where you are today? And what are you doing now to open doors to new opportunities that will move you to the next level?

Onward and upward!

Posted in Action, careers, Communication, Critical Thinking, Curry College, Evaluation, feedback, Inspiration, job hunting, job search, mentoring, Planning, professional organizations, PRSA, PRSA Tampa Bay, public relations, The University of Tampa, Thinking, Undergraduate Communication, University of Tampa | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

Get A Grip

Publication1The past year has been, to put it politely, a royal pain in the @$$. Seems like for every reasonably good thing that happened at least two not-so-good things stuck their snouts into my business. Nothing cataclysmic, mind you. Just annoying as the dickens.

If there’s any comfort in this world, it’s that I’ve noticed, via Facebook and Twitter posts, that more than a few of my Curry College COM/PR friends…most of whom are just really getting a firm foothold on their professional lives…have experienced or are experiencing this same thing.

As proof positive that I have absolutely no common sense, I’ve assured each and every one of them that what they’re experiencing is perfectly normal. Life is filled with speed bumps and potholes, and you have to accept that once in a while, just when you felt like you were cruising along comfortably…BLAM…you hit one of those suckers and feel like you’re losing control.

Note to self: “This applies to you, too, knucklehead.”

There’s no way to totally avoid these things. For one, they’re proof that you’re not stuck in a rut and just doing same ol’-same ol’. You’re trying new things, which in and of itself, can be unsettling. And, as I’ve learned from a gazillion years’ experience, the process doesn’t always go smoothly.

Second, you’re learning the “adulting” routine. No one is sitting patiently on the sidelines watching to make sure you don’t get an “owie.” Yeah, if you’re lucky, someone…a supervisor, a mentor, an amazing friend…is there to comfort you when the inevitable does happen. But, for the most part, you’re on your own.

“So what do I do, Kirk?”

If I had a nickel for every time I’ve asked myself that deceptively simple question, I’d be retired and living in Florida. Oh! Wait!! I am retired (well, sort of) and living in Florida! Hmmm….

There’s not really a simple answer to any of life’s ever-changing challenges. But you can get started with one relatively simple act: Believe in yourself.

I know that sounds incredibly basic. But, speaking from personal experience, I can assure you that having faith in your own ability to accomplish amazing things will give you a rock-solid foundation on which to continue building your confidence.

Will you trip and skin your knee once in a while? Of course you will! It’s called “life”…it happens.

But once you start this first step, you’ll find yourself more and more willing to turn to others to test out new ideas or validate decisions. Not because you’re afraid to do it on your own..you just want verification from others that what you think is a good idea is just that. I call it a “reality check.”

Now I mentioned that the past year has not been one that will go in the “all good memories” book for me. A couple of things went totally kerflooey. (For what’s it’s worth, just looked that word up and discovered that I’ve been spelling it wrong for years!) A couple of self-made…I shouldn’t have done it…I did it…Bad decision things. Period.

But, for each of these owies, there has been at least one attaboy that offset it. So, in looking back, kind of an average year.

The main lesson that has taken me longer than I expected to accept is that, like my Curry College friends who I mentioned earlier, I started a whole new life a couple of years ago, Packed up and left close to 50 years’ worth of experiences behind. The memories are still there and always will be. But it’s “history” now…not “today’s reality.”

So what am I doing about it? Just what I suggested earlier. I’m making new friends whose wisdom I respect and who, I believe, can provide me the feedback that I am looking for as I dive into the deep end once again and start a “new” life.

Lesson? Just that it has taken me two looong years to accept the fact that I’m, once again, a “newbie” and that, like everyone else, I have to get a grip on reality.

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Your Career and You: Life’s Little Challenges

Publication1I haven’t been as consistent in my posts recently as I would have liked to have been. A lot of “stuff” has managed to poke its nose into my life that I really would have preferred NOT to have encountered. But that’s now in the past, and I’m slowly but surely getting back to what I regard as “normal.”

