Your Career and You: “Reading Minds”

Publication2_editedA brief…and, as yet unresolved…conversation with a former student reminded me of one of the key guidelines for getting ahead in your job… “Tell them what you’re thinking.”

I’m not pointing accusing fingers at anyone here. I’m as guilty of this “failure to communicate” as anyone. It’s not easy going up to your boss and saying “I’m not happy here and here’s why.” It should be easy. But it’s not.

The “trick” in this tap-dance is putting your feelings/observations into words that don’t immediately send the receiver into a blazing orbit of “How DARE you??”

As tempting as it might be to say, “Almighty one, this place sucks,” trust me…not advisable. The world in the 21st century is really, really, really small, and you don’t know when, how, or where your departure with guns blazing is going to sneak up and bite you in the tuchus.

I remember so fondly the greeting I got from my new supervisor-to-be when I finagled a reassignment from Clark Air Base in the Philippines to Langley Air Force Base, VA. His words…verbatim…were: “I heard you were coming. Don’t make waves.”

Now I wasn’t really unhappy at Clark, but a confluence of personal/family circumstances left me (in my mind) with no choice but to finagle an earlier-than-expected reassignment. Stepped on a few higher-ranking toes in the process.

Everything worked out okay, thank goodness. But I learned quickly (and painlessly) that telling your superiors what it is that you’re experiencing can really go a long way toward maintaining good relationships.

So here’s the deal…and here’s what I suggested to my friend.

  1. Plan your approach.
  2. Write out your statements, being careful that you’re putting things in a positive light.
  3. “Listen” to yourself as you make your case. Are you sounding positive? Whiny? Accusatory? If possible, get someone else (good friend?/professor?) to listen to you. What does he or she think?
  4. Adjust and make your case.

The main thing to remember here is that, as caring as I might be as your supervisor, I can’t know how you’re feeling about your current work situation unless you tell me. I can’t read your mind!

Posted in Action, careers, feedback, internships, job hunting, job search, mentoring, public relations, Thinking | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Your Career and You: “What’s Next?”

Publication1One of the hallmarks of my own professional life has been a never-changing “itch” to try something new or different.

Even while in high school and college, I dabbled in jobs like grocery store bagboy, bartender, poolroom manager, highway department engineering intern, maintenance worker at the local woolen mill…I even tried working on my Grandfather’s farm (THAT one didn’t work out so well!).

My parents weren’t pushing me to do these things. I just, as I’ve said so many, many times, was not/am not wired to sit around twiddling my thumbs. “Kirk” and “doing nothing” are NOT compatible terms!

That pattern has continued throughout my entire adult life as well. Even when I was in the Air Force and stationed in Saigon, Vietnam, teaching “English as a Second Language” to Vietnamese military, I finagled part-time gigs doing everything from bartender to events planner to assistant in a military library…in addition to teaching five days a week and dating my then-girlfriend/now-wife as often as our work schedules allowed.

When I segued into my most recent persona…college professor…I found that this seemingly haphazard lifestyle came in handy when counseling my advisees at Curry College, where I oversaw the Public Relations Concentration, taught most of the undergrad PR courses, and served as Faculty Adviser to the Curry College Public Relations Student Association.

Throughout the year, but mostly in the spring, student after student would come to me with the inevitable “What do I do next?” And, inevitably, I would find myself getting excited as I explored with them interests, abilities, strong and weak points…looking for a possible avenue for them to explore after college.

I highlight “possible” because, even today, I don’t believe there’s a “one right answer” solution to life’s challenges. It might look good and sound good…but you won’t know until you try it.

Now don’t get all huffy and mutter “Kirk, you idiot. I know a LOT of people who have been with one employer for YEARS and are having the time of their life!”

I agree. I know quite a few myself…but they’re not doing exactly what they started out doing. They took their original “job” and transformed it into something bigger and better. “Same ol’; same ol’” wasn’t an option.

And that’s kind of where I’m going with this rambling. Don’t just “settle” as you explore options for your future. Even when you’re interviewing for a position, be sure to ask this one crucial question of the person who will be your boss/supervisor/whatever: “Where do you see this position going in the next few years?”

And listen to the response. Is there a sense of growth and opportunity in the answer?

But also have a serious discussion with yourself. What do you want? Are you willing to simply do whatever has to be done to “get by”? Or are you looking ahead and around the corner to see “what’s next?”

