Archive for professional

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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Today’s guest post is by Peppercomm’s Director of Audience Engagement, Sam Ford

5 Takeaways for Your Work as a Professional Communicator

After a summer working at my local high school—doing odd jobs to get the school premises ready for another academic year–and some “spot jobs” here and there working tobacco fields for my family, my first ongoing job was as a “carryout.”

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This is not the author–but we’re sure he was as happy while doing his job as a carryout boy.

Many reading this may be from towns where this particularly nicety no longer existed when they were growing up or else of the more modern era where such service has been done away with in favor of the “self service” world of pumping your own gas and checking yourself out in the retail line. If so, the “carryout boy” (and—yes—where I’m from, it was a heavily gendered designation; women who applied were sent straight to the cash register…Maybe they didn’t trust us boys with the till?) was the person who bagged groceries and then carted them out to the car for any and every patron who came through our store.

I had shopped most of my life at Houchens and the other local grocery stores. (My parents skipped around town, so as to cherry-pick from what each grocery store in town had to offer, in a pre Super-Walmart era where small towns actually had quite a few retail stores to choose from.) I spent Friday evenings camped out on the “front bench” at Houchens. My dad sometimes let me have a chocolate milk and a doughnut, if I’d earned it. And I spent my allowance on comic books and sat at the front and read my comic books while Dad talked to the locals. Sometimes, Dad left, and I ended up talking with one or another old man who might tell me how those comic books I was reading were written by the Devil himself, trying to corrupt my young mind.

Or people stopped by to ask me to recite all of the Presidents of the United States in order. I had learned how to read in part off a paper Houchens grocery bag that we had gotten, which listed all the presidents in order, along with their head shots. And my dad, preparing me for the world that is public relations, would promote my ability to recite those presidents to passersby. I sometimes wish he’d put out a hat…or, more apropos, that he had brought that Houchens grocery sack with the presidents’ faces on it for people to throw in donations after I’d ran through all those presidents and even listed Grover Cleveland twice, as the list required me to do.

I’d long been resolved that I wanted to be one of those carryout boys who brought those groceries to the car. Aside from a few dedicated “lifers” who worked the dayshift and the managers who oversaw the shop, Houchens almost exclusively employed high schoolers at night. It was a coveted position. People vied for those Houchens cashier and carryout positions. They often had a couple of the main basketball stars amidst their ranks, as well as a real cast of characters. Almost always, though, those carryouts were memorable “characters.” They were part of the lore.

And Houchens knew how to recruit for that position. They didn’t complain much that their parking lot was the hangout for local teenagers on Friday night in a town where there was little to do than drive back and forth across town…where the socializing from the Friday night football games typically spilled over to after game socializing, and drama, in front of Houchens. The carryouts and the cashiers would run out to join the social scene once their shift ended. And Houchens was always present at all the local sporting events—sponsoring teams, providing food, and whatever else could be done to root the local team on.

For months before I applied, I went in to let my intentions be known. I worked hard on my resume. I checked in often while on those Friday afternoon shopping excursions, to make sure they knew when I’d be available. And all the work paid off: I found myself part of the “Houchens team” and had a glorious time my junior and part of my senior year being amidst those “carryout” ranks.

Eventually, as my senior year of school heated up and I was in the midst of college prep and dating a girl seriously and everything else that came along, I ended that relationship with Houchens. But Houchens had no problem ending that relationship, either. In the time between, the Super Walmart had come to town, right across the road from the high school in what used to be a cow pasture. They were open 24-hours-a-day, 7-days-a-week. They could undercut Houchens’ prices. And, soon, Houchens had started having fewer slots, and fewer shifts, available to us carryout boys.

Several months after I left Houchens, I made plans to get married—right at the end of my senior year of high school. I wanted some extra income, but Houchens didn’t have those spots to bring me back to. Instead, I applied at Walmart. Walmart didn’t bother with carrying people’s groceries to the car—after all, they were about Lower Prices. Always. So I was a “Cart Pusher.” (I wish I’d gotten business cards made up for that.) Our job training consisted of showing us what union representatives looked like and begging us to run straight for a manager if we ever saw one. The store was massive. Managers had been brought in from other Walmarts to help our little town know how to run an operation so impressive, or at least that was the attitude that seemed to prevail among some.

There were four managers overseeing the store at one time, and the “Cart Pusher” was the day laborer who had to answer to the will of any of those managers. Sometimes, all four of them gave me instructions at once—and there was no clear designation of which I was supposed to listen to.

At Houchens, I was heavily encouraged to engage with the people whose groceries I carried out—to have fun with my coworkers and to talk with the people who shopped at our store. At Walmart, I was given a cross look if I stopped to talk to someone. I was officially “written up” because I didn’t answer a call to go outside and bring carts in. I tried—and another employee tried as well—to explain that I didn’t answer the call over the PA to go outside to gather carts because I was already outside gathering carts. But the managers didn’t care.

