Tuesday, 25 June 2013

4 Lessons from a PR Grad - The First Job

Quote About Chapter

I have not posted on this blog for quite some time as a result of the recent change in my life. As I mentioned in my post about student to professional transition  life can change fast. It hasn't been difficult, but it has been busy. Finally, I am taking time to sit down and talk about some of the most important things I have learned in my first two months as a Marketing & Communications Specialist. I want to share these with you so you know what lies beyond textbooks and laptops. It really brings my blog to a new beginning. Life as a PR Grad.

#1 Don't be Afraid of Marketing
Having done a business degree at Western University, I know a thing or two about Marketing. And when I went into PR I had no intention of including Marketing in my career plans. I imagined my job would revolve solely around Social Media, Media Relations and Writing. However, I quickly discovered that Marketing and PR work so well together that often times one person does both in an organization. Here I am doing Communications on a Marketing team. Doing both opens up your scope of work. If you like diversity in workdays, understanding consumers, strategizing about brands, and then Marketing is probably something you would enjoy as much as PR.

#2 Don't Pretend you Know, If you Don't
This lesson was easy for me, as one of the best ways I learn things is y asking questions. Sometimes asking the right question actually makes you look smarter than if you don't ask any questions at all. Not speaking up does not necessarily give employers confidence in your abilities. Ask smart questions to show you understand the process or the importance of your task. This has been one of the best ways I have made good impressions on my manager and team.

#3 Under Promise, Over Deliver
Saying you can get something done pronto, might sound like the best approach when impressing your manager. But sometimes when things are not pressing, you should under promise your delivery. This might seem counterintuitive when starting out, but it will save you trouble in the end. If you start right out the gate at full speed that will become the standard and you will always be expected to deliver quick and well. But if you sell yourself slightly short and then surpass what you said you would do, then you not only make it easier on yourself, but you look good. "Wow she did it in half the time she said it would take." Maybe you knew it would only take that long, but you deserve the time to make sure you are doing something well.

#4 Attitude is Everything
Nothing has been more obvious to me since starting working. A bad attitude is easily spotted and easily disliked. One of the easiest ways to jump into a PR team is to have a positive attitude. Maybe the work done before you isn't up to your ideals, but that doesn't mean you should be negative about it. Even when feeling overwhelmed (because some day you will), just put on a smile. You will be known for that smile. 

Book Quote

How do you plan on getting your first job? What lessons do you have to share?

P.S. I Love PR.

The Art of Asking Hard Questions

Achieving your goals comes from hard work. That is a truth and an obvious statement. So why bother mentioning it? It is because so often I see many of my peers who underestimate willpower and dedication. They forget that while sometimes good things come to those who wait, you also only get what you put out. 

Are you feeling underemployed, dissatisfied with your job or internship, or feeling stuck? Sometimes you may blame the job market or your situation. But quite often you need to assess your position and determine how hard are you willing to work to be truly happy? Because at the end of the day, you don’t get what you don’t ask for.

Asking Quote

Kevin O’Leary talks about this in his book The Cold Hard Truth. In business you don’t get what you don’t ask for. There may be a great opportunity  waiting for you, but just sit there, dead silent, unmoving, and it will pass on to the person who does speak up. Maybe you feel entitled, but you sit quietly by. Entitlement is not as satisfying as perspiration. Maybe you are scared of failure. But that will only ever hold you back. It could be the risk asks too much. That could also means getting more in return.

Whatever the reason for your lack of success, you are probably thinking it is not for lack of being ambitious. But thinking about success is different than reaching out for it. And success looks different to each person and does not mean you reach the dream job from the start. It just means taking the first step that matters to you in your career.

I learned from a very early age from another great teacher – my mom. I don’t know how many times I would have concerns or questions about things and decisions in my life that I would confront with statements like:
  • “I really like x, but I don’t like y. But there is nothing I can do about it.”
  • “I wish I could do this. But oh well.”
  • “I guess that is just the way things are.”
And without fail my mom would remind me that confronting difficulties, problems or negativity often involves asking something of someone. And that can be a scary thing. For example, you might think asking to work different hours is something you cannot do, because you are afraid of no. But my mom would always say to me “When you ask, the worst that can happen is you get a no.”

