Your Career and You: “To Be…or Not To Be…MBA?”

Publication1Conversations with my undergrad COM/PR students at Curry College cover the waterfront…from “what kind of paper should I print my resume on?” to “how do I start my job search?” and beyond.

One that bubbles up more and more often, though, is “should I go to graduate school immediately and, if so, what should I study?

All are reasonable questions, although the first one is becoming more and more dated as job-hunting transactions become more digitally based.

For the resume…doesn’t matter…just don’t use recycled Kleenex or something like that.

Job search? You’ve already started it by sitting down and talking with me. It’s called “networking,” and you’re going to be doing a LOT of it in the coming months both one-on-one and in groups…professional organizations like, for us in the Boston area, the Boston Chapter, Public Relations Society of America, and the Publicity Club of New England for starters.

Now…grad school. Hmmmmm…..

Here’s a starter for you. Why? What do you hope to get from graduate studies right now? How do you think a graduate degree in “something” is going to make you more marketable as opposed to actual work experience that allows you to use and improve on the knowledge and skills that you got from your undergrad college studies and your internships? (You DID do at least a couple of internships, didn’t you?)

I was asked recently by a colleague at Education Dynamics for my thoughts both on taking business courses as part of one’s undergraduate studies and on the value that a master’s degree can add to your marketability The decision obviously rests with the individual, but I’m a firm believer in the benefits of both…when done correctly.

As I counsel my students, you absolutely must understand how business leaders…your bosses or your clients…think. And an understanding of business structure and business operations will help. So take “Introduction to Business Management” and other courses as electives…build your knowledge base NOW.

For your graduate studies, though, I recommend waiting. Get some real-life work experience first. Figure out what it is that you really like doing or would really like to learn more about. THEN look for a graduate program that will give you that additional knowledge. (And an added “plus” is that, often, your employer will pay for you to get that additional knowledge…you’ve got enough debt with your undergrad loans!)

I’ve talked and written about the value of learning a bazillion times, and I will continue “preaching” about it! I do my dead-level best to learn something new every single day.

It’s your decision, and you are going to have to live with the results. So do some serious thinking. Talk to everyone you can who can give you some guidance.

Then take a deep breath…and do it!

Posted in Action, careers, Communication, Critical Thinking, Curry College, Education, feedback, Graduate Communication, Inspiration, internships, job hunting, job search, networking, Planning, PR, PR students, professional organizations, PRSA Boston, public relations, Thinking, Undergraduate Communication | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Your Career and You: “Summer…Your Professional Growing Season”

Publication1Apparently “summer” has settled in for the long haul here in the Boston area, and I’m reminded of how easy it can be to just shift into “cruise control” mode in your post-graduation job search.

I say this knowing full well that my Curry College PR students have been charging non-stop all the academic year with a full load of classes, part-time jobs, volunteer activities, and on-campus associations (CCPRSA, for example).

Unfortunately, if you are a job or internship seeker, “summer” doesn’t mean to slam on the brakes and do nothing.

Yes…you really do need and have earned some downtime. You’re tired. I’m tired. But the “real life” train is still out there chugging along, heading for the next station/job opportunity and, if you’re not on it, well…

The nice thing about the summer for a lot of businesses is that things do calm down a smidge. Folks take vacations. Companies implement “summer work hours” that give employees a little bit of extra time off.

But unfilled jobs are still sitting there. And sooner or later they have to be filled.

Summertime is good networking “planting” time. Lots of activities are going on around town that offer you a chance to meet people…potential employers…potential co-workers…and “plant the seeds” of future relationships.

Here in Boston, for example, the Boston Chapter, PRSA, and the Publicity Club of New England have a joint “summer social” scheduled for the end of July. For a nominal fee, you will be able to rub shoulders and swap business cards with a hundred or so PR pros, find out a little about their organization, and start lining up informational interviews.

The same holds true for other cities, so it doesn’t matter where you are…start “planting”! As a good friend at Curry likes to respond when I say “Good to see you”…“It’s good to be seen!”

So get yourself some well-deserved rest and recharge your batteries. Then call on your existing resources…professors (current and past…you do keep in touch with those key players who gave you the insights that got you going in the right direction, don’t you?) and your career services office (for help with resumes, cover letters, potential jobs or internships).

Then start your cultivating. After all, it’s summer…the professional growing season!

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Your Career and You: “Bottom line…lose the ’tude”

Publication1I was watching an episode of “The Middle” recently (okay, Curry College COM/PR students and CCPRSA members…don’t judge!) in which Axl proclaims that of course he’s going to get the job he’s going to interview for…he has amazing hair! Needless to say, the hiring manager didn’t notice this one detail and Axl didn’t get the job.

