Archive for Career Advice

Jul
23

Should You Apply for That Job?

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job-searchWe all have that dream job or dream company we’d do anything to work for. But what happens when an opportunity pops up and you are underqualified for the position? They’re looking for seven years of very specific experience and you have some and you think you can map back your skills to the position—do you apply?

There is no simple answer outside of: maybe. But you first need to be realistic about just how underqualified you may be.

Years of experience aren’t necessarily a “be all end all” requirement for recruiters. The same goes for skills. Perhaps you have similar skills to what is listed and you can make the case for how they transfer easily. And you also are a great fit for that particular team and the company culture. Done. You’re hired.

It’s important to remember that new skills can be taught, so if you’re not that perfect fit according to the job listing, there may be some pieces that can be taught on the job.

Beyond making the case for your skills, using your resources will also be helpful.  Look up your connections at a company you’re looking to get your foot in the door with. Those people would be able to let you know if you should or should not apply for that position, and could potentially serve as a reference for you.

Now, let’s think about your industry accomplishments. Let’s say with the example listed above, the job is looking for a candidate with seven+ years of experience and you have two and a half of experience you think is relevant. It might not worth your time to put in for that job. You may feel you have those skills, and you might, but is this a role where you would be directing or managing? You need to consider that you either may not do well in that position or you might not have anyone to teach or mentor you along the way (or both) if you were to get the position by selling yourself up. Your professional development could become severely stunted.

With that said, it is certainly worth going in for an informational interview, referencing that particular job posting and seeing where the conversation goes. Perhaps there is a more suitable job for you that hasn’t been listed or may be listed soon. You’ll have started to make a connection and not overstepped by wasting the time of recruiters by applying for something you shouldn’t have.

There are so many little details and nuances that could have an impact here.  Tell us, have you or a friend ever applied for a position they were underqualified for? Any advice?

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Today’s guest post is from Meredith Briggs, future PR/communications star and current Peppercomm intern.

 

4For those of you who don’t know me, I’m a French and American Studies double major at Trinity College, a small liberal arts school in Hartford, CT. The French major is pretty self-explanatory, but American Studies occasionally throws people off. Most people just assume it’s synonymous with American history, but it’s much more than that. This major looks at all different aspects of American culture and lifestyle. For example, why we do certain things and what influences us.  I have taken classes ranging from “American Technology,” to “Female Bodies in 19th Century America,” to, my personal favorite, “American Food and Culture.” I chose to be an American Studies major because each semester I was drawn to the classes–there is such a wide range of classes to take. But while I do love my majors, for the past couple of years I have been drawn to the fast-paced PR/communications world. So, here I am today, a PR/communications intern who has never taken a class even remotely close to PR, advertising, marketing or journalism.

When I applied for my first PR internship last summer, the only knowledge I really had about the industry was from watching Kim Cattrall’s portrayal of Samantha Jones on Sex and the City. I’ve come to learn is not the most accurate portrayal of the industry, but hey, what else did I have to go on?  As soon as I heard that I had landed an interview with a PR firm I had applied to, I immediately called my dad. Of course he was excited and proud and wanted to do whatever he could to help me prepare and succeed. After we hung up my dad emailed me a document full of practice questions and told me to start practicing.

I sat at the desk in my dorm room and opened the document. The first question he listed was bolded with a red asterisk next to it saying “This will, without a doubt, be the first question they ask you.” Overwhelmed by the thought that I was too simple and had nothing to offer, I called my dad again. “Already?” he said. I started to hysterically explain to him that I would have nothing to talk about in my interview. My dad then asked, “Well, tell me a little about yourself.” I started to give the most basic answers: name, where I was from, school, and majors. Before I could even continue he interrupted me and asked me to explain my majors. After I answered, he asked me to explain why I picked each major. Lastly, he asked me how it applied to the PR world. If he had asked me this right after I had “told him a little about myself,” I would have said it doesn’t at all. But after having asked me the other two questions, I knew there was connection. After taking a few moments to think, I began rattling off different ways in which my majors actually helped me.

While I may not speak French in the office, having spoken French since 1st grade has provided me with many opportunities that allowed me to expand how I saw and thought of the world. I went to an immersion elementary school where all of my classes were taught in French. In 5th grade I participated in a “Back to Back” program, where at the age of 10 I traveled to Brittany, France, and lived alone with a family for a month and a half. The fall semester of my junior year of college I was again given the opportunity to study abroad in Paris. For four months I studied alongside French students, and explored France, along with other parts of Europe, which allowed me to change how I saw the world. Going to a very small high school, and a fairly small college, I was fairly closed minded to any world outside of what I knew. But exploring different cultures allowed me to not only learn about but actually experience different cultures and understand how and why they do certain things.

