Archive for Career Advice

Oct
17

My First Job: Cashier

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Today’s guest post is by JGAPeppercomm account executive, Caitlin Brown.

I simultaneously loved – and despised – my first job (technically I was a babysitter first, but let’s not split hairs). I was 16, and having grown up without ever having household chores, starting a part-time job was painful – I obviously just wanted to hang out with my friends and watch TV.

In order to learn some responsibility, my parents decided I was not allowed to have a cell phone until I could pay for it on my own. Hence, I needed a job, and fast; it was 2006, and I needed that flip phone!

So what did I do? I applied to be a cashier at Wegmans, the best grocery store ever1. You may not think that your first job would have many similarities to your career, but you’d be surprised just what you learn:

Money Management Matters: As I mentioned, I needed a job in order to finally have a cell phone. As a part-time, underage worker, I could legally only work a certain number of hours, and I received minimum wage. Granted, my expenses weren’t out of control, but once I was able to purchase a phone and a cellular plan, I realized I had to keep paying for it – month after month. I quickly learned not to blow my entire paycheck on one trip to the mall, and I began to volunteer for extra shifts when possible.

It’s OK to Ask for Help: Even as a cashier, mistakes happen. Maybe you dropped someone’s fresh-from-the-oven pizza (yep, I did that), are having issues with the scanner/coupons, or someone refuses to give you their ID when they try to purchase beer. Never be afraid to call for a manager, or ask another coworker for help. You are constantly learning on the job and are interacting with others, and another set of eyes and ears can help turn around any sticky situation.

No Matter What, Always Smile: When a grocery store is full, you’d be shocked at the fast-paced environment for its employees. As a cashier, you are essentially the face of the store – so turn that frown upside down! This applies for anyone in a client-facing position; even if the customer isn’t always right, being pleasant goes a long way to making yourself and the company look good, and provides the customer with an overall pleasant experience.

 

1. Do not test Upstate New Yorkers on this; Wegmans is the best, and I stand by it. 

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Oct
13

Did I Do That?

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Photo courtesy of Wikimedia

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia

As you’re starting off your career and all throughout it mistakes are bound to happen. No matter how hard we try to be perfect, that’s not always going to be the reality. Instead of beating yourself up over a mistake, here’s what I say do instead:

  • Treat it as a crisis
    • Figure out the quickest way to fix it and do it.
    • You want to be able to say, “It’s handled,” as quickly as possible.
  • Don’t deny or make excuses
    • Refrain from making excuses as to why it happened because that only waste time.
    • Instead, state the facts if someone ask and be a part of the solution.
  • You’re in the midst of the storm, don’t give up
    • You have to make up for the mistake, so fatigue is not an option.
    • Get the job done to reverse any of the consequences from the mistake.
  • The mistake is fixed, but you’re not done
    • Be apologetic, especially when it effects others.
      • This may mean an in-person apology or email blast to those team members involved.
      • Take ownership for the mistake, reassure the team you’ve learned from it and apologize again.
  • Dust it off and move on
    • You’ve survived the “crisis” and now it’s time to move on.
    • Just take note of what you did, learn so the next time you can do better.

Your career is all about learning and evolving and with that comes mistakes. Remember that they’re not the end of the world and remain optimistic that it will be alright.

How have you handled mistakes you have made on the job in the past?

 

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Today’s guest post is by JGAPeppercomm director, Lauren Banyar Reich

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia

I’ve never been a fan of small children (and yes, I am now a mother of two… go figure).  So it came as no surprise that at the ripe old age of 14, I ran to my high school guidance counselor’s office, eager to obtain a working permit that would allow me to leave behind my days as a disgruntled babysitter.

After a holiday season spent working at the local nursery/Christmas “depot” I finally settled into what I would consider my first, official, real job – working as a sales person in a high-end ladies clothing boutique. For over seven years, all through high school and college, I worked at Annie-Prue Limited under the tutelage of Annie and her daughter Stephanie, who co-managed the store at the time.

