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By Caleb O’Neal

I recently went on a weekend trip back to the Lone Star State. As I returned to work, I fell ill. I tried to soldier on at work, working through the pain until I decided that I couldn’t handle it anymore. I went to the doctor where I was told that I could not go to work or do anything for the rest of the week.

Below are the pros and cons of that week off.

Pros

Netflix: Anyone who has a Netflix account knows the dangers of being home with nothing to do for an extended period of time. I was hodogme for 6 days straight. I would watch the usual shows, The Office, Psych, and Parks and Rec, but then I discovered a new/old show, The West Wing. (Chris Piedmont and Samantha Bruno can attest to the greatness of this show). I was immediately hooked on political public relations and political strategy. I watched the first season, 22 episodes, in those 6 days!

Seamless: I consider Seamless a pro and a con. Seamless, if you are unaware, is an app that delivers food from numerous restaurants. You now see why I also consider this to be a con. I ate the most unhealthily I have eaten all summer and loved every minute of it. I didn’t have to go out and sit in a restaurant by myself, because food was brought directly to my apartment!

Caring Managers: During my quarantine I was exchanging texts with my intern committee managers, Samantha Bruno and Chris Piedmont. They would both text me throughout the day asking if I was ok or if I needed anything. I will say that I could not have gotten through the week without them.

Cons

No Work Related Anything: As an intern, you have a lot on your plate, at any moment of the day. As a sick intern, you don’t even have a plate. Peppercomm wanted me to get better and that meant resting and disconnecting from work. I begged Samantha and Chris to let me do some things from home but they didn’t budge, not even a little bit, but I was chomping at the bit to come back to Peppercomm.

No Email: As an Intern for Peppercomm you are not permitted to have work email on your phone or personal computer. As an OCD person, I was dreading the day I returned to work and opened my email. I hate unread emails. When I went back to work I had 291 unread emails! I was heads-down all morning sorting through my inbox.

A Whole Lot of Nothing: I did absolutely nothing most of the time I was at home. Like I said, I watched Netflix and I ate food. There were some days when I would get tired of those things and decide to work on an online class I was taking. I became so stir crazy that on one day I took 2 tests, 3 quizzes, and a mid-term!

I Have Kidney Stones: I think this one is pretty obvious.

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Lauren Earthman PictureGrowing up in a close-knit community outside of Dallas, Texas, it might not come as a surprise that my life transformed when I moved to Pennsylvania for college.

I not only experienced physical shock as an unprepared freshman wearing rain boots in two feet of snow, but I also experienced a type of culture shock while learning to adapt to the people and life around me. Instantly, I noticed the differences between the two regions of the country. People dressed differently, spoke differently and certainly acted differently.

As a student studying public relations and business, I’m constantly focused on the act of communicating and connecting with people –skills that have definitely grown since my move to the north. I believe that it’s important to understand the little differences between the many ways of life in the world, and by evaluating these distinctions, we are more likely to succeed in the public relations industry.

Language Differences: Let’s talk about the word “y’all.” If you ask anyone from the south, “y’all” is a word, or better yet, an abbreviation of two words. By combining “you” and “all”, suddenly you have a southern accent. Believe it or not, “y’all” isn’t the only word derived from regional dialects. My friends in Pennsylvania like to enhance their vocabulary with “yinz” or “yous” to describe a group of people. It has become a new hobby of mine to go back and forth with my Peppercomm co-workers about words that stem from our various corners of the world. Imagine their faces when I tried to describe the word “catawampus.”

Lauren Table

Self-Branding: Beyond our dialect or accent, communicating who we are, or our “self-brand,” is directly influenced by where we’re from. Whether we like it or not, our surroundings impact how we present ourselves. As communications specialists, it’s essential that we establish a solid “self-brand” before we take on representing the brands of our clients. So embrace where you’re from and don’t be afraid to incorporate a little southern charm, west coast ease or east coast pride into your personal brand.

Communication Styles: Depending on your day-to-day lifestyle, your work habits and communication techniques are likely to vary. From personal experience, I had to adapt to a faster work pace when I relocated to the north. In public relations, it’s important to know the different lifestyles that people live in order to better understand their approach and reaction to various matters. Understanding people and their backgrounds will not only help you relate to different audiences, but will also make you a better communicator.