To be fair, Walmart did give me a $1,000 scholarship for college, which I was grateful for…But they gave me a heavy dose of what it was like to work in a toxic work culture I abhorred to go along with it.

Houchens wasn’t just a retailer in town. It was a local institution. It was part of the community. It invested in the community, and the community invested in it. Its people loved working there (for the most part; I’m sure some disgruntled “bag boy” might provide a counter-narrative). People loved shopping there. And it was part of the local social life in a way that it embraced.

All that goodwill didn’t protect it from business realities. If another store came along open all hours of the day, and which could offer a far greater product range and far lower prices—Houchens couldn’t compete. And people’s love of Houchens wouldn’t necessarily stop them from crossing the road into that old cow pasture, fill up their carts with Walmart merchandise, and then go through the indignity of pushing that cart to their cars themselves.

But it did matter. The old men sitting at the front of Walmart didn’t laugh and joke about life. They told jokes about how long their wives spent at Walmart. (“I was in here one time, and a man and his son was sitting here. The boy was really cute and looked like he was in first grade. I asked the man, ‘What’s your son’s name?’ He said, ‘Ralph.’ I said, ‘Well, how old is Ralph?’ And he said, ‘Well, he was 3 when we came in.”) They complained about how much money Walmart brings in and ships right off to Bentonville, Arkansas, without much investment in the local community. And they have spent the last almost 15 years watching as many of the local hardware stores, grocery stores, and other staples of the old main street shuttered their doors, unable to compete with “We Sell for Less.” They’ve even seen the local newspapers take a real hit for awhile, when all the local businesses that ran advertisements that supported the local journalists closed their doors and Walmart didn’t need to advertise…because, after all, they’re Walmart.

I don’t know that people line up around the block to work for Walmart, or vie for a position. They sort of resign themselves into working for Walmart, if they’re not flipping burgers for a fast food chain. And now, as most of town has died out, what largely remain is that lit up campus in that old cow pasture, standing as a headstone for the town it had played its small part in sucking dry. And, nevertheless, people in Beaver Dam, Ky., can now get papayas and almond milk and all sorts of items only a Walmart could afford to ship in on those big trucks. And, while I don’t see the same “hangout culture” in Walmart’s parking lot, people are known to do their best to “co-opt” Walmarts aisles as a reinvented town square. If you go to Beaver Dam and someone’s not home and it’s not a church night, you just as well drive over to the Walmart and look around the aisles. You might find who you’re looking for.

But there’s no love or loyalty there. If anything, there’s a slight resentment as people push their carts down the aisle and say hi to one another. Walmart’s a necessary evil in their lives, not a community member.

And don’t feel like the community turned its back on Houchens, by the way. While they couldn’t compete across the road from Walmart, they still own a “Hometown IGA” in Ohio County, and a Sav-A-Lot discount grocery store, and a few different gas stations. Houchens actually had $3 billion in sales last fiscal year and is currently #154 among Forbes list of America’s Largest Private Companies. They are an employee-owned organization whose holdings range from a wide variety of grocery store, gas station, and convenience store brands to insurance companies, restaurants, transportation, construction, recycling, health clinics, healthcare services, financial planning, indoor tanning, and website/software. But when people around Kentucky talk about Houchens, they much more often do so with some admiration in their voice and a deep feeling of community investment.

Other than this old codger reliving some nostalgia here on PRiscope, what’s the “moral” of this story for those of you working in the public relations field? There are five main takeaways from this “comparison of corporate cultures” that I hope you take with you throughout your career—the companies you work for, the clients you work with, and the communities you seek to reach:

  1. Your job can be more than a job. Seek out workplace cultures where you can thrive and where you enjoy working. In every industry—in our industry—there are some behemoths who may always do well because of their size and the business practices that size allows them to engage in. Some of them may treat you well; I don’t know, and I don’t know that I ever will know. But, if you have options, don’t just work somewhere to earn a paycheck. Work somewhere that causes you to enjoy going to work and where you feel that your work is respected.
  2. Business is about More than Business. Business is about people. The companies we work for, or consult with, aren’t just there to sell stuff to people, or to spin a message. They are part of the communities—whether physical or otherwise—they seek to engage. It’s our job as communication professionals to push those companies to be true members of that community: to listen, to empathize, etc. We are there to make sure that not only their bottom lines do well but that their reputation does well, too.
  3. Have Fun. When I worked at Houchens, I looked forward to clocking in. I and fun with my co-workers. To this day, I still keep up with my old managers there. I thought seriously at one point about heading home from the East Coast, while I was still living there, to go back to Kentucky for a Houchens employee reunion. I tell stories about the time I spent there. I feel emotionally invested, even now as a “Houchens alum.” Seek out jobs like that. When you find one, get the most out of it. And, if life takes you elsewhere, don’t forget about the time you spent there.
  4. Our Clients Are “Selling” Experiences. For me, Houchens was an experience. It was woven into the fabric of our neighborhood, and it openly embraced that role, rather than indifferently allowing it. I desires that Houchens job as a teenager because I liked being there. My managers embraced my banter with old Remus Evans or my talking about the latest school gossip with Pixie Graham. And people looked forward to coming. In Houchens’ case, the experience wasn’t quite enough to compete with Walmart’s undercutting prices and greater product variety, but it was more than enough to maintain a variety of business holdings in the county, once the flagship grocery store closed. Generating that sort of loyalty, goodwill, and passion from audiences requires doing all we can to ensure a superior customer experience.
  5. Goodwill Matters. When a company is beloved, its customers will often jump to its defense. Economic necessity allowed Walmart to prevail against Houchens in the direct grocery war…but almost begrudgingly so. Many people who shop at Walmart would love nothing more than to see another company who respected the community more come along and offer a similar product range at competitive prices but which actually pays its employees well and engages more deeply with the community. When people give Walmart “down the road” back home, I don’t hear people jumping up to their defense. Instead, they talk with snark about the inevitable reality that they will end up pouring their money into the Walmart Corporation. Walmart has a retail foothold. But they don’t have a loyal customers and they remain open for potential disruption.

Sam Ford is Director of Audience Engagement with Peppercomm. In addition to his experience with Houchens and Walmart, he has honed his retail chops as a seasonal worker at Target, as a pizza delivery man at “Pizza Tonight,” and as a bank teller at Bank of America…and even degrading himself to working as a telemarketer for all of two or three days.

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In today’s post, meet current Peppercomm NYC intern and future communications star, Marlee Murphy

 

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

My name is Marlee Murphy and I am a week away from beginning my senior year at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill! I am double majoring in Journalism and Mass Communication, and Political Science. My specific track within the journalism school is Strategic Communications (a mix of advertising and public relations). During this past school year, I was a nanny for a few families, worked at QSR Magazine as an editorial intern and led Wyldlife—part of Young Life for those of you who are familiar with the organization.

Now that you’re filled in on my professional background, here are some fun facts about me! I am the oldest of four children, I think coffee’s the best thing since sliced bread, my face is in a Coca-Cola commercial and I adore the color blue. Good start?

I’m from a fairly small town in Rowan County, North Carolina named Salisbury. Ever heard of Cheerwine (the soft drink), Food Lion or F&M Bank? All of these originated in Salisbury. While growing up in small town USA could be boring at times (a “raging” Friday night is considered swinging by fast food restaurant Cook Out and possibly hitting up the local movie theater), I wouldn’t trade my experiences there for the world. I will confess Salisbury has certainly left its mark on my personality. For example, I love country music, hate techno-y dance clubs, love homemade tea and Bojangles’, hate Snapple and croissants, love being outdoors, hate huge crowds. Now I know what you’re thinking; how in the world did you end up at Peppercomm—aka the heart of New York City?

The story began with an email to Peppercomm in early January inquiring about the internship and company as a whole. I had noticed their name on a list of national top 25 public relations agencies and decided to do some further research. I took note of their awards for great company culture and work environment, and decided the internship was worth pursuing. Unlike many other New York firms, I felt Peppercomm aligned with my personal values and better suited me in terms of company culture and agency size. When I heard back from Peppercomm in March, I was elated! I skyped in for an interview and a few weeks later, I was offered the internship.

Fast forward to today, this has been the summer of a lifetime. Peppercomm exceeded my expectations and is truly a phenomenal place to work and learn. This summer I not only learned more about the industry and agency life, but by stepping outside of my comfort zone, I also learned a lot about myself and have become a more well-rounded individual. I will be forever grateful to Peppercomm for giving me this internship opportunity.

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

As of now, I am not drawn to a specific sector within PR. While at Peppercomm, I’ve enjoyed working on an array of projects that incorporated a variety of industries. Due to a lighter load of account work, I was able to complete at least a dozen one-offs for an array of clients. All of the interns have appreciated the opportunity to explore the world of PR rather than being pigeonholed in one sector. I’ve also found that I enjoy the strategy and branding side of communications more so than media relations.