Know that this was no typical retail job.  Annie didn’t suffer fools (even foolish customers) gladly, and was known to write off people based solely on a limp handshake.  She and Stephanie ran a tight ship, and did a brisk business selling labels like Longchamp, Donald Pliner, Eileen Fisher, Nicole Miller and others that you couldn’t buy anywhere but in their namesake boutiques in Philadelphia at the time.  Their clients were Wilmington Society ladies, wives of Philadelphia Phillies baseball players and relatives of the Wyeth family.

In other words, I’m not really sure why they hired me – a lanky, 15-year-old with no fashion knowledge – other than the fact that I was cheap and my parents promised to drop me off and pick me up on time.  But I’m certainly glad they did.  The lessons I learned during my tenure working for two dynamic and successful female entrepreneurs proved to be invaluable as I began to navigate the business world.  So what did I learn?

Be enthusiastic.  After my initial interview with Annie, I knew we had hit it off.  In fact, she all but offered me the job.  As we were wrapping up, she asked, offhand, how old I was.  When I answered, “Fifteen, last week,” I saw her face drop.  I reacted immediately by assuring her that I would be on time, even early, for every shift.  I promised to work hard and be dependable. I didn’t beg, but I showed her my enthusiasm for the job.  I wanted to work for her and I let her know it.  Within two weeks I was opening and closing the store on my own.

You can’t teach someone to have an enthusiastic, positive attitude – or to work hard.  People have to want that for themselves.  But you can show your boss, your co-workers, a prospective client, that you are someone they want on their team because of your passion and work ethic.  When it comes to breaking into PR – or any business – there’s always someone with more experience than you, so be the one with the best attitude and most enthusiasm for the job at hand.

Build relationships.  After just a few months of working at Annie-Prue, I knew the “regulars.”  After a few seasons, I knew the whole crew:  the men who visited for holidays and birthdays who expected us to pick out a selection of clothes and accessories their wives would love; the horse-lovers looking for the latest fashion-forward riding boots or preppy outerwear; the mom/daughter pairs who came in for every special occasion dress.  Hearing, “Oh you know what I like,” was always music to my ears.  It meant that I could pull the right items, with the right fit, for the right occasion, pretty quickly – and make a good sale without spending hours tearing up the store looking for a needle in a haystack.

Because I had strong relationships with my clients, I was able to work smarter, close more business and deliver on their expectations.  By listening, learning how to read people and building trust with our customers, my job became a whole lot easier – and I became better at it, faster.  In business, everyone says “it’s all about relationships,” because it is TRUE.  But if you want to boil it down to the basics, it’s also about getting ahead.  If you have strong, authentic, relationships with people inside and outside of your organization, you will produce better work without spinning your wheels.  And you’re likely to move up the corporate ladder much faster.

Treat your boss like your number one client.  In any retail situation, there can be a lot of downtime.  Maybe it was how my parents raised me, or maybe it’s just that I’m not very good at sitting still, but I was always asking Annie and Stephanie for jobs to do.  We would put together look books, create trend collages to put up in the dressing rooms, or I would help file invoices or manage markdowns on the sale rack.  Whenever possible I would ask how I could help, or take it upon myself to straighten the store, wipe the shelves or clean the front window.  I knew that if they found me to be useful, I would always have a job there… and it worked.

No one is irreplaceable (sorry, it’s true), but if you can create a situation where your boss depends on you for things that make their life easier, you start to become indispensable.  Thinking about him or her as your number one client is a good way to start.  How can you support them with research before a big pitch meeting?  What can you do to make them look smart in front of higher-ups at the company?  On the flipside, just as you wouldn’t gossip about someone in front of a client, maintain that same decorum in front of your superiors.  If you wouldn’t be caught dead in an outfit at a client meeting, don’t wear it to work.

Also, I’m with Annie on the handshake test… but that’s a whole other column.

 

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In today’s post, meet current Peppercomm NYC intern and future industry star, Nicole Inserra

Tell us about yourself—where did you/do you go to school, where are you from and what brought you to Peppercomm?

