Archive for Tips and Tricks
Today’s guest post is by Peppercomm business affairs supervisor, Kelly Lorenz.
Early to rise! That phrase is never music to a teenager’s ears, especially during summer break. However, I was an anomaly. My first job when I was 14-years-old was working on a horse farm, starting in the wee hours of the morning, often before the sun even came up. Translation: I shoveled horse poop and avoided getting kicked in the face by aggressive stud horses. But that’s not all my work experience chalked up to be – it was only the beginning.
To be clear, I had my own horses growing up so I was accustomed to cleaning stalls, throwing large bales of hay and all of the dirty work that comes with these incredible animals. But that was for three horses, not 30, and I was riding solo in this job.
Even though temperatures were in the 90s by early-morning and I wore jeans and boots, I look back on this work experience for giving me the most fun and rewarding summer of my youth. In fact, I’d do this every summer if I could. In the meantime, I carry a few lessons with me to this day:
- Take pride in your work, no matter the task. Nobody wants to shovel s%#t, but somebody has to. So do it right, and do it well. I could have had a negative attitude and complained about the task, but instead I shoveled that dung like a rock star. My supervisor noticed and said the stalls had never been cleaner, done so quickly or without complaint. She hired two more people to take over most of that work so I could focus on other (less smelly) tasks.
- Seek out opportunities. Growing up I mostly rode for pleasure and recreation, and my horses were well-trained. Many of the horses at the farm were owned by renowned riders and trainers who had a lot of expertise to share. As I built a rapport with the owners that summer, they saw how I handled their animals. So, they offered me complimentary training and most allowed me to train on their horses. Additionally, many offered me side jobs to exercise their horses at an hourly rate that’s nearly triple today’s minimum wage.
- Capitalize on your strengths. There were many moving pieces and varying factors to completing this work in timely manner each day. For one, just like people, horses can be somewhat temperamental. Some horses can’t be around other horses (especially studs with mares…hello baby colts!), other horses can’t be removed from their stalls and the damn donkey that bites everyone/thing, but begs to socialize is another story. Not to mention the large ground you’re covering and the amounts of manual labor you’re required to complete in a short period of time. Here, organization and efficiency was everything. This is when I realized I had a strength for process and execution which are skills I use to this day in my professional life. I can steer a wheelbarrow while in a full sprint like a champ.
So, what was the biggest lesson learnt while shoveling dung? Turn work into play and you’ll never work a day in your life. I’d be fooling myself if I said this job wasn’t exhausting and dirty. This job was also a blast! Aside from working with horses, my one true love – horses –, I watched the sunrise over the mountains each morning, dunked friends in horse troughs of ice cold water and made human electric fence shock chains (not advised, and I was only 14). Not to mention my toned biceps, blond hair and killer farmers tan were the envy of every country girl when we returned to school in the fall.
Today’s guest post is by Peppercomm associate, Madeline Skahill.
While I have had my fair share of babysitting jobs and teaching younger kids the ropes of soccer at camp, my first “real” job all began during the warm summer months of Williamsburg. When you say “Williamsburg” to a group of New Yorkers, they automatically assume the trendy neighborhood of New York. However, when you say “Williamsburg” to anyone who has ever been on a field trip or have grandparents who live in the south, they think of Colonial Williamsburg; the mecca of bonnets, cannons, and daily reenactments of 18th century life.
The summers in Colonial Williamsburg were where the tourists went to play and the high school students sought summer jobs. As a majority of my friends obtained jobs as hostesses at neighboring restaurants, I was lucky enough to land a job as a Sales Associate at “The Williamsburg Peanut Shop.” While I can’t say I ever felt a true passion behind how peanuts were made and seasoned, I can say that my summer months spent in the small store located on the corner of a bustling street, taught me a few lessons I will always be able to apply in my career.
- Perform at your best, no matter what task you are completing: My first day on the job consisted of grabbing a fork from the back room and picking out the melted chocolate covered peanuts from the cracks of the wooden floor. While some may say this may not seem like the most ideal task, I knew if I did not get this job done right, my entire summer would be spent performing similar tasks. Dedicating myself to this task, left the floors clean and my manager happy about my positive attitude and efficient works style. This was the last time I ever scrubbed the floors.
- The customer is always right: This may not be entirely true, but for the most part dealing with an unhappy customer, or client, makes the task at hand, much more challenging. Understanding the needs of the customer, not only makes your job easier, but allows you to complete the job right and in a timely manner.
