Your Career and You: “We Do Things for a Reason”

Publication1There have been a few moments recently when I’ve retreated into my comfortably dark cave muttering all kinds of unprintable things. Most of them start with “Why the Hell…” and then wander off down various thorny paths.

As much as I would like to believe my life is “together,” there have been, throughout that “life,” a host of challenges that have given me cause to question (a) my sanity and (b) my ability to do anything right.

Fortunately, each instance has resolved itself in one way or another…not always the way I would have preferred, but at least there has been a resolution.

And each resolution has reminded me of one simple fact…we do things for a reason.

I’m not sure if I actually managed to convey this revelation to any of my students at Curry College, where I headed the Public Relations Concentration until recently and taught most of the undergrad PR courses.

I tried to set a good example for one and all as a reasonably successful public relations professional, but I may not have covered all of the “finer points” of that great mystery called “life.”

For me, it all started when I called a friend in the personnel office at the Air Force base where I was stationed after returning from a tour of duty in Vietnam. My instructions to him were, in a nutshell, “Bring the paperwork. I’m going back to Vietnam.”

He knew me well enough to know that I was serious, so, after an hour’s lunch, I went back to my office to inform my boss that I was returning to Vietnam…in three weeks.

He, too, knew the backstory, so he reluctantly congratulated me and wished me the best.

Why was I determined to go back to a war zone?? As I say so often, “Simple-ish.”

During my first tour as an English Language Instructor based in Saigon and teaching “English as a Second Language” to Vietnamese military personnel, I had (much to my, and the majority of my friends who knew me well, surprise) met, fallen in love with, and vowed to marry a young woman who was assistant manager of the hotel where we instructors were billeted.

The “normal” way of thinking back then was “Why would anyone in his right mind go back to a place where bombs were falling out of the sky and things were blowing up in the streets?”

But I had a reason. And, to put it all in some sort of perspective, Margaret and I celebrated our 45th wedding anniversary this year…on the exact day that we moved out of our home of 22 years in Massachusetts and began our permanent relocation to Florida.

And…yes…we had a reason for that. We both are retired. We had been in Massachusetts off and on for more 30 years. And, to put it politely, winters in Massachusetts suck!!

So I’m sitting here today in my new home in Riverview, Florida, at the end of October with crystal-clear blue skies and temperatures in the mid-60s. I’m free to do what I want when I want.

It’s not perfect, but I remind myself, when things get a little wobbly, that change is good, and I was (we were) more than due for a positive change.

More important, I remind myself that, throughout my personal and my professional lives, I have done a lot of seemingly unusual or irrational things that, in the end, resulted in something very positive because, at the beginning, there was a reason.

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Your Career and You: “What’s ‘Old’ Is New Again”

Publication1I’ve been off the grid…other than snarky remarks about certain service providers on Twitter and Facebook…and a few food photos (big surprise!)…for the past several weeks. While I seriously doubt anyone has actually missed me during my absence, I’m happy to report “I’m ba-ack!”

In a nutshell, over the past three-ish months, I’ve packed something closing in on 50 years of life as a working professional into a bunch of boxes…retired…and moved to Florida.

Arrivederci, New England winters. Bon jour, year-round tropical climate!

Yeah, it has been…is…something of an adjustment. All of a sudden, I don’t have to be somewhere to do something. I find myself automatically checking my phone for reminders of meetings that I no longer have to attend. My calendar, other than one or two monthly conference calls for PRSA-affiliated committees that I’m on, is blank.

It’s a somewhat unsettling feeling, but I’m adapting…slowly.

I do miss the energizing interactions with my students at Curry College, where I headed up the Public Relations Concentration in our Communication Department and taught most of the undergrad PR courses. As I’ve said so often, “I’m a vampire. I need fresh blood!” Thankfully, I have social media to maintain at least some form of contact, and I hope my friends will continue to connect with me at least for a while. We’ll see!

The “new” part of this current state-of-affairs lies in the fact that I will have to establish a new network of professional connections as well as (local) personal friends. We were in Boston this past stint for 22 years after having lived in Hawaii for three years after having moved from Boston where we had lived for 14 years!

If you do the math, that’s 36 years in Boston with a solid network of professional and personal friends to whom I could turn for advice, reassurance that I wasn’t completely insane in what I was doing, and just good ol’ down home company.

On a professional level, I joined the Public Relations Society of America in 1981. Got involved immediately on committees. And have continued to contribute in as many ways as possible ever since, including serving on local, regional, and national boards of directors.

So here we are in Florida, starting literally from “Ground Zero” with a clean, shiny blank slate sitting in front of me.

