Today’s guest post was written by Peppercomm account executive, Colin Reynolds.
My first job, like most I would imagine, provided countless learning opportunities and life lessons – for better or worse. But my first gig also taught me several unique tactical skills, many of which I still practice on a daily basis.
I learned how to manage different personalities and situations, gained the wherewithal to identify and react to a potential crisis in a composed and lucid manner, and lastly – and this was most important to my clientele – I developed an uncanny ability to read any putt inside of 12 feet.
It was the summer of 2001 and the ink on my first driver’s license was barely dry. I was young, able-bodied, and newly mobile. I was also the newest caddie at my local golf club.
What I gained from this experience, besides a few free rounds and an occasional sore shoulder, was how to handle people at their best – but especially at their worst. Here are a few takeaways from that summer that have stuck with me all this time:
- Know your client: Everyone is different and I had to learn how to approach and manage various personalities. On the course, some players loved to chat and others DID NOT. While some folks were easy going, others were more, let’s just say, serious. As a caddie, it was my job to identify who was who and adjust accordingly – sometimes on the fly. I wouldn’t want to make a joke or be too playful around the more serious players, or come across as boring or stiff with the looser ones. It was up to me to know exactly what I was getting into and act appropriately for the given situation.
- Read more than just the green: Similarly to the last note, a caddie’s job is all about making a player feel good and confident in his/her golf game. However, a missed putt here or errant drive there can make even the most comfortable player tense and irritable – and given the nature of the game, this can change in an instant. That’s where body language and other cues become very important. I would do my best to pull a player out of a rut by providing advice and keeping the mood light, but sometimes they would just want to be left alone with their thoughts, and that was ok too. But it was on me to know when to push and when to back off.
- Be prepared: Golfers pay pretty good money to enjoy a relaxing round – especially if they’ve opted for a caddie. It was my responsibility to be as prepared as possible to show the extra investment was worth it. I knew everything about that course, from different green speeds and bunker lies, to accurate distances and necessary club selection. I owed it to my clients to know the course. It’s irresponsible to approach any professional situation unprepared, especially when others are counting on you.
- Be confident: Always speak with confidence, even if you’re not 100 percent sure – and even if you have to add a caveat to let your client know you’re not 100 percent sure, do it with confidence. If I thought a player was in-between clubs, I’d let him/her know, but I would do it in an assuring manner. You want your client feeling poised and assured – no one takes advice from someone that sounds wavering or uncertain. You’re the expert, own it.
- Always be closing: Believe it or not, caddies are highly competitive with each other and certain players are more fun – and profitable – to caddy for. Beyond basic golf acumen, I also had to sell myself and as well as the club to keep players coming back and requesting my services. Maintaining repeat customers is always a clear indication of a job well done, so I would go above and beyond to prove that the client made the right choice by enlisting my help.
Today’s guest post was written by Peppercomm account executive, Samantha Bruno.
My first official job was at The Inflation Station, an inflatable bounce house for kid in New Jersey. I started working there with three friends, creating an ideal situation for a high school student who could only work Saturdays during the school year and who was incredibly preoccupied with having constant social interaction.
I began as a ride monitor, which is in fact as boring as it sounds. Spending what felt like endless shifts on the outskirts, watching children and their families bounce around while shrieking with joy and laughter. The occasional scared two year old or injured child in need of a first aid kit was not nearly enough fuel to make the shift go any faster.
Then I became a party host and the game changed. I was now being asked to run on-site birthday parties, work with families and spend time with little children on their special day. I was also able to earn tips in addition to my hourly wage. Instead of sitting and watching the fun happen around me, I was being tasked to help create the level of fun that was being experienced!
At the time, the owner Steve, who was quirky but innovative – no, not Steve Cody of Peppercomm, although I am now realizing that I have worked for multiple men named Steve with similar dispositions– was all about fostering a fun environment while making as much money as possible. A business principle, I found rather effective. When your employees enjoy the atmosphere at work and are happy, they produce better results, a principle that is also front and center here at Peppercomm (the parallels are seemingly endless).
As juvenile as the job may have been, little did I realize it taught me skills that I have carried into my adult professional career. Here are a few learnings I can undeniably attribute to my time spent with the inflatables.
1) Work Hard, Play Hard: Your work can also be fun. There is something to be said about liking where you work because you truly take pleasure in what you do for a living.
2) Take the job seriously but never take yourself too serious: When it came to the inflatables, it was important to follow instructions and protocol. The potential of having someone injured on a ride was a serious liability that, despite customers signing their life away on the waiver, was something management was naturally trying to avoid. That being said, no one wanted an inflatable Nazi, who banned fun in the name of “because I said so.” Instead, put yourself in the shoes of a five year old (actually that’s a bad metaphor since they were required to take them off before entering the play area…) and remember not to stress the little things. Even now, I pride myself on taking my work seriously, but not taking myself too seriously or coming across too harsh with my coworkers, clients, etc.
3) You don’t have to leave work at work: Although it is important to be able to separate yourself from work so you can regroup and return again the next day at the top of your game, the relationships you build with coworkers do not have to be turned off at the end of the day. It was important to me to have friends at work in high school the same way it is important to me now. Not only does it make the work day more pleasant, I have been able to cultivate long-lasting relationships with co-workers that extend long past 5:30 p.m.
Recently, my mother (of all people) directed me to the following Cracked article from David Wong: “6 Harsh Truths That Will Make You a Better Person”. In her note with the link, my mom advised, “Long and with bad language, but funny and good points made.” Naturally, I was intrigued, and decided to give ‘er a read—and a delightfully inappropriate, engaging read it was!
In addition to a glorious image of Lenny Kravitz prancing around in a titanic scarf, Wong gave me the push I needed to “own” 2014. While this specific piece features many worthy pointers, one argument stood out in particular. To quote Wong*:
… The end of 2014, that’s our deadline. While other people are telling you “Let’s make a New Year’s resolution to lose 15 pounds this year!” I’m going to say let’s pledge to do freaking anything — add any skill, any improvement to your human tool set, and get good enough at it to impress people. Don’t ask me what – good grief, pick something at random if you don’t know. Take a class in karate, or ballroom dancing, or pottery. Learn to bake. Build a birdhouse. Learn massage. Learn a programming language. Film a parody. Adopt a superhero persona and fight crime. Write a comment on PRiscope.
But the key is, I don’t want you to focus on something great that you’re going to make happen to you (“I’m going to find a husband, I’m going to make lots of money…”). I want you to purely focus on giving yourself a skill that would make you ever so slightly more interesting and valuable to other people.
“I don’t have the money to take a cooking class.” Then Google “how to cook.” Dagnabbit, you have to kill those excuses. Or they will kill you.
Of course self-improvement, and this idea of “adding value to society” is nothing new; but Wong found a way to voice the point in an amusing way that forced me to listen. As a semi-recent college grad making my career début in the PR field, Wong made me consider the many ways in which I can add value to the audiences in my life—I can learn a new communication skill or program that will benefit my agency and my clients; I can add a new activity to my repertoire to be more interesting and useful to my friends and family; I can be a more gracious neighbor to well…benefit my neighbors (duh); and the list goes on.
The opportunities are there, and excuses are so 2013. Now it’s up to you to develop the skills that’ll help you stand out—as a student, intern, prospective employee, whatever it may be—and benefit the world around you.
How will you apply Wong’s advice to your life this year? Tell us in the comments below!
* And by “to quote Wong” I really mean to “express Wong’s sentiment in a slightly** less offensive manner that aligns more closely with PRiscope’s values & purposes”
** And by “a slightly” I mean “an extremely”
Today’s guest post was written by Peppercomm senior account executive, Nick Light.
As a 15-year-old, I had a lot on my plate. I was a pretty serious student, 4-sport athlete and aspiring blues musician, so the only jobs I really had time for were in the summer. Well that’s not entirely true – I had a couple jobs (paper boy and musician) before then, but my paper route was completed every day with the help of my mom, and the music gigs weren’t a regular thing.
That’s why I’m declaring that my first real job was “Lawn Boy.”
Let me tell you, being a Lawn Boy isn’t as sexy as all the movies make it out to be. First of all, I owed my job to my town’s switch from well water to “town water.” This meant that pretty much everybody’s lawns were torn up, pipes laid down and flower beds shredded. One particularly nice lady’s daughter was getting married in the fall at her house overlooking Lake Champlain. This meant that we (my best buddy and I) had the summer to fix and landscape the lawn, plant flowers and shrubberies and grow fresh grass.
Looking back on it, our wealthy matron, Mrs. Ward, definitely could have paid real landscapers to do the job well and quickly, but I think she saw it as an employing the youth type of initiative. My buddy and I would arrive at her house just after sunrise, usually about 8am. She would tell us the goals of the day, and release us into the 90 degree heat and humidity. Our work was really tough. Common tasks included distributing dumptruck–loads of top soil, mulch and gravel all over her property, weeding gardens, removing and replanting shrubs (and sometimes small trees) and raking pretty much anything that could be raked. We carried incredibly heavy loads of things just because we could – 15 year-old boys are pretty durable.
I remember one particularly hard task. For a few days straight it had rained, flooding the basement of the Wards’ house. Then, of course, it got blazingly hot. We had to dig a drainage trench around the house out of the water-saturated ground. I’m pretty sure we went through numerous two-liter bottles of water.
But alas, it was a great job for a 15 year-old kid. I got really strong, which was a great side effect since I was playing football at the time. We worked long hours, but Mrs. Ward fed us lunch every day and paid us well. I was exhausted every night, and slept like a rock. I think, more than anything else though, the job made me value the time when I wasn’t on the clock. I’m not sure that that’s the right takeaway, but I’m glad I had the job.
Christmas, Hanukkah, New Years, Aaron Rodgers’s birthday—it truly is the most wonderful time of the year. With so many occasions to observe, it’s just a matter of time before corporate holiday parties scuttle their way onto the handy dandy Outlook calendar.
Seeing as we’re here to advise on entry-level PR, what kind of mentors would we be if we didn’t provide a little direction on holiday party etiquette? Below, we’ve compiled several tips for navigating your corporate festivities, and making sure you don’t give your managers any reason to quote Taylor Swift on, “I knew you were trouble when you walked in.”
- Keep it classy. Contrary to popular belief, staying classy isn’t reserved for those residing in San Diego. Whether you’re aware of it or not, your colleagues and managers can and will take note of your behavior. You don’t want to be that girl/guy whose behavior is still a topic of conversation at your firm’s holiday shindig in 2019. Take Mean Girls’ supporting character Amber D’Alessio for example. She may have made out with a hot dog just one time, but people don’t forget. Amber can’t go back in time to fix her famous frank faux pas, but it’s not too late for you to keep it classy. You’ll be glad you did.
- Use the holiday party as an opportunity to really get to know your colleagues. Electing to participate in the summer kickball league was one of the best choices I made during my interning period at Peppercomm, as it posed an opportunity to connect with colleagues outside of the business context. The holiday party presents a similar opportunity: an occasion to click with coworkers in a casual, stress-free environment. Don’t be afraid to step outside of your comfort zone and converse with people you may not be extremely familiar with—that’s exactly what you should be doing!
- If you’re going to drink, have a glass of water between each beer. Holiday parties are not the time to whip out your tremendous beer pong skills, or engage in a flip cup competition- especially as an intern. Socially drinking is acceptable, but you never want to be “that intern” for years to come. General rule of thumb is watch the alcohol intake- and as tempting as it may be when you see other coworkers engage in such behavior- do as they say, and not as they do. Which brings us to our next point…
- Don’t always do as you see. Depending on your office situation, some office parties can be a little more “free” than others. If you see a supervisor/superior drinking a little more than they should, it doesn’t mean you should, too. Always err on the side of caution and keep it to a two drink maximum. It’s important to always maintain a level of professionalism.
- Dress the part. Ask your coworkers who may have been at former office parties what the dress code is. You don’t want to be underdressed—or on the flip side—wearing a gown if it’s casual.
- Beware the next day. Whether or not you’re always early, right on time or a few minutes late for work—make SURE that you’re early for work on the morning following your corporate party. This is a day some higher-ups may be paying attention to those who are a bit late or, even worse, calling in sick. Even if you have completely legitimate excuses, being late or calling in is a red flag that you may have had too much fun the night before . . . and believe me, people notice.
For even more tips on the topic, see Jacqueline Whitmore’s recent Entrepreneur piece 7 Ways to Stay Out of Trouble During Your Holiday Office Party.
Do you have any holiday party horror stories or additional etiquette tips to share? Please comment below—we’d love to hear from you!
Today’s guest post was written by Peppercomm account executive, Nicole Hall.
As a 16-year-old girl, I was motivated by two things when getting my first job—money and boys. So naturally, I decided to apply at Albertsons as a courtesy clerk where my crush at the time worked. I can’t say that the money was great (minimum wage was significantly lower nine years ago), but I did learn the value of a dollar and began to develop a sense of financial independence from my parents.
My first day on the job, I realized that a “courtesy clerk” is actually a pseudonym for “person who bags groceries and carries them out to your car in the blazing Texas heat.” Other duties of mine included collecting carts from outdoors, sweeping the outside and inside of the store, returning groceries to their rightful place on the shelf after a customer return, and cleaning the bathrooms. This job was far from glamorous, and at times I wanted to just walk out. However, my relationship with the rest of the Albertson’s staff got me through each shift. During my rounds of returning groceries, I had made friends with the girls in the bakery (who always managed to give me several cookies throughout the day), the grocery stockers, the deli workers, and of course the rest of my courtesy clerk and cashier family.
So when it came time for everyone in the store to vote on who would represent them at the annual Customer Service Competition, I won the courtesy clerk position by a landslide. The competition involved a cashier/courtesy clerk team from each store, competing in a day-long event of working and being judged on our bagging skills, speed, customer service and overall charisma. If you have ever seen the movie Employee of the Month, it is exactly like that, except this real-life event incorporated employees from several different stores and spirited costumes. Lori, my cashier teammate, and I won the district competition, so we went on to participate in regional. I can’t remember exactly, but I think we placed fifth or sixth there, so we (thankfully) did not proceed to state.
Despite the ups and downs of a job bagging groceries, I did learn a few lessons that apply to me even today:
- Customer service is key: Whether I’m being formally graded on it by judges or not, my customer service skills are always being evaluated and are an indicator of the quality of the relationships I have with my clients. It is essential to know that the customer or client always comes first.
- There IS a correct way to bag groceries: This one may not apply literally to public relations, but the essence is the same. According to my Albertson’s training videos, you are supposed to first build walls in the grocery bag with cereal boxes and then fill in the middle with cans, fruit, etc. In PR, I like to think that this applies most to the writing aspect. Whether it is a press release, strategy document or a byline, you have to develop a base structure or outline and then fill in the details.
- Develop several skill sets: Having different responsibilities throughout the day as a courtesy clerk may have been frustrating at times (especially when it was over 100 degrees outside), but it helped break up the day. I could go outside and grab carts, stand at the cash register and bag groceries, or make rounds throughout the store to clean up and put things back. In my current position, my day may consist of pitching media, writing a press release, a client phone call, helping plan an event, and attend a brainstorm. Not only does versatility help break up my day, but it helps make me a better asset on my different accounts.
And if you were wondering, my crush did end up becoming my boyfriend for about six months. He must have been impressed with my ability to bag groceries in record time with a smile on my face.
In this guest post from Catharine Cody, junior account executive at Peppercomm, Catharine shares some lessons learned from her first job.
You know how everyone says that the best time of their life was in college? They say it because it’s true. College was amazing. We had a free gym, the luxury to make our own schedules and we were finally of legal age to drink! I blame college for the cold slap of reality I received the day I started my first real job.
After parlaying a few successful internships at NBC into a full time Production Assistant job, I realized that college taught me very little. The earliest I ever woke up in college was 9:30am, and that was a bad day! Most of my classes didn’t start until after 11:00am. That meant that I could wake up and watch a solid hour of Wife Swap before even washing my face.
So, you can imagine my consternation when I found out my new hours: Thursdays & Fridays 8-4pm and Saturdays & Sundays 4am-4pm. That’s a 40 hour week smashed into four days. Goodbye carefree days of my youth!
After a few months, however, I settled into a nice routine. I would go to bed on Friday nights at 8pm and wake up at 2:45am in order to get to the studio by 3:45. During my time there, I created graphics to accompany the news segments, wrote copy and edited video. By the time 4pm rolled around on Sunday I had the biggest feeling of accomplishment, like, EVER. Monday-Wednesdays were spent catching up on sleep. I had no social life, and stopped hanging out with the majority of my friends.
Unfortunately, Comcast bought NBC in 2011 causing many jobs to be cut, including mine. But, I’ve never ONCE regretted my time spent at MSNBC. I even got to meet some cool amazing famous people like Snooki, Mike Tyson and Bradley Cooper. I met more high-caliber celebrities like Ariana Huffington & Bob Woodward, too. I also learned some valuable lessons that I’ve taken with me to my current job:
- School is cool, but doesn’t prepare you for the real world. Class at 10am? Really guys? In what world does work start at 10am? Questioning professors makes you look good in class, but some bosses don’t want to be second-guessed.
- Complaining gets you nowhere. Don’t complain to your boss that your commute sucks and you’ve been up for hours. Chances are s/he’s been up and working a lot longer and harder than you.
- Follow instructions. Working is hard. Following instructions is even harder. Bosses and supervisors get mad when you don’t follow their instructions. So, just do it right the first time.
- True friends are hard to find. Most of your friends will eventually stop asking you to hang out when you constantly say you are working, or too tired. True friends never stop asking you to hang out and will work to find time that works for both of you.
We all love lists, right? I sure do (*cough* Buzzfeed *cough*). I came across two lists this past week that not only give good advice, but also have fantastic imagery to go along with each point. One has to do with what journalists do that annoy PR pros and, of course, the second list looks at what PR pros do to annoy journalists.
I hope you enjoy as much as I do: