Christmas, Hanukkah, New Years, Aaron Rodgers’s birthday—it truly is the most wonderful time of the year. With so many occasions to observe, it’s just a matter of time before corporate holiday parties scuttle their way onto the handy dandy Outlook calendar.
Seeing as we’re here to advise on entry-level PR, what kind of mentors would we be if we didn’t provide a little direction on holiday party etiquette? Below, we’ve compiled several tips for navigating your corporate festivities, and making sure you don’t give your managers any reason to quote Taylor Swift on, “I knew you were trouble when you walked in.”
- Keep it classy. Contrary to popular belief, staying classy isn’t reserved for those residing in San Diego. Whether you’re aware of it or not, your colleagues and managers can and will take note of your behavior. You don’t want to be that girl/guy whose behavior is still a topic of conversation at your firm’s holiday shindig in 2019. Take Mean Girls’ supporting character Amber D’Alessio for example. She may have made out with a hot dog just one time, but people don’t forget. Amber can’t go back in time to fix her famous frank faux pas, but it’s not too late for you to keep it classy. You’ll be glad you did.
- Use the holiday party as an opportunity to really get to know your colleagues. Electing to participate in the summer kickball league was one of the best choices I made during my interning period at Peppercomm, as it posed an opportunity to connect with colleagues outside of the business context. The holiday party presents a similar opportunity: an occasion to click with coworkers in a casual, stress-free environment. Don’t be afraid to step outside of your comfort zone and converse with people you may not be extremely familiar with—that’s exactly what you should be doing!
- If you’re going to drink, have a glass of water between each beer. Holiday parties are not the time to whip out your tremendous beer pong skills, or engage in a flip cup competition- especially as an intern. Socially drinking is acceptable, but you never want to be “that intern” for years to come. General rule of thumb is watch the alcohol intake- and as tempting as it may be when you see other coworkers engage in such behavior- do as they say, and not as they do. Which brings us to our next point…
- Don’t always do as you see. Depending on your office situation, some office parties can be a little more “free” than others. If you see a supervisor/superior drinking a little more than they should, it doesn’t mean you should, too. Always err on the side of caution and keep it to a two drink maximum. It’s important to always maintain a level of professionalism.
- Dress the part. Ask your coworkers who may have been at former office parties what the dress code is. You don’t want to be underdressed—or on the flip side—wearing a gown if it’s casual.
- Beware the next day. Whether or not you’re always early, right on time or a few minutes late for work—make SURE that you’re early for work on the morning following your corporate party. This is a day some higher-ups may be paying attention to those who are a bit late or, even worse, calling in sick. Even if you have completely legitimate excuses, being late or calling in is a red flag that you may have had too much fun the night before . . . and believe me, people notice.
For even more tips on the topic, see Jacqueline Whitmore’s recent Entrepreneur piece 7 Ways to Stay Out of Trouble During Your Holiday Office Party.
Do you have any holiday party horror stories or additional etiquette tips to share? Please comment below—we’d love to hear from you!
Today’s guest post was written by Peppercomm account executive, Nicole Hall.
As a 16-year-old girl, I was motivated by two things when getting my first job—money and boys. So naturally, I decided to apply at Albertsons as a courtesy clerk where my crush at the time worked. I can’t say that the money was great (minimum wage was significantly lower nine years ago), but I did learn the value of a dollar and began to develop a sense of financial independence from my parents.
My first day on the job, I realized that a “courtesy clerk” is actually a pseudonym for “person who bags groceries and carries them out to your car in the blazing Texas heat.” Other duties of mine included collecting carts from outdoors, sweeping the outside and inside of the store, returning groceries to their rightful place on the shelf after a customer return, and cleaning the bathrooms. This job was far from glamorous, and at times I wanted to just walk out. However, my relationship with the rest of the Albertson’s staff got me through each shift. During my rounds of returning groceries, I had made friends with the girls in the bakery (who always managed to give me several cookies throughout the day), the grocery stockers, the deli workers, and of course the rest of my courtesy clerk and cashier family.