Just got my PRSA membership renewal form which prompted me to reach out to the PRSA Tampa Bay chapter for membership information. Looking forward to attending an upcoming meeting and starting the development of a new network of colleagues and friends.

Next, I will reach out to folks in higher ed here in the Tampa area. I’d love to pick up some part-time teaching gigs at one or more of the colleges and universities here. I think I still have some relevant knowledge and experience that I can share with young men and women interested in exploring public relations as a profession.

So there you have it. The circle of life has brought me back to where I have been a dozen or more times…and what’s “old” is once again “new” again.

As poet John Masefield says so beautifully in “Tomorrow”…
“But tomorrow, By the living God, we’ll try the game again!”

Posted in Action, careers, Communication, Curry College, Inspiration, job hunting, job search, networking, Planning, PR, PR students, professional organizations, PRSA, PRSA Boston, public relations, Public Relations Society of America, social media, Thinking, Undergraduate Communication | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Your Career and You: “What IS Satisfaction?”

Publication1I write a lot…probably too much…about “loving your job” and “following your passion.”

I do this for one relatively simple reason. For what seems like the better half of the past 50 years of my life, people…working professionals as well as young soon-to-be professionals (aka: “students”)…have been asking me for some sort of definition of “success.”

I have heard any number of responses from others over the years, ranging from “you’re successful if you’re making a lot of money” to “success is when you have a big office in a big company.”

There’s probably some merit in each of these definitions, and I certainly have never encouraged my students at Curry College, where, until recently, I oversaw the Public Relations Concentration in our Communication Department, to actively seek out poverty and a closet-sized office.

But success is sooo much more than posh trappings of office and bushels of money being dumped in your lap each payday.

Throughout my own professional career, both as a PR practitioner and as a PR professor, I have had the pleasure of meeting and becoming friends with people from all levels of the working world. Yes, a few of them are, as I term it, “gazillionaires.” Others are living paycheck-to-paycheck. And in each scenario, I have met someone who goes about every single day with a smile on his face because he is doing exactly what he wants to be doing.

Although the Rolling Stones declared quite successfully that “I can’t get no satisfaction,” I respectfully disagree.

You can, but doing so requires that you do a really thorough “Who am I? What do I want out of life?” self-analysis.

Not to get slightly morbid here, but a saying I heard one time a loooong time ago sticks with me: “What do you want your obituary to say about you?”

Short-ish, and to the point. If someone is going to recap your life and your contributions to others’ lives, what do you want him or her to say? Then ask yourself, “How am I going to accomplish that?”

It doesn’t matter where you are in your professional/personal existence…just starting out, mid-way and building momentum, or in the final stages…you can start or add to the final description.

Don’t try to do it alone, though. You need input from others with whom you interact. It’s called “networking,” and my students have heard me preaching this sermon just about every day in every class.

Why ask others? Because you’re too close to the subject…you can’t see the forest because all the trees are crowded all around you. And you’re prejudiced…after all, it’s you you’re talking about…and you’ve known yourself your entire life!

But most important, ask yourself, “What is it that, when I do it, I spend the next three days grinning like an idiot because the simple act of doing it made me feel so good?”

Odds are, whatever that “it” was, it’s something you love doing…it’s something you do well…it’s something you’re passionate about.

Then you do what someone I admire immensely…my step-brother Jimmy Towson…did. You sit down with those who are most important to you, you have a very serious talk, and you make the changes necessary for you to accomplish your goal.

The end result? You will have answered the question: “What IS satisfaction?”

Posted in Action, careers, Communication, Critical Thinking, Curry College, Evaluation, Inspiration, networking, Planning, pleasure, PR, PR students, public relations, Thinking | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Your Career and You: “The End and the Beginning”

Publication1I’m in my “Zen” mode today as I sporadically check weather reports on Hurricane Irma’s progress and focus more and more on a week from now when we move lock-stock-and-barrel to Tampa, Florida, to start our new lives as official retirees.

Part of me really doesn’t want to do this. I’ve been hauling around a ton of preconceptions about “retirees” for ages, and I have absolutely no intention of becoming one of those.

On the other hand, though, I’m incredibly excited about this new adventure. New home. New hometown. New way of going about my day. I absolutely love new things, and this phase of my life is bringing a gazillion new things!

This is something I have always tried to pass on to my students at Curry College, Regis College, and several other colleges in the Boston area where I’ve spent some time trying to “spread the word” about the profession that has consumed my entire adult life…public relations.

  • Be open to new ideas.
  • Be open to new ways of doing things.
  • Be open to new opportunities regardless of where they might take you.

You never know what lies just around the corner, and you won’t find out unless you step out of your warm, fuzzy comfort zone and “dive in the deep end.”