I only had to hear this 1000 more times before I internalized it. Now I use it all the time. Every time I want something or need something to change, I am less afraid to ask for what I think is fair. That is because if you do it strategically and be honest, the worst that can happen is they say no.

People can’t read minds. No one goes around giving you what you want. But maybe, if you speak up and ask, you can achieve something and reach that goal you have been reaching for. But you will never know if you don’t ask.

How do you feel about difficult questions? What was the hardest thing you had to ask for?

P.S. I love PR

Thursday, 9 May 2013

Step 16 - 5 Tips to Transition from Student to Professional

Start off on the Right Foot

Today I want to talk about how students can transition to full-time work. Any student knows that student life is very different from working life, as they differ in some of the following ways:

Class times are in blocks vs. Word days are 8 hours straight
Classes teach and you learn vs. You are require to perform on the job
When in school you work after hours vs. Leaving your work at the office (maybe)
Paying to work hard vs. Getting paid for hard work

Life after graduation

So straight away transitioning can be difficult. But whether you are a grad starting your career or a student starting a summer job until you go back to school in September, there are some tips to make this transition as  smooth as possible.

1. Start on a Positive Note - Even if you just wrote the hardest exam of your life, if you start work the next day you need to be poised, positive and ready to work. So make sure you are rested the night before your first day at work.

2. Learn by Doing - Leave the notebooks at home. Come to work ready to learn by doing. This means you might have to act on the spot or teach yourself a task on-the-job. Don't be afraid that you don't know the theory behind it, work is very hands on, even office work.

3. Act your Age, Except More Mature - It can be hard starting a job at a company where you are the only grad or student. You might feel out of place or intimidated. Don't be afraid to own your age. be proud of what you can do at a young age. Just remember your colleagues have different interests and expectations than the average student.

4. Don't Slack Off - Even straight-A students get side-tracked or procrastinate. This is understandable. But on the job you can't slack off on company time. This can be hard if you aren't giving things to do to keep you busy. But at least use your time to learn something about the company and advance your professional life.

Quote About Work5. Come Prepared - One of he best ways to make a good first impression on the job is to show up prepared. This means being groomed, well-dressed in respect to the type of job, having a general idea of what the company does, bringing documents to fill-out paperwork and showing up on time. Coming prepared will allow you to get started on the job sooner.

These are just some of the simplest ways to mentally prepare yourself for the jump from textbooks to briefcase. In PR especially, you need to be read for a fast-paced learning-curve. You need to be a sponge and soak in as much as fast as possible if you want to succeed. I would love to show some examples of what I mean by this which is why in my next post I will talk about my first two weeks in my first full-time job out of school as a Marketing & Communications Specialist.

So stay tuned! And let me know what you think is the hardest part of transitioning from student to employee by commenting below.

P.S. I  Love PR

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

The Art of Persuasion! - Book Review

For my first book review this spring, I have chosen Persuasion by Arlene Dickinson. If you don’t already recognize the name, Arlene is one of the fabulous entrepreneurs (and only lady dragon) on the Dragon’s Den on CBC. Before I go any further, I just want to say I thoroughly enjoy this show, but this book is great for those who watch the show and those who don’t.

Persuasion is a book written from Arlene Dickinson’s personal experiences, not a non-fiction books that refers to social science studies and established facts. It made for an interesting read (along the same lines as Kevin O’Leary’s The Cold Hard Truth). The core idea of the book is principled persuasion, a form of positive, relationship-building persuasion. Her main idea is that to persuade others you need to be honest, authentic and reciprocal. Persuading others, whether it is in a business pitch, a job interview or in a personal situation relies on building a connection that is based on trustworthy truth and mutual understanding of each person’s objectives.

