Archive for job training
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
Today’s guest post was written by Peppercomm account executive, Ali Pearce.
As a typical 15 year old girl, my main priorities were hanging out with my friends, not tripping over hurdles during track meets, and finishing my homework in time to watch Gossip Girl (this was pre-DVR era, people). Therefore, my parents really threw a wrench in my summer plans when they told me that it was time to take on some responsibility and get a summer job.
Luckily, I developed my strategic thinking skills early on in life and decided that if I had to get a job, I may as well work on my tan WHILE getting paid. Therefore, I combined my “experience” of watching years of Baywatch episodes on TV and a one-week training course to secure the prime position as the youngest lifeguard at the Easton Town Pool.
While I did get a killer one-piece tan that summer, I also gained some valuable work experience that has helped me get where I am today. Similar to my colleagues’ first jobs, lifeguarding taught me responsibility, accountability, and the importance of showing up to work on time.
Most importantly, I learned that age is just a number. As the youngest lifeguard, I had to prove myself from day one to show that I deserved the job and that I could handle the responsibilities that came with that position. As a young professional, this is a challenge that I am faced with on a daily basis. More often than not, I find that I am the youngest person in meetings. What I learned as a lifeguard and continue to remind myself on a daily basis is that age doesn’t matter, it is all about the ideas and experience that you bring to the table.
It’s important for young professionals to realize that their ideas are just as valuable as their colleagues and to never let their age deter them from participating in a conversation. Of course, this still means that you must exercise good judgment in determining when to speak and when to listen. But for those of you that fear that your input may not matter because you are young, remind yourself that you were invited to the table for a reason. Speak up and show that you deserve to stay.
Today’s guest post was written by Peppercomm junior account executive, Julie Hoang.
For my first job, I thought I had it good. I worked as an after school tutor at a local learning center. As a high school student, I did anything to avoid hard labor so this job was ideal for me. I would rather use my energy to shop at the mall or hang out with my friends. Though I was only a freshman at the time, I took away key lessons that still apply today.
I had actually gotten the job by previously volunteering at the learning center during the summers. After some time and eagerness to earn some shopping money, I asked for a part-time position. What also made me look for that specific job was because I wanted to become a teacher when I was younger. I knew that the knowledge I gained as a tutor would eventually help me if I decided to pursue the teacher career path. From there, I ended up working for an additional year and a half before I quit and moved to Staten Island with my family. The best part of the job though was being able to work with some of my closest friends and eventually making new friends.
Through my time there, I gained many essential skills that helped shape me into the person I am today. Here are some:
- Build strong relationships: Building relationships are important no matter what age you are. Not all actions need an immediate result. You should always make an effort to build good relationships with your boss, co-workers, clients and anyone else around you because you may never know when that same person will be providing you with business or a reference down the line. For me, building strong relationships with my boss allowed him to see me as a trusted employee. He trusted my judgment when I referred my friends to work there. He even served as a reference for me when I decided to apply for other tutoring jobs in Staten Island.
- It’s not always about the money: Making money is the obvious answer to why we work, but building your skill set and gaining a valuable experience is just as important. Understandably, many will pick one job over another because it pays more. However, it’s important to be able to walk away from a job with skills that you can use to reach your chosen career path or to help you reach a goal. For me, volunteering was the first step in reaching my goal. I wanted a paying job at the learning center, but had no prior experience. By volunteering there during the summers, I learned all the tasks and duties that were required for the job.
- Be responsible: Whether it is your first job, third job or dream job, be responsible for your actions and tasks. Everyone is held accountable for their actions. If you are given an assignment, follow through with it and communicate with your manager, supervisor or boss if you need more time. As a tutor, I was responsible for not only my actions, but for the group of students I was looking after. It was my job to ensure their safety and ensure that their homework was done and done correctly. Managers, supervisors or bosses are not able to watch over your shoulder every step of the way so it’s your responsibility to remember your tasks and fulfill them. The parents put their trust in me to teach their children right, just as clients trust us to put their best interest in mind.
- Know your audience: Knowing your audience is extremely important. The things you can say and the actions you take are dependent on your audience. For example, the way I acted towards my students, my boss and the parents was all different. Children are the most receptive to new information. Therefore, it is crucial to watch what you say around them. This same rule applies to clients. Working in an agency, being able shift accordingly dependent on the type of client you are interacting with is essential. Some clients are more lighthearted than others, so you will need to know when it’s okay to make a joke and when it isn’t.