In a country that covers more than 5 million square miles, it is no wonder that regions have developed different cultures. These “invisible borders” have the potential to disrupt communication, but by mastering the art of understanding others we will succeed.

by Lauren Earthman

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Today’s post is contributed by NYC intern Rachael Collins.

bio_ted-birkhahn_524x550_542_550_s_c1For our fourth installment of PeppTalks, Ted Birkhahn, Partner and President at Peppercomm, shared his views on work and life and shed light on the experiences which have made him who he is today. Ted, who is in charge of client services and managing agency operations, has a diverse background in political public relations, journalism and production.

RC: Where did you grow up and where did you go to school?
TB: I grew up in a mixture of New York and Connecticut and attended the University of Vermont.

RC: What was your first concert?
TB: I saw Air Supply at Radio City Music Hall when I was 10 years old. You probably haven’t heard of them but they are an 80’s rock n’ roll style band.

RC: What would your last meal on earth be?
TB: Steak tartare which is prepared tableside, with the freshest possible French bread and butter.
(For those of you who are unfamiliar with this Parisian dish, it is a meat dish made from finely chopped raw beef. It is often served with onions, capers and seasonings and often served with a raw egg yolk. It is said that the key to a successful steak tartare is fresh beef, freshly hand-chopped at the very last minute and mixed tableside).

RC: Which TV show is your guilty pleasure?
TB: Right now? Homeland, Billions and a family favorite is Modern Family. Also, Seinfeld.

RC: What is your favorite episode?
TB: The Marine Biologist episode has got to be my favorite.

RC: What was your first job and what did you learn from it?
TB: I was a camp counselor. I learnt that I hated kids and spent all the money I earned on beer.

RC: What was your most memorable job?
TB: Working for the mayor of New York. It was both terrifying and stressful but it was an incredible learning experience.

RC: What drew you to Peppercomm?
TB: Honestly, I needed a career change from working for the Government. It was a great time to get into PR because of the economic climate and Peppercomm was offering something different with an entrepreneurial spirit and a clear positive work culture. I took the risk and it payed off.

RC: What’s an activity you do in your spare time?
TB: When I’m not playing parent taxi, Hockey, hockey and hockey. Whether it is being played, watched or attended, my family and I are crazy for it. It is something the whole family is keen on. Other than that, I enjoy fishing and have a huge interest in airplanes.

RC: What are your teams?
TB: The NY Rangers and University of Vermont.

RC: If you could do PR for any client, who would it be?
TB: I would love access to a presidential candidate or a sports team like the New York Rangers.

RC: Do you have a piece of advice you live by?
TB: I have two: Trust building with clients and in your job is crucial, and never stop building your network and learning. These two things go hand in hand. Oh and I am also a big believer in the theory behind karma.

RC: What is Your Definition of Success?
TB: To do a job where you feel like you’re making a difference and knowing that people value your work.

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Unless you live under a rock, chances are your everyday activities will involve some level of networking. Networking is critical. It provides the knowledge, resources, and support system that can sustain one’s personal development. Everyone does it, even unconsciously.

From what I’ve observed, however, most people have a flawed and negative perception of networking. They think the act of sharing information is unidirectional and often don’t know who they should network with. During events, they tend to target either prominent attendees or panelists, as if they are the only people who can help them achieve their goals. I’ve had many elevator chats with people who went home with their stack of business cards almost untouched because they didn’t get to speak with the people they wanted. The truth is, effective networking runs on a give-and-take basis. No one knows so much as to not need more knowledge and information. Anyone can offer valuable insight and the biggest network that we too often don’t take advantage of is the one that is the most accessible to us: our peers.

Who are they? At a networking event, they are the people who, like you, are either looking to make a connection, find a mentor or learn about a particular topic. Our peers include classmates, friends, colleagues etc. We tend to underestimate them because they are generally at the same stage in life and have similar goals so we assume they can’t help us in any significant way, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Our peers have knowledge, experience and talents that can benefit us. For example, an old classmate could be the one who refers you to their manager for potential hiring. It’s easier to maintain relationships with this group because they are people we already know. Here are some ways in which you can successfully network with your peers:

  1. Show Interest

The best way to find out how you can help someone (or vice-versa) is by asking questions. Ask about their background, their current jobs, their career aspirations, short or long-terms goals – anything to keep the conversation going. You can send monthly check-in emails to a group of old connections or send out invitations to coffee or lunch dates. People love talking about themselves so be there to listen. Showing a little interest in someone else’s life, is often greatly appreciated. You can learn a lot from that. At the same time, be sure to participate in the conversation as well.

