Posts Tagged career advice

More lessons from the Greatest Generation

Like many around our nation, I’ve admired the contributions of the group called the Greatest Generation — those who grew up in the Great Depression, fought in World War II, and returned to raise the Baby Boomers. I touched on this in an earlier blog, and last week’s Veterans Day made me think more about what this amazing group of people did, and the lessons they left us.

So, Installment Two of Lessons from the Greatest Generation:

Don’t sweat the small stuff
One woman — married more than 50 years — said the low divorce rate among her generation was due to the hardship they endured, from the depression to the war. By comparison, she noted, many common marital spats seemed inconsequential.

Happiness is more than money
Ever wonder why people from that generation like to tell stories about their youth? Because they were happy times. They had little material wealth, and yet, were still happy. Life was an adventure, not a purchase-driven journey.

Be humble
As much as the generation is asked about its sacrifice – whether supporting the war effort or working extra hours to provide for the family – you rarely hear boastful responses. My uncle, a tank driver in WW II, would shrug when I’d talk about his sacrifice. Despite the contributions, there was never a sense of entitlement.

Family comes first
This generation set the standard for family. They worked hard to provide a better life for their children, and were more involved in the family than prior generations.

Embrace change
Has any generation experienced more change? Growing up, they watched horse-drawn carriages deliver blocks of ice to keep food cold. Clothes were washed by hand and hung on a line in the back yard. Decades later, every home has a car, refrigerator, and washer/dryer. And let’s not forget the shift from pencils and ledgers to computers.

Save money, manage debt
Despite modest wages, the Greatest Generation managed to avoid debt and build a nice nest egg. If something was beyond their financial reach, they didn’t buy it, and cash was king.

Manners matter
Please, thank you, and you’re welcome. This generation knew the importance — and power — of these words.

Your turn. What did you learn from the Greatest Generation?

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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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You’re just one word away from being a better writer

There is a simple secret to improve your writing — and your communications in general. Okay, it’s not really a secret, but it is very, very simple.

Use “you” more often.

Yup, I’m serious. Do that and you’re on your way to being a better writer and communicator.

Have a conversation
Using “you” (or forms of it) shifts your messages from talking at someone to speaking with them, making your message more personal and conversational.

Let’s look at a couple of examples to illustrate:
Old School: “Benefit enrollment packets will be mailed to employee’ homes in November.”
New style: “Look for your Benefit Enrollment Packets, coming in the mail in November.”

Old School: Students should return their permission forms by Tuesday.”
New Style: Please return your permission forms by Tuesday.”

Old School : “Members and their families are invited to attend the annual banquet….”
New Style: “You and your family are invited to the annual banquet…”

Be casual and clear
As you can see, incorporating “you” makes your writing more casual, conversational, and clear, while the old school way of referring to your audience in the third person is impersonal, and frankly, a little boring. And “you” is almost like calling someone by their name, one of the best attention grabbers available to communicators.

So give it a try and let me know what you think. While you’re at it, toss a “we” or two. I think you’ll like what you see.

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5 Lessons From the Sharks

I recently discovered ABC’s Shark Tank, a show that brings together entrepreneurs who ask a group of billionaire “Sharks” to invest in their product or service.

Even if you’re not an entrepreneur, the show is interesting and provides some good tips about business and finance:

Prepare
Whether you’re interviewing for a job or applying for a loan, the person on the other side of the table will have a list of questions for you. Anticipate what they might ask, and be ready with responses — and data to back them. How? See the next bullet….

Know your audience
It seems as if some of the entrepreneurs on Shark Tank have never watched the show. For example, offering a 5 percent share of your company in exchange for a Shark’s investment pretty much guarantees a black mark on you ledger, yet it continues to happen. Before you walk into a meeting, learn as much as possible about the interviewer, client, employer, etc., to avoid making obvious blunders.

Be respectful
The Sharks can be harsh at times, but the entrepreneurs pitching their products need to stay on the high road. Rudeness often brings a quick dismissal from center stage.

Listen to experts
In addition to their financial investment, the Sharks bring a wealth of knowledge. Some entrepreneurs take their advice to heart; to others it sounds like Charlie Brown’s teacher. If a successful person offers a suggestion, listen carefully.

Be flexible and realistic
Entrepreneurs often walk away empty-handed after turning down a counter offer from a Shark. One man declined a multi-million dollar deal for his company. Understandably, he has a passion for the product, but $4 million is a big hunk of change to pass up. Think carefully before you turn down an opportunity because it differs from your original plan.

Your turn. What lessons have you learned from watching Shark Tank?

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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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