So when it came time for everyone in the store to vote on who would represent them at the annual Customer Service Competition, I won the courtesy clerk position by a landslide. The competition involved a cashier/courtesy clerk team from each store, competing in a day-long event of working and being judged on our bagging skills, speed, customer service and overall charisma. If you have ever seen the movie Employee of the Month, it is exactly like that, except this real-life event incorporated employees from several different stores and spirited costumes. Lori, my cashier teammate, and I won the district competition, so we went on to participate in regional. I can’t remember exactly, but I think we placed fifth or sixth there, so we (thankfully) did not proceed to state.
Despite the ups and downs of a job bagging groceries, I did learn a few lessons that apply to me even today:
- Customer service is key: Whether I’m being formally graded on it by judges or not, my customer service skills are always being evaluated and are an indicator of the quality of the relationships I have with my clients. It is essential to know that the customer or client always comes first.
- There IS a correct way to bag groceries: This one may not apply literally to public relations, but the essence is the same. According to my Albertson’s training videos, you are supposed to first build walls in the grocery bag with cereal boxes and then fill in the middle with cans, fruit, etc. In PR, I like to think that this applies most to the writing aspect. Whether it is a press release, strategy document or a byline, you have to develop a base structure or outline and then fill in the details.
- Develop several skill sets: Having different responsibilities throughout the day as a courtesy clerk may have been frustrating at times (especially when it was over 100 degrees outside), but it helped break up the day. I could go outside and grab carts, stand at the cash register and bag groceries, or make rounds throughout the store to clean up and put things back. In my current position, my day may consist of pitching media, writing a press release, a client phone call, helping plan an event, and attend a brainstorm. Not only does versatility help break up my day, but it helps make me a better asset on my different accounts.
And if you were wondering, my crush did end up becoming my boyfriend for about six months. He must have been impressed with my ability to bag groceries in record time with a smile on my face.
In this guest post from Catharine Cody, junior account executive at Peppercomm, Catharine shares some lessons learned from her first job.
You know how everyone says that the best time of their life was in college? They say it because it’s true. College was amazing. We had a free gym, the luxury to make our own schedules and we were finally of legal age to drink! I blame college for the cold slap of reality I received the day I started my first real job.
After parlaying a few successful internships at NBC into a full time Production Assistant job, I realized that college taught me very little. The earliest I ever woke up in college was 9:30am, and that was a bad day! Most of my classes didn’t start until after 11:00am. That meant that I could wake up and watch a solid hour of Wife Swap before even washing my face.
So, you can imagine my consternation when I found out my new hours: Thursdays & Fridays 8-4pm and Saturdays & Sundays 4am-4pm. That’s a 40 hour week smashed into four days. Goodbye carefree days of my youth!
After a few months, however, I settled into a nice routine. I would go to bed on Friday nights at 8pm and wake up at 2:45am in order to get to the studio by 3:45. During my time there, I created graphics to accompany the news segments, wrote copy and edited video. By the time 4pm rolled around on Sunday I had the biggest feeling of accomplishment, like, EVER. Monday-Wednesdays were spent catching up on sleep. I had no social life, and stopped hanging out with the majority of my friends.
Unfortunately, Comcast bought NBC in 2011 causing many jobs to be cut, including mine. But, I’ve never ONCE regretted my time spent at MSNBC. I even got to meet some cool amazing famous people like Snooki, Mike Tyson and Bradley Cooper. I met more high-caliber celebrities like Ariana Huffington & Bob Woodward, too. I also learned some valuable lessons that I’ve taken with me to my current job:
- School is cool, but doesn’t prepare you for the real world. Class at 10am? Really guys? In what world does work start at 10am? Questioning professors makes you look good in class, but some bosses don’t want to be second-guessed.
