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 , , , , , , , | 4 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

Your Career and You: “Happiness is…”

Publication1Okay…on today’s agenda…“Give yourself a break.”

Occasionally I have these moments where I wonder what else could go wrong. It just seems like no matter what I try to do, it just goes pffllltttt. Then I crawl into my always-handy dark cave and roll around in my misery.

Maybe I’m growing up finally, but I seem to be spending less and less time in my cave. And that’s a good thing…various people have suggested that it’s not terribly healthy for me to be spending so much time in there.

I think I’m getting better at avoiding those moments, and I’m doing my darnedest to improve even more.

Quite by coincidence, my good friend and former student Dahlia Lee DeHaan just this week published her own thoughts on dealing with depression. I was somewhat relieved to see that some of what I’m doing is actually right on track!

What am I doing differently? Notice I didn’t say “regularly”…just “differently.”

Simple-ish…I try as often as I can to recognize and savor the memory of the good things that have happened recently. It’s not always easy…crouching in a dark corner of my cave is sooo easy and familiar. But I tempt myself out into the light by thinking about…and mentally reliving…recent moments that have made me happy.

Most of the time they’re not major life-altering moments. They often are as uncomplicated as today, for example, where Margaret (my wife) and I took the subway and a train to Marblehead, MA, to spend the better part of the day welcoming a new (five months old) member of my cousin’s family and then celebrating my cousin’s Mother-in-Law’s 100th birthday. (That’s ONE ZERO ZERO, just to be clear!)

The subway ran smoothly, as did the train. The weather was spectacular. And the company was fabulous…an amazing array of personalities, professions and peculiarities that seem to be the hallmark of my family in general.

Yeah, I had a brief episode of introvert-itis and panicked when I found myself in a room packed with happily talking people, many of whom I didn’t know. Finally had to make a beeline for the backyard where I could be alone for a few minutes…then dove back into the mayhem, stood in a corner by myself, and watched the chaos.

But I was happy. I watched Margaret do what she does best…interact with strangers, laugh, play with babies, just have fun. Seeing her happy makes me happy. And that feeling has carried on into this evening. I’m sitting here right now, remembering all the little details of the day and smiling.

And that’s a message I try…not sure how successfully…to convey to my Curry College COM/PR students and Curry College PR Student Association members… “Allow yourself to be happy. Don’t get your thoughts all wrapped around bad stuff that might have happened. Focus on the good things.”

Easy to say, I’ll be the first to admit. Often damned difficult to do. But the peace of mind…the ability to sleep through the night uninterrupted…is sooo worth it!

So here’s the deal. Start paying attention to things that happen to you and around you. Give some thought to how each thing makes you feel. Then start this exercise…pause, reflect, and say to yourself… “Happiness is…(fill in the blanks).”

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

Your Career and You: “Don’t Be Anti-‘Social’”

Publication1Okay…a random-ish thought for my Curry College COM/PR student-friends and Curry College PR Student Association members sparked by having participated in three or four Twitter chats in the past couple of weeks courtesy of colleagues scattered across the globe…

How active are you on social media? And on which platforms? And what is the general “theme” of your activity? I’ve written about this before, but the topic just seems to keep coming up in one way or another, so…

Now before you start jumping up and down and screaming “Kirk, I actually have a REAL job that keeps me running all week plus, as YOU well know, I carry a full load of courses every semester, so where do you think I’m going to find time to ‘play’ on social media”…take a deeeep breath and listen.

I know how hard you’re working, and I admire and respect you for all that you have done, are doing, and will do. You are amazing. If I had half your energy and dedication, I would be grateful.

BUT…there’s a reason for my question.

It occurred to me as I was engaged in the Twitter chats that (a) I was learning something new in every one and (b) I was expanding my network of contacts dramatically. In addition, by including “handles” for Curry and for CCPRSA, I was introducing a global audience to both. What will come of that little step? I don’t know, but time will tell.

Same holds true for Facebook and for Instagram…sorry, folks, SnapChat and I are having a hard time falling in love.

The main point here is that I try to maintain an active presence on these three platforms and share a wide range of thoughts, ideas, perceptions, snarky remarks, and so on. And, believe it or not, I don’t spend a ton of time doing this.

I’ve worked out a system that enables me to keep track of what’s going on and to respond/ comment if appropriate. I don’t feel compelled to react to every single thing that bubbles up in my Twitter or Facebook feed, and I don’t.

So what’s this all about? It’s about YOU and your efforts to gain some recognition out there in the “working world.” It’s about planting the seeds in your “network nursery” that will eventually develop into full-blown professional contacts.

You don’t know where that job or internship lead will come from, but I can assure you that, in today’s online-focused world, it’s more likely to come from a social media connection than from a newspaper ad.

Yes…use social media to have fun. I love bashing our local mass transit system when it deserves it (I also praise the good things that its employees do.), and I carry on sideline conversations with various reporters and travel writers when something catches my interest. I share more food pictures than any “normal” person probably should. And I love to re-post photos from trips to Taiwan and other places.

But more often than not, I use social media to share observations and lessons learned from professional activities. I want to be recognized as someone who gives serious thought to the communication profession, in particular public relations, and has opinions that might be of value to others.

And this is my message for you, my friends. Build yourself a presence on social media…don’t rush it…let it develop organically. Comment on and share thoughts from others that you have your own opinion about. Eventually…not right away…eventually…others will turn to you for comment or advice.

But you have to be there first for this to happen. So don’t be anti-‘social’!

Posted in Action, CCPRSA, Communication, Curry College, Curry College PR Student Association, Curry College Public Relations Student Association, feedback, internships, job hunting, job search, networking, overload, PR, PR students, professional organizations, public relations, social media, Time management | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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 , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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