It’s your future, and it’s up to you to make the most of it. Or, as Mr. Spock would say, “Live long and prosper.”

Posted in Action, careers, CCPRSA, Communication, Curry College, Curry College PR Student Association, Curry College Public Relations Student Association, Education, Evaluation, feedback, Inspiration, internships, job hunting, job search, Planning, PR, PR students, public relations, Thinking, Undergraduate Communication | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Your Career and You: “New Experiences…Be Excited!”

Publication1I just had a fun chat on Facebook with a young friend/former Curry College COM/PR student who has just started his spring semester internship with a prestigious Boston PR firm.

Right from the get-go, they’ve put him on two account teams and have him taking on  client-service tasks that would otherwise be done by more seasoned team members.

His excitement was obvious as he described to me the environment and the “vibes” of this new experience. As we exchanged comments, I found myself getting just as excited. He’s obviously in a good place now (graduating in May!) and is adding yet another pre-professional experience (aka: “internship”) to his already pretty impressive resume.

This is exactly what I tried throughout my third reincarnation as a college professor introducing young men and women to the profession that has been my own life’s passion for close to half a century.

Be excited…and let others see your excitement! Why? Because when you do, you visually and verbally tell your supervisor and your co-workers that you like what you’re doing…which implies that you want to remain a part of this awesome environment and to do your best to help everyone succeed.

In my mind, there’s nothing worse than to have someone higher up the “food chain” in an organization say something like “You don’t seem to be very happy here.”All of a sudden, you find yourself on the defensive sputteringly denying the observation and trying like crazy to reclaim lost ground.

Now I’m not suggesting that you go enthusiastically nuts and annoy the dickens out of everyone around you. But allow yourself to show your excitement at having done a project well…you’re telling others that you really enjoyed what you were doing and are proud of having done it well.

More important (in my mind), you’re subtly saying to your superiors, “I would really like to continue my relationship with your organization as a full-time employee.”

So that’s my start-of-the-new-year advice to you, my friends. I believe in your ability to succeed. And, as a hiring manager/business owner, I value people like you who I believe can help me succeed.

But you have to show me that you take pride in your work and that you want to continue to make a contribution to my business’s success.

So do your assigned tasks. Do them well. And, when I or someone else with whom you are working commends you on a job well done, be excited!

Posted in Action, careers, Communication, Curry College, feedback, internships, job hunting, job search, PR, PR students, public relations | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Your Career and You: “Tomorrow”

Publication1As we close out the old and prepare to ring in the new, the optimistic (to me, at least) song from “Annie” comes to mind.

I firmly believe, as she says so positively, “The sun’ll come out tomorrow…”

This past year has been, even by my own lifelong standard of “chaos is good,” quite a roller-coaster ride.

I almost-but-not-quite closed the door on my most recent (15 years) career path of college professor (a bit more about this later), this after a 15-year run in the public sector (military and civil service) and 20-ish in the private sector (for- and non-profit areas).

Just for the heck of it, here’s a listing of everywhere I’ve worked:

  • US Air Force (active-duty military)
    • English Language School, Saigon, Vietnam
    • Robins AFB, GA
    • English Language School, Saigon, Vietnam
    • Myrtle Beach AFB, SC
    • Langley AFB, VA
    • Clark Air Base, Republic of the Philippines
    • Langley AFB, VA
  • US Army (civil service)
    • Ft. Monroe, VA
    • Defense Information School, Ft. Benjamin Harrison, IN (3 mos)
    • Ft. Monroe, VA
    • Ft. Lewis, WA (3 mos)
    • Ft. Monroe, VA
    • US Army Intelligence School, Ft. Devens, MA
    • Boston District Recruiting Command, Boston, MA
  • Private Sector (civilian life)
    • Honeywell Electro-Optics Division, Lexington, MA
    • Medical Area Service Corporation, Boston, MA
    • Chalfin Kostopoulos & Gilmore (adv’g/pr agency), Boston, MA
    • Blood Bank of Hawaii, Honolulu, HI
    • Chaloner Associates, Boston, MA
    • Puritan Lawn Memorial Park, Peabody, MA
    • Massachusetts State Automobile Dealers Association, Boston, MA
  • Academia
    • Emerson College, Boston, MA
    • Bridgewater State College (now-University), Bridgewater, MA
    • Stonehill College, Easton, MA
    • Regis College, Weston, MA
    • Curry College, Milton, MA
  • Next…???