I’m a New Yorker, born in Westchester and currently living on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. So, I guess you could say I’m a New Yorker to my core. I recently graduated from Fordham University in the Bronx with a degree in Communications and Media Studies and with a minor in Environmental Policy. There was a time when I thought my future was going to take a more science based path, but then I had to enroll in multi-variable calculus and physics, and that was the end of that. I’ve completed a variety of communication type internships throughout college, ranging from public relations specific to special event coordinating and luxury wedding planning. Each has been a rewarding internship in its own right, and I’ve immensely enjoyed the experiences. I decided after college I wanted to try public relations again, and stumbled across Peppercomm through word of mouth.  After reading about its comedy training and dog lover theme, I knew it would be the perfect home for me. Alas, here I am!

What area of the industry do you find the most appealing and why?

I love the media relations aspect of this industry. I’m quite a talker, which anyone at this company would attest to, so I really enjoy getting to interact with the reporters and journalists. When a reporter writes back and agrees to cover a story you pitched, it’s the best feeling. You can’t help but do a little happy dance when that happens. It’s also an industry that is continually evolving, which makes it super exciting to be involved. Nothing is ever stagnant or dull in this industry. If I could focus all of my energies on the luxury accounts, I’d definitely be right in my element, but I know how beneficial it is to experience the many different types. You can’t know what you like until you try it all.

Any surprises or revelations about your role, the industry or Peppercomm?

Honestly, I was surprised by the environment here at Peppercomm. In the past, I’ve only worked for very small firms, so the number of co-workers was easily below ten. The atmosphere was always very relaxed and comfortable. I wondered if working at a big time strategic marketing firm would be the complete opposite. I was a little worried, but couldn’t believe how wrong I was since day one. Peppercomm is the most creative, fun-loving, interactive and energetic company I’ve ever worked for. The ideas are constantly flowing, and it is so obvious how much everyone here really enjoys and is passionate about what they do. I’ve experienced a variety of different companies, and this one by far produces the most well rounded, and happiest employees yet. Most importantly, I’ve found that my co-workers serve as each other’s biggest fans. The encouragement is never ending.

Where do you see yourself going in the industry?

My future is as much a mystery to you as it is to me. I could definitely see myself staying within the public relations realm, but I like to keep my options open. Event planning is my passion deep down, specifically luxury wedding planning, and I do hope to one day find a place in that industry again. I guess only time will tell… Stay tuned!

 

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Today’s guest post is by Peppercomm account executive, Ali Hughes.

WILX“What on earth will you do in the real world with a degree in English?” Those were my mother’s exact words when I changed my major from Journalism to English. To be honest I don’t even remember my response, I just let my love of reading and writing lead my way.

Then graduation came and the inevitable job search. As I pursued job postings on “Pure Michigan Talent” having moved to a new state with my law-school boyfriend I couldn’t help but hear my mother’s words repeating through my head. After a few days…weeks… ok two months of blissful baking, reading, “Netflixing” and job searching, I found one that match my lack of experience and eagerness to earn money. News Writer: Part-time, overnight hours. The interview was pretty quick, once my soon-to-be boss learned I would be happy to work part-time and any hour possible.

With an English degree you would think writing for the news would be a piece of cake, and in some degree it was. What isn’t easy is being thrown into producing a full show within two weeks and having to learn television news programs, news room lingo, and timing all while writing. I was the new weekend morning show news producer, fresh out of college and still not sure what SOT (Sound on Camera) stood for.

My third weekend of producing the hour long morning show, I had a live shot scheduled at a marathon. For those of you that don’t know, a live shot is where a reporter is going live from an event and producer “tosses” to them from the control room. Between timing the show and the live shot being a few seconds behind, timing can get tricky. Long story short, my live shot consisted of runners at the end of the show, with my anchors having no time left to say goodbye or even explain what the audience was watching.

You would think messing up a live shot would be a fire able offense, (despite never being told how to actually pull one off) but my boss just said oh well, next time. I quickly learned that I had to teach myself everything when it came to producing, otherwise be thrown into something never being taught. After two months I became a full time producer, producing the weekend morning news shows (shift midnight-8 a.m.) and the 10 o’clock Fox news cast during the week (shift 2 p.m. – 11 p.m.)

The hours were exhausting, despite sleeping in a cave it is simply weird to sleep during the day and be awake at night, especially when your shift changes after the weekend. I learned how to somewhat successfully shoot a live shot, without cutting off the anchors or reporter. I also learned that my boss would gladly pay me as little as possible for the most amount of work I was willing to do.

It was my first job out of college, and I was quickly learning the way the world worked (at least in the news industry.) My colleagues who had been at the station for years, and were producing-wizards were consistently talking about “the good old days” of great pay and fair treatment. Being a few producers short became a common thing, since most people who want to be in the news industry want to be on air. At some point I found myself producing shows at back-to-back shifts. Producing the 10 o’clock show on a Friday night, and then staying at the station an hour until my 12 a.m. shift for the weekend morning show. It was one of those sleepless nights that I wondered… “What have I gotten myself into?”

To be continued…

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Today’s guest post is by Peppercomm director, Lia LoBello

Or: How to Deal with Crazy Teenage Boys Yelling at You

Soccer Referee Handing Out a Red Card

This is NOT Lia LoBello, but this is what we imagine her experience to look like.

In high school, the goal for many – not all, but many – 16-year-old girls to attract the attention of boys in a positive way. At my first job, I spent my Saturday and Sunday mornings getting screamed at by not just teenage boys, but their parents as well. I was a soccer referee.

It didn’t dawn on me until many years later the lunacy of refereeing boys my own age. As a soccer player, refereeing soccer games was an easy job – I knew the rules, I got paid in cash, and the field was around the corner from my house. The pay structure was simple – the center ref made double the amount of the age group playing in the game, and the line ref made the age exactly. That meant, if I refereed a minimum of four games – and in the South Florida sun, that was a simple 8 a.m. – 2pm work day – I could earn anywhere from $64-$128 in cold, hard, cash.  For a high school student, that was an incredible amount of money to have in hand every week!

The flipside was obvious – 16 year-old-boys are not known for tact, nor are they known for taking sports, shall we say, lightly. Put it together, and every perceived missed call, every questioned line judgment, and God forbid, any yellow or red cards was met by yelling, eye-rolling, and hands thrown in the air accompanied by a John McEnroe-like “ARE YOU SERIOUS?”

Looking back, however, I learned a lot from the job. I mean – how could I not have learned?! I learned how to stand my ground, to trust my judgment and to diffuse difficult situations. I learned how to walk by crazy parents while keeping my head high and I learned what was worth my time and attention to care about, as well as what was not. In the job I do today, which involves negotiating diverse personalities, keeping many balls in the air, and keeping teams motivated – I can make a direct correlation to my success in these departments to my time as a referee.

It’s also worth mentioning I had a killer tan.

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In today’s post, meet current Peppercomm SF intern and future industry star, Jenna Bigham. 

Tell us about yourself—where did you/do you go to school, where are you from and what brought you to Peppercomm?

Hey there! My name is Jenna and I am recent graduate of the University of Arizona with a degree in Communication and a minor in Business Administration. During my college years, I was very involved in my university’s student government, ASUA, and was involved in countless organizations and positions over the course of four years. I was also heavily involved in our student section for athletic events’ committee, ZonaZoo Crew and you could pretty much find me at every Wildcat sporting event that took place (Beardown!). I also was the TOMS Campus Club President for all four years of school, worked the front reception desk for the Pharmacology and Toxicology department of the university, and also worked (well, still work on the weekends) at the clothing store Anthropologie. Over-involved seemed to be the common theme throughout my college years and I could not be more proud to say I am a Wildcat alum now.