- Never under-estimate your skills: Although I worked with a fair amount of people my age, the managers of the store were much older. That being said, I quickly learned that in order to gain more responsibly in the store, I had to show the managers I could think and act on their level. By contributing to conversations about what products to buy for the store or how to handle the store operations when a summer storm knocks the power out, I was able to close the age gap between my co-workers and myself. While my ideas and thoughts may not have always been right, I did not let the age gap hinder the jobs I deserved to manage.
These are just a few tips I learned along the way, though I have many more stories to share. Unfortunately for you all, there is not enough time in the day to discuss the life lesson I learned from standing outside the store in a peanut hat for 2 hours.
Today’s guest post was written by Peppercomm’s Jade Moore, manager, client relationships.
My very first job didn’t feel much like one. My aunt had a friend who ran an upscale (read: overpriced) boutique in my neighborhood in Staten Island, and asked if I’d be interested in working one or two days a week after school. This place had all of the trappings you might expect from a Staten Island outfitter. Sequins galore. I said sure, why not?! I was a junior in high school and could use some extra cash for buying acrylic nails or whatever horrible thing I was into back then. Plus, she was a friend of my dear aunt, so she had to be nice to me.
If you’ve ever seen “Happy Endings,” this shop was precisely like the boutique owned by ditzy Alex (played by Elisha Cuthbert) – that is, there were no customers. Perhaps this place was bustling during prom and wedding season but when I started in the fall – crickets. I quickly learned that I would be responsible for a few things: vacuuming, steaming clothes – which, admittedly, I love to do (ironing, not so much) – and affixing price tags onto said clothing items. The little price-tag gun was fun to use. Maybe the highlight of my time there.
To be quite honest, given the fact that there was not much to do beyond the tasks outlined above – and the fact that there were, again, no customers – I don’t think I took the job too seriously, in hindsight. I played with the owners dog. I challenged myself to find normal-ish clothes for myself among the bedazzled frocks. I may have napped once. Yes, you heard correctly. As a conscientious and responsible adult, I would never pull a George Costanza today. I’m ashamed to say I did then, but I had a good reason! See, the night before, I was at Yankee Stadium, watching the Yankees play the Diamondbacks in Game 5 of the 2001 World Series. An epic, 12-inning win for the Yanks. I was tired. I don’t think anyone noticed, but I still feel bad about that.
After a few months, the owner decided she didn’t really need me anymore and stopped calling me in for work. Probably for the best that we parted ways. In the end, I definitely hadn’t learned how to be a master salesperson. Or even how to use a cash register. The “no customers” part kind of made these things challenging. I didn’t really look up to the Boss either. Let’s just say, she was a little gossipy. But I took a couple of key lessons away from my brief foray in retail:
- Put your best foot forward. Even if you don’t feel like you can contribute much, there’s always something you can do to go above and beyond and add value. I could’ve used the opportunity to think of and share ways to bring in new customers. Or ask my boss to give me a lesson in making a sale.
- Don’t sleep on the job.
There’s something to be learned from every job. What may not seem like a worthwhile experience can be full of surprises if you keep your eyes and ears open and make the most of it.
When your new intern shows up late for the 83948394 time and feeds you a story about his/her [insert problem: car, boyfriend, school]
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.
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?
You’d think a ride home on public transportation would be simple. Get on the subway, take a seat and/or stand, wait for your stop, and exit. There’s also the occasional small talk and looking down at your phone. So, what do you do when your usual ride home takes a turn in a different direction? Just go along for the ride.
That’s exactly what I had to do last night on my way home. The subway wasn’t that crowded because it was a Sunday evening and luckily I got a seat next to the window. A couple of stops after I take my seat a man gets on the subway. For the sake of protecting his identity I will refer to him as ‘Mr. Poet’.
Before I knew it Mr. Poet was reciting a poem. His poem lasted for a few minutes then he graciously asked for money. By this point I was just ready to get home, but I still had several more stops to go. Once he moved to the next set of riders in the car behind me, sharing the same story I might add, I got to thinking of how determined and fearless he had to be to get up in front of a bunch of random commuters and recite a poem.
Mr. Poet knew his audience enough to collect a few dollars. From what I noticed he scanned the crowd with his eyes being sure to hold eye contact in the process. His delivery of starting out with an anecdote about his life and why he was here was a helpful way to get the audience attention. His voice was clear, strong and loud enough to reach the ears of those listening. Finally, Mr. Poet used the area that he was given to move about in an undistracted manner which helped get those who weren’t paying attention to at least give him a chance.
Riding home last night I didn’t expect to get a refresher course in public speaking etiquette, but that’s exactly where that ride took me. It just goes to show that there are learning lessons in every situation whether we want to pay attention or not.
With job searching, finding the job you want is just half the battle. Prospective employees not only need to find the jobs they want to apply to, but it’s always helpful to know someone at said company so you can get your foot in the door. But how can you do that? Networking.
