Archive for New York City
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.
In today’s post, meet current Peppercomm NYC intern and future communications star, Samantha Rushovich.
1) Tell us about yourself—where did you/do you go to school, where are you from and what brought you to Peppercomm?
I am a rising senior at Boston University studying public relations at the College of Communications. I’m also minoring in Film & Television and have a concentration in Anthropology . . . so I’m very busy!
I’m originally from Stamford, CT just 45 minutes outside the city. I have lived in the same house my whole life and I love it. I have had dogs since I was about three years old. I am practically dying at school without my pups, but I try to see them when I can. Occasionally my parents will be nice enough to drop off my dog in Boston to stay with me for a weekend before I meet them in Maine (we have a vacation house there). So, yes, I have sleepovers with my dog J.
When beginning my search for summer internships I decided I was going to be ambitious and only apply to the top firms. I knew I wanted to spend the summer in NYC, since it’s closer to home than Boston and I was ready for a new city for a bit. I looked up the top 50 PR firms in NYC and then looked through all their websites to see which ones had internship programs. Peppercomm specifically caught my eye because of the emphasis on comedy and work culture. I was learning through my internship in London at the time, that work environment has a huge impact on how enjoyable a job can be. It gave me that extra push to put just a little more effort into my Peppercomm application.
Oh, and Peppercomm is named after a dog, so I can’t lie, that definitely impacted my decision to work here.
2) What area of the industry do you find the most appealing and why?
It’s hard to say which area of PR I like the most. I’ve had experience in-house and I have now interned at a couple of agencies and one nonprofit, so my experience has been pretty broad. I definitely see myself going into nonprofit at some point, but I haven’t yet decided if I would want to be in-house at a major nonprofit, like the ASPCA, or if I would want to handle nonprofit accounts at a firm. I love the agency life!
I’ve always been pretty involved in charity and volunteer work. It’s mainly my love for animals that has driven me to be as active as I have been in the past. It’s one of my strongest passions, so it would be great to combine that with my love for PR.
3) Any surprises or revelations about your role, the industry or Peppercomm?
I never expected to have as much autonomy as I do here at Peppercomm. I’m encouraged to throw ideas out there and to follow them through if my teams agree on it. I never imagined my client teams would value my opinions as much as they do. That experience alone has made this internship one of a kind.
I’ve also finally seen firsthand how CRAZY life as a PR professional is. My to-do lists are more than a page long before I have even had my coffee. I have had busy internships in the past, but I usually had a supervisor who told me what my priorities should be. However, at Peppercomm I’m on accounts and don’t have someone managing my projects for me. It’s all on me and I love the busy-ness of it all. I never thought I would feel so ready to enter the workforce, but now I’m eager to graduate and get going with my career!
4) Where do you see yourself going in the industry?
In the short term, I definitely see myself ending up at a mid-size, full-service agency. After graduation that would be ideal! I also could see myself joining one of the major global PR firms at some point.
WAY down the road I hope to open my own agency that specializes in nonprofits. I would like to cater to them based on their budgets and find ways to provide low cost services that are still highly effective. I have a lot to learn before I can start planning that though.
Working for the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) would also be a dream come true. I’ve admired quite a few of their campaigns over the years and am a huge supporter of their cause.
Today’s guest post is from Meredith Briggs, future PR/communications star and current Peppercomm intern.
For 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.
I’ve been this way since I was young—but I am usually hardest on myself. In fact, there have been times when I did something wrong and instead of getting a punishment from my parents, they just let it go because they knew I had learned from said mistake and had agonized over it for a while (which is probably like three days in “kid time”).
As an adult, I have learned to balance how hard I am on myself, but now really try to make the most of when I make a mistake (which I still do because, SURPRISE, I’m human).
So what does that mean? We all hate making mistakes—in and out of the workplace. Sometimes they are small ones that no one notices or other times they’re larger ones that require someone above you to smooth out for you.
The important takeaway is to own up to what you did, apologize and learn from it. Learning from any size mistake goes beyond just “not doing it again,” but also requires you to think about the steps that led you to that mistake and why it was wrong. It might be small or it could be a bit more complicated.
A good rule of thumb is also to talk to a trusted colleague, friend or mentor about mistakes, especially the bigger ones that aren’t as clear cut. They can help you navigate the waters if you’re unsure and even help to pinpoint why something was wrong.
I for one still am bothered by mistakes I have even made just a few years ago in the workplace. I still remember mistakes I made in school, too. But in those instances, I will never forget what happened and try not to let it happen again.
Any mistakes you’d care to share? Or lessons learned? How do you handle when you make a mistake?
Today’s guest post was written by Peppercomm management supervisor, Lauren Parker.
As a little kid, I dreamed of being an actress in New York City. When I had my chance to belt out a solo in Beauty and the Beast’s classic tune “Be Our Guest” as part of a summer musical theater troupe, I quickly realized that being in the spotlight simply isn’t my thing. I was much happier supporting the chorus and trying not to fall out of my mother’s four-inch heels.
All this is to say that public speaking and sales does not come naturally to me. But funnily enough, my first job was in sales. I wasn’t cold calling time-strapped business executives, but I was peddling the latest flat of perennials at Siebenthaler’s Garden Center.
Although I was just a 16-year-old, I had a number of responsibilities including manning the cash register, watering plants and helping shoppers select the ideal bird feed. The job wasn’t glamorous. I didn’t feel comfortable talking to customers all day, especially when they had complex botanical questions and I didn’t have the answer. I also became frustrated from time to time when my job seemed menial or boring (restock the terra cotta pots AGAIN?!).
I did have a few moments of real pride. The longer I worked there, the more knowledge I absorbed and the better I was at helping customers. I began to feel more comfortable in my role, which helped my confidence and even led to some big sales as a result of my recommendations. Halfway through the summer, my manager even asked me to train the new hire.
A few key lessons I learned from my first job are small but significant:
- Fake it ‘til you make it – I learned that there will always be aspects of any job that you aren’t comfortable with. But if you step up to the plate and try – with a smile – chances are it will become more natural over time.
- It’s OK to say “I don’t know” – When you’re young, you think you know everything. When you start to get older, you realize how little you know, but you also realize that it’s OK. Back then, I felt like a failure when I didn’t know a question, even though I had zero experience in studying plants. Today, I am constantly confronted with questions from co-workers, managers and clients and I don’t always know the answer. The best response, I’ve found, is “I don’t know, but I’m going to find out.”
- Understand the bigger picture – As low man on the totem pole, I felt like an insignificant employee at times. I saw others at the store that had such a wealth of knowledge about plants and others who were skilled at managing a retail store. I, more or less, just did what I was told. It wasn’t until I stepped back and realized that someone’s got to water the plants and change the receipt feed in the register. In my job today, I can take that lesson and not only see how my contributions help Peppercomm and my clients, but how I can help others at the agency recognize their value.
When you are just starting out in your career, you will fumble from time to time. The important thing is to learn from those experiences and improve.