As for my American Studies major, it first and foremost gave me a chance to practice writing, which is, as you all know, very important in PR. In the PR industry you have to write a certain way for different people, just as you have to with different professors and different topics. Even at Peppercomm I write pitches one way for a financial services client, and another way for a consumer client, because the people I’m hoping to attract are two very different types of people. My American Studies major has also taught me to think about how to approach a situation or topic from all different aspects. My sophomore year I had to write a seven page paper analyzing a medical advertisement from the 19th century. While at first the task seemed impossible, as the ad was relatively small, I ended up writing more than the seven pages. I analyzed how the characters in the ad were portrayed, from their poses to their clothes, how that reflected the time period, the written text, and who the intended audience was, to name a few. These are all critical thinking skills that the industry uses daily, and I was able to learn them even without the traditional PR major.

When I went in for the interview I was nervous, of course, but had a new confidence I was lacking before.  While on paper I may not have seemed like the most ideal candidate for a PR internship, I knew I had something to offer them. I was essentially pitching myself to this company for a summer internship position, just as you all pitch your clients to publications. They may not always be the most obvious choice for the article, but as a PR professional, or in my case a desiring PR professional, it is up to you to highlight all of the possibilities your clients have to offer, instead of any downfalls they may have. Fortunately, my pitch was successful and I was offered the position. My summer internship only reinforced my desire to continue in the PR industry, and taught me (along with my dad) that even though I don’t have a PR background, that doesn’t put me at a disadvantage for succeeding in the PR world.

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Today’s guest post is by star Peppercomm intern, Mary Insinga.

 

keepcalmsuperintern12During my summer internship here at Peppercomm, my entire intern class was fortunate enough to be given the opportunity to spend the afternoon at the Council of PR Firms’ annual ‘Internfest’ hosted at NYU. The conference gathered interns from 15 different public relations firms in the area.  During the event, we heard from a variety of industry professionals, including keynote speaker CEO of Ogilvy Public Relations; Christopher Graves, Managing Partner at Finn Partners; Gail L. Moaney and four Senior Account Executives from various agencies.

Graves began the conference with a discussion about ‘Reputation Killers’ and outlined how brand reputations are established and highlighted some horror stories about how a reputation can be easily tarnished. Next, Gail L. Moaney’s lecture about specialization in the public relations industry seemed to especially strike a chord throughout the audience. Gail spoke of her focus in the travel and economic development industries, while illustrating the range of specializations that a full service public relations firm often offers. Each speaker opened the floor to questions and after Gail’s discussion in particular, the audience seemed eager to pick her brain.

I began to notice a trend in the questions following Gail’s lecture and during the panel discussion. Questions such as, “how would you suggest we go about exploring other specializations within our firm,” and “have you ever felt pigeonholed in your specialization and have become curious about other sectors?” I realized that these were all questions that have never crossed my mind here at Peppercomm. I even spoke to a couple interns afterwards who also expressed that their internship was a very specialized experience.

On my walk to the subway, I reflected on the past few hours of my afternoon and thought, “did they send us here knowing that this would only further our appreciation of Peppercomm?” Because that was exactly my take away.

As a summer intern at Peppercomm, I work on six different accounts across a wide range of industries and have never once felt pigeonholed or stuck in one sector of the PR industry. I work on a bank, a hedge fund, a skin care line, an art auction, an online credit card marketplace and a leading industrial furniture maker. Each account has quenched my exploratory thirst to survey the industry. Thankfully, I have found myself in a full service communications and Marketing firm that encourages its employees to explore and take risks, always giving us the opportunities to do so.

Each week, Peppercomm offers a PSU (which stands for Peppercomm State University) that every employee is encouraged to attend. The PSU’s expose Peppercommers to the full range of services that are offered to our clients and ensures that Peppercomm employees continue to hone their professional skills. PSU has been a unique part of my internship experience and has been instrumental to my understanding of the Peppercomm culture.

It was actually during a recent PSU that I attended called, “Writing a Creative Brief” that I realized my desire to continue to explore and understand a bit more about the services outside of media relations that we offer.

My educational experience in college was very much a creative one, and after watching and listening to the creative team discuss their role in the firm, I found myself truly intrigued. In turn, I reached out to the Creative Director here at Peppercomm, to learn a bit more about the projects and services they offer our clients. One calendar invite later, and I had a meeting to show him some of my creative work.

Listening to the concerns of those other interns at Internfest who seemed eager to get advice on how to excel and how to break out of their current focus, just made me all the more grateful of the comfort and accessibility I feel here at Peppercomm.