Persuasion; Dragon's Den
Persuasion 2011
First off, this premise is really quite unique. When I carried the book around with me, I got a lot of questions from people like: “Persuasion? Why are you reading a book on how to trick people?” or “Who are you hoping to persuade?” These were questions asked with the idea that I was reading a book on how to con people. But, the book in all honesty teaches nothing of the sort. It is an frank book that shows that business and ethics can and should co-exist – a philosophy I happen to support strongly.

Persuasion was very well organized. Each section covers different aspects of persuasion, with chapters that are straightforward and that flow in a logical sequence. The subsections within each chapter do a great job of telling you just what you are about to learn. This makes this an easy read when the reading sessions are broken up.

Arlene does a great job of providing real life examples to support her claims, although some lacked details. When the personal stories got in-depth, it made the reading more interesting and enjoyable. The other reason I enjoyed her stories is because Arlene is a communicator. As the CEO of Venture Communications in Calgary and Toronto, I couldn't help but be in tune with the advice she provided. Her stories about client projects, agency blunders and marketing successes are very relatable to a PR student or professional.

Here are some parts of the book that really stood out to me:
“Some people think that to be good at persuasion you have to be an expert or have a big personality or be a smooth talker or know all the answers. But just the opposite is true: listening and picking up on subtext are at least as important to building emotional connections as anything you say.”
After reading I have started making a conscious effort to listen more and it truly has been rewarding. You don’t truly know what listening is until you really do it. 

“If I can’t understand what you’re talking about, I can’t trust you. Real expertise involves the ability to take complex subject and distill it to the point where it’s accessible to everyone."
This is exactly why being a communicator is challenging, but rewarding. Our successes in communicating clearly make us influencers. 

“Being yourself doesn’t mean being sweet and nice, by the way. It just means not hiding who you really are.”
This one jumped out at me because it is such a common misperception. People think that people who are honest and straightforward are not as real as those who act nice. Think twice. 

“Virtually all entrepreneurs share one really valuable attribute: they see potential all around them.”
This is why I think most communicators are entrepreneurs. We see potential and we build strategy to make the most of it. 

“To move forward, you need to persuade yourself to act, and to arm yourself against the consequences of your decision by deciding beforehand that it’s all right to change your mind down the road, and also all right to make a mistake.”
This is my new mantra. Persuade yourself to move forward and you can take on the world. 

“Confidence is a quiet self-belief, not a loud cry for attention."
For communicators I think this is important to keep in mind.

“If authenticity is about knowing yourself, honesty is about publicly demonstrating and defending your beliefs and principles."
This last one is important for students and young professionals going out in the workforce. I strongly believe in standing by your own principles even if you don’t feel fully confident. Don’t be someone else, be yourself and make a mark.

Arlene Dickinson; CBC
The dragons from CBC's Dragon's Den
Persuasion is full of a wealth of advice and principles that could easily help someone become better at persuading. Some of what Arlene Dickinson says may seem like common sense, but sometimes hearing words from a respectable and successful person really helps ingrain lesson of common sense in your life.

I can’t say I am an ultimate persuader now, but hopefully I have persuaded you to check out this book. One thing I can say is that this book have me a better understanding of how to build strong relationships. And hey, isn’t that what PR is all about?

Do you think you will read Persuasion? If you have let me know what you think of it!

P.S. I love PR

Friday, 12 April 2013

Step 15 - 6 Tips for Organizational Fit in PR

Are you Fit Enough for Organizational Fit?

What I would like to talk about today is something relevant to any Public Relations grad starting a career. This topic was once thought of as a trend in HR, but it is more important than I think most people give it credit. I rediscovered its importance when looking to start my career. So without further ado let's talk about job fit and organizational fit.

First, you may not know that these 2 things are indeed distinct and separate. Here is what they boil down to. JOB FIT is when you demonstrate the skills, knowledge, experience and abilities to excel in a specific job. For instance, in PR some people are more suited as an account director while others are more suited to an account executive. The differences in these jobs are what make them unique and what makes fit important. ORGANIZATIONAL FIT is when your values, attitudes and expectations align with those of the organization you work for. As an example, if you love the environment it might irk you to work somewhere where they cause needless waste and don't bother to recycle. Working somewhere that allows you to live by your values is the most rewarding.

