Archive for job training

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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Today’s guest post is by Peppercomm business affairs supervisor, Kelly Lorenz

 

IMG_8492 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.

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Aug
08

My First Job: In A Nutshell

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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.

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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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Today’s guest post was written by Peppercomm account executive, Ali Hughes.

It sounds more exciting (and tasty) then it turned out to be.

Angelo's #2

My first job was serving ice cream to the masses on the hot, humid days of summer in North East Ohio.  Growing up in a small town outside Cleveland, the closest form of civilization (besides farms) was an ice cream window attached to a small pizza shop. I was thirteen and my dad knew the owners, so naturally he introduced me, and got me my first job. At the young age of 13, I pictured a summer full of free food and cute delivery boys. I had no idea that the work would be so, well… hard.

My first day was a quick run through on how to properly mix the blizzards and milk shakes, while managing to not cut my hands off on the machine. I also learned how to fill the soft serve machine, and defrost the buckets of hard ice cream. The second day I was on my own. I quickly found out that softball players can get pretty mean, pretty fast, when their ice cream isn’t made quick enough. Imagine twenty boys under the age of ten standing in front of you screaming out orders of ice cream. Just when I was on the verge of tears, I managed to dump the bag of liquid soft serve ice cream all over myself – missing the machine by just a few inches. Needless to say I went home pretty upset, despite the many dollar bills shoved into my tip can (I can only assume the tips were out of pity).

Despite my well delivered speech on why I shouldn’t return, my parents dropped me off the next day to face my fears of muddy tee-ball players and sticky ice cream machines. I didn’t become an ice cream wiz over night, but after a month or so I could stand on my own two feet. I became an expert at filling a cone with a perfect swirl of soft serve, and could fill the ice cream machines – two bags at a time.

Despite the rocky start, my first job turned out to be a great opportunity that taught me many life lessons.

  • If you fail at something, never stop trying to succeed. Failure has a different definition for every person.
  • Learn to lean on your coworkers, you don’t have to do everything yourself.
  • It’s ok to laugh at yourself, and let others laugh too.
  • Learn from your mistakes, and tell other people about them before they make the same mistakes themselves.
  • Be very thankful for rainy days.
  • You can never have too much crunch coat.

At the time, my job seemed like the most difficult one in the world. Now I look back on it with fond memories, and realize I was lucky to have a dad to push me into the real world of working for a pay.

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

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

Well, for starters, I’m a rising senior majoring in PR and minoring in history at the University of South Carolina. I’m from a small coastal town in Rhode Island called Westerly. It’s essentially the smallest town, in the smallest state in the country, but the beaches are amazing and it’s made me a true lover of being on the waterfront. During the summer, I was the town Dockmaster (note Dockmaster, not Harbormaster; told you my town is tiny) for three years and over the course of my time there, it made me realize how lucky I was to be able to sit in a shack on the waterfront. Instead of a computer screen, I got to stare at this all day:

 james

 

Life was good. But the dock job also made me realize that I love dealing with people (even when I don’t love the people) and a huge part of PR is just that—dealing with all different types of people. I find it fascinating.

I play the bass guitar and have a shameless, secret love for 70s and 80s music (I had an afro in high school.) I also love cars. And time-machines. And Legos. This can best be signified by my Lego DeLorean I bought last week, complete with Marty McFly’s hoverboard. It’s pure awesomeness. This goes back to my love of history; though perhaps I could also be a toddler stuck in the body of a 21-year-old.

I was born in an ’88 Cadillac Eldorado, so maybe that has something to do with my love for cars. Regardless, I would love to be involved in the auto industry someday.

My dad works for a company that is a client of Peppercomm and it was through his introduction that I had the opportunity to meet the co-CEOs, Ed and Steve. After interviewing them and several other employees last August, I walked away from 470 Park Ave knowing a lot more than I’d come in with, that morning.

I had never set foot in a PR firm before in my life, nor did I really understand the day-to-day activities at a firm. Long-story-short, I didn’t know jack about PR (besides the very general survey classes I had taken at USC) I realized immediately that Peppercomm was a place where I could learn far more than school could ever teach me about the industry. On top of this, I fell in love immediately with the work culture, the people and even the reason the company is called Peppercomm (dogs rule).

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

This is a tough question for me to answer; every day I find myself exposed to a facet of the industry that’s a little different. Most of the accounts I support are financial, though I have gotten a decent exposure to the more consumer-based clients as well. As far as actual work, I love dealing with people (did I mention I like people?). From media outreach to client calls, I find myself enjoying the actual points of contact that I’m able to engage with people in.

With that being said, I have to say my favorite activity is dealing with media relations. My parents were both journalists that worked for The Washington Post, Providence Journal and L.A. Times over the course of their careers, so I find a lot of similarities between the journalists and editors I correspond with and how my parents are. In addition, the media is practically the other side of the coin when it comes to our work, so I love being able to foster those relationships that will benefit both parties for the long-run.

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

To be honest, everything. Like I said, I had no idea what I was getting into, other than I knew PR involved writing and that I liked to write. My biggest surprise is how much responsibility I’ve been given as an intern. It’s absolutely liberating in the sense that my work and opinions hold just as much weight as the associates and account executives I work with. Yesterday, I got to be involved in a brainstorm and my ideas were put right up on the wall and into the mix.

Also, the only coffee I get is for me. Mind blown.