- Learn to multi-task: I think that being able to multi-task is a characteristic almost every job will look for in a candidate. At a young age, I learned that multi-tasking was a necessary skill. I attended school, worked after school and managed to finish my homework every day for three to four times a week. Now working at an agency, multi-tasking while remaining organized has helped me tremendously. PR can be somewhat unpredictable and no two days will ever be the same, so it’s imperative to adapt accordingly based on what is the highest priority.
Today’s guest post was written by Peppercomm senior account executive, Heather Lovett.
My first job was working for a land surveyor and mapper. As someone who enjoyed staring at a good map and fantasizing about leaving my small town the second after graduation, this seemed like the perfect place for me. And, the $5.30/hour wage sure didn’t hurt.
My job interview occurred at a yard sale that I was hosting (did I mention I like to make money?). The owner’s wife stopped by and I convinced her that a fifteen year old high school girl was exactly what her family business needed. A few days later I was getting dropped off after school to begin my career as a file clerk.
After two days I am proud to announce that I had that office in tip-top shape. The maps were filed and I began accepting the new responsibility of janitor. I also realized how amazing Lime-Away was (and still is!). I worked 1.5 hours a day after school and full-time in the summer. I became incredibly close with the family and was later promoted to babysitter of their new and adorable granddaughter. The world was my oyster.
My days consisted of cleaning, babysitting, gossiping with the owner’s wife and watching the clock for the last ten minutes to an hour of the day. I might have been fifteen, but I was no Taylor Swift. I had places to be.
All in all, this was a great first job. I was able to complete my homework each day, catch up on the town’s latest gossip and learn the hard truth about taxes. Most importantly, I learned that it was okay to be yourself at work (with some censoring here and there). After all…
Today’s guest post was written by Peppercomm management supervisor, Lauren Parker.
As a little kid, I dreamed of being an actress in New York City. When I had my chance to belt out a solo in Beauty and the Beast’s classic tune “Be Our Guest” as part of a summer musical theater troupe, I quickly realized that being in the spotlight simply isn’t my thing. I was much happier supporting the chorus and trying not to fall out of my mother’s four-inch heels.
All this is to say that public speaking and sales does not come naturally to me. But funnily enough, my first job was in sales. I wasn’t cold calling time-strapped business executives, but I was peddling the latest flat of perennials at Siebenthaler’s Garden Center.
Although I was just a 16-year-old, I had a number of responsibilities including manning the cash register, watering plants and helping shoppers select the ideal bird feed. The job wasn’t glamorous. I didn’t feel comfortable talking to customers all day, especially when they had complex botanical questions and I didn’t have the answer. I also became frustrated from time to time when my job seemed menial or boring (restock the terra cotta pots AGAIN?!).
I did have a few moments of real pride. The longer I worked there, the more knowledge I absorbed and the better I was at helping customers. I began to feel more comfortable in my role, which helped my confidence and even led to some big sales as a result of my recommendations. Halfway through the summer, my manager even asked me to train the new hire.
A few key lessons I learned from my first job are small but significant:
- Fake it ‘til you make it – I learned that there will always be aspects of any job that you aren’t comfortable with. But if you step up to the plate and try – with a smile – chances are it will become more natural over time.
- It’s OK to say “I don’t know” – When you’re young, you think you know everything. When you start to get older, you realize how little you know, but you also realize that it’s OK. Back then, I felt like a failure when I didn’t know a question, even though I had zero experience in studying plants. Today, I am constantly confronted with questions from co-workers, managers and clients and I don’t always know the answer. The best response, I’ve found, is “I don’t know, but I’m going to find out.”
- Understand the bigger picture – As low man on the totem pole, I felt like an insignificant employee at times. I saw others at the store that had such a wealth of knowledge about plants and others who were skilled at managing a retail store. I, more or less, just did what I was told. It wasn’t until I stepped back and realized that someone’s got to water the plants and change the receipt feed in the register. In my job today, I can take that lesson and not only see how my contributions help Peppercomm and my clients, but how I can help others at the agency recognize their value.
When you are just starting out in your career, you will fumble from time to time. The important thing is to learn from those experiences and improve.