Quote about Dreams
So how do you know if you have these two things - especially before starting the job? The fact is your socialization process with the job and organization begins from the very first contact. Think of brands. Every contact point with a brand helps you develop an opinion on a company. This is relevant in job searching. This is why so many people will tell you to apply to a company - rather than apply for a job.

Knowing the job fit is pretty straightforward. Do you have the technical skills? The soft skills? The experiences? You will need to look at the key responsibilities and list of duties to truly understand what you will be doing in the job, while you will need to look at the qualifications to know if you've got what it takes. Remember all qualifications should serve a purpose - they are there for a reason, which is setting you up for success in the job. Organizational fit is far more abstract, but here are some tips from my own experiences.

6 Tips for Organizational Fit

1. Company Correspondence: Right from the get-go do you like the way the company corresponds with you? Are their emails friendly, informative, long, short, rude? This will tell you something about the personality of the employees of the organization - which all leads back to corporate culture.

2. Job Interviews - Small Things: A lot of young people forget that job interviews are two-way communication. It isn't about just selling yourself, the company also has to market itself to you. So if at the interview the environment, the people, their speech or their questions put you off, then beware. You might not think that the way the interviewers dress is important either, but it is. It shows you how they express themselves at work, something you would need to do without clashing with those already there.

3. Job Interviews - Big Things: Now on to what you learn about the organization in the job interviews. There is a reason why people recommend that you ask lots of questions at the end of an interview. I did this at my last few interviews and it really helped me gain insider knowledge that let me get a handle on whether this was a place I could fit in.

4. Career Goals: Your personal goals are so important in figuring out if an organization fits your needs. If you goal is to work in healthcare and the organization focuses on finance, then maybe the fit isn't right.

5. Gut Intuition: Information gets to be daunting. You might forget something they said about the company or you might get incomplete information. Nothing is better than your gut. It will tell you what you feel about the company more than anyone could.

6. The Job Offer: I can actually say what it feels like to get a job offer and consider it, because this happened to me a week ago when I secured myself a great new job. You will want to really look at every detail of the offer to determine if it fits. This is a business deal so take time to reflect and talk to people who know you and know your goals. They will help you see things that you couldn't on your own.

Once you have figured out if there is a fit, congratulations you will be a happy employee! A lot of people feel lucky to think about fit, or that it isn't as important as the money. But to be truly satisfied in a job and in a company, a size too big or a size to small just won't work. You want to find a fit that is just right.

What do you think about organizational fit? Is it important to you?

P.S. I love PR!

Saturday, 23 March 2013

The 5 Types of PR Internships

Back in December I brought up searching for an internship. More specifically, for an unpaid internship that you can complete while still in your PR classes. If you want to check out more on searching for and finding one check out Step 8.

Since January I have been doing my own PR internship at a small marketing agency that does work for non-profits and municipalities. As of yesterday I am done! It feels great to have the experience under my belt as my job search comes to an apex. But I want to talk about the different types of internships you may encounter. Some people have great internships, others not so much, so I want to look at what me and my peers have gone through with our internships. Always remember - Stay Positive.

The Different Types of Internships

1. The Pain-in -the... I Mean Challenging Internship
This one is where you become the person who does everything for the people in charge. You are a student and an intern, but all of a sudden you are doing the boss's work. Better yet, they don't have to pay you to do their work. And on top of writing up assignments that seem never ending that they infringe on your schoolwork, you are also expected to keep the coffee pot filled. And they may not even give you a thumbs up at the end of it all, which hurts the most.

Quote about FailingLesson: Even when an internship turns sour you need to make the best of it. This kind of experience will help you realize that life isn't fair and jobs aren't always like you imagined. You will get tougher, but from now on you will also treat others beneath you with respect. So at the end of the day, if you get some portfolio pieces and a new outlook on working, consider this worthwhile.

