Archive for professional
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.
We 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?
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.
Today’s guest post is by future communications star and current Peppercomm intern, Samantha Rushovich.
During 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.
When your new intern shows up late for the 83948394 time and feeds you a story about his/her [insert problem: car, boyfriend, school]
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?
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).
Recently, my mother (of all people) directed me to the following Cracked article from David Wong: “6 Harsh Truths That Will Make You a Better Person”. In her note with the link, my mom advised, “Long and with bad language, but funny and good points made.” Naturally, I was intrigued, and decided to give ‘er a read—and a delightfully inappropriate, engaging read it was!
In addition to a glorious image of Lenny Kravitz prancing around in a titanic scarf, Wong gave me the push I needed to “own” 2014. While this specific piece features many worthy pointers, one argument stood out in particular. To quote Wong*:
… The end of 2014, that’s our deadline. While other people are telling you “Let’s make a New Year’s resolution to lose 15 pounds this year!” I’m going to say let’s pledge to do freaking anything — add any skill, any improvement to your human tool set, and get good enough at it to impress people. Don’t ask me what – good grief, pick something at random if you don’t know. Take a class in karate, or ballroom dancing, or pottery. Learn to bake. Build a birdhouse. Learn massage. Learn a programming language. Film a parody. Adopt a superhero persona and fight crime. Write a comment on PRiscope.
But the key is, I don’t want you to focus on something great that you’re going to make happen to you (“I’m going to find a husband, I’m going to make lots of money…”). I want you to purely focus on giving yourself a skill that would make you ever so slightly more interesting and valuable to other people.
“I don’t have the money to take a cooking class.” Then Google “how to cook.” Dagnabbit, you have to kill those excuses. Or they will kill you.
Of course self-improvement, and this idea of “adding value to society” is nothing new; but Wong found a way to voice the point in an amusing way that forced me to listen. As a semi-recent college grad making my career début in the PR field, Wong made me consider the many ways in which I can add value to the audiences in my life—I can learn a new communication skill or program that will benefit my agency and my clients; I can add a new activity to my repertoire to be more interesting and useful to my friends and family; I can be a more gracious neighbor to well…benefit my neighbors (duh); and the list goes on.
The opportunities are there, and excuses are so 2013. Now it’s up to you to develop the skills that’ll help you stand out—as a student, intern, prospective employee, whatever it may be—and benefit the world around you.
How will you apply Wong’s advice to your life this year? Tell us in the comments below!
* And by “to quote Wong” I really mean to “express Wong’s sentiment in a slightly** less offensive manner that aligns more closely with PRiscope’s values & purposes”
** And by “a slightly” I mean “an extremely”
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.
I hope you pictured me with a cane while shaking my fist when reading the headline.
Almost every intern session, we have one or two people innocently ask, “How did you do XYZ before the internet?”
Luckily for me, I was not working in the field prior to Google being the go-to for any quick research, so I have always been able to look up a reporter, do research, pull data, etc.
It always surprises me when that question pops up—maybe because I was used to not simply relying on the Internet in school. I definitely benefited, but even in college, I was still mainly using books (yay, being a history major and really getting to know LexisNexis).
When I first started in the industry, I had purchased a book on public relations that might have been printed in the late-90s. Most of the tactics were tailored for pre-internet success, which was great for learning how things used to be done. Not so great for getting things done when I had no one to learn from.
So, what did you have to do without the internet to be effective in the industry? You were making more phone calls, having more in-person meetings and you were fighting over a printed database of media contacts that was issued periodically.
After doing some research (yes, using the internet), it looks like there are a fair amount of “history of PR” courses offered. I’m not sure if this is a requirement for any programs, but it should be. It’s always good to know about your own industry and how it started and evolved. Even the term “PR” is too specific to describe the type of work I do at least at a strategic communications and marketing firm.
But not knowing the history and evolution of your own industry goes beyond knowing how current companies were formed. You can learn about effective tactics that might be applicable today, spark ideas, but, most importantly, not look “uneducated” by asking questions like that to supervisors who may have worked during the time before the internet.
The Economist printed an interesting article a few years ago that touches on some of the beginnings of the industry as we know it. I’ve been looking into some good books–and better than the ones I initially read–that provide a good history of the industry, but am always open to suggestions.