The very next morning, I had what I term a “deep philosophical discussion” with the owner/manager of the apartment complex where I’ve lived for more than 20 years. I was merely reporting a leaking faucet that I’d like repaired. He proceeded to lecture me on the “proper” way to report these issues…NOT through the convenient, staffed, knowledgeable on-site management office BUT through an out-sourced, anonymous answering service. His attitude was clearly “you are an inconvenience to me.”

These two “lessons,” one real, one not, triggered a memory from a quarter-century ago when I asked the senior staff at the Blood Bank of Hawaii, for which I was Communication Services Director, “What is the one thing that, if we don’t have it, we’re out of business?”

Answers centering on “patients” and “blood” ricocheted around the room until finally I piped up with “donors.” My reasoning centered on a couple of things: first, there had been studies on the feasibility of manufacturing a blood-compatible product; second, as long as there were telephone poles and trees and people were allowed to drive cars, there would always be patients.

My point in this was just this…the “manufactured” blood was still a conversation; the non-ending stream of patients was an ongoing reality. Without generous individuals who were willing and able to donate a pint of blood, we would not be able to fulfill our mission.

The result of this conversation was a minor tweak in our communication initiatives to place an even greater emphasis on the importance of “you…the blood donor.”

“So what’s the point of all this?”, you ask.

Simple. It’s about attitude…about recognizing and admitting that, without the support and participation of others, you are NOT going to succeed. And it’s about demonstrating to those on whom your success hinges that you know that and appreciate their contributions to your success.

I’m not suggesting that you roll over and give away the store. What I am suggesting is that you demonstrate, either verbally or visually, your appreciation for each individual’s contributions, large or small.

Another quick memory: I once consulted for a nonprofit educational organization in Boston. Once a year, we conducted an alumni fundraising activity, encouraging donations large and small.

The founder/president acknowledged every single donation, regardless of size, with a personalized hand-written note…hundreds of hand-written notes. It was time-consuming, and I suggested that I design a nice generic note and we mail-merge the thank-yous. An adamant “no way.”

The result was that, each year, we saw increases in donations from individual donors with their own notes expressing gratitude for our recognition of their participation.

It wasn’t rocket-science. Purely and simply, it was “You are important. Because of you, we are able to continue providing the first-class educational opportunities that you benefited from. Please help us continue that mission.”

The “bottom line” here is just that…the bottom lineYour customers don’t need you. You need them. So lose the ’tude.

Posted in Action, Communication, Curry College, Customer Service, feedback, Inspiration, PR, PR students, public relations, Thinking | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Your Career and You: “Professional Development-It’s the Way ‘Up’ for You”

Publication1My Madrid-based friend and colleague, Corina Manea, published a thought-provoking piece recently on professional development in which she laid out a terrific roadmap for planning your route to future success.

I immediately shared it with everyone I could think of, including my Curry College COM/PR students and alums and members of the Curry College Public Relations Student Association. My Curry troops, especially, have heard me preaching this sermon for years.

Professional development, or professional education, is a crucial part of career progression. Purely and simply, you’re not going anywhere in your chosen field if you don’t demonstrate to others (aka: “your boss”) that you really are interested in what you’re doing and that you want to…and are willing to…learn more.

I’ve written about this a bazillion times myself, and I hope I demonstrate to others by my own actions that I absolutely, positively believe that you can never stop learning. I have to give a shout-out to the Public Relations Society of America and its many local chapters (for me, Boston, HawaiiPuget Sound and, soon, Tampa Bay) for offering an amazing array of online and in-person programs each of which has added just one more tool to my professional “kit.”

Now, before you go snippily saying, “But Kirk, I’m working full-time and I have to commute, and…”

  • Yes…there are only 24 hours in a day.
  • Yes…you feel like if you take on one more project, you’re going to self-destruct.
  • Yes…you usually have to pay for this “extra” education.

But…look around you. Look at the people in your organization who you admire.

Then ask yourself…or, better yet, ask them… “How did you get to be so successful?”

I guarantee you that, in almost every single instance, the answer is going to revolve around professional development…courses they took, training sessions they attended…you name it, they’ve probably done it.

The choice is yours. Do you want to stay in the same position with the same title and the same responsibilities at the same pay grade? Or do you want that promotion to the next level where you’re going to be able to show your boss what you really can do?!?

Promotions and recognition for accomplishments don’t fall out of the sky. They’re earned by doing. And the “doing” part comes as a result of having learned how!

So think about it, my friends. Professional development…it’s the way ‘up’ for you!

