Your Career and You: “Growing Up”

Publication1 (2)As I write this, I’m sitting on a sofa in our apartment in Taipei, listening to the rain coming down in giant buckets and (sort of) thinking about “life.” I do this once in a while…mostly when I’m more-or-less caught up on “must-do” stuff and, sometimes, when I’m on vacation and it’s raining.

I’ve had a lot going on in the past several months, mostly good stuff, some not-so-good. The end result has been that I’ve had to give my own existence a lot of thought…what have I contributed to the world in general that actually matters? What could, or should, I do differently? And does anyone besides me even care?

“Retirement” and our concurrent move to Riverview, Florida, has been, for the most part, fairly smooth going. (I put the quotation marks around “retirement” because, as some of you know and the rest of you now know, I hit the ground running. Immediately got involved with the Tampa Bay Chapter, PRSA; got really involved in PR ethics activities both with the PR chapter and with the University of Tampa (UT) Sykes College of Business “Center for Ethics.” I’m also chairing the Tampa Bay Chapter’s PRSSA/Young Professionals Committee. Oh, yeah…and I’m teaching part-time at UT.

Yep…I’m “retired”!

This past weekend, though, I saw/read/commented on a gazillion Facebook posts by my friends/former students from Curry College. A lot of them were celebrating their undergraduate graduation; others were reveling in completion of graduate studies. All were kind of in a dazed “Wow! What just happened and what’s next?” state.

All were/are excited, though, about what lies ahead…and a bit apprehensive. And I totally understand how they feel. It’s a scary feeling realizing that, in the eyes of the “real world,” you’re now “growed up.” And you are now expected to make mature, life-serious decisions about things you’ve never even thought about before.

That’s what makes it so exciting, though, in my opinion. I can’t begin to imagine what it would be like to be afraid to make a move until someone else tells me what to do. Yes, I’m married…47 years…and a lot of things that I do are based on the input of Margaret, my wife. But that’s what being married is all about…doing things that you both want to do. Yeah…there are those times when one of us “gets his or her way,” but those are the rarities. Easily 98 percent of the things we do are mutual agreements.

Going back to my now-graduated student-friends, this is the advice I pass on. “Do what you think is the right thing to do. If that decision turns out not to be the best choice, learn from the experience. You’re going to trip and fall once in a while. Big deal. Get up. Brush yourself off. Keep on going. There’s always tomorrow.”

“And many a broken heart is here and many a broken head;
But tomorrow,
By the living God, we’ll try the game again!”
– John Masefield, “Tomorrow”

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Posted in Action, careers, Critical Thinking, Curry College, Education, Inspiration, Planning, PR, PR students, PRSA, PRSA Tampa Bay, public relations, Public Relations Society of America, Thinking | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Your Career and You: “I’m Ba-aack!”

publication1For those of you who have paid attention, I have been “MIA” for several months now. Nothing unusual (sort of) going on…just haven’t updated this blog for a while. But, as you know if you’re reading this and to borrow Jack Nicholson’s “Heere’s Johnny”…I’m ba-aack!

As you may recall, I made some HUGE changes in 2017-2018…

  • After 16-plus amazing years at Curry College
  • Packed up and moved out of our home of more than 20 years in Belmont, Mass.
  • Moved, lock, stock and barrel to a brand-new home in Riverview, Fla. (on the southeast edge of Tampa)
  • Almost immediately got mega-involved with the Tampa Bay Chapter, PRSA
  • Was offered and accepted my first (of many, I hope) part-time teaching gig at The University of Tampa.

To put it mildly, the past year-plus has been tumultuous…in almost entirely good ways.

But my personal-creative side hit a slump. Just couldn’t find that “spark” that had always been so reliably “there” for me. And I had some personal angst…was I losing my touch?…was there nothing to inspire me?

Fortunately (sort of), there were enough “new life” distractions that I’ve been able to deal with the creative logjam. But things have calmed down/gotten resolved enough that I’m starting to feel that good ol’ “let’s have fun” sensation again…which means I’m ba-aack here with “Your Career and You.”

It’ll be interesting to see if my outlook on life and accompanying commentary will change. I don’t feel any differently, and my Curry College student/friends will be “relieved” to hear that my snarky comments about, among other things, public transportation have merely shifted to the Tampa Bay public transit wasteland.

So bear with me, my friends, as I continue to settle in and recharge. If nothing else, I’m sitting here in Riverview in January…in a short-sleeved shirt…having just strolled up the street to collect my mail (no home delivery in our newly-developing community) in the same…with our patio door open for fresh air. (Cue the snickering!)

And that’s it for now. Stay tuned for more!

Posted in Action, careers, Curry College, Evaluation, feedback, networking, PRSA Tampa Bay, public relations, Thinking | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Your Career and You: “Just Do It”

Publication1I used those three words… “Just Do It™”…in my last post with a tip of the literary hat to Nike for beating me to the punch. But this week’s activities have really driven home the true meaning of the saying.

I’ve been in sort of a droning holding pattern mentally for a while…going through the motions of “doing” stuff but not a lot of energy and enthusiasm visible in the process.

Then, this week, things seem to have clicked. The entire week has been jammed with positives:
…an offer (which I gratefully accepted) to teach “Introduction to Organizational Communication” this fall semester at The University of Tampa
…a very productive meeting with the director of the university’s Center for Ethics
…a fabulous planning meeting with the Founding President of the University of Tampa Public Relations Student Association
…and an amazing planning meeting with the Director of Ethics and Compliance for Tampa Electric Company in preparation for a special program on ethics for the Tampa Bay Chapter, Public Relations Society of America.

Now I’m mentally preparing for what promises to be an awesome September and on…

But I had to shake off the “oh well, it can wait” syndrome that took over back in May. To repeat, I had been doing stuff…just not a whole lot of energy and enthusiasm there.

And that’s the point here. I’m keeping a close (from Florida “close”) eye on my Curry College COM/PR friends who have graduated and are now in the throes of job searches and realization that they’re now officially “adults” with responsibilities, expectations, and all that.

Yeah…it’s a scary reality. For 16-ish years, you’ve been comfortable categorized as a “student” of some sort. Now…now what?!?

One of my more familiar mantras has long been “just dive in the deep end…if you don’t know how, figure out how to swim on the way down.” And that applies to all of us. There are no guarantees in life. You just have to believe in yourself and your ability to do just about anything.

Will you trip and fall once in a while? Probably. I know I have. But you’ll get right back up and keep on going. As one of my favorite poets, John Masefield, says in his amazing poem “Tomorrow”:
“And many a broken heart is here and many a broken head;
But tomorrow,
By the living God, we’ll try the game again!”

So don’t sit there and wait for the “perfect” opportunity to come along at the “perfect” time, my friends. Nike says it: “Just do it!”

Posted in Action, careers, Code of Ethics, Communication, Critical Thinking, Curry College, Education, Ethics, Inspiration, internships, job hunting, job search, Planning, PR students, PRSA, PRSA Tampa Bay, public relations, Thinking | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Your Career and You: “Dare to Dream”

Publication1Three simple words that my “home” from 2004-2017, Curry College, proudly and confidently displays around campus for students to see, think about, and aspire to.

Samuel Silas Curry championed this thought…and I embraced it wholeheartedly from “Day One” of my love-affair with the college Mr. Curry founded… “Dare to dream.”

I wasn’t a career educator by any means, although I actually began my professional life as an Air Force English Language Instructor and closed it out as Associate Professor, Communication/Public Relations.

If you had asked me in the early years if I were going to be a “teacher,” I would have snippily said “No way!” In my own mind, I wasn’t cut out to teach others how to do something. In fact, I had serious doubts about my own ability to do virtually anything.

But life…apparently having a mind of its own…took over and catapulted me through an incredible assortment of experiences INCLUDING teaching English in Vietnam, teaching audiovisual media classes in the Philippines, and, ultimately, starting as a part-time, segueing to full-time, public relations professor…with a bazillion other types of adventures in between. (Wow! THAT was a loonngg sentence!)

Looking back on it, I kind of instinctively took on the unofficial role of advisor/mentor for hundreds of students over the years. They would come to me…tentatively at first…with various questions about courses to take for their degree and about the course they should take in life.

I would inevitably ask, “What do you want to do? What gets you really excited when you think about or do it?

We would chat for a while and they would eventually say, “Well, I really like doing XYZ.” To which I would respond, “Then DO it! You’ll never know until you try!”

And this, I believe, is what Mr. Curry was thinking when he uttered those three words.

Don’t just “settle.” Just because “everyone else is doing ABC” is not a reason why you have to. There’s always XYZ!

So (a) talk to others…teachers, friends, family members, contacts you’ve made in the course of your life…and get their input and ideas.

Then, (b) have a long, serious conversation with yourself. Think about all the things you’ve done…all the experiences you’ve had…and identify those that bring back the best memories and feelings.

Then, (c) as Nike would have it, “Just do it.”

You might find yourself in exactly the place you want to be doing exactly what you’ve always wanted to do.

Or maybe not…

And if it’s “maybe not,” try something else! It’s like buying a car…you “test drive” it first to see if it’s what you really want.

Whatever the case, it’s your future. As our motto said when I worked as a civilian Public Affairs Specialist for the US Army Recruiting Command, “Be all you can be.”

Or, to wrap this up, as Mr. Curry said so wisely, “Dare to dream, but be not an idle dreamer.”

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Your Career and You: “I’m a Vampire!”

Publication1The past month was hands-down the loonngggest month I’ve endured in my entire life. Margaret (my wife) had cataract surgery on both eyes, and I voluntarily put all my own activities (PRSA Tampa Bay in particular) on hold so that I could be around just in case…

The “good” news is everything has gone well with the surgery and recovery. The “interesting” (for me) news is that I now have indisputable confirmation that I am a living, breathing vampire.

I have said this to my students at Curry College, where I headed the Public Relations Concentration and taught most of the undergraduate PR courses until August of last year, seemingly forever.

But this past May confirmed it.I absolutely, positively, no-two-ways-about-it NEED “fresh blood.” I have to have living, breathing human beings around me. I feed off their enthusiasm…their own thirst for knowledge…their energy.

I’ve also learned through this recent exercise that my mind literally (or figuratively…your choice) shuts down when I’m deprived of this energy source.

This discovery presents an equally interesting challenge for me as I continue to settle into my “Communication Professor – Retired” role. I love doing new things…coming up with new ideas or new ways of doing something.

My operating theory over the years has sort of been “If it’s not broken, it WILL break at some point, so go ahead and fix it.” I absolutely love taking a program or an activity that is doing well and figuring out how to make it even better.

In my mind (at least), it’s easy to fix a broken program…it’s BROKEN. DUH! But a program that’s chugging along nicely. That’s a new level of challenge.

One of my first realizations of this “quirk” came when I was a Public Affairs Intern for the US Army’s Training and Doctrine Command at Ft. Monroe, Virginia. I was given an assignment to the Command’s editorial branch (where training manuals were created for the various skills taught to soldiers).

About two or three weeks into the assignment, I developed a sense that the form used for “grading” drafts of training materials, while “okay,” could be better. So I created a new form.

Initially I just used it for my own purposes, but a co-worker happened to see what I was doing and how quickly I was able to get results. She asked if she could have a copy of the form…then another co-worker noticed…then another. Pretty soon the entire department had discarded its years-old system and had adopted something that a wet-behind-the-ears intern had developed. Wound up getting a letter of commendation from the head of the editorial branch for my contribution to the operation’s success.

But I accomplished this while soaking in the energy of those around me. And this practice has continued throughout my professional and academic careers. Especially in academia, where I was surrounded by young inquiring minds looking for guidance as they were forging their own career paths, I was in vampire heaven! Just walking into a classroom was enough to recharge my brain and get me thinking of as many ways as possible to make things interesting/better.

So there’s my challenge. I’m in a different “place” now and have to seek out opportunities that will put me in direct contact with living, breathing, creatively-thinking human beings.

I’m a vampire!!

Posted in Action, careers, Communication, Curry College, Inspiration, PR, PR students, professional organizations, PRSA Tampa Bay, public relations, Thinking | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Your Career and You: “‘Customer Service’? Or ‘Sales Pitch’?”

Publication1I read a terrific post by David Meerman Scott recently that rekindled my ongoing passion for spectacular customer service. Then I made my second trip to a local car dealer to get some critical recall replacement work done on my ancient but incredibly loyal car.

I suppose the fellow who processed my paperwork thought he was providing great customer service. His attitude and words were, I’m sure, verbatim copies of what he got in the dealership’s training programs.

But…everything was a smidge too quickly delivered…too “tick off the steps on my mental ‘great customer service’ list” wordy.

The problem, in my cynical not-enough-coffee-yet mind, was that his spiel was almost identical to the pitch I got the last disastrous time I came to this dealership for the exact same service…that, due to a laundry list of total service screw-ups, never happened.