As many of you are already well aware, my wife Margaret and I have packed up our belongings (again) and set out on what we think will be our last major relocation (nine “permanent” and four or five temporary counting this one).

The good thing about every single one of these life-changes has been that, for both of us, the result has been positive. Great jobs. Good friends. New life experiences. Things that, when we sit down occasionally to look through the bazillion photo albums that we’ve accumulated over the years, always have us smiling and happily recounting someone or something that made the adventure memorable.

And so here we are today…settled into, for the first time in our 45-plus years of marriage, our own new home in a new community in a new state adjusting to a new way of life as retired professionals.

Of course I have no intention of shutting down completely. With any luck, I’ll be able to pinch-hit as a part-time professor at one of the colleges in the area. And I’ve already managed to get myself involved with the local (Tampa Bay) PRSA chapter and will be working with both current students as well as recently-graduated young professionals to help them chart their own courses for the future.

That’s the beauty of it…there’s always tomorrow and yet another new challenge or opportunity or both. It’s what keeps me charging and energized.

As British poet John Masefield said so beautifully in “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!”

And that’s the secret, my friends…an unwavering belief that, if you believe in yourself and your ability to succeed and to survive, the sun will come out tomorrow.

Posted in Action, careers, Curry College, Education, Inspiration, job hunting, job search, Planning, pleasure, PR, PRSA, PRSA Tampa Bay, public relations, Public Relations Society of America, Time management | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Your Career and You: “Networking…Promote Yourself”

Publication1I talk about this a lot…now I’m turning my words into action.

I did my best to demonstrate the value of networking to my students at Curry College, where, until mid-2017, I headed the Communication Department’s Public Relations Concentration and taught most of the undergrad PR courses.

Not only did I introduce them to anyone with whom I had lunch in the Student Center; I encouraged them to go to meetings of the Boston Chapter, Public Relations Society of America, and Publicity Club of New England. And the Curry College Public Relations Student Association‘s regular programming brought top-tier PR professionals onto campus to share their knowledge, experience, and advice.

These efforts seem to have worked as my “troops” (as I like to call them) have gone on to complete multiple internships and secure really cool entry-level PR positions based entirely on the contacts they made at these events.

And now the tables have turned. I’ve retired and moved permanently to a brand-new home near Tampa, Florida (the only time I had been to Tampa before this was when I was somewhere in the vicinity of eight years old!).

New home. New community. New stage in my own professional life. Starting basically from Square One!!

So what do you do in a situation like this? One word. “Network.”

I have now attended meetings of the Tampa Bay Chapter, PRSA, as well as the Tampa Bay Chapter, Florida Public Relations Association. I’ve already joined one committee with the PRSA chapter and am exploring ways in which I can do the same with FPRA.

You might well ask, “Kirk, why? You’re retired. Why are you looking for ways to keep busy?”

Simple-ish answer. “I’m simply not wired to just shut down and sit on my patio watching the ducks swim by.”

And…I think…I still have some things of value to offer others…especially students who are interested in public relations as a career and young professionals looking for advice on the next step(s) in their budding careers.

So what do you do when you’re starting all over yourself? You network.

You put yourself in front of as many people in as many different settings as possible. You shake hands. You pass out business cards. You schedule lunch/coffee meetings with those who you feel might be able to help you get established in your new community. You get your name “out there.”

It’s labor-intensive, though. You have to work to meet others, “sell” yourself and your knowledge/skill base, and connect.

But, in the end, it’s worth the effort. If you’re looking to make a job transition (as I was when we moved to Hawaii way back when) or simply maintain your professional connections, you have to have others’ help. And they’re not going to know what you need unless you tell them.

So do as I say, and do as I do. Get up out of the comfort of your chair and put your face…and the rest of you!…in front of your target audience.

As a good friend always likes to say when I say “Good to see you.”… “It’s good to be seen.”

Get out there. Network. Promote yourself!

Posted in Action, careers, CCPRSA, Communication, Curry College, Curry College PR Student Association, Curry College Public Relations Student Association, FPRA Tampa Bay, internships, job hunting, job search, networking, Planning, PR, PR students, professional organizations, PRSA, PRSA Boston, PRSA Tampa Bay, PRSSA, public relations, Undergraduate Communication | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Your Career and You: “Finding Inspiration”

Publication1I’ve been in something of a creative slump these past few months. Lots of stuff going on, but no “spark”…no inspirational jumpstart.

