Want to know what it’s like to be an intern at the very best strategic communications firm in the world? Check out this very special RepTV featuring a current and two former interns (who are now full-time employees.
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.
This time of year always brings an influx of familiar faces delivering speeches around the world and thanks to sites like YouTube we can watch them all. Elin Nordegren delivered a speech that caught my attention this year. You know her or at least of her because of her famous ex-husband who’s a professional golfer.
It was only a few years ago that she was thrust onto the top of all the headlines when her then husband “extracurricular activities” came to light. Through it all she stayed quiet and let her actions do a lot of the talking; divorce, custody of the kids and starting her life over.
I only recently discovered this, but Elin is now a Rollins College 2014 graduate and was selected as the Outstanding Graduating Senior for her graduating class.
Elin, a woman of very few words teaches us that sometimes not saying much can say it all. As the saying goes, “actions speak louder than words.” Regardless of the stage you are in your own career being able to show results from your efforts can really make you stand out in the crowd of competing peers.
Her story also proves that even in our moments of complete chaos, we have to fight to find the bright side of the situation. That internship that you thought you wouldn’t survive can become a humorous memory you can share down the road in life.
Giving this commencement speech gave her an opportunity to stay connected to her past, but still show that she’s moved on and is better than ever. The next time something doesn’t go your way just dust yourself off and keep moving forward.
Taking nine years to finish college as Elin did for more reasons than one can serve as inspiration that the goal your going after may not come overnight or even in four years, but what’s meant to be will happen.
Being thrust in the spotlight for all of the wrong reasons can’t be easy and it’s times like this that present an opportunity to prove not only what we are made of, but for us working in public relations, using the power of PR for our personal lives.
Congratulations to all of those graduating into a new stage in life. Take it from Elin Nordegren, and know that journey of where we want to be may not go exactly as planned, but the reward of accomplishing a goal is well worth it.
When your new intern shows up late for the 83948394 time and feeds you a story about his/her [insert problem: car, boyfriend, school]
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 post is by Peppercomm co-founder Steve Cody, and originally ran on his blog, RepMan.
We just won a very nice piece of business yesterday. And, the new client told me one of the contributing factors was our very different business model.
Unlike 99 percent of PR firms and advertising agencies, our business is divided neither by geography nor by practice group. So, in the former instance, we don’t have multiple profit centers fighting for their share of the client’s budget. In the latter, it means you won’t a find a Tech Group or a Health Care Practice at Peppercomm.
And, while prospects absolutely adore the first differentiator they can be puzzled by our silo-free business model. But, then we explain the logic:
- Initially, Peppercomm DID feature three practice groups: one was a BtoB unit, another was consumer and the third was comprised of dotcom era tech heads. The three group heads saw themselves as Vladimir Putin wanna-bes.
Even though they didn’t have separate P&L’s, they acted as if they did. So, they wouldn’t share information or resources. Within a few years’ time, we actually had three tiny agencies within one. And, the internecine warfare actually got nasty at times.
The dotcom crash enabled us to blow up the practice silo approach and start over.
- Today, we match the client or prospect’s specific needs with an integrated communications team that possesses the deepest industry-specific expertise, the right set of traditional, social or digital skills AND exhibits the most passion for the new account. That assures a win-win on both sides.
A practice-free workplace also assures our employees aren’t pigeon-holed in one area for their entire careers. Trust me, once you’ve spent five or six years plying your trade as a health care specialist, you’ll never find a gig with an agency representing Fortune 500 BtoB or financial services organizations.
It also provides an employee with variety. So, in the morning, Jane may be working on MINI Cooper and TGI Friday’s and, in the afternoon, she’ll switch to Honeywell and Oppenheimer. It’s a beautiful thing when it’s managed correctly.
And, truthfully, the latter is really our greatest challenge. Happily, though, we have a talented group of middle and senior managers who keep a close eye on who works on what.
Like my alma mater, Northeastern University, which pioneered the Co-op system of education, our practice-free model isn’t for everyone. Nor is it for the faint of heart.
And, for those of you who think it prevents specialization in an era of specialization, think again. Our model also assures that should Sally WANT to specialize in financial services only, she can. Ditto for Dave’s desire to only work on consumer business.
The model works.
So, for those of you who are burning out after 10 years of representing the same old clients in the same old category and pitching the same old trade or beat reporters, shoot me a note. Ditto to those of you who may just starting out, and believe variety is the spice of life. We just might have a silo-free gig for you.
I’ve been this way since I was young—but I am usually hardest on myself. In fact, there have been times when I did something wrong and instead of getting a punishment from my parents, they just let it go because they knew I had learned from said mistake and had agonized over it for a while (which is probably like three days in “kid time”).
As an adult, I have learned to balance how hard I am on myself, but now really try to make the most of when I make a mistake (which I still do because, SURPRISE, I’m human).
So what does that mean? We all hate making mistakes—in and out of the workplace. Sometimes they are small ones that no one notices or other times they’re larger ones that require someone above you to smooth out for you.
The important takeaway is to own up to what you did, apologize and learn from it. Learning from any size mistake goes beyond just “not doing it again,” but also requires you to think about the steps that led you to that mistake and why it was wrong. It might be small or it could be a bit more complicated.
A good rule of thumb is also to talk to a trusted colleague, friend or mentor about mistakes, especially the bigger ones that aren’t as clear cut. They can help you navigate the waters if you’re unsure and even help to pinpoint why something was wrong.
I for one still am bothered by mistakes I have even made just a few years ago in the workplace. I still remember mistakes I made in school, too. But in those instances, I will never forget what happened and try not to let it happen again.
Any mistakes you’d care to share? Or lessons learned? How do you handle when you make a mistake?
Peppercomm and, really, the industry as a whole, has many that have gone to school for “PR/communications,” but there are just as many who have less traditional majors. We also hire based on a number of different factors, mainly experience and skills. Sometimes that is from a well-known school, sometimes not.
Our company’s co-founder, Steve Cody, likens the search for our summer interns to that of ‘March Madness.’ Do you agree with his assessment in Inc Magazine? I may be a bit biased, but as a Providence College Friar, I appreciate the nod and agree with Steve.
Having helped run Peppercomm’s intern program for several years–knowing hat to look for in a candidate has become second nature.
We’re always looking for candidates who are:
- Smart (duh)
- Quick studies
- Willing to learn
- Fit in with our unique culture
Of course, there are some basic skills that are a must such as great writing and researching skills. It’s always a bonus if you already posses some media relations skills, but those are skills that can certainly be taught.
If you’re interested in our program, SURPRISE, we’re hiring now. Check out our intern program page for more information and how to apply. And if you’re looking for the perfect intern model, here’s a great video to use as a “guide” (maybe don’t do everything from this video . . . or any of it–but who doesn’t love the Muppets): What If The Muppets Were Interns.