The culture at Peppercomm is what I have found to be the most distinguishing feature of my experience as an intern here this summer. The approachability is unmistakable but it seems like this might not be the case for the rest of my fellow PR interns working in NYC this summer.

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Jun
27

My First Job: Nanny

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Today’s guest post was written by Peppercomm associate, Claire Schutt.

When I was nineteen, I was a nanny. For 10 weeks, five days a week, from eight-thirty in the morning until six-thirty in the evening, I was responsible for the two most wonderful little girls.

The girls and I were very close. Curious strangers would after ask if I was their older sister, or sometimes if I was their mother. In both instances, I was flattered. It was clear that I wasn’t just any adult assigned to oversee two children for the day; I was a part of the family. So the girls and I would giggle and say yes.

Their parents, and technically my bosses, trusted me completely with their daughters. This level of trust gave me the freedom, and the responsibility, to plan each day. I would ask the little girls what they wanted to do and shape each day around that. So some days were spent almost entirely at the pool, while some days were spent at my house trying on old ballet costumes and dancing to the Nutcracker soundtrack. Some days we went grocery shopping, some days we went for ice cream and some days we drew self-portraits on the driveway with hot-pink chalk. Every day included quiet time.

One day the girls were playing tag around the house as I was making lunch. I could hear the younger girl running down the stairs full steam ahead and her older sister chasing her, demanding that she return the ballerina snow globe to its rightful place on the dresser. Suddenly I heard a crash. I dropped the peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and ran to the living room. The snow globe was smashed into pieces. Sticky liquid and small white dots, meant to be snow, now covered the wood floor. Glass was everywhere. For a second I just stood there, stunned. In my head I was thinking about how to best fix the situation while keeping the peace between siblings. Before I could react, the younger girl turned to her sister and said how sorry she was. The older girl gave her little sister a hug and told her that she knew it was just an accident; she then looked at me and said she was going to get the vacuum from the front hall closet and help me clean up. It was small moments like this that made my job so meaningful.

What did I learn? I learned how to be more patient; a four year old and a six year old might need you to explain the plot of a picture book more than once. I learned how to manage our time each day; their mom once told me that however much time I thought I needed to do something with the girls, like get them ready for camp, to go ahead and multiply that by five – she was right. I learned how to be wrong; sometimes the six year old does actually know the best route from her house to the pool. And I learned how to work hard; when you are responsible for the well-being of two little kids, you can’t give it anything but your best effort.

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Today’s guest post is by future communications star and current Peppercomm intern, Samantha Rushovich.  

 

determination_by_sthlrd67-d570zvtDuring my sophomore year at Boston University, I found myself in a difficult position–I was a film and television major, but quickly learned that it was not the career track for me. By the end of the term I decided I needed to make a decision, and soon, regarding my major. I decided to try advertising.

I took advertising 101 the next semester and kept film and television as my minor (I wanted to continue with my screenwriting classes). I enjoyed advertising, but I wasn’t motivated. I poked around on some ad agency websites searching for internship opportunities, but wasn’t inspired by any of the positions I found.

I did some research into public relations. As I learned more about the differences between the two professions, my interest quickly escalated. PR was challenging in a way that advertising wasn’t. Stuck in advertising classes for the semester, I decided to pursue public relations outside of the classroom. I was determined to get a PR internship for the upcoming summer, but had no intention of going in blind.

I immediately joined Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA )and attended as many meetings as I could. At a PRSSA convention I attended, the first keynote speaker was Rob Flaherty, CEO of Ketchum. I was sitting there confused and nervous when suddenly Flaherty called out a number. I looked down at a piece of paper I was handed when I walked in. He had called my number. I raised my hand and he came over and handed me brand new iPod speakers. If this wasn’t a sign that I had found the right major, then I don’t know what is?

I applied to be an account executive for Unleashed PR,the student run PR agency at BU, where I started acquiring account experience, and a better understanding of how the  industry works.

Next, I started hunting for all summer internships I was qualified for in the Boston area. Several interviews and a couple rejections later, I received an email saying I was accepted to be a special events intern at the Alzheimer’s Association, helping organize their annual charity walk that drew thousands of attendees each year. A PR internship that also included event planning and was at a non-profit I was a huge supporter of? I was absolutely thrilled. On top of that I had secured a fall internship for myself at a PR and lobbying firm.

From non-profit to public affairs, I was well on my way to becoming a PR professional just like that. At the start of the semester my future seemed bleak. I was picturing myself waiting tables in L.A. while trying to sell screenplays. Suddenly, my future seemed bright and thrilling, filled with potential success and excitement.