Psyched that I’m going to be teaching again (Intro to PR) at The University of Tampa in the spring of 2020, and I have a boatload of projects that I want to get underway for PRSA Tampa Bay in my roles as Ethics Officer and as Chair of the PRSSA/New Professionals Committee. Stay tuned!

I try to help my students understand that life isn’t going to be one never-ending party. I think they get it, but I’m not going to stop reminding them. It’s hard enough wrapping up one familiar lifestyle (for them, the “student life”; for me, a two-part career track…public relations pro followed by public relations prof) and diving headlong into another (new professional; retired professional).

In my case, I managed to totally complicate the situation by relocating to an entirely new state (Florida) and building a new home. Neither situation has been “perfect,” but I also have learned over the years how to adapt. Granted, it’s a “process,” but it’s do-able.

One step for me (ongoing) is a re-evaluation of my relationship with PRSA. I’ve been a member now for 30-plus years, and have benefited at every step of the way. But, in my previous lives, I was able to more actively involved at the chapter, district and national levels. Geographic circumstances (combined with the fact that I no longer have an employer to generously cover the bulk of my expenses) dictate that I must limit my activities to almost strictly local endeavors.

This is not an easy reality to accept. Quite frankly, I miss the hyper-excitement that I have always experienced from international conference attendance as well as national-level board and committee participation. Not that I’m not doing anything now…up to my ears with PRSA Tampa Bay activities in addition to increasing interaction with The University of Tampa Sykes College of Business “Center for Ethics.” Now scanning the local horizon for a community-based nonprofit that might benefit from my assistance.

And so it goes. It has been a bumpy ride, but, like “Annie,” I truly believe the sun WILL come up tomorrow, and I fully intend to be ready for it!

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You Can DO This!

Publication1I had a moment of “Wow, they really get it!” excitement the other day in my “Introduction to Public Relations” class at The University of Tampa. We had had a guest speaker talking about her current, very cool job and how she got there, and the students’ interest was encouraging.

Lots of good questions indicated they truly wanted to know more about this unexplored territory known as “PR.”

Class ended, and everyone bailed…except for two students who made a beeline for the speaker, introduced themselves, and proceeded to excitedly ask questions and give some background on their own, as yet, not completely formulated plans for the future.

That’s the whole purpose of this exercise. I, as a public relations professional who has “been around the block” a few times, want to open the door a bit and show these up-and-coming communication professionals the variety of opportunities that lie ahead for them.

I also want to make it clear that it’s their responsibility to take the proactive first steps of asking questions and reaching out to those of us who, in one way or another, are able to give them advice and guidance.

These two folks did just that. They’ve both made it clear to me that they are interested in the career field that has been my lifelong passion. And I, in turn, have made it clear to both of them that that is why I’m here…to help in any way that I can.

The bottom line in all this, though, is my deeply-held conviction that, given the opportunity, you can do whatever it is that you want to do. Clinton Parks, my internship supervisor at the US Army Training and Doctrine Command’s Public Affairs Office, saw what he believed was my potential as a future PAO, and he did everything he could to help me get there.

The end result was an amazing out-of-the-gate opportunity to serve as the Public Affairs Officer for the US Army Intelligence School at Ft. Devens, Mass…an accredited institution with a combined staff/faculty/student population of 3,000. Unlike my peers in the internship program, I wasn’t an entry-level employee…I was the person in charge of the School’s public affairs (public relations) program!

And so it began…a 30-year career in public affairs/public relations, culminating in what has been the realization of a hope, expressed even earlier…teaching the next generation(s) of public relations professionals…sharing my own experiences and lessons learned.

Bottom line to all this? Don’t question your abilities. Shoot for the stars.

You Can DO This!!

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Don’t Second-Guess Yourself

Publication1I never fail to be amazed by people who, when something they planned goes kerfluey, spend the next two lifetimes beating themselves up about it. “Why did I do that?”…I should have done XXX.” And on and on and on….

Here’s a newsflash for those of you who are guilty of this. Life happens. Get over it.

Before you get all preach-y with me…I do understand. I’ve been there. I’ve spent countless hours moaning and groaning about some thing or other that jumped merrily off the tracks and made a royal mess of all my plans. In spite of everything, it. just. didn’t. work.