For me, it started in 1968 when, in Air Force basic training, while some of my colleagues were vying for assignments at bases around the U.S., I interviewed and was accepted for a new venture the Department of Defense was launching…teaching English in Vietnam.

End result? A sort of indirect introduction to a career in the Air Force (active-duty military), Army (civil service), and private sector (whole bunch of places) as a public relations professional.

I also met and subsequently married my wife of now-45 years, Margaret, so BONUS!!

Then, later in my private sector life in PR, I was “involuntarily separated” (aka: “fired”) from a position that I didn’t “love” but paid the bills.

Coincidentally, a friend called to ask if I had an interest in teaching. As far as I was concerned, I was totally unqualified to teach young men and women the ABCs of public relations as a profession. I don’t have a PR degree…only took one PR course as an elective for my second undergraduate degree. But I did have close to 20 years’ professional experience in public relations and have (patting myself enthusiastically on the back) orchestrated some pretty awesome PR programs and activities for various employers.

After babbling like the idiot I’m so incredibly capable of being from time-to-time, I wound up in the classroom teaching, first, graduate Communication students and, later, undergrads at several colleges in and around Boston.

Absolutely LOVED it! And still DO! But…

Had I not taken my friend up on her offer to get me in the door at the college where she was teaching, though…who knows? I don’t spend a lot of time doing “what if?” exercises, so I don’t have an answer.

So flash forward to 2017 and my current state of affairs.

We could have stayed here in Massachusetts. Margaret absolutely hates, hates, hates New England winters, but we’ve put up with them for close to 40 years. And I have a very solid network of professional colleagues up here who I would miss terribly if we were to move.

But the old, now-familiar “itch” led us to look at Florida and, in spite of my own misgivings, we have found a new “home” that promises to offer a whole laundry-list of new adventures, opportunities…and challenges, of course.

So that’s it for now, my friends. I’m nearing the end of what truly has been an amazing life as an actively-practicing PR professional and, now, PR professor.

And I am rounding the corner to head for the beginning of an amazing new life. What lies ahead? I have no clue. But I am so very excited, and I promise to keep you posted!

Ciao for now!

Posted in Action, careers, Communication, Curry College, Evaluation, Graduate Communication, Inspiration, job hunting, job search, Planning, pleasure, PR, PR students, public relations, Regis College, Thinking, Undergraduate Communication | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Your Career and You: “Chaos…It’s Normal”

Publication1_editedThe past four months have been a test both of my sanity and my patience. Dealing with banks. Dealing with real estate developers. Everything in preparation for a major change in my life that involves leaving what has been “home” for the past 25 years and heading off to a new location (Florida) with a new career (retirement).

It’s by choice, though, so I’m gritting my teeth and “patiently” waiting for it all to end.

It occurred to me this morning, though, that this is what my students at Curry College, where I headed up the undergraduate Public Relations Concentration and taught most of the PR courses, as well as at Regis College, where I taught in the Graduate Communications program, face at the end of their pursuit of a college diploma.

Nothing seems to be what it was. Something new and often unexpected is always popping up to throw what had been a pleasantly comfortable routine into a total tailspin. Also known as “graduation.”

Now on a good day, I’m apparently a disorganized mess. At least that’s the diagnosis I get from my long-suffering wife, Margaret, who is a mega-linear thinker and doer. She hates it when things don’t go as she has meticulously outlined in her daily planner. (And she gave up on organizing me decades ago!)

But that’s my “life,” and it always will be that way.

Yes. It is possible to establish a semi-organized lifestyle in which things putter along neatly and predictably. But I would (politely) argue that that type of existence is boring with a capital “B.”

Your brain thrives on the challenges of dealing with and finding solutions to the unexpected.

But, more important, progress occurs when changes occur, both in the world in general and in our own lives in particular. Changes don’t happen quietly or while you’re sleeping, though. They happen because someone…you??…makes them happen.

And this is the message I try to pass on to the troops. Yes, the prospect of graduating seems to throw everything into a giant whirlpool and life is spinning around like crazy. It seems like everything is changing by the minute, and you’ve lost control of everything.

But…there is an end to all the madness. You will find a job in which you can use the knowledge gained and the skills developed over the past four(-ish) years. You will be able to settle down and become the productive, successful professional you’ve been dreaming about all this time.

It may take a little longer than you hope. That’s the reality of today’s working world. Nothing is guaranteed. But, if you believe in yourself and in your ability to succeed, you will succeed. I know. I’ve been you…many times over.

In the meantime, take a deep breath and dive into the chaos called “life”…it’s normal.