I once heard a story from a friend who interned at a competing PR firm a few years ago and for her last day of work, her boss had her manually transfer contact info from an old BlackBerry to a new one. All I can say, is that at least she was getting paid. I have never once dealt with anything like this. In fact, the opposite—I often find myself being asked to take on more responsibility, and hit the ground running.

But here’s the flip-side. You can seriously mess something up if you aren’t careful. And that is terrifying yet gratifying at the same time.

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

Once I graduate from school, I want to gain employment at an independent firm. This is the best way to get exposed to all sorts of PR work in a wide variety of industries, and from this knowledge I can learn what I love and hate. I want to eventually make the switch from an independent firm to an in-house department in the automotive industry. Ultimately, I hope to follow in the footsteps of Peppercomm’s founders and establish my own communications firm someday. Until then, being an intern is a good step in that direction.

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If you’ve read this blog for a while, you would know that when making entry-level hires, Peppercomm looks to it’s current and former pool of interns first. In fact, we’d say about 1 out of 4 of our employees is a former intern. Here’s a few examples of our former interns who now work full-time here (I’m a former Pepperomm intern, too): Maddie Skahill, Chris Piedmont, Mandy Roth, Colin Reynolds and Nicole Hall. Seriously, those are just to name a few, I can certainly go on. A good testament to our retention is probably current senior director and former Peppercomm intern, Sara Whitman.

So you can always go to any of these amazing communications stars for tips and tricks of how to turn that internship into a full-time job, but we also loved the stories in this Forbes article: How To Turn Your Internship Into A Job: Three Real-Life Stories.

After you’ve read that article, let us know if you have any tips of your own or any questions on how to land that dream job.

 

 

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So, I may have written about my first job before, but wanted to share my experiences with my second and still longest-standing job I’ve ever held. Specifically, this is about how I landed that second job.

In May of 2004, I came back from my freshman year of college looking for something that I could quickly start to make significant cash. Working in a restaurant seemed like the perfect answer, mainly because of tips.

While my deli experience certainly set me up to be successful in terms of customer service, waiting tables is a different animal. Just from the process of applying for a restaurant job, I learned so much.

My first morning back at home from freshman year, I immediately hit the phones calling restaurants to see if they were taking applications. I learned that most people will ignore you on the phone (e.g.  say that they aren’t taking applications, when the person who answered isn’t in a position to say ‘yes’ or ‘no’), or tell you to come in and fill out an application.

I switched gears by putting on something business casual and printing out the latest version of my resume. I headed out on the road and drove to about 15 restaurants in one day. I asked to speak with a manager at each location and made sure they saw me and spoke with me.

Why was this experience so important?

  • It taught me even more about motivation. I was desperate for a job. I had saved money from all of my previous experiences, but knew I needed something full-time and ongoing . . . immediately. I was flat out told by most that they had already hired for the summer. Getting told that over and over after driving all around that state to find restaurants was a bit discouraging, but I had to just move on and quickly.
  • It taught me to overcome uncomfortable experiences. From that first day, I had two good leads. One was after speaking to a manager at Chili’s Grill & Bar.

We talked a lot about sports and he was a Syracuse basketball fan. He told me he would call me about an interview. After a few days, I never got that call. I didn’t want to, but I knew if I didn’t call them, I would never hear. I called back when that manager was on again and what I feared had happened. He said he didn’t remember me and my immediate response (which was said in a very nice, but direct way) was “Well, we talked about Syracuse sports and you had said you wanted me to come in for a second interview. I think I would do very well there. When should I come in?” They had me come in the next day.

  • It taught me that if you’re honest, good things happen.  I had gone to school out of state my freshman year, but due to some unforeseen circumstances, I thought it would be best to transfer to a school closer to home, but I wasn’t sure if I wanted to make that jump yet. Many of the restaurants I applied to made it very clear that they don’t want seasonal help. They wanted to put the effort into training someone who would be in it for the long haul.

When I made it to the next round of interviews at Chili’s, which was with the general manager, he immediately questioned my college status. I told him that regardless of where I was for school come August, I would still be an employee. I planned to work at this chain throughout the rest of college and wanted one place where I would have a set schedule. I would work whatever shifts they needed whenever I didn’t have school.

His first concern was his store, of course, but I assured him that in the event that I ultimately decided to go back to Syracuse, I would transfer to the restaurant there. I also told him I would let him know as soon as I made that decision, that way they could start training a replacement.

As you could probably tell, mainly because Chili’s is the only restaurant mentioned here, the general manager ultimately took a chance on me. I worked at the same location for nearly seven years. In fact, my last shift was just a few days before moving to New York City and starting at Peppercomm.

The last point was an important one. A few years after starting there when I had worked my way into getting better shifts, being a staff trainer, working expo (if you’re in the biz, you know what that is . . . and it’s “fun”), and bartending, that same GM pulled me aside and told me how he struggled with whether or not to hire me. He admitted that every summer he had people flat out lie to him about not leaving, etc., when they were local college students. He then said he really appreciated how long I had already been there and that he took a chance because I had been so honest, he felt like he could actually trust that I wouldn’t burn them.

That meant a lot to me, since sometimes it can feel like an employer is taking advantage of you, but I have always believed that if you treat your employer well and you are flexible, they will give you the same courtesy. And that has proved true in my experience.

The restaurant industry is not an easy industry to work in, but I worked through some of the toughest situations and learned the ultimate lessons in multitasking. As you can tell, just the experience of applying proved to teach me some interesting lessons that I still carry with me.

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May
02

My First Job: Bus Boy

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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.

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Intern Video

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