A wise…and probably burned out…salesman once wearily sighed to Margaret (my wife) after she had found yet another microscopic blemish in a table lamp that she was interested in buying: “Nothing’s perfect, little girl.” So very, very true.

I’m not saying that you simply shrug your shoulders and do nothing other than give up. What I am suggesting is that you learn from the experience and keep on keepin’ on.

“In his efforts to develop the lightbulb, Thomas Edison conducted 1,000 experiments that failed before finally hitting on the winner. When a reporter asked, ‘How did it feel to fail 1,000 times,’ Edison replied, ‘I didn’t fail 1,000 times. The light bulb was an invention with 1,000 steps.’” (Wikipedia)

I’m not recommending that you should go to this extreme, but the world is certainly better off because Mr. Edison didn’t waste time second-guessing his efforts. More important, I believe, he refused to give up on something that he absolutely believed he could make happen. He just kept on trying.

So whether you’re in college trying to figure out just what it is you want to do or you’re out in the “real world” and trying to convince yourself…and others…that you are capable of great things, don’t second-guess yourself. If it feels right and you feel in your heart-of-hearts that you can make it happen…go for it!

“I was never afraid of failure; for I would sooner fail than not be among the greatest.” – John Keats, “Letter to James Hessey” [October 8, 1818]

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Why I Teach

Publication1I realized something recently as I wrapped up the first day of fall semester at The University of Tampa…I love what I’m doing!

I’m teaching two Communication classes this semester… “Introduction to Organizational Communication” and “Introduction to Public Relations.” In all my years back in Massachusetts, I had never taught Org Com, so this has been a new experience for me. I’ll have to say I’m not “in love” with the course, but it’s okay, and I’m kind of getting into the groove with it. The PR course, on the other hand…well, D-UH.

The students in both classes are pretty cool. It’s the first day, and I’m a relatively new face on campus, so they’re trying to figure out just what kind of teacher I’m going to be. Ditto on my side…I go through this every semester with new classes and new faces. The first day of the semester is like a first date… it takes a while for both sides to make up their minds about the future of the relationship.

But something happened at the end of the PR class that brought into focus why I continue to do this “teaching thing.”

For starters, I don’t get all academic-y in my approach to teaching. I don’t get googly-eyed about theoretical stuff…my focus is on reality…This is what happened…This is what we did about it…This was the result of our efforts.

So in my PR classes since the beginning of time, I’ve started from Day 1 with stories about things that I dealt with in my past life as a PR guy for various types of organizations. I give a little background; then I give the details of our actions. Then I circle back and emphasize that success was the result of some skilled PR folks doing what they do best…solving problems.

I then tell the class that this is what I’m going to do in this class. They’re going to hear about/learn about situations that threatened the ongoing success of an organization and then they’re going to be challenged to describe how they would handle the situation. Real life, real time problem-solving.

Well, at the end of today’s introductory PR class, two students came up to say how excited they were about this opportunity to learn more about a possible career path that they had heard about but really didn’t know much about at this point.

I assured them that, by the time we completed the semester, they would have a pretty good idea whether or not they wanted to…as I loved to describe it at Curry College, where I headed the PR Concentration and taught most of the PR courses…“come over to the ‘dark side.’”

I also assured them that the world is absolutely NOT going to come to a screeching halt if either of them decided they really didn’t want to do this “PR stuff.”

We wrapped up our chat and, as I was walking out of the classroom, it hit me that this is exactly why I have enjoyed teaching for the past almost (Holy COW!!) 20 years. Public relations has been and always will be my passion. I’ve seen how organizations can truly benefit from well-managed PR programs. More important, I’ve seen how PR can help everyone inside and outside the organization gain a deeper appreciation for its existence. I have been allowed, as a professor, to share that experience.

And, in the end, I’m encouraging young men and women, all of whom I truly believe are going to be amazing successes, to find their own passion, whether it be public relations or social work or whatever. And I’m committed to making this happen.

That’s why I teach!

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