  1. Organize Mastermind Groups

When you’re lucky to meet a group of like-minded people, it’s worth exploring that connection. Start a meetup group and get together frequently to openly talk about your goals, the obstacles that you encounter and your progress. Being part of support groups can only move you forward. It’s a great way to stay motivated and not fall behind as you hold each other accountable.

  1. Share Your Experience

I recently connected with someone after sharing my experience interning at Hearst Magazines. She was offered a position there and wanted to have a better understanding of the company’s culture in order to make a decision. She was wise to ask someone who had been in that position before.

When you share your experience, you open yourself to constructive feedback as people could point out mistakes that you wouldn’t have otherwise realized you’d made.. So always be open to listening to people and sharing your story.

  1. Exchange Knowledge and Information

When you make it a habit to listen to people and voice your goals, you position yourself to be a contributor and to also stay on top of industry news and important events. My friends and I consistently email each other useful articles, links to job postings or important events happening because we know each other’s interests. Having this kind of support is very enriching and it helps us stay focused.

  1. Peer-to-Peer Coaching

I heard this term for the first time at Eventsy’s Women’s Empowerment Summit. If your peers have particular skills, use them to your advantage. If an old classmate knows how to design business cards, ask for their services before hiring a professional. The same way, if you’re good at cover letter writing for example, help your peers proofread their job applications. Harnessing your network’s abilities will cost less and be more beneficial to all of you.

  1. Attend Networking Events Together

Attending networking events with your peers has its perks. It makes it easier to spark a conversation with someone. You can also spread out and speak to as many people as possible and then share the things you’ve learned.

We are constantly surrounded by our peers and it’s a network that we interact with daily. Learning how to optimize it is a worthy investment.

By Shelcy Joseph

About the Author

Shelcy Joseph is a freelance writer and career blogger living in New York City. She frequently contributes to several publications such as Classy Career Girl, That Working Girl, FindSpark, LinkedIn Pulse, Eventsy etc. Connect with her via Twitter, Gmail or LinkedIn.

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Today’s post is contributed by former NYC intern Shalaka Vinod

Armel headshotFor our third installment of PeppTalks, we discussed all things work and life with Armel Leslie, Senior Director here at Peppercomm. Armel is a crucial member of the Peppercomm team and brings 15 plus years of experience in financial and corporate PR to the team. Armel feels like part of the family to us interns, as his office is in such close proximity to ‘intern row’, daily debates and discussions are the norm.

SV: Where did you grow up and where did you go to school?
AL: I grew up and went to school in South Africa. I came to the U.S. in 1994 and a year later went to Baruch College right here in Gramercy Park.

SV: What was your first concert?
AL: Wow that was a long time ago. The first concert that meant anything was David Bowie in 1990. Since then he has been my favorite musician. I recently attended his tribute concert at Carnegie Hall. A great way to honor such a talent.

SV: Which TV show is your guilty pleasure?
AL: Guilty pleasure?? Hmm… I’m a big fan of House of Cards. It’s a great show.

SV: What would your last meal on Earth be?
AL: Israeli food- Pita, hummus and eggplant.

SV: What’s an activity you’ve taken up recently?
AL: I’ve actually recently taken up kayaking. I hope to go on my first adventure with my kayak, Mellow Yellow (pictured below), over Memorial Day weekend.

Mellow Yellow

SV: What was your first job and what did you learn from it?
AL: My first job… was coaching tennis. I learned how to be patient when dealing with people, mainly kids.

SV: What drew you to Peppercomm?
AL: The firm I was at before, Walek & Associates, was actually acquired by Peppercomm in 2013. So I joined with the Walek team, but was immediately impressed by how smart and talented people were.

SV: If you could perform PR for one client/celeb, who would it be?
AL: I’m a big football fan so I would have to say Cristiano Ronaldo, he’s my favorite player.

SV: Do you have a piece of advice you live by?
AL: Yes, I would say, don’t sweat the small stuff.
SV: That’s great advice, short and sweet.

SV: What would you say is your definition of success?
AL: To be recognized as a good team player that leads by example.

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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