Okay…for those of you who have put up with my ranting and raving over the years…here we go.

The key to quality customer service is engagement with the customer.

  • To make this happen, you have to care about the product or service you represent.
  • Then you have to care about the customer’s connection with that product or service.
  • Then you have to make the connection between the two, blending attitudes and perceptions into a seamless experience.

I “preached” this scenario year-after-year to my students at Curry College where I headed the Communication Department’s Public Relations Concentration and taught most of the undergraduate public relations courses.

Passion” has always been a key element in my examples. If you truly love what you’re doing and understand deep inside why it benefits your customer, you’re not “working”…you’re sharing your love with others.

I know that sounds totally Zen-ish, but I’m not sitting here staring at my navel and chanting. I’m talking about what kept me totally engaged both as a public relations professional and, later, as a public relations professor. Again…“passion.”

Sadly, experience tells me that this idyllic situation doesn’t exist for everyone. But that doesn’t mean you should just curl up and meekly accept “what is.”

Look at your job…its requirements…its demands on you as the agent in the customer-service cycle.

  • Is there room for you to personalize the service you’re providing?
  • Do you feel as though you’re fulfilling your own aspirations as a customer service provider?
  • Is this where you really want to be?

My rationale for that last question is just this…sometimes things aren’t going to change. So you will have to change!

Now this last bit addresses an unavoidable fact. Your job satisfaction and your success in providing outstanding customer service depend on you and your approach to the challenges.

You have to face and evaluate the realities of what you’re doing. How do you feel when you get up in the morning…or whenever it is you go to work? I once had a job that required…temporarily…that I be at work at 3 AM. I survived but hated every minute of every day.

Do you wake up and mutter “Gotta go to ‘work’”? Or, when you wake up, do you smile and start thinking about ways in which you can make a difference for your customers?

Your attitude toward your job and your belief in the product or service that you represent will make all the difference in your success in providing outstanding customer service and not just be mouthing a sales pitch.

Posted in Action, careers, Communication, Curry College, Customer Service, feedback, Inspiration, job hunting, job search, pleasure, PR, public relations, Thinking | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Your Career and You: “Waiting Rooms”

Publication1I’m experiencing new situations these days as I settle into my “new” life as a new retiree in a new home in a new town in a new state. The overall experience has been relatively painless…stuff gets done…usually on time…getting a LOT more sleep than in previous “lives.” But I’ve had to re-learn one important thing…waiting is a major exercise.

And that realization got me thinking about life and careers. We spend a good amount of time planning the next steps in our lives, checking off all the required steps in our life-plan, and then being told… “Wait.” Most of my waiting of late has been in various doctors’ offices and, today, at a local car dealership, but the main lesson is the same…

It’s frustrating. It’s annoying. It can be downright discouraging.

But we don’t have a choice. The world isn’t sitting patiently for us to do something. Wheels are turning. Plans are being made. And decisions are being made…slowly and methodically.

A couple of observations here.

First, time is of the essence. Yeah, I know that’s an oldie-but-goodie, but…

Hiring managers aren’t sitting patiently waiting for you to act. They have needs, and they have deadlines. If your name isn’t in front of them when it’s time for action on their part, too bad…for you.

Second, patience is a valuable asset.

In the “real world,” sometimes even critical actions seem to take a lifetime to resolve. And there’s usually not a blasted thing you can do about it.

One thing that I always encouraged my Curry College COM / PR students and CCPRSA members…and now will be urging my new friends in USFPRSSA and UTPRSSA… to do to gain some control over these two realities is “network, network, network.”

Why? Because, first off, you move from “unknown name” to “oh yeah…I met him/her at XXX.” It’s not a slam-dunk guarantee of success, but it gets the door opened a smidge.

Second… “don’t sit around waiting for things to happen.” It’s up to you to get the wheels turning. So when you see or hear of an opportunity that sounds like it’s a good one for you, actnow. And be proactive in your follow-up…not annoyingly so…but take the initiative. Contact them so that they know you’re interested.

Meanwhile, I’ve just been told that, instead of a two-hour wait for some car repairs, I’m facing possible THREE hours or more.

Deeeep breaths, Kirk. Deeeeep breaths!

Note: After having written the post above while sitting in the dealer’s waiting room for three hours, I was informed that nothing had been done during that time…the person who was supposed to do the work never even showed up!

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