Today’s post is by Peppercomm intern, Mandy Roth.
Senioritis symptoms escalate uncontrollably as the familiar aromas of chlorine and sunscreen ally to invade the residence halls. You procrastinate from studying for finals by determining the exact fashion in which you will dispose of the plethora of lecture notes that has accumulated throughout the semester; whether burning, shredding, or ripping will elicit the most satisfaction. It’s finally May, and in a few days, the freedom of summer will be upon you; all will be right with the world. Suddenly you’re confronted with a petrifying epiphany: your textbook sell back failed to cover your Dave Matthews summer tour ticket and your lifeguard certifications expired months ago. The taste of freedom that has inhabited your mouth since spring break is instantly tainted with the bitter zest of reality. It’s not long before you regret the hours you spent perfecting your beer pong form and re-tweeting @UnluckyBrian when you should’ve been applying for jobs.
“Taking the summer off won’t be so bad,” you console yourself. “I’ll get a ‘real’ job in the fall anyways.” Great pep-talk, except that everyone with previous interning experience is suddenly ahead of you in the job market. “It’s ok,” you reason, “I’ve still got a few days before summer vacation. That leaves plenty of time to land an internship before June!” Your confidence is wonderful, but you’ve failed to consider where you’ll be applying and what you’re qualified for, let alone the millions of other students who made the same classic error you did.
I was fortunate enough to have been advised by my former boss, “Start your job search in the fall.” I’ll admit it seemed a bit premature at the time, especially considering that entry-level positions are often looking to be filled ASAP. In any case, I soon realized the brilliance in my boss’s advice: I now had the opportunity to familiarize myself with companies and programs to figure out exactly what I wanted and what I had to do to get there. An early start turned out to be especially crucial when I realized that many of the agencies I was interested in happened to be in New York City. Since my graduation date was still but a figment of the future, I was able to visit NYC to determine whether I could in fact call home to the city that never sleeps.
While it might be classy to arrive fashionably late to a party, it’s nothing short of dowdy to apply to a job past the deadline. Even if a company notes that they are looking for an immediate hire, it’ll never hurt to put your name in the hat. Doing so might open up a door for the future; perhaps the company can’t hire you now, but will keep your resume on file for future opportunities. Internships are in high demand, especially in this economy, and the number of intern applicants grows exponentially in the months leading up to summer. Instead of applying at rush hour, give yourself the chance to stand out by applying before the traffic gets too heavy.
Bottom line: a job isn’t going to come after you. It all comes down to being proactive, making connections, taking the time to do your research, and ultimately giving yourself the best chance possible. If you take some time throughout the year to break-away from Facebook stalking your Economics TA and research potential job opportunities instead, suddenly your last months of college might bear a rhythm of relaxation rather than a period of panic.
Today’s post is from Peppercomm intern, Madeline Skahill.
It started as a typical Tuesday morning. Rush hour, bustling streets, and a bright New York sky paved the way for three Peppercomm interns on their way to attend Workforce Live 2013, an event that gives thoughtful insights into becoming an employer of choice. Grabbing the only open chairs in the back of the conference room, Stephanie, Madeline, and Jessica were able to apply their fast-thinking and texting skills to live-tweet the event as well as learn an important comedic lesson from two of the best.
Steve Cody, Co-Founder and Managing Partner of Peppercomm and Clayton Fletcher, full-time comedian and Chief Comedy Officer, took the stage at the event to discuss the importance of comedy in the workplace. According to Steve, “Peppercomm is a place where it’s OK to laugh and OK to have fun”, allowing the atmosphere of Peppercomm to truly embody the four elements of a successful business: trust, authenticity, openness and teamwork. From the company’s website to client meetings, these four elements are evident in daily life at Peppercomm.
Embracing these four elements is the fundamental goal of a stand-up comedy experience within the workplace. Steve and Clayton stressed the fact that stand-up comedy is not a monologue of your favorite knock-knock jokes or Popsicle stick puns. It is the ability to relax, tell a story, and build a relationship with your audience. This relationship with the audience, or in our case, fellow employees, is a true factor in what makes Peppercomm stand apart from other PR agencies. It is an atmosphere filled with encouragement, motivation, and success all because we can sit back, relax, and share a good laugh.