- Complaining gets you nowhere. Don’t complain to your boss that your commute sucks and you’ve been up for hours. Chances are s/he’s been up and working a lot longer and harder than you.
- Follow instructions. Working is hard. Following instructions is even harder. Bosses and supervisors get mad when you don’t follow their instructions. So, just do it right the first time.
- True friends are hard to find. Most of your friends will eventually stop asking you to hang out when you constantly say you are working, or too tired. True friends never stop asking you to hang out and will work to find time that works for both of you.
We all love lists, right? I sure do (*cough* Buzzfeed *cough*). I came across two lists this past week that not only give good advice, but also have fantastic imagery to go along with each point. One has to do with what journalists do that annoy PR pros and, of course, the second list looks at what PR pros do to annoy journalists.
I hope you enjoy as much as I do:
Today’s post is by Business Outcomes intern, Alex Garay.
This fall marks the second time in my career that I have tasked myself with the difficult, but rewarding act of balancing an internship with school. To some, it may seem crazy to give away time during the already-busy school week (especially on Fridays), but I really think it’s worth it. However, there are some advantages and disadvantages of taking on this type of schedule that you should know about before you decide that it is right for you.
An obvious benefit of undertaking this balancing act is that your time management skills will improve significantly. With a part-time internship during school, you may not have the morning before class to finish an assignment, you may not be able to meet with your group on Friday, and you may not have the whole weekend to study for an exam. There is certainly time lost, but you can make it up – it just means that you have to stay on top of your free time. Your internship will likely have set hours, but your schoolwork does not, which means that utilizing spare time is very important. Get started on an assignment the day it is given. Study for your exams over the course of a week rather than the night before. Prepare your end of group work early so that if you can’t meet as long as you’d like, you will still be able to pull your weight in the team.
As a junior or senior with a full-time internship in the fall, other difficulties arise – the summer internship you undertake after junior year is likely the most important, and of course during senior year it’s important to consider full-time employment. That means that while you’re juggling an internship and classes, you may have to worry about internship fairs, information sessions, and other job-related events that take place during the academic semester. It is difficult to balance so many commitments at once, but it can also be very impressive to potential employers, and should be highlighted when applying for jobs. This relates back to time management, which will be of even more importance in this scenario.
Another benefit of working while taking classes is that you may notice parallels between your work and your studies that help you in one, or both. The first time I took on an internship along with a full credit load, I worked at a record label, and had a class on market research that was helpful to my work in forecasting album sales. This time around, one of my classes on the responsibility of companies and corporations to the public fits in well with the analysis of clients’ PR efforts that I undertake at Peppercomm’s Business Outcomes team. These are just two examples from my own experience – you might find an even stronger correlation between work and school.
Taking on an internship during an academic semester is certainly difficult, but don’t be too quick to write it off. Managing your time well is a skill that you will have to learn at one point or another in the professional world, and it doesn’t hurt to master it while you’re still in school. Plus, you’ll gain valuable work experience that can be combined with previous jobs and summer internships to improve your all-around candidacy for positions that interest you. Of course, some extra spending money as a college student goes a long way, too!
You may have seen this on LinkedIn (and if you are reading this and are not on LinkedIn . . . get on it quick), but editors of the blog clearly prompted their bloggers to write about their first jobs. My newsfeed has been inundated with these stories, but got me thinking about my own first job.
Many young ladies probably can point to babysitting as their first jobs. Not me.
I was never really interested in watching kids. Meats were where it was at.
My grandparents own a deli in my hometown that’s now been there for more than 40 years. Everyone in my family has, does or will work there at some point in their lives. My point started at the age of 13 and ended when I went to college—sort of (every holiday season you will see our family go back to help on the busiest days. If you’re in Warwick, RI on 12/24/13, visit The Food Chalet and you’ll find me organizing the area where we keep the orders for the busiest day of the year).
I made plenty of mistakes, but gained so much more. I can point to my years at the deli and learning from my grandparents for my work ethic and knowledge now.