Networking is one of the most important items for a person at every level to do. You never know if that could lead to a new job, finding a good employee for your current job or maybe getting a new client. The possibilities are endless, which is also why it’s always good to meet new people and make sure you maintain relationships. But, how do you network when you’re more entry-level? Where do you go? Here are a few thoughts to get you started:
- Set up informational interviews at companies you may want to work for even if they’re not necessarily hiring. This will get you some great face time with the company and potentially allow you to connect with someone at the company.
- Stalk LinkedIn. See who in your network might already work at your dream company. Perhaps you already know someone there from college, or there is a friend that can set you up with an introduction to another friend.
- #HAPPO/Help a PR Pro Out is a great hashtag to search by on Twitter. Sometimes they have online chats and I have gone to a few in-person events, but many companies will tweet out about jobs using this hashtag.
- Go to any and all networking events. These can be a mix of industry events, maybe your college is hosting some, etc. These can be online and in-person, but great to go either way and get your name out there.
So get out there and start networking, it will help you get the job of your dreams (for starters).
Today’s guest post was written by Peppercomm account executive, Ali Pearce.
As a typical 15 year old girl, my main priorities were hanging out with my friends, not tripping over hurdles during track meets, and finishing my homework in time to watch Gossip Girl (this was pre-DVR era, people). Therefore, my parents really threw a wrench in my summer plans when they told me that it was time to take on some responsibility and get a summer job.
Luckily, I developed my strategic thinking skills early on in life and decided that if I had to get a job, I may as well work on my tan WHILE getting paid. Therefore, I combined my “experience” of watching years of Baywatch episodes on TV and a one-week training course to secure the prime position as the youngest lifeguard at the Easton Town Pool.
While I did get a killer one-piece tan that summer, I also gained some valuable work experience that has helped me get where I am today. Similar to my colleagues’ first jobs, lifeguarding taught me responsibility, accountability, and the importance of showing up to work on time.
Most importantly, I learned that age is just a number. As the youngest lifeguard, I had to prove myself from day one to show that I deserved the job and that I could handle the responsibilities that came with that position. As a young professional, this is a challenge that I am faced with on a daily basis. More often than not, I find that I am the youngest person in meetings. What I learned as a lifeguard and continue to remind myself on a daily basis is that age doesn’t matter, it is all about the ideas and experience that you bring to the table.
It’s important for young professionals to realize that their ideas are just as valuable as their colleagues and to never let their age deter them from participating in a conversation. Of course, this still means that you must exercise good judgment in determining when to speak and when to listen. But for those of you that fear that your input may not matter because you are young, remind yourself that you were invited to the table for a reason. Speak up and show that you deserve to stay.
With the Premiere of Scandal only two days away, I think it’s only fitting that I talk about one of the best shows currently on television. I promise that this isn’t going to be a promotional post about Scandal, but I know the Gladiators in all of us would rejoice. Instead, I’m going to use my love of Scandal to let you know that it’s possible to work hard and still find a way to take a break. Enter Scandal!
If you aren’t a fan or just haven’t tuned in, here’s a brief summary of the show: Scandal is based in Washington DC and stars Kerry Washington as Olivia Pope, the go to fixer in town. She’s always dressed to impressed and her nightly routine includes a glass of wine with popcorn. Let me not forget to mention her affair with the leader of the free world who just so happens to be married.
For me watching Scandal is my hourly escape every Thursday night. It’s a great way for me to put all of the things I’m thinking about on pause and join the millions of viewers who are watching and live tweeting along with the cast (Warning: If you live on the West Coast stay off of Twitter beginning at 7:00 p.m. PST). We’re all tuning in to see how Olivia is going to fix the reputation of a power player and still find a way to sneak in a secret meeting with the president.
An hour may not seem like a lot of time, but if Olivia can handle a major crisis, juggle multiple romances and still make it home for a glass of wine, I think it’s safe to say we can find an hour or two to relax and enjoy life.
Like the pace of the show our lives move very fast, crises happen, and our lives are full of surprises both good and bad. All of this is true, but for that one hour on Thursday’s my life is immediately transformed to a new realm. I become a “Gladiator in a suite” with a front row seat on how to handle the crisis of the week. That’s the magic of both television and finding those rare moments when you’re allowed to just let go and let someone else solve the world’s problems.
My excitement for the upcoming new episode has me impatiently waiting for it to be Thursday night already. While I do my best to contain my excitement, I’m going to work on identifying other simple ways to be present and enjoy the things that bring me joy and you can count on me saying, “it’s handled” each time I make a new discovery.