2. The Do-Nothing All Day Internship
This internship has you showing up eager, excited and ready to learn, only to sit staring at a computer screen for most of the day. Maybe they give you a few menial tasks here and there, but you don't feel like you are contributing or accomplishing much. This can be just as bad as being swamped. Because when you are not engaged in your work, you start to become slack and negative.

Lesson: Again make the best of it. Sure you can work on some school assignments, but why not take initiative and suggest some things you can do to help them. They may not know it, but they need serious help with their social media. That is just one example. And if you are afraid they will turn you down, just do it and then show them. They may just like it, and if they do, add it to the portfolio. And get a great reference, that way your time was worth it.

3. The Cat-on-Your-Lap Internship
This one happens sometimes. You choose to do an internship out of someone's home office. They have just started out and they are more than willing to take on a student for free work. But it turns out to be not what you expected. You work in a not so well-lit room in their basement where their cat insists on sitting on your lap while you write media releases.

Lesson: The office doesn't make the experience. You still get to write media releases and have something to put in your portfolio. Besides, cats are awesome, just don't where your good pants. Again make the best of it. Make yourself feel legitimate by setting up a space and bringing some nice pens and notebooks. Now you're in business.

4. The Out-of-Town Internship
So you wanted to get an internship in the big city, but now you are commuting 2 hours one way! Count 4 hours of traveling for an unpaid internship (actually you are paying out of your pocket to do it) that is not guaranteed to go anywhere. You have to wake up at 5 a.m. cause you don't have a car, but at least you are working with real agency people.

Lesson: Sometimes you have to make sacrifices to get great opportunities. Maybe you could have negotiated for them to pay for a bus pass even if they aren't paying you. But regardless, you are proving dedication, so stick with it. Use your commute time wisely and you will no doubt come out with some great references and portfolio pieces.

5. The Why-is-Everyone-in-my-Class-Here Internship
You thought you had snatched up a cool, unique internship right out from under your classmates nose. But wait, a few days after you start, classmates start popping up and now there are 4 of you working there. Now you don't feel so special.

Lesson: This is not a bad thing. The company obviously likes what you and your classmates do. Good news for your PR program. The main thing here is that you may need to work harder to stand out. So do just that. Work hard and don't get slack just because your classmates wants to hang around and joke all day long. Be professional, after all they are your future colleagues as well.

Overall, not all internships are made equal and everyone will feel differently about their situation. Don't compare yours to someone else's. And don't back down, nothing looks worse than someone who doesn't follow-through. No matter the work experience, you have to make the best out of it. I know I said this a lot, but people who can do this tend to go farther professionally.

How do you know if your internship was good? Ask yourself: "Did I learn something new? Did I meet new people? Did you end up with a reference? Did you get a portfolio piece? If you answered yes to at least 3 of these (which most will) then you did great!

How do you feel about internships? What have your internship experiences been like?

P.S. I love PR!

Friday, 15 March 2013

The Art of Reading!

I have a confession to make. I read a lot. I mean a lot. Not just the passing-by kind of reading, or going through Tweets. I read… Books. Yes paperback, hardcover, new releases, literary classics, fiction, non-fiction. I do it every day, more than once. And worse, I will do it anywhere, at school or on the bus and yes, alone in my room. I’ve decided it is time that I reach out and do something about my obsession with reading…

What you ask? Well, I have decided the first step is to admit that I have an obsession. I have been an avid reader my whole life, but it wasn’t until I was 11 that it became a serious problem. I can’t even leave my home without a good book! What if the bus is late or I am waiting for my friends? Sadly, unlike my peers social media just doesn’t have the same effect on me as reading does.

Quote about Reading
Now that I have admitted that I am a bibliophile, I am determined to share, be open and honest with people. That is where my blog comes in. I think the only way I can justify some of my reading is to share it with you. That is why in addition to my career journey tips and PR insights I will be posting book reviews. 

The fact is nothing replaces a good book. I don’t care if you want to read the e-version to be all futuristic, a book is a book. And they are full of amazing stories and information. If you are looking to escape the boredom of reality, you can pick up a fictional book and disappear into an alternate world. Or if you want to grow your knowledge and become “well-read” on a topic, you can delve into a non-fiction piece that really opens your eyes.

Reading is important to me. It has helped shape who I am today. Because I have always loved to read, I grew to love to write. And because I love to write, I grew to love PR. And because I love PR, I grew to love blogging. And because… well you get the point. Reading and writing to me go hand-in-hand, so you can imagine how full my hands are.

The best part about reading is that you are doing 2 things simultaneously. Yes, two things. You are learning something (some random detail, some historical fact or some obscure word) and you are being entertained (by dramatic suspense, a tear-wrenching moment, a funny joke). Many people believe that bookworms are boring or weird. I disagree. Reading makes your mind sharp; I can pull a fact out of thin air, I can tell you a story that you will relate to or I can tell you how I know I am right about something. What I am trying to say is that reading can give you power. Not so boring and weird now is it?

Book Love; Reading Addiction
Before I go any further and turn this post into a book itself, I will tell you about the kind of books I will review. To keep it relevant to PR or young professionals I will review non-fiction books only. I will review new releases or books that are timely. I already have books in mind that include topics like creativity, curiosity, professional development, personal growth, career advancement, building success and business savvy. Stay tuned, as my first reviews will be Amanda Lang’s The Power of Why, Malcolm Gladwell's The Tipping Point and Arlene Dickinson's Persuasion.

Let me know what you think about reading and book reviews. What kind of books would you like to see reviews for related to PR, marketing and business? 

P.S. I Love PR

Sunday, 10 March 2013

Step 14 - 3 Steps for Mastering the PR Job Search

Be Prepared for After Graduation

Job searching is one of the most time-intensive and stressful processes of graduating. This time last year, I was relieved to not have to search for a job, knowing that I would be going back to school. Now that my postgrad is coming to an end, job searching has become a must. I have to say that I began the process a couple months ago, and now that I am in the midst of it I can share with you some of the things I have been doing and some of the interesting tips I have learned along the way.

Job searching has its ups and downs. It can become overwhelming, especially if you don’t know what you are looking for. This is why you need to know your career goals before you throw yourself into the search for the perfect job upon graduation. Check out my post on assessing you career path.

#1 - Where to Look
The first step in my job search involved answering the question: “where will I look?” One of the most obvious answers was job search engines, but even these can be confusing. There are so many to choose from. So I discovered that the best ones to use are the engines that compile job postings from various sources, which saves you a lot of time.

#2 - Hidden Market 
Another question I needed to answer was: “where else am I going to look?” Because in this day and age you can’t rely on job boards and search engines. Thousands of people are looking at these sites as well, so your application can get lost in the process. A better place to look is LinkedIn jobs, which will suggest jobs that match your career field. Twitter is also quite useful, as people in online networks often tweet job opportunities. Also, I have been keeping a keen eye on certain career pages of company websites. I like using RSS feeds for career postings or even job alerts. These deliver potential jobs straight to your computer.

Ultimately, knowing where to look is important as it will make the job search more effective, but remember, only 20 to 30% of jobs happen this way (the rest is from networking). So you may need to take a more proactive approach.

#3 - Timing of Search
Another thing that I have figured out is that timing is important for job searching. Certain times of the day are better than others, and certain days of the week yield more job search results. When you find an opportunity you like, you also have to keep deadlines in mind. I like to leave time to research the company so I can personalize my application. I keep track of the dates I apply on, so I know when to follow-up. And following-up is essential.

Job searching is not easy. Start out with these simple steps, and work from there. This is how I am making this process work while I am in school. With more time I would take more active approaches. Regarding the proactive approach remember that networking is an asset. Every once in a while I will reach out to companies I like to let them know how I can be an asset to their team. I also think letting people in your network know that you are looking is a good thing too.  Proactive strategies will compliment more passive approaches and make your job search efforts worthwhile.

So I would like to ask you, how do you go about job searching, do you have some tips to share?

P.S. I love PR.