So, what does all this mean? It means that even if you’re not a senior graduate student with a 4.0, you can still land the internship you want. You just need to take the initiative and do what you have to do in order to get what you want. It’s surprising how far you can get yourself when you’re determined.

 

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If you’ve read this blog for a while, you would know that when making entry-level hires, Peppercomm looks to it’s current and former pool of interns first. In fact, we’d say about 1 out of 4 of our employees is a former intern. Here’s a few examples of our former interns who now work full-time here (I’m a former Pepperomm intern, too): Maddie Skahill, Chris Piedmont, Mandy Roth, Colin Reynolds and Nicole Hall. Seriously, those are just to name a few, I can certainly go on. A good testament to our retention is probably current senior director and former Peppercomm intern, Sara Whitman.

So you can always go to any of these amazing communications stars for tips and tricks of how to turn that internship into a full-time job, but we also loved the stories in this Forbes article: How To Turn Your Internship Into A Job: Three Real-Life Stories.

After you’ve read that article, let us know if you have any tips of your own or any questions on how to land that dream job.

 

 

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images

So, I may have written about my first job before, but wanted to share my experiences with my second and still longest-standing job I’ve ever held. Specifically, this is about how I landed that second job.

In May of 2004, I came back from my freshman year of college looking for something that I could quickly start to make significant cash. Working in a restaurant seemed like the perfect answer, mainly because of tips.

While my deli experience certainly set me up to be successful in terms of customer service, waiting tables is a different animal. Just from the process of applying for a restaurant job, I learned so much.

My first morning back at home from freshman year, I immediately hit the phones calling restaurants to see if they were taking applications. I learned that most people will ignore you on the phone (e.g.  say that they aren’t taking applications, when the person who answered isn’t in a position to say ‘yes’ or ‘no’), or tell you to come in and fill out an application.

I switched gears by putting on something business casual and printing out the latest version of my resume. I headed out on the road and drove to about 15 restaurants in one day. I asked to speak with a manager at each location and made sure they saw me and spoke with me.

Why was this experience so important?

  • It taught me even more about motivation. I was desperate for a job. I had saved money from all of my previous experiences, but knew I needed something full-time and ongoing . . . immediately. I was flat out told by most that they had already hired for the summer. Getting told that over and over after driving all around that state to find restaurants was a bit discouraging, but I had to just move on and quickly.
  • It taught me to overcome uncomfortable experiences. From that first day, I had two good leads. One was after speaking to a manager at Chili’s Grill & Bar.

We talked a lot about sports and he was a Syracuse basketball fan. He told me he would call me about an interview. After a few days, I never got that call. I didn’t want to, but I knew if I didn’t call them, I would never hear. I called back when that manager was on again and what I feared had happened. He said he didn’t remember me and my immediate response (which was said in a very nice, but direct way) was “Well, we talked about Syracuse sports and you had said you wanted me to come in for a second interview. I think I would do very well there. When should I come in?” They had me come in the next day.

  • It taught me that if you’re honest, good things happen.  I had gone to school out of state my freshman year, but due to some unforeseen circumstances, I thought it would be best to transfer to a school closer to home, but I wasn’t sure if I wanted to make that jump yet. Many of the restaurants I applied to made it very clear that they don’t want seasonal help. They wanted to put the effort into training someone who would be in it for the long haul.

When I made it to the next round of interviews at Chili’s, which was with the general manager, he immediately questioned my college status. I told him that regardless of where I was for school come August, I would still be an employee. I planned to work at this chain throughout the rest of college and wanted one place where I would have a set schedule. I would work whatever shifts they needed whenever I didn’t have school.

His first concern was his store, of course, but I assured him that in the event that I ultimately decided to go back to Syracuse, I would transfer to the restaurant there. I also told him I would let him know as soon as I made that decision, that way they could start training a replacement.

As you could probably tell, mainly because Chili’s is the only restaurant mentioned here, the general manager ultimately took a chance on me. I worked at the same location for nearly seven years. In fact, my last shift was just a few days before moving to New York City and starting at Peppercomm.

The last point was an important one. A few years after starting there when I had worked my way into getting better shifts, being a staff trainer, working expo (if you’re in the biz, you know what that is . . . and it’s “fun”), and bartending, that same GM pulled me aside and told me how he struggled with whether or not to hire me. He admitted that every summer he had people flat out lie to him about not leaving, etc., when they were local college students. He then said he really appreciated how long I had already been there and that he took a chance because I had been so honest, he felt like he could actually trust that I wouldn’t burn them.

That meant a lot to me, since sometimes it can feel like an employer is taking advantage of you, but I have always believed that if you treat your employer well and you are flexible, they will give you the same courtesy. And that has proved true in my experience.