A few tips I learned at an early age that I’ve carried with me:
1) There is always work to be done. Whether it’s something you can get finished early or a new project you can start or even if you can lend a helping hand to a colleague, there is no reason to not be working during your scheduled time. I learned this early on and has done nothing but help me in my career. My bosses after my grandparents noticed and it helped me to standout from my peers and colleagues.
2) If you’re flexible with your employer, he or she will be flexible with you. Sure, sometimes there are awful employers, but in my experience, even with the “jerkiest” of people this still rang true. I always helped when I could even if it wasn’t my scheduled shift. If someone called in sick and they called me, even if I didn’t feel like going in, unless I had something else that I couldn’t reschedule going on, I would go in. Doing this (even when I moved on to bartend, etc.), made my bosses be a bit more flexible when I asked for time off or needed help.
3) Be a team player. So #1 and #2 can also fall in here, but making it clear that you’re on the team, in it for the long haul and see the bigger picture of what you do for your company, whether you work at a deli, restaurant or a Fortune 500 Company, is important. It helps you to find meaning in your work/job and also shows your boss(es) that you’re committed to the company.
4) I can count change back super-fast without having a computer tell me how. It seems strange that this would be something I can do quickly, but my grandparents didn’t want employees who weren’t able to count change back from the register—as in, if you bought something from me, the register didn’t tell me how much change to give you back from your $20 bill. This was especially helpful when I went on to waitress/bartend. I’m also pretty handy at yard sales, too. Just saying.
And those tips are only the “tip” of the iceberg. I also have some fantastic stories and really think, while it’s a lot of hard work (and oftentimes mentally exhausting work), everyone should try their hand in the food-service industry. I would never trade in my time working there for anything.
So that was MY first job, but what was yours? Any lessons you’ve carried with you?
Today’s post is by Peppercomm Business Outcomes intern, Alex Garay.
Ever since I can remember, I was never really a fan of any activity that had one specific, strict way in which it should be done. As a child when learning to play the piano, I abhorred the concept of “piano fingering”, where certain notes had to be played with certain fingers. If I could find a way to play the exact same notes in an easier way, why not do it? If my method works and produces an equal or better result, it couldn’t be a bad thing, could it? Why do I have to do it the “right” way if my way works better for me? Some may disagree, but I’ve always enjoyed activities, tasks, classes, and jobs more when I have the freedom to find a better way. A task becomes more rewarding, exciting, and funner for me when there is more than one way to do it; in school I enjoy classes that involve a creative element (such as strategy, marketing, and some finance) more than classes that teach a subject that has always been done way and is designed to always be done that way. Classes that allow for some creativity often provide example-based experience where you can test your ability to think in new ways, which I think is a more valuable learning experience than simply learning a process. Of course, it’s incredibly important to explore all types of classes so that you know where you stand and can understand what type of work you feel more comfortable with. Remember, however, that there is not always a clear line between by-the-book and creative.
I personally don’t always like doing something the “right way”, but don’t get me wrong – established processes are obviously very important, and they are a testament to the creativity and insight of their developers. Someone, or several people, worked hard to facilitate the future by creating methods that can be followed. But I think that an established process should be a baseline, a benchmark that can then be improved upon and developed further to facilitate progress and ensure that it is still relevant. This could apply to anything, from something as simple as data entry to something as complex as federal tax code. I am a strong believer in the idea that “there is always a better way”, and I also believe that it can be applied to almost anything.
How does this relate to job searches, internships, and PR? Well, I’ve had jobs and internships where I have to do the same thing, the same way, every day, and then I’ve had and internships where I have the freedom to do something a different way if I can show that it’s easier, more efficient, or in some way better than the current way. It’s not difficult for me to decide which of these I enjoy more and get more fulfillment from. Public relations, marketing, communications, strategy – they’re all great industries to examine and carefully consider for someone who seeks that sort of experience. There are others, to be sure – in fact, almost any industry will have a creative aspect. But if that freedom and room for creativity is what you’re looking for, chances are you’ll find it if you involve yourself in one or more of these industries, because they revolve around new ideas – there’s not always a “right way.”