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

Peppercomm’s office culture and inclusive environment surprised me. Every company claims to have great culture and a welcoming workforce; however, in Peppercomm’s case, the claim was 100 percent true. Peppercomm organizes workout events, hosts pub nights, encourages stand-up comedy, and recognizes birthdays and births. They include the interns in every facet of the company and are happy to help us understand new concepts even if it inconveniences them. They put intern row (our line of open cubicles) in the center of one of the floors. We sit right outside the executives’ office doors, which is an incredible opportunity. Not only do we work side-by-side with account teams, but we also are able to see what the day-to-day is like for communications and PR agency executives. On the first day, we (the six interns) hit the deck running, each on multiple client accounts. I jump from one client to another, creating media lists, drafting tweets, monitoring social media and press mentions, researching, writing blogs, editing, etc. The work never ends (which is a good thing in my opinion), and I’ve loved every minute of it.

4)     Where do you see yourself going in the industry?

Post-graduation, I see myself working for a public relations agency. Interning with Peppercomm this summer demonstrated how important it is to have agency experience when launching a communications career. In most agency settings, you are able to work with a variety of clients with an assortment of unique needs. While working for an agency, you are able to dabble in event planning, branding, strategy, media relations, social media and more. No work day is the same at an agency. In addition to acquiring new skills on a daily basis, you’re constantly learning more about how to better communicate and work as a team. After working at an agency for a while, I would like to open my own small marketing firm or event-planning boutique.

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In today’s post, meet current Peppercomm NYC intern and future communications star, Meredith Briggs.  

 

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

My name is Meredith Briggs and I’m an incoming senior at Trinity College in Hartford, CT. I am double majoring in French and American Studies (see my blog post for more info). I went to an immersion school so I’ve been speaking French since the 1st grade! I’m originally from Minneapolis, Minnesota, although neither of my parents are from Minnesota (mom is from Ohio and dad is from New York).

I worked at a PR firm last summer in NYC and was really excited about the opportunity to pursue another internship in New York. After doing some research on the top PR firms in New York I was immediately drawn to Peppercomm. Not only did they have an impressive list of clients, but they also continuously reiterated the fun aspect of their culture (how many companies do you know that actually have a Culture Committee?) Thankfully I was fortunate enough to get an internship here and the rest is history!

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

This is a tough question for me. If you had asked me at the beginning of the summer I would have easily said that I was most interested in consumer clients.  Between my internship last summer and my internship at Peppercomm I’ve been fortunate enough to work on some really cool consumer accounts. This is definitely still a passion of mine, however, after attending the Council of PR Firms’ annual InternFest I have no idea what exactly I want to do. Listening to Gail Moaney, a specialist in travel service relations, made me realize how insanely large the PR industry is. You can specialize in anything and everything and this is something that really appeals to me. I guess this is a roundabout way of saying that the industry itself is most appealing to me. I could potentially do the PR for my favorite sports teams, or my favorite candy bar. There are endless possibilities in this industry and that never ceases to amaze me.

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

I sort of answered this question in the last answer, but again, I think what really surprised me is how enormous the PR world is. I think this is exemplified through Peppercomm’s own clientele. For me, I’ll be working on a consumer account, and then 20 minutes later I’ll be doing work for a financial account.

Something specific about Peppercomm itself that surprised me was how true they are to the “fun” aspect of work. I definitely thought Peppercomm was a fun company but was shocked by how they are constantly bringing fun into the office.  To name a few of the fun things I’ve experienced in my short time here at Peppercomm, they brought in food and drinks for the World Cup they brought in food and drinks, they hosted a comedy show and a happy hour. They try to help you balance work and play, and I definitely think they are successful.

4)     Where do you see yourself going in the industry?

Up! Just kidding – kind of. I hope that after I graduate (scary thought) I end up at a company like Peppercomm. Before I decide what I really want to do I’d like to keep expanding my horizons, and this is something that Peppercomm allows me to do. While I’ve definitely realized what I do and don’t like, I want to dive more into the type of work that I am interested in. What kind of consumer PR, should I specialize, etc. Basically all I really want is to work for a company that I love. I want to be excited about the work I do, even if it’s something as simple as putting together a media list. I think it would be really cool to do sports PR, but I don’t want to limit myself just yet!

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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.

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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.

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Jul
23

Should You Apply for That Job?

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job-searchWe 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?

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Today’s guest post is from Meredith Briggs, future PR/communications star and current Peppercomm intern.

 

4For 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.

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Today’s guest post is by future communications star and current Peppercomm intern, Samantha Rushovich.  

 

determination_by_sthlrd67-d570zvtDuring 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.

 

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May
06

#internlife

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We love #iworkinpr and yesterday’s post is so on point (see below). Don’t be that intern (or anyone in the workforce) who just has excuse after excuse. You can view the original post here.

 

When your new intern shows up late for the 83948394 time and feeds you a story about his/her [insert problem: car, boyfriend, school]

 

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Intern Podcast

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