The restaurant industry is not an easy industry to work in, but I worked through some of the toughest situations and learned the ultimate lessons in multitasking. As you can tell, just the experience of applying proved to teach me some interesting lessons that I still carry with me.

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Photo Courtesy of Orlando  Sentinel

Photo Courtesy of Orlando Sentinel

This time of year always brings an influx of familiar faces delivering speeches around the world and thanks to sites like YouTube we can watch them all. Elin Nordegren delivered a speech that caught my attention this year. You know her or at least of her because of her famous ex-husband who’s a professional golfer.

It was only a few years ago that she was thrust onto the top of all the headlines when her then husband “extracurricular activities” came to light. Through it all she stayed quiet and let her actions do a lot of the talking; divorce, custody of the kids and starting her life over.

I only recently discovered this, but Elin is now a Rollins College 2014 graduate and was selected as the Outstanding Graduating Senior for her graduating class.

Elin, a woman of very few words teaches us that sometimes not saying much can say it all. As the saying goes, “actions speak louder than words.” Regardless of the stage you are in your own career being able to show results from your efforts can really make you stand out in the crowd of competing peers.

Her story also proves that even in our moments of complete chaos, we have to fight to find the bright side of the situation. That internship that you thought you wouldn’t survive can become a humorous memory you can share down the road in life.

Giving this commencement speech gave her an opportunity to stay connected to her past, but still show that she’s moved on and is better than ever. The next time something doesn’t go your way just dust yourself off and keep moving forward.

Taking nine years to finish college as Elin did for more reasons than one can serve as inspiration that the goal your going after may not come overnight or even in four years, but what’s meant to be will happen.

Being thrust in the spotlight for all of the wrong reasons can’t be easy and it’s times like this that present an opportunity to prove not only what we are made of, but for us working in public relations, using the power of PR for our personal lives.

Congratulations to all of those graduating into a new stage in life. Take it from Elin Nordegren, and know that journey of where we want to be may not go exactly as planned, but the reward of accomplishing a goal is well worth it.

Click here to view Elin Nordegren’s speech.

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Categories : Career Advice
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May
06

#internlife

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We love #iworkinpr and yesterday’s post is so on point (see below). Don’t be that intern (or anyone in the workforce) who just has excuse after excuse. You can view the original post here.

 

When your new intern shows up late for the 83948394 time and feeds you a story about his/her [insert problem: car, boyfriend, school]

 

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May
02

My First Job: Bus Boy

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Today’s guest post was written by Peppercomm digital strategist, Alex Shippee.

When I was 16 or 17, I got my first job as a bus boy at a place called “The Sandwich Man Family Restaurant.” An opening came up early Sunday morning when the previous guy didn’t show up and they needed someone at a moment’s notice to help handle the morning rush. My parents dragged me out of bed and I was replacing coffee mugs and cleaning tables before I knew it.

I worked there on and off for the next 3 or 4 years, in between my winter swim season and continued for a little while during summers home from college. (My second job was working on a farm, but that’s another story).

I learned a surprising amount at this job, but more than just to be polite to the people who serve your food and to never to eat the coleslaw. There were also a few things that still apply today:

1. Know who you’re working for: Yes, I got a check every two weeks from the owners and it was my job to make sure the customers had clean tables. Ultimately, though, it was the wait-staff who tipped me out every day. They were the ones who most directly depended on me to help them do their jobs well. After all, how quickly I cleared the tables (particularly the booths) determined when they got to seat their next customers.

At the end of one of my first nights, though, the head waitress was upset that I didn’t clear the empty soup and salad bowls quickly enough. I calmly told her that it had been a busy night and had to choose between getting new booths ready and reducing the clutter. She understood where I was coming from and that I was still using my time to help them the best that I could.

2. Learn from the people who did your job before you: As you can imagine, not all the bus boys that walked through the door were flawless and impeccable members of polite society. Plenty of them got fired during the four scattered years I had been there for everything from showing up late, to stealing, to drinking on the job.

It wasn’t an impossible thing to master, but the guy who trained me (“Mo”) knew what he was doing and treated approached his job with a level of professionalism. One of the regular duties he told me to always do, even if he wasn’t there to supervise, was to sweep up any paper, crumbs, etc. between the breakfast rush and the dinner rush.

Years later, one of the owners remarked happily that it was only the two of us whoever did that. He liked that he didn’t have to ask us to keep the carpet clean.

And seriously – do not eat that coleslaw.

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Intern Podcast

To find out more about life as a Peppercom intern, check out this podcast produced by former Peppercom interns who share their experiences. Click Here