Archive for Tips and Tricks
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.
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?
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.
If you’ve been keeping up with this blog and some of our posts on interning and the Peppercomm internship program, you know that it is one that provides a great set of skills and experiences. I went through this program and can certainly attest to how it prepared me for the industry.
One of our current (though, soon to be going back to school) interns, Nick Gilyard, has shared some of his internship experiences this summer in this CNBC story on college courses that help grads land a job. You’ll find some great insights. Let us know if you agree.
Sometimes we have to leave our jobs. Maybe your company wasn’t a good fit for you (or them). Maybe a different opportunity popped up that was closer to what you see yourself doing long-term. Maybe you are moving to a different city.
Whatever the reason may be, almost everyone needs to leave a job at some point in their lives.
So, what’s my point? Whether you’re happy, sad or indifferent about leaving, you want to make sure you leave on a high note. Keep doing good work. Make sure people know that even though you’re halfway out the door, you’re still giving it your all because you are always 100% committed to your tasks.
What goes hand in hand with leaving and keeping up your good work is to remember that this is still a rather small industry. Everyone knows everyone else. You also never know when you’re going to run into a former colleague—and not just on the street, but in a new job.
This might be a case of “duh, why would I do that”, but always keep in mind that you never know who is reading your blog or anything on your social media channels. Be mindful of what you say about your current, new or former job. This can go a long way for your personal brand. You never want to be known as the person that spoke badly about a company or person. Doing this highlights a few unsavory characteristics that employers typically like to avoid, including: acting unprofessionally and being a gossip (to name a few).
Taking the high road is important and worth the effort, though it can be tough if you’re unhappy. People remember when someone leaves on bad terms and that can leave a bad taste in everyone’s mouths. Put in that effort and don’t burn your bridges—it’s worth it in the long run, especially if you ever want to cross back.
Today’s guest post is the continuation of a post from Friday, 6/7 and is by Peppercomm intern and future PR star, Nick Gilyard.
4. Team Projects weren’t a Huge Waste of Time
Team projects in class are always frustrating if you work best independently *cues Destiny Child’s Independent Women.* But there is a time and a place to be Queen Bey and your PR internship is neither. PR agency’s do an insane amount of teamwork. I’m assigned to 3 different teams (4 if you count my relationship with the other interns) and each has more than 4 people. Unlike classroom team projects, you don’t have the stress of wondering who the social loafer will be but you still need to adapt to different personalities and communication styles, quickly. I promise it makes seemingly insurmountable task much more manageable knowing you are not alone.
5. Note Taking isn’t Optional
Not taking notes during a meeting can make your life a nightmare. I’m talking “I had a dream I was Amanda Bynes” kind of nightmare. Unlike class there is no textbook to refer to when you zone out during a meeting or client call. You need to remain alert and in the loop at all times, and note taking is the best way to do that. It also shows your team members that you are proactive and engaged. Sure the notes from the first call I sat in on contained so many acronyms that I might as well have written them in Latin, but later I was able to go back and clarify that “JAE” didn’t stand for “just another employee.”
Things move fast when you leave the classroom and enter the cubicle. But many of the things you’ve dealt with in the classroom have lessons that will help you survive life outside of it. Just remember to. . .
Today’s guest post is by Peppercomm intern and future PR star, Nick Gilyard.
Remember that one time it was your first day, of your first internship, of your first real PR practice outside of the classroom? Nope, me either. Although it’s been forever since I was “that guy”, (circa last Tuesday) these are five things I learned in my first week here at Peppercomm:
1. Classroom Time is not “Real-Time”.
In class, many of your professors will give you time (2-3 days, maybe even a week) to write out a well thought out pitch, blog post or handle some kind of simulated media relations crisis. This will not be the case when you enter the real world of PR. The account executives all around me are constantly creating, updating, responding and pitching content to and for clients. This can be shocking if you aren’t prepared for the switch, or unless you are Grumpy Cat.
2. Emails= Text Messaging for Adults.
Professors harp on you about texting (or Snapchatting) in class because they believe it distracts you from what’s going on in class. I’d argue that, minus the snapchatting, its actually good practice for the real world. Multitasking on the job is a must. The possibility that you may be interrupted at your desk or in a meeting by an email that requires an immediate response is very…very real. It’s like getting a text from (Insert name of your best friend here) that says “Cute (insert sex of best friend’s preference here) just walked into Starbucks. What should I do?!?!!?!” and taking forever to reply. In this scenario your best friend is upset until you promise to play the wingman/wingwoman later that night. In the work scenario, that text message was an email from a client/your boss and the repercussion for your tardiness may not be fixed with “Sry Girl, was in class. *frowny face* Still need my help <&hearts>?”[Send].
3. There Really is No Such Thing as a Dumb Question.
I’ve been hearing it since elementary school and never believed it… until now. If you are interning (at least at Crain’s voted NYC #1 place to work) you are encouraged to ask questions. Don’t assume you’re an Excel, Outlook or media list expert because A: Using a program one time in class doesn’t make you an expert and B: The company employees you’re working with DON’T expect you to be an expert. They want you to ask questions, so they can teach you. So don’t Google answers to your questions, just email or stroll on over to a real person for some advice. Also this may be a question you want to avoid.
Stay tuned for Part 2 of what Nick learned during his first week . . .
Working in the communications industry, can be a bit stressful at times. Whether you’re in-house or at an agency, you can oftentimes be pulled in multiple directions at the same time for items that all have the same priority levels. It’s the nature of the beast. And if you’re in this industry, chances are, you love that high-pressure.
The key to thriving in this type of environment is keeping it cool and managing priorities well. Here are a few tips that can help you when your workload is on the verge of overwhelming you:
- You should already be doing this, but keep a to-do list. Whether it’s digital or just a simple notepad—whichever works best to keep you organized. Taking a holistic approach to what you have due that day and then also projects over the week(s) will help you to prioritize and then re-prioritize if need be. I would be lost without my (handwritten) list.
- Take a quick break. Sometimes when you’re working on a big project or staring at the computer screen for long periods of time (doing work, of course, not just staring), you start to go cross-eyed. Take a quick five minute break. Step outside and take a walk around the block. Going into the sunlight light for the first time since you stepped into the office, may leave you feeling a bit like a vampire seeing the sun for the first time, but it will help you to clear your head and give you the energy you need to finish that project . . . and well.
- Related to point #2, taking a quick 1-2 minute mental break is also helpful. As a dog lover that cannot have pets in my apt, I will take the opportunity to look at puppies/dogs that I wish I did have. It’s a nice little break and makes me happy. If you also like cute animals, check out Emergency Cute Stuff on Twitter. It will quickly give you that mental break.
- Deadline check. Sometimes the deadlines we set are hard client deadlines with no wiggle room. Sometimes we set more flexible internal deadlines. If you have a lot on your plate and may need some extra time, it might be worth checking in with the team manager and see if there is any flexibility with a project that you know is more of an internal deadline. You always want to make sure whatever deadline you ask to push it to will still allow for your team members to review, if-needed, but that is an option.
What are your tips for “taming the beast” when you’ve got a full workload?