I grew up in Phoenix, Arizona, but after 22 years of the desert and the longest, scorching summers, I decided to take a chance and move to the Bay Area! I could not be happier here and am constantly finding new and exciting things to do. Moving up here is actually how I discovered Peppercomm – I told one of my Aunt’s friends that I had just graduated with a degree in Communication and was looking to break into the wild world of public relations. Turns out, her next door neighbor is Partner and President of the West Coast Peppercomm office, Ann Barlow, and she put me in contact with her to get some tips on breaking into the industry. After learning more and more about the incredible things Peppercomm has accomplished and works on every day, and how awesome their internship program is, I had to get involved. Next thing you know, I was applying for the internship program and the rest is history!

What area of the industry do you find the most appealing and why?

I am so thankful to be working on a myriad of accounts that allows me to learn how each area of PR functions. The area that I definitely enjoy the most is the media relations side. I feel like I have really been able to experience how important it is for PR professionals and journalists to work hand in hand and combine forces to get both of their different (but somewhat similar) jobs done. Public relations, in general, has always appealed to me because I love bridging the gap between business and the media and ultimately working with a client to connect with the public.

 Any surprises or revelations about your role, the industry or Peppercomm?

I was totally surprised (and pleased) to find that I was immediately given so much responsibility as an intern. The second I walked in the door on my first day, a media list project was waiting for me and I dove on in. I have heard so many experiences through friends that they feel like they did not learn anything about PR and were treated as more of an office assistant in their previous internships. That has never been the case here at Peppercomm and it’s refreshing to be treated like a real team member and be expected handle the responsibility of an entry-level associate. I’ll admit, I was a little nervous my first week to be working with such a wide range of clients from financial to legal to non-profit areas of business but it has helped me to become so well-versed in the industry already.

Where do you see yourself going in the industry?

I can definitely see myself working more in the consumer/lifestyle or tech side, just because I feel like that has always been the area of business I have always been passionate about. Down the road, I would love to either work in-house at company or with an agency that specializes in these things. For now, I feel so grateful to have been given the opportunity to constantly explore so many parts of the industry and learn each and every day from the amazing team at Peppercomm.

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Sep
29

Surviving Office Politics

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office-politic-1Like it or not, there are personalities you’ll get along with very well and then those you may feel some friction with. It’s been the case since your school days and doesn’t end in the office.

Office politics is a game we all know and love to hate (or at least some of us do), but we have to acknowledge its existence. And, surprisingly, office politics isn’t all bad.

When starting your new job or internship, be yourself, but also do your best to assess the situation and the culture. See how your team interacts with each other and with other teams.

Next, think about how best to play “the game.”

The Good:

Some offices have supervisors, some have mentors, and some have both. But, you will always have yourself. You should always be your own advocate. Don’t be afraid to toot your own horn when you’ve done something well. If there is a really unique idea that you have, you should share it with your superiors. Just be careful not to have it come off as bragging or to seemingly step on someone’s toes. You can strike a good balance. But selling yourself and what you bring to the table is the key to getting raises, promotions, etc. And while some may advocate for you, oftentimes you also need to do so for yourself.

The Bad:

You’ve started a new job and really don’t know anyone in the office and haven’t figured out if there are any bad apples in the bunch (and there might not be). Be wary of the office bully or any gossips. Like in school, you don’t want to end up in “the wrong crowd” and it actually can happen in a professional setting.

If these people do exist in your new environment, sometimes you can’t avoid interaction because you’re on the same team. Keep doing what you do best and follow the plan of “the good.” It’s also best not to associate with them unless absolutely necessary.

The Ugly:

Unfortunately, not all offices are the same. There are some incredibly volatile ones. Competition can sometimes be healthy, but when colleagues and even bosses are conniving, it’s not a good situation for you. The key here is to weigh the pros and cons and decide whether or not this type of environment is one you can handle. If it’s not, then it might be time for you to move on.

With any new experience, always try to feel things out, do your best work and be yourself. Just remember that office politics exists and it’s best to know how to play rather than ignore it.

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Sep
22

Got skills?

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Today’s post is by former Peppercomm intern and future industry star, Jess Schram, who interned during this past summer session. 