As we head into the colder months, it’s important to start thinking about just that—colds.
Being an entry-level employee or intern sometimes might make you feel that you need to work through whatever illness you may have. I’ve been there myself and know that struggle.
There are some offices and industries that expect you to work at all times, but there are others that are the exact opposite. Despite whatever situation you’re in there are a few items to keep in mind if you’re not feeling well:
- Don’t come into the office. This is pretty much common sense, but really, sometimes when you even have a cold, you don’t realize how quickly it can spread in an office setting. You’re basically working in a glorified Petri dish and spreading your germs quickly.
- You could actually be sicker than you think. This is an extreme case, but when I was in college, I started coughing and kept being really tired for much longer than I would like to say because when I say it out loud, it seems insane that I didn’t go to a doctor—but I chalked it up to just burning the candle at both ends. What’s funny was that the cough was a little worse than I thought – I had two types of pneumonia and the whooping cough at the same time . . . and had been spreading that around the entire time.
- You’re not doing good work. I don’t care what anyone says, when you don’t feel well, you’re not doing your best work. Sure, your work might be adequate or even good, but it’s not your best and most efficient. You do your company and your clients a disservice when trying to work when sick. You’re just not at your best and you’re being paid for your best.
- Don’t come into the office. Yes, this is on here twice. I know there are more out there like me—if a coworker gets me sick, I get mad. I want them to feel better, of course, but I also don’t want to get sick, so STAY HOME.
Sometimes there is the worry that if you take a sick day you may be missing out on important work and meetings. Also, sometimes if you’re feeling a little sick, you might not be totally down for the count. In situations like this, if you’re able to work remotely, that’s a good option. I would just advise that you really listen to your body. You want to make sure that you’re always able to give your work 100 percent.
Of course, you need to always be working hard and need to balance taking time off, but you need to be considerate of others and of your own health.
What’s your take on sick days?
If you’ll recall, Laura recently lead a discussion surrounding a PR Daily article on whether or not a public relations degree is necessary to be successful in the industry. Having achieved a PR degree from Virginia Tech in May, I thought I’d weigh in on the issue to provide a fresh grad’s perspective.
In all honesty, when I first read the PR Daily story, I felt empowered by my newly obtained degree. I thought, “Chicka chicka yeah, PR degree, PR degree! I have mine and am now a leg up on everyone because Staci Harvatin said so!” Unfortunately for me, this spree of entitlement was short-lived; when I actually took a couple minutes to consider Staci’s words, I realized just how much I’d come to question her conclusions.
While I don’t doubt that my communication classes provided me with a solid foundation of industry knowledge, I can confidently say that my business and entrepreneurship classes had just as much of an influence on my career preparation. Another point to consider is the fact that experience speaks for itself. A little time in the trenches and your specific degree choice will take on a more supplemental role.
Peppercomm recently held an off-site meeting of the minds where we gathered to discuss the company’s evolving role in our rapidly changing industry. One topic of conversation was the fact that PR is becoming less of an industry and more of a service offering within a larger strategic communications umbrella. The reality is, firms that offer public relations services exclusively are less likely to “make it” in today’s technologically driven world; they’ll simply be expunged by agencies that can supply a wider array of offerings. Stricter competition calls for enhanced creative processes…and imaginative thinking is much more likely to occur when diverse minds are brought together—meaning employees with differing backgrounds and degrees!
Considering our transforming trade, it’s more ridiculous than ever to assume that PR is the only degree choice that will suffice. To clarify, I’m certainly not suggesting that a PR degree it’s a poor selection—I’m just saying it’s not the only practical choice for a successful future in the strategic communications field.
What’s your take on the issue? Please let us know in the comments below!