Posted in Action, careers, Critical Thinking, Curry College, Education, feedback, Inspiration, overload, PR, PR students, professional organizations, PRSA, PRSA Boston, public relations, Public Relations Society of America, Thinking, Time management | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Your Career and You: “Dive into the Deep End”

Publication1I’ve been reading Facebook updates and blog posts by my Curry College COM/PR students that kind of tell me they’ve taken my unsolicited but sincere advice to heart.

Time and again, in the classroom as well as in one-on-one meetings, I urge them to “dive into the deep end and see what happens” when we’re talking about careers and opportunities available to them.

They’re unsure about what next steps to take, but they know they need/want to do something. Just what that something is, though, they’re unclear.

I assure them that life is like that. There rarely are clear-cut directions on what to do.

Sure, you might have an idea…or have a friend who did “X.” But what should you do?

So I tell them about my own career path and how much of it was based on taking chances…a desire to do something new or different and an acceptance that staying in one place job-wise or geographically wasn’t going to make it happen.

You just dive in and, if you don’t know how to swim, you figure it out on the way down.

Granted this won’t work for everyone. Not everyone is comfortable with the unknown. Lots of people prefer a clearly-laid-out roadmap that they follow diligently.

I have a couple of Curry friends, though, who (whether consciously or not) have taken the dive…Alea Gilhuly-Mandel and Jaimee Geoffrey-White. One is wrapping up a master’s program in London; the other is embarking on a summer internship down in North Carolina. Both jumped merrily out of their respective comfort zones into the “deep end.”

If you think about it, that’s how civilization got where it is today. If the early caveman had been satisfied gnawing on freshly-killed raw meat…if Christopher Columbus hadn’t had the urge to find out what lay over the horizon…if John Glenn (and others) hadn’t wanted to see what really was out there…just think about it!

The path to success isn’t a walk in the park. It’s a commitment to taking a chance on your being able to accomplish something that, at the time, might seem impossible but, in your heart, you know you want.

So take a deep breath. Step out onto the end of the diving board. Bend your knees. And dive into the deep end!

Posted in Action, careers, Critical Thinking, Curry College, internships, job hunting, job search, mentoring, networking, Planning, PR, public relations, Thinking, Undergraduate Communication | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Your Career and You: “One Hell of a Ride”

Publication1This past Friday was a tough one for me. I don’t think anyone noticed at all, but it was.

First of all, it was (for my classes) the last formal teaching interaction I will have with Curry College students.

Second, it was my last Awards Ceremony in which I was able to recognize a young man or woman for having fully embraced the idea of public relations as his or her career and for having accomplished more than any sane person could be expected to accomplish in four seemingly lightning-fast years.

I found myself, throughout the day, talking with students about this coming fall semester and then catching myself and saying, “But you’re not going to be here to do that, Kirk.”

The (albeit temporary) good news is that a good friend and proven PR pro, Kirsten Whitten, will take my place teaching the “Principles of PR” and “Publicity Techniques” courses as well as serve as adviser for the Curry College Public Relations Student Association.

The not-so-good news is that I’m not sure what will happen to the PR Concentration. We (the Curry students who have drunk the “PR Kool-Aid” and I) have built a pretty decent program with a solid track record of troops graduating and going into some very cool jobs. Let’s hope my replacement will keep the momentum going.

I have thoroughly enjoyed every single day of the 13-plus years that I’ve been teaching at Curry.

I’ve made some good friends among the staff, faculty, and other employees…trust me…there are some awesome people working at Curry! And, for the 80-bazillionth time, I will say I am walking away with a goodly number of friends/former students from whom I take great delight in hearing their own love for what they’re doing.

Let me be clear. Curry College students are no different from college students anywhere. They’re not perfect. Not every single one is cut out to be a superstar. But each, in his or her own special way, is destined to achieve something.

That “something” may not be clear yet…remember…it took me nearly eight years to figure out that public relations was where I belonged.

And the irony of it is that I am closing out my 40-plus years as a working professional doing exactly what I said 40-plus years ago I wanted to be doing…only it’s in a profession I had never heard of some 40 years ago!

So there you have it. I’m on the next-to-last page of this chapter in the book of my life. I have no clue what’s next, but, if the past 40 years are any indication, it’s going to be one hell of a ride!

So stay tuned!

Posted in Action, careers, Curry College, Education, PR, PR students, public relations, Undergraduate Communication | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

A Vietnam Memory

Publication1This post is a marked difference from my usual career-oriented pieces. A fantastic book entitled “Escape from Saigon” triggered some long-repressed memories and led to my writing about a night that I thought had been forgotten.

Heartfelt thanks to book author, friend and colleague Dick Pirozzolo for inviting me to share my thoughts on the final days of the Vietnam War. I would love to hear your thoughts on this.

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