Resume talk: Social Media

social-media-resume-360Eighty-nine percent of 18- to 29-year-old internet users are now active on social media, yet far too many of those millennials seem to think that adding “Facebook” and “Twitter” to their resumes will set them apart from other candidates and land them a high-paying job.

Too often people neglect to consider the important aspects of social media like listening and engaging, and consider themselves social gurus the moment they tweet about Brazil’s embarrassing soccer skills or Instagram a picture of their lunchtime ‘froyo’ and receive a few stars and hearts in their news feeds.

Newsflash: it’s 2014! Social media is nothing new—even my Nana has an Instagram to flaunt her Boca life in filtered glory.

Now, I’m not saying social media should be totally swiped from your resume. Being able to use social media is important skill in the communications world, but should only be added to your list of talents if you know how to use it effectively.

If you want to position yourself as an intern who knows the ropes on social, use these tips to help you stand out:

1. Know your audience

Think about your audience’s demographic and psychographic.  What do they care about? How can your social posts evoke emotion (humor, excitement, fear, happiness, motivation, etc.) in your readers? Everything you post on social media should be helpful, useful and relevant to your audience. If you can’t answer the question, “Why should they care?” trash it.

 2. Use correct and relevant hashtags

Because hashtags are how people can easily search for topics on social media, they can help get your posts into threads of relevant conversations, and therefore seen by the masses. Using hashtags correctly can increase buzz around your client’s brand and help you target current fans and future stakeholders.

It’s also necessary to start and continue with relevant hashtags to track and improve your social strategy. The number one reason hashtags fail is the lack of consistency between them. Why use #ConferenceX2013 and #ConferenceX2014 when you can track the success of #ConferenceX year after year and compare analytics for ROI? #Duh

3. Play more

Be human!  If your brand allows, don’t be afraid to be funny on social media or create a voice that will set you apart from your competitors. Virgin Mobile’s Twitter  is one of my favorite accounts to follow, and has done a great job of creating a unique voice for itself through playful, humorous tweets.

4. Actively listen and engage

Pushing out content isn’t enough, even if it’s relevant and interesting. If you want to be an all-star social media intern, you need to jump into conversations happening in your client’s industry and actively participate in them. Listen to influencers, engage with fans, answer skeptics’ questions, and reach out to users in your target demographic to build relationships and improve customer loyalty. Listening and engaging should be proactive not reactive practices.

 5. Repeat!

If you’re reading this, chances are you’re still an intern, so you have some time to practice. That said, it’s important to expand your social media use past your personal accounts and get experience writing on behalf of a client or brand. If you don’t already, just ask! No experience? Tell your supervisor you’ve been reading up on social media, but have yet to get your feet wet. This blog’s a good start, don’t you think? Humor me. Even now, after managing more than six accounts throughout my intern years, including my most recent venture to make my cat famous, I still look for ways to improve and practice.

My final advice to you is this: Just because you’re a millennial doesn’t mean you’re an expert on social media, but it also doesn’t mean you can’t be. Know your audience, use hashtags correctly, create a voice for your brand, and most importantly: Listen. Engage. Repeat. (Peppercomm’s mantra.)

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Sep
22

A Sweet Tweet For Ice Cream

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When ice cream is on the line you must tweet until your fingers are numb. At least that’s how we felt here in the San Francisco office. The Ben & Jerry’s ice cream truck was touring the west coast and was making stops along the way. Only catch, your tweet had to capture its attention to get it to visit your job.

Tweet1

Through the power of several witty (only slightly begging) tweets, we were successful in getting the Ben & Jerry’s truck to visit the Peppercomm office. They supplied us with free samples and pints of its new core ice cream flavors.

Ben2

Social media can be used for other things besides getting free ice cream:

  • Engaging in career related chats
  • Staying updated on the news
  • Potential job leads
  • Preparing you for a career that uses social media

Have fun on social media, but remember that it can be used to advance your career as well.

Ben1

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Intern Video

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