Posted in Action, careers, Communication, Curry College, Education, Graduate Communication, Inspiration, job hunting, job search, Planning, PR, PR students, public relations, Regis College, Thinking | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Your Career and You: “Frustration”

Publication1 (2)We’ve just stumbled out of the infamous “dog days of summer” and are more-or-less building up courage for the inevitable frigid blasts of winter. And for many of my Curry College COM/PR students who graduated this past May, the tension is mounting.

They’ve been firing off resumes right and left, scheduling interviews, combing job sites…doing everything they possibly can to put their hard-earned diploma to good use.

Unfortunately…but not surprisingly, to me at least…it would appear that the entire universe has come to a screeching halt.

Expectations are high. “I studied my butt off for four years, stayed on the Dean’s List for the entire time, did multiple internships. What’s going on?!?

I try to reassure anyone who turns to me in frustration over this seeming frozen-molasses pace that there’s nothing wrong. It’s perfectly normal. Things typically slow down in the summer while working folks take vacations and the overall pace in offices slows a smidge.

But this is little reassurance to someone who is staring at two pieces of paper…the vaunted “college diploma” and the dreaded “student loan’s due bill.”

Then I hit a personal snag this summer that was basically a “welcome to reality” slap in the face for me. My wife Margaret and I are preparing for what we think will be the final chapter in our own careers…retirement, moving to Florida, and building a new (first for us) home.

Things started off sooo well. Found a location that met 99% of our retirement requirements. Found a new house design that was as close to perfect as we could hope.

Then the mortgage application paperwork torture started…in late April. No problem on the amount…we’ve been preparing for this for years. But the minutiae…

I kept count. We answered…and provided written documentation for…ONE question FOUR times.

We’re now three full months into the process, and, as of this writing, the paperwork is STILL unfinished… “hopefully next week.”

Frustration, for me as a public relations professional, is literally just a part of the game. I’ve worked for days/weeks to get a story placed in the media only to be told “sorry, it got bumped for something ‘more important.’”

I’ve learned over the years that patience truly is a virtue, so I’m taking multiple deep breaths and telling myself everything will work out.

And this is the message I try to pass on to my students, past and present. Things don’t always go the way you think they should. “Stuff” happens. But if you’ve truly done your best and are focusing on something achievable, it will happen.

So charge ahead, my friends. I will be here on the sidelines cheering you on…while I’m relaxing on the patio of my new home!

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

Your Career and You: “Check Your &#%@ Email”

Publication1This past week has been nothing short of annoying on the electronic communication front. I have sent out more than a dozen emails to various people ranging from presidents of nonprofit organizations to…of course…students. Crickets.

In the case of the students, I’m not completely surprised. Not happy, but not surprised. My Curry College COM/PR students and Curry College PR Student Association members have all learned that I WILL track them down on social media if they don’t answer their Curry email. Facebook and Twitter are my two main “gotcha” platforms, but I’m not above resorting to Instagram or even LinkedIn if necessary.

But the organizational leaders??? Apparently the concept of “professional courtesy” got swept into the trash at some point in their respective careers.

I’m not selling anything. In fact, I’m offering them the opportunity to put their organization’s name and expertise in front of an audience of more than 20,000 PR professionals.

Sadly, I’m not the only one who has experienced this lack of common courtesy. I had lunch recently with a friend…PR director for a college…who unloaded about a certain faculty member who point-blank TOLD her he doesn’t respond to emails in any sort of reliable manner.

Say WHAT?!?

Yeah…I get it. You’re busy. Here’s a news flash for you… “We’re ALL busy.” But some of us appreciate the fact that other human life-forms are trying to communicate with us…and we show our appreciation by returning the courtesy.

Successful people don’t operate in a vacuum. They get their inspiration and their creativity from the interactions they have with others…sharing of ideas…“test-driving” concepts…“reality checks.”

And that’s the message, as a PR pro until recently teaching the next generation(s) of PR practitioners, I’ve tried to get across in my PR classes and in my personal/professional lives. No, you don’t have to respond within microseconds of having received a message. And circumstances may prevent you from immediately responding.

When I’m in the air flying from New York to Taipei, I don’t obsess about the fact that I’m “off the grid” for umpteen hours. But I DO make a point of responding as soon after I land as possible with a brief explanation of the delay.

Once again, it’s common courtesy. AND it’s professional courtesy. I’m saying to my contacts, regardless of who they might be, “You are important to me, and I appreciate your communication with me.” Whether it’s an old college roommate or a reporter…or my boss…the same applies.

So make this action a habit. Check your email…and your social media platforms…regularly. And, if you have a message, don’t ignore it. Above all else, check your &#%@ email!!

Posted in Action, CCPRSA, Communication, Curry College, Curry College PR Student Association, Curry College Public Relations Student Association, Inspiration, PR, PR students, public relations, social media, Time management | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments