Archive for category Personal development

35 ways to make 2016 a terrific year

  1. Hang out with people who make you laugh.
  2. Try to do something active every day.
  3. Experience other cultures through travel, books/magazines, events, etc.
  4. Spend less than you earn.
  5. Go to bed earlier.
  6. Get outdoors more.
  7. Volunteer.
  8. Talk with a senior citizen.
  9. Eat a cleaner diet.
  10. Find stress management activities.
  11. Say hello to strangers.
  12. Unplug frequently.
  13. Spend more time with family and friends
  14. Do something outside your comfort zone.
  15. Leave the car and walk or bike to the store.
  16. Listen to music from your youth.
  17. Let people off the hook when they make a mistake.
  18. Take photos of things in nature.
  19. Stretch.
  20. Say “yes” more than “no.”
  21. But learn how to say “no” when you feel overwhelmed.
  22. Clean out the clutter.
  23. Make new friends.
  24. Connect with old friends.
  25. Watch an old movie.
  26. Honor your commitments.
  27. Do your taxes earlier.
  28. Ramp up your retirement savings.
  29. Take all of the vacation time you’ve earned.
  30. Pat yourself on the back once in a while.
  31. Replace television time with a hobby.
  32. Take a class.
  33. Tackle that home project that’s been hanging over your head.
  34. Live knowing that every day could be your last.
  35. Tell your loved ones how you feel.

Your turn. What ideas do you have to make 2016 a great year?

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16 Tips for hopeful PR practitioners

I was recently interviewed by a budding PR practitioner for a college class. The conversation made me think about the pros and cons of the business, and what I wish someone had told me in the early years.

Thumbs Up

  • A great variety of tasks ensures you’ll never be bored — from writing to photography to media relations.
  • You get to do a lot of fun things. Top of my list? Taking courtside photos at a Boston Celtics game. I’ve also done aerial photography and handled media relations for an event that featured former Secretary of State George Mitchell as the keynote speaker.
  • You learn a lot. About a lot of things.
  • And get to hang with interesting people — celebrities, authors, elected officials, company leaders, and national media. One of my favorites was working at a Leon Redbone concert, and being in the Green Room after the show.
  • The CEO knows your name and returns your emails.
  • PR people have a seat at the table, whether in a leadership meeting or a crisis response.

Thumbs Down

  • Along with the variety comes a high degree of unpredictability. Issues and projects have an interesting way of popping up at the wrong time.
  • You’ll run across people who think they know your job and — often well-intentioned — tell you how to do it.
  • Pressure. PR has been listed among the most stressful jobs.
  • Lack of control – you can do everything correct and still not have the outcome you desire: rain washes out your outdoor event; a significant event bounces your story off the news, etc.
  • 24/7 – Lots of things happen off work hours, from customer events to a middle-of-the-night crisis.
    Your mistakes are often public.

Doing the Job

  • Ask questions – If something confuses you, it likely has the same effect on your audience.
  • Show common sense – Be the person who says, “This doesn’t pass the straight-face test.”
  • Know numbers – A good business sense helps you understand your organization and boosts your credibility.
  • Be quick – The clock is often ticking, so learn to write and think quickly.
  • Act with integrity – It’s the right thing to do and you’re asking for trouble if you veer off course.

Your turn, PR people. What advice would you share with a hopeful practitioner?

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What if you had no television?

Can you imagine living without television? It’s such a part of our lives that doing without would mean a major lifestyle change. I know, because I recently went two months without television.

Yeah, between a couple of house moves, issues having cable installed, and a longer-than-expected search for a new flat screen, I found myself looking for other ways to spend my free time.

Some of my revelations:

No news is not good news
While there are a few shows I look forward to and missed, lack of news was the biggest gap created by going TV-less. Despite reading the daily paper, I felt out-of-the-loop and disconnected from the goings on around the globe, as well as pop culture news. I missed the morning routine of breakfast and Today.

Reading failed to fill the gap
I was certain that going without television would lead to more reading. It didn’t, and I’m not sure why. Perhaps it was the disruption in my routine of watching a little television, then heading to bed to read.

Gather no moss
Perhaps the most interesting reaction was that I found myself looking for excuses to get out of the house. To avert boredom, I took lots of walks around town, frequently drove home via a longer route, and spent more time at the gym.

Any port in a storm
Confession: on a couple of occasions, while visiting family, I caught myself peeking at the television for things that would ordinarily be off my radar. Detroit Lions football comes to mind.

Radio
Radio stepped in to fill a big part of the television void. Rock, country, sports — if I was awake, the radio was generally on, to the point where I grew tired of it.

Productivity lapse
Oddly, I found myself feeling unproductive when I was home with nothing to do (i.e. with no television to watch). I did paint some walls and trim, but it wasn’t the same. It’s amazing how much television fills the gaps in our lives.

Your turn. What would you do with no television?

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Pitcher’s new contract offers career lesson

Red Sox fans everywhere are kicking dirt because the team failed to lure much-coveted pitcher Jon Lester back to Beantown. The lefty was traded from the Sox to Oakland late in the year, but became a free agent after the season, able to sign with the team of his choice.

Despite optimistic predictions that he’d return to Boston, Lester agreed to a $155 million, six-year contract with the Chicago Cubs.

As I read the news, I recalled a recent article about changing jobs. It offered advice on what to do if you have another job offer, but your current employer ponies up more compensation to keep you.

The author contends that if your current employer wants to keep you, and sees value in your work, he/she should have compensated you fairly without the threat of a departure. The author argued that you should walk away. Just like Jon Lester did.

Many feel Lester’s decision was due to a low offer that came from the Sox in the spring  for $70 million over four years. Yeah, hardly chump change, but you could argue that the much larger offers Boston made in the fall couldn’t undo the damage of that lowball offer in March.

Your thoughts? Do you stay or walk away if your current employer offers a raise to keep you from jumping ship?

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Joking at the office? Keep this in mind

I’ve always been a bit of a jokester. In my last performance review, my boss mentioned my sense of humor more than anything else (I hope that’s good).

Years ago, a striking lesson taught me the best way to joke at the office, or anywhere else for that matter.

A coworker on the other side of the building had just moved into a new office, complete with a window — a rarity for that particularly company.

He was sitting there, quite pleased, when I stuck my head in. We chatted, spoke about his kids’ photos, etc, and I left with something like, “Cool office. You look right at home.”

The next day he stopped by my office to thank me. When I asked why, he said, “You’re the only one who didn’t make fun of me.” Apparently, others asked who he slept with to get the office, etc.

That hit me like a lightning bolt, and changed the way I joke with people.

Now, I focus on comments that are funny, but positive. For example, if asked about my boss, my reply is something like, “She’s awesome. The best. Very smart, supportive, and never hits me on the nose with a newspaper.”

Okay, it’s a little corny, but you get the point. It’s clever, gets a chuckle, and leaves a positive feeling.

Do no harm
There’s an old saying about truth in jest, and I’ve learned that negative jokes can leave people wondering if you’re serious.  Years ago, at a going-away party, my outgoing boss said, “I’ll miss all of you — well, all but one of you …” I thought he was clearly kidding, but a coworker later asked me who the boss meant.

Be funny and kind at the same time. Sometimes that takes a bit of creativity, but the goodwill it generates is worth the effort.

Your turn? How do you kid around the office?

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A dozen tips for graduates entering the real world

College graduation season is upon us, and for most, it’s time to turn in the textbooks and begin your career. I think back to those days — bright-eyed, ready to take on the world, and completely unaware of what waited around the corner. I wish there had been more real-world wisdom to draw from. Would have saved me many hard knocks.

In that vein, here are some thought for those just starting out, or anyone who looking for a few workplace tips.

Network
Get out and meet people. Go to business or social events and introduce yourself. Connect with people on LinkedIn and other social media sites. More connections translate into more job leads, and also to more resources if you have questions or want advice.

Life isn’t fair, but that’s okay
Disappointment is part of life, and bad things happen for no reason: someone else lands your “perfect job,” your iPhone is stolen, or you miss lunch with a friend because you boss schedule a meeting at noon. Sure, that stinks, but what really matters is how you react. You can say, “Things happen,” and move on, or you can sulk and complain. I promise that if you do the former, you’ll be a much happier person in the long run.

Keep plugging — perseverance and patience pays off
My dream out of college was to be a sportscaster at one of the local stations. I learned of an opening that  July, and spent much of the summer and fall helping out (without pay) and learning the ropes, until I finally got the nod from the news director — in December. I busted my butt for 6 months to show them what I could do, and to make sure they never considered anyone else.

Be ready when opportunity knocks
I’m a firm believer that if you prepare, the opportunity you seek will arise, whether it’s a job, a trip, or a date. In the example above, my foot in the door came when I ran into the station’s top news anchor in a parking lot. I introduced myself and asked for career advice. I had a degree from a great communication school, along with some solid experience, so she set up an interview for me with the Sports Director.

Be true to yourself
Look to work for organizations that share your values and personality. I spent 14 years at L.L. Bean, a company that prides itself on treating people — customers, employees, vendors, and its neighbor — with respect, honesty, and integrity. That was very important to me, and was one of the reasons I stayed there. The same barometer works with friends.

Listen
There’s an old saying that you learn more by listen than talking. Very true.

Look into the mirror
The person you’re most accountable to is you. Can you look at yourself in the mirror at the end of each day and be satisfied with your effort and actions?

Ask questions during job interviews
While a big part of an interview is promoting yourself as the best candidate, it’s also an opportunity to see if this is a good fit for you. Plus, hiring managers appreciate candidates who come prepared with questions.

Don’t oversell yourself
One of my graduate school professors told us were didn’t have enough experience for a two-page resume. And if you worked as a lifeguard, don’t put Crowd Control Officer on your resume. I know lifeguard work is tough, and I’ll give you points for that, but if you exaggerate, you’re onto the rejection pile.

Proofread
A former boss of mine left a resume and cover letter from a potential intern on his desk. He’d circled all of the typos.

Do your homework
Check out a company before you meet with anyone. Look at its webpage, Facebook account, etc.

Everything works out
I’m a believer that things always work out in the end. So if you’re turned done for one job, be ready for the next one. You might find it’s an even better opportunity.

Good luck!

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Being humble makes you a better communicator

During a live shot on the news this week, a local reporter caught my attention when she used the word “I” three times in a sentence. Sure, it’s conversational and brings the reporter into the story, but at the same time, use of that pronoun takes away from the subject of the story.

Know your audience
Communicators often talk about identifying your audience. If you’re selling fishing flies, you want to target people who fish. Manufacturing a new soda? Aim for kids and teens.

That’s pretty basic stuff, but writing to your target audience is where many messages fall short.

My favorite example is the typical, annual benefits enrollment announcement that you see at many companies: “Benefit enrollment packets will be mailed to eligible employees beginning November 1.”
In this message, you’re talking at employees, not to them. Contrast the above example with, “Look for your benefits enrollment packets, coming in the mail in early November.”

The second version rises above the first because it 1) carries a friendly, more conversational tone; and 2) speaks to the reader, not from the company.  It’s a subtle adjustment, but a very effective technique to improve your writing.

What’s the secret? Be humble, and put readers ahead of you and your organization.  Think about what they want to read. It’s human nature to be proud of your accomplishments or your company, but remember that you’re writing for your readers, and the message should focus on them.

Another example
Company focused: XYZ Company, the nation’s leading developer of pain-relieving medications, announced a new, over-the-counter medication that extensive studies show significantly reduce pain caused by arthritis.”

Audience focused: Relief is on the way for arthritis sufferers, thanks to a new over-the-counter medication that studies show significantly reduces joint pain. The medication, Pain Away, was developed by researchers at XYZ Company, the nation’s leading …”

While the company was bumped from the first sentence to the second, your message is more likely to be read and remembered because it addresses an issues many readers have (arthritis pain). And that’s what matters.

Being humble does pay off.

 

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