Part of the problem lies in my still-developing “retirement” mode. While I’ve merrily embraced the “sleep in until 8:30 in the morning” part of the deal, I’m floundering when it comes to the “…and then what” part.

To put it as simply as possible, my brain is still operating in overdrive, but the rest of me is just kind of moseying along like the opening scene from the “Andy Griffith Show” where Andy and Opie are walking along on their way to their favorite fishin’ hole just enjoying life as it comes their way.

This mini-quandary is something I tried for more than a decade to help my students at Curry College, where I headed up the Public Relations Concentration and taught most of the undergrad PR course, come to grips with as well.

Seems like I was forever yammering about this or that experience at some point in my past lives as a public sector (active-duty military and civil service) and private sector (high-tech, member services, healthcare, agency) PR professional that inspired me to do “X,” “Y,” or “Z.”

The idea was that I wanted to demonstrate to them how one manages to keep that spark of enthusiasm glowing and, in the process, become inspired to do something.

As I look back over the years, I think I succeeded in many cases. My “disciples” are doing amazing things in public relations, in healthcare, in financial services…you pick the area, they’re excelling at what they’re doing. They’ve found career fields that ring all the right bells for them and, in so doing, are inspired to attempt and to achieve great things.

Which brings me back to “me” and my own “what’s next?” quandary.Mind you, I’m not planning on losing any sleep over this (reference paragraph 2 above), but it does beg the question, “Where’s the inspiration?”

There’s not an immediate and easy answer to this, but I think I’m starting to work it out. I’m reconstructing my professional network with new contacts here in the Tampa area. I’m renewing online conversations with current and newly-developed contacts. And I’m starting to write again…trying to get back into the familiar creative “groove.”

With each step forward, I’m finding things that pique my interest, that cause me to do some online research to find out more.

See? That’s the thing. “Inspiration” doesn’t just hang around waiting for the right moment to step out of the shadows. You have to be willing and ready to act when you sense its presence. Are you willing to be inspired?

Posted in Action, careers, Curry College, Inspiration, networking, Planning, pleasure, public relations, Time management | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Your Career and You: “Happiness is…”

Publication1One thing I’ve noticed over the years is the amazing ability of people to find fault with just about any- and everything. No matter what…there’s something wrong with it.

I’m sorry. I don’t have time for that. Life’s too short to nitpick.

Yeah…I’ve had crappy days filled to the brim with equally crappy experiences. We’ve all had a few of those. But they’re finite. They have a beginning and an end. Life might suck royally in between, but it was and will be better. Just hold onto that thought.

What got me off on this sleighride was a series of interactions and incidents over the past several days…good things that served to reinforce my belief in “good.”

First off were two Facebook chats with former Curry College COM students…one who, unfortunately, is hellbent on building a broadcast journalism career; the other, a PR Concentration rockstar who is destined for greatness…who wanted to share with me their latest endeavors. The excitement in their eyes spoke volumes.

The next day, my wife and I welcomed our first guest to our new home. We had never owned a home until now, even though Margaret has always wanted one but has never been able to realize that dream. The “dream” is now a fabulous reality!

Then, just this week, I had two MORE occasions to celebrate friends’ successes. The first was that of a good friend/former student (PR Concentration, of course!) who excitedly texted me to say that she had JUST been offered and had accepted a full-time Assistant Account Executive position with a major PR firm’s Boston office. I immediately called her, of course, to congratulate her in real time. The sheer joy in her voice nearly brought me to tears.

Finally, just last night, a long-time very good friend/PR professional was honored by the Boston Chapter, Public Relations Society of America, with its lifetime achievement award recognizing her contributions to the profession. Although I was not able to congratulate her in person, I think I managed to get a note on every social media platform within my reach.

What’s this all about?

Simply this. It’s easy to get yourself in the mindset that nothing good is happening…just watch the evening news. If you’re not already ready to dive off the ledge, our local newscasters will gladly give you a “helpful” nudge.

Instead, focus on the good things that are happening to others around you. Let their joy become your joy. As Khalil Gibran says so beautifully in “The Prophet”: “For in the dew of little things, the heart finds its morning and is refreshed.”

Let your heart be refreshed. After all, happiness is…where you find it. So seek joy out!

Posted in Communication, Curry College, Inspiration, PR students, PRSA Boston, public relations, Public Relations Society of America, social media | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment