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!

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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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Your Career and You: “It’s What I Do”

Publication1I do some “navel-gazing” once in a while. I learned a long time ago that reality checks are a critical part of making sure you’re not losing control of your sanity.

Recently, I’ve started a semi-habit of tallying up everything that I’ve done on a particular Sunday. While it’s probably annoying to many folks who either read my ramblings on purpose or accidentally come across them, I find it encouraging to see that I can still successfully complete a gazillion “to-dos” without breaking a sweat.

Now that I’m zeroing in on that mythical thing called “retirement,” I’m starting to think about that new phase of my life and how I’m either going to adjust…or not.

I’ve been at Curry College now for closing in on 14 years, and I taught for a couple of years before this at several other colleges in the Boston area. This was after having worked as a public relations professional for more than 35 years. I know I wasn’t wired to sit around and do little or nothing, so this truly is an important step in the process.

There are two distinct parts to this planning.

First, my wife Margaret and I have made eight permanent-ish moves in the course of our married life and at least a half-dozen temporary moves. And every single one of those moves has had us out-and-about exploring new neighborhoods and becoming as familiar as possible with our surroundings.

Second, as soon as possible after making a move, I find something work-related to do. Granted, in these earlier times, it was totally “real work,” earn-a-living stuff, including internship assignments and permanent jobs.

The focus now is going to be on continuing my involvement both in the education of future public relations practitioners…part-time teaching at a college or university…and in the activities of a local PRSA chapter. (Fair warning to my future Tampa-area PRSA colleagues…I’m on my way!)

I’ve seen others segue into this retirement thing and basically shut down all that they did in their earlier years. They seem to be content to putter around the house and basically (in my mind) waste time.

Nunh-unh. Ain’t gonna happen that way for me.

I’m convinced that the secret to long and productive living is to keep your mind and your body in a constant state of activity. There’s sooo much that I need to learn (still trying to figure out how Snapchat works, for example) and…I think…so much that I can offer to young up-and-coming PR pros.

So here’s to Chapter Whatever in my life’s story. Starting all over again for the bazillionth time in a new location. Making new friends. Learning new things. Sharing my knowledge, experience, and passion for public relations with others.

It’s what I do.

Posted in Action, careers, Curry College, PR, PR students, professional organizations, PRSA, public relations, Public Relations Society of America, Thinking | Tagged , , , , , , | 9 Comments

Your Career and You: “Who Should You Trust?”

publication1“Fake news” is the topic du jour these days. What’s true? What’s false? Who can you trust to assure you it’s true or false?

I love it, in my Introduction to Mass Communication classes at Curry College, where I head the Public Relations Concentration in our Communication Department, when we get to the chapter on Radio and read about the impact of “War of the Worlds” on that fledgling medium’s credibility.

Unknowing…trusting…listeners were excitedly informed via what seemed to be “special news reports” that Martians were invading Earth, and, to no surprise, panic came first, followed by media outrage at this communication of false information.

There also has been, for decades if not centuries, that handy little gadget called “propaganda” through which trusting publics have been fed seemingly credible information from seemingly equally credible institutions or individuals. Otherwise peace-loving citizens have been persuaded to speak up in fervent support of wars to “end all wars” or to express hatred for those who were “different.”

News consumers want and deserve to be able to trust sources of news and information. They should not have to parse every single detail of a news report and then have to conduct a full background investigation on the individual communicating that news in their desire to be informed.

There’s no easy solution to this conundrum. Social media has made it possible for anyone with internet access to “report” virtually anything he or she wishes, with no fear of a gatekeeper (whose responsibility in traditional media it is to verify both the information and the source of that information) “interfering.”

For those of you preparing to embark on a career in some area of communication, the challenge will be there…the pressure to “be first to report the news” for journalists or to “tell if fast and tell it first” for PR pros.

Remember…it’s your credibility on the line here, so, as I say to my advisees and others so often, “Take a deep breath. Then act.”

Particularly for those of us on the PR side, there’s the added pressure of bosses or clients breathing down our necks impatiently as we work diligently to verify the information that we’re going to release. Same holds true for journalists with editors pacing back and forth “waiting” for you to break the news.

This thought brings to mind the wise advice of Arthur W. Page, Vice President, Public Relations, AT&T, from 1927 to 1947. Mr. Page absolutely nailed it in the first of his seven principles of public relations: “Tell the truth.”

Not “tell the people what your boss wants them to know.”


If only our nation’s leader(s) and others would take this advice to heart. Then we wouldn’t have to ask the question, “Who should you trust?”

Posted in Action, careers, Code of Ethics, Communication, Critical Thinking, Curry College, Ethics, PR, PR students, public relations, social media, Thinking | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Your Career and You: “You’re Not In This Alone”

publication1Part of my “other duties as assigned” at Curry College where I head up our Communication Department‘s Public Relations Concentration is being available to students for advice and counsel. I do this “officially” for a couple dozen, “unofficially” for countless others. I share personal experiences, advice, and words of caution on a daily basis.

In that role, I’ve had conversations with three students just this week about changes they’re considering. Two were about a major change…transferring to another school; the other was about changing from one business-area focus to another.

As always, I asked in the course of our conversation, “Who have you talked with about this?”

I’m not being nosy. I just want to make sure that they are turning to others (besides me) for advice or a simple reality check. More often than not, the answer is “You’re the only person I’ve told about this except my parents.”

Talking to your parents is a good thing! You really don’t want to drop major surprises on them! Trust me…been there…done that…learned my lesson.

But I also learned that I needed to do some serious self-reflection in the process in order to be able to present my reasoning for doing what I planned to do. And, on occasion in the process, I changed my mind simply because I realized that what I planned to do was not a wise move.

We all like to feel like we’re adults and don’t need someone else to “tell” us what to do. But, believe it or not, you actually do…and it’s not “telling”…it’s “advising”…a BIG difference.

Successful business leaders don’t operate in a vacuum. They turn to others to get their take on thoughts, ideas, and plans. It can be as formal as a scheduled meeting or as casual as a quick chat in the hallway. Whatever the process, they’re getting another person’s input and benefiting from his or her own experience.

Getting someone else’s input doesn’t come easily or naturally to everyone. I’m notorious for coming up with ideas for PR programs, doing all the planning and organizing legwork, and then dropping the proverbial “’here’s what we’re doing’ bomb” on my co-workers. (Since this is a public blog, I won’t use the rather descriptive words that usually formed their responses!)

Bottom line here: Make your plans. Think them through carefully. Then turn to someone who you believe will understand what you’re trying to do and ask, “What do you think?”

Yes. You’re putting yourself out there by implying that you need others’ feedback to make a decision. But in the business world, that’s called “collaboration,” and that’s how you succeed.

The important thing to remember is this: “You’re not in this alone.”

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