Archive for Career Advice
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.
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?
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?
By now, you’ve probably seen the “I Quit” video posted by former Next Media Animation video producer, Marina Shifrin.
You’ve probably also seen the response from Next Media Animation.
You might have also seen the news of the job offer to Shifrin from Queen Latifah to work on the Queen Latifah Show.
The original “I Quit” video is well-done and funny. Shifrin’s clearly creative, smart and a phenomenal dancer. But, is airing your grievances with an employer and quitting via YouTube necessary?
I can’t tell if the whole thing is a big stunt or who is telling the truth about the work environment, but choosing the high road and just taking it as a lesson learned might have gone a long way. I’m sure there are many of us who have had bad work experiences, but it may not be the best idea to go on to make a video that basically says “suck it” to said employer.
I would love to hear more about the type of worker Shifrin was and whether her experience maps back to the portrayal in the video. It’s great that she has turned this into a good job opportunity. I do wonder if the video will help or hurt her in the long run. Will future employers be impressed by her video or will it come back to haunt her? I can see it going both ways. Some people like Queen Latifah will be impressed by Shifrin’s guts, but others may shy away from someone who released a video to complain.
What do you think? Was Shifrin’s video a good idea? Would you hire her if you were a potential employer?
One item I think everyone can agree on is that everyone who works or has worked at Next Media Animation clearly has fantastic dance skills. Not to brag, but I would fit in well.
I hope you pictured me with a cane while shaking my fist when reading the headline.
Almost every intern session, we have one or two people innocently ask, “How did you do XYZ before the internet?”
Luckily for me, I was not working in the field prior to Google being the go-to for any quick research, so I have always been able to look up a reporter, do research, pull data, etc.
It always surprises me when that question pops up—maybe because I was used to not simply relying on the Internet in school. I definitely benefited, but even in college, I was still mainly using books (yay, being a history major and really getting to know LexisNexis).
When I first started in the industry, I had purchased a book on public relations that might have been printed in the late-90s. Most of the tactics were tailored for pre-internet success, which was great for learning how things used to be done. Not so great for getting things done when I had no one to learn from.
So, what did you have to do without the internet to be effective in the industry? You were making more phone calls, having more in-person meetings and you were fighting over a printed database of media contacts that was issued periodically.
After doing some research (yes, using the internet), it looks like there are a fair amount of “history of PR” courses offered. I’m not sure if this is a requirement for any programs, but it should be. It’s always good to know about your own industry and how it started and evolved. Even the term “PR” is too specific to describe the type of work I do at least at a strategic communications and marketing firm.
But not knowing the history and evolution of your own industry goes beyond knowing how current companies were formed. You can learn about effective tactics that might be applicable today, spark ideas, but, most importantly, not look “uneducated” by asking questions like that to supervisors who may have worked during the time before the internet.
The Economist printed an interesting article a few years ago that touches on some of the beginnings of the industry as we know it. I’ve been looking into some good books–and better than the ones I initially read–that provide a good history of the industry, but am always open to suggestions.
Today’s post is by Peppercomm intern, Mandy Roth.
Senioritis symptoms escalate uncontrollably as the familiar aromas of chlorine and sunscreen ally to invade the residence halls. You procrastinate from studying for finals by determining the exact fashion in which you will dispose of the plethora of lecture notes that has accumulated throughout the semester; whether burning, shredding, or ripping will elicit the most satisfaction. It’s finally May, and in a few days, the freedom of summer will be upon you; all will be right with the world. Suddenly you’re confronted with a petrifying epiphany: your textbook sell back failed to cover your Dave Matthews summer tour ticket and your lifeguard certifications expired months ago. The taste of freedom that has inhabited your mouth since spring break is instantly tainted with the bitter zest of reality. It’s not long before you regret the hours you spent perfecting your beer pong form and re-tweeting @UnluckyBrian when you should’ve been applying for jobs.
“Taking the summer off won’t be so bad,” you console yourself. “I’ll get a ‘real’ job in the fall anyways.” Great pep-talk, except that everyone with previous interning experience is suddenly ahead of you in the job market. “It’s ok,” you reason, “I’ve still got a few days before summer vacation. That leaves plenty of time to land an internship before June!” Your confidence is wonderful, but you’ve failed to consider where you’ll be applying and what you’re qualified for, let alone the millions of other students who made the same classic error you did.
I was fortunate enough to have been advised by my former boss, “Start your job search in the fall.” I’ll admit it seemed a bit premature at the time, especially considering that entry-level positions are often looking to be filled ASAP. In any case, I soon realized the brilliance in my boss’s advice: I now had the opportunity to familiarize myself with companies and programs to figure out exactly what I wanted and what I had to do to get there. An early start turned out to be especially crucial when I realized that many of the agencies I was interested in happened to be in New York City. Since my graduation date was still but a figment of the future, I was able to visit NYC to determine whether I could in fact call home to the city that never sleeps.
While it might be classy to arrive fashionably late to a party, it’s nothing short of dowdy to apply to a job past the deadline. Even if a company notes that they are looking for an immediate hire, it’ll never hurt to put your name in the hat. Doing so might open up a door for the future; perhaps the company can’t hire you now, but will keep your resume on file for future opportunities. Internships are in high demand, especially in this economy, and the number of intern applicants grows exponentially in the months leading up to summer. Instead of applying at rush hour, give yourself the chance to stand out by applying before the traffic gets too heavy.
Bottom line: a job isn’t going to come after you. It all comes down to being proactive, making connections, taking the time to do your research, and ultimately giving yourself the best chance possible. If you take some time throughout the year to break-away from Facebook stalking your Economics TA and research potential job opportunities instead, suddenly your last months of college might bear a rhythm of relaxation rather than a period of panic.
A few weeks ago, I stumbled across this article from PR Daily on whether or not you need a degree in public relations to be successful in the industry.
To my surprise, the article tries to say you do.
First, let’s look at the industry itself. It is always changing, to the point where—yes, I’m going to say it—“PR” is becoming an antiquated term. You’re starting to hear “strategic communications and marketing” more often than those who are only “PR.” It’s hard to even keep track of the skills you need, use and develop in the industry, so you need a term broader than just PR and that includes a program.
Certain communications schools/programs also require its students to have at least a minor in a liberal arts practice. There’s a reason for that—you’re fostering the very skills that are essential in the industry such as writing, researching and public speaking on a variety of topics.
Is someone with simply a PR degree not going to do well with a task such as compiling in-depth research? Certainly not, but I am confident that someone like me with a history degree is going to have an easier time of knowing how to organize and even have scrappier ideas in where to find that information. Why? Because with the countless papers and projects throughout undergrad, I know I have out-researched my communications friends. Confident.
There are certainly arguments for all types of degrees and pros and cons for all, but to say that you absolutely need a PR degree is just incorrect. Saying that the PR degree will give you a leg up on a non-PR degree (when you can connect why your actual degree would serve you well in the industry) just doesn’t seem right to me. I know many colleagues go on to obtain their masters in PR, which is probably never a bad thing to have, but I still think those people would have very successful careers in the industry without said PR diploma.
I’ve been in this industry for less than three years and can say that if I knew I would end up here, I would still follow the track I did. What I learned in school has come in handy and lets me bring something very different and useful to the table.
My advice? If you’d like to pursue the PR degree, great. Do it. But definitely follow suit of some of the better communications programs and make sure you also have at least a minor in liberal arts if not a double-major.
Like in any field, you should always be looking to learn more and take workshops/classes to make sure you’re staying up in the latest trends and findings.
What’s your take on this debate? Fellow PRiscope contributor, Lin Shen, thinks having a PR degree on your resume definitely puts you above someone who might not have that prior knowledge or experience with potential employers.
We’d love to hear what you think!