Monday, May 2, 2011

You are 1 in 7 billion

You’ve heard the line: you never get a second chance to make a first impression. This statement is dead on and applies to in-person meetings AND your presence on the World Wide Web.

Let’s face it, perception is reality. The way others perceive you is what they actually believe to be true – even if it’s not. If you’re trying to break into the professional realm or enter a new career, you should be walking the straight and narrow. You have to think before you do everything. From what you wear, to what you say, to the info you’re sharing on the Internet, people are taking notice.

In order to prepare you, I developed a website focused exclusively on using social media to make a positive lasting impression and develop a personal brand.

Visit Youare1in7billion.com for all the details.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Redefining our work ethic – as a nation and as individuals

Indira Gandhi once said, “My grandfather once told me that there are two kinds of people: those who work and those who take the credit. He told me to try to be in the first group; there was less competition there.” As today’s American work force experiences a seismic shift, I see work ethic at the root of it. And as layoffs continue to take place, it’s vital to look deeper and redefine our vision and our values.

With a changing landscape and rapid technological advancements, it’s even more important now, more than ever, to bring our attention to cultivating quality work. This video clip speaks to this need.

I believe the value of work ethic starts at home.

As a little girl, I observed my great aunt and uncle instill an unsurpassed level of work ethic in their children. At a young age, my cousins worked hard to contribute to the family unit. No lazing around the house on weekends – they were up early and out mowing acres of rolling hills in Ocala, Florida or helping out with day-to-day chores.

How different a world we life in today - we hire housekeepers to do our chores and don’t have time to mow our lawns. Children rarely have a set of regular chores, and if they do, are compensated for their work. They expect to be paid, instead of understanding it is their role as a member of the family. I’m sure Ashley and Josh didn’t jump at the opportunity to do yard work, but they did it because they respected their folks, and perhaps, feared the consequences if they didn’t. I wonder if today’s parents run the same household? From my perspective, I certainly don’t see it that way.

In today’s market, work is a privilege.

As projects pile on my plate, instead of complaining about my laundry list of “things to do”, I reflect on how fortunate I am to have meaningful work. Quinn Bommelje’s statement, “When things are going good, work harder!” truly encompasses my approach to work (and life) these days. As a nation, and individuals, we can’t ever rest on our laurels. We have to push ourselves to work harder, go further and become better than we thought was ever humanly possible. Let’s not look at this time in history as a crisis – instead see it as a crossroads to redefine ourselves.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Brand Yourself

As a communication student, you’re learning about strategies and tactics that help build, change, and/or enhance an organization’s reputation. In this course, we have observed examples of organizations, and some individuals, working to influence public perception.

Have you ever stopped to think of your own reputation? Have you ever considered your own personal brand?

In the industry, relationships are essential and your personal image can make or break the opportunities that are presented to you. Even if you have no desire to work in the PR industry, you should always be conscious of your reputation.

Your assignment is to develop a comprehensive overview of the brand of __________________ (your name here).

Below you will find a list of questions to get you started.

What is your purpose?
- A person’s purpose often takes a lifetime to discover and define – some realize it quickly, while others search for years.

What is your mission?
- What are your core beliefs that are fundamental to your place in the world? Consider defining a personal mission statement – a guiding motto to follow and reflect on often.

What is your vision?
- Your vision is where you see yourself in the future. What you are striving for in your career, personal goals and/or achievements you hope to gain one day.
- Do you develop annual goals for yourself? They can help you identify the vision of your life.

What are your values?
- Values are what we hold of utmost importance – what do you value the most?
- Take a look at your life today. Take a look at your weekly activities. Observe how you spend your time.
>> What do you spend your time doing?
>> What do you consider your priorities?
>> Now, how does that transfer into the things you value most? Do they align? Are you living those values?

When were you founded?
- This could be your time of birth. It may be another moment where you reached an epiphany or had a defining moment that created a new awareness and awakening within you.

Why were you founded?
- In your opinion, why do you believe you are here?

What distinguishes you from everyone else in the market?

Who is your target audience?
- Primary, secondary and intervening individuals?

What are your primary message points?

What channels of communication do you typically use to convey those messages?

If you worked for an agency and were hired to represent your brand, would you embrace the challenge?

What are you doing today to enhance and/or change your reputation and create the best brand image of __________________________(your name here)?

Be creative, be original, be yourself. After all, only you are you.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Tried and true tips to land the best internships

So you're a college student and it’s officially time to transition from a free-to-be-me lifestyle to the real-world professional realm. It’s only natural that you are feeling overwhelmed by the process and need some good advice. As a PR pro with more than a decade of experience, I have tried and true tips for success.

First things first, do a self assessment. Jot down a list of your knowledge, skills and abilities. Then take the time to identify what it is that you really want to do. How do you do this? Take courses that relate to your field of choice; Read up on each industry; Get involved on campus; Volunteer; Speak with pros from each sector – get their perspective and ask to shadow them; Understand the four industry types – agencies, corporations, non-profit organizations and government agencies.

Once you have a good handle of the direction you would like to take, make a wish list of companies you’d like to work for and positions to pursue. Having a clear vision is the best way to eventually make your dreams come true.

Clean up your digital dirt now. “But I keep my Facebook setting on private!” is probably the first thing that pops into your head. You’d be surprised how easy it is to find you on the Web – especially if your “friends” aren’t mindful of privacy settings. Trust me when I tell you plenty of companies search to see if there's a reason to toss your resume in the trash. Instead of allowing an employer to find incriminating photos or a questionable fan page, simply remove them. Ask your friends to delete the pics and you’ll be good to go. In the field of advertising and public relations, your image and reputation is everything. Do what you can now to make the best name for yourself versus looking like a fool right out of the gate.

Package, present and pitch your best self

These days your resume is just one of the many documents to prepare as part of the internship search process. As you fine tune your resume add a few others materials to the mix.

Develop the perfect resume

First off, you need to understand there are no rules for resume writing. Everyone has a different opinion. Just remember, it's a tool to get your foot in the door to interview. Ask yourself: will this document persuade the professional, who has the power to hire, invite me in for a meeting?

Below you will find a long list of tips to showcase your experience:
- Limit your resume to one page, unless you have more than five years experience.
- Don't ever let a misspelled word go unnoticed.
- Be conscious and consistent of layout and style. Make sure to use the same or complementary fonts throughout, e.g. the title and headers are in bold and the body font is clean and simple.
- Be sure it's legible. An 11 or 12 point font is perfect.
- If you include an objective, be very specific about your career interests.
--- In the marketing arena, Ad/PR are two different disciplines.
- If you’re interested in working in a particular industry, such as sports or hospitality, mention it in your objective.
- Change your e-mail address to something professional: ryan.sheehy@gmail.com vs. KrazyPartyGirl@aol.com.
- Lead with descriptive action verbs.
- Write the resume in third person.
- Write action verbs in present or past tense.
--- Handles, manages, oversees
--- Handled, managed, oversaw
- If you don't have experience in the field, include a listing of course offerings: writing for public relations, event management, entertainment marketing, etc.
- If you’re bilingual, make sure to mention it.
- If you have technical skills, such as graphic or Web design, include your proficiencies.
- Knowledge of Microsoft Office includes Word, PowerPoint, Excel and Access. If you know the entire suite, just list Microsoft Office.
- Make sure to mention knowledge/use of new media - social networking, blogosphere, search engine optimization.
- The more you can articulate the scope of the project, the better.
--- Coordinated and hosted luncheon for 300 journalists.
- Consider adding a list of software programs that you’re well versed in
--- Cision, Media Map, Lexis Nexis, Quick Books, CS4
- If you’re going to include your GPA, make sure it’s accurate.
- Always include an expected graduation date.
- Make sure to include the timeframe of your employment and the location.
--- January 2005 – December 2006
--- Orlando, Florida
- If you have sales experience, try to include specific figures.
--- Increased sales by 20 percent and include the amount of time you accomplished this objective.
- Highlight extracurricular involvement and leadership roles.
- Use a quality paper instead of plain white, but nothing too flashy.

Customize your cover letter for each position

This may sound obvious, but you need to cater your cover letter for the position you're applying and the individual who has the hiring authority. In the introduction, reference the position title and company name. Mention of how you learned about it and direct them to your attached resume.

Your letter should exude a passion for the field and/or a specific reference to why you are qualified. In the body, showcase why you are best for the role and interested in working for the company. Highlight specific experience and/or skills you bring to the organization. Provide examples of projects you’ve successfully executed. In closing, provide final remarks, include contact information and thank them in advance for the consideration.

Prepare a portfolio – with writing samples and examples of your creative work

What should you include?
- Resume
- A list of three to five references – professors, advisers, mentors, employers
- Examples of campaigns
- News releases
- Press clippings/media coverage
- Pitch letters
- Photo captions
- Biographies
- Fact sheets
- Media advisories
- Newsletter articles
- Design pieces
- Web copy and/or layout

Always keep professionalism top of mind. Purchase a nice portfolio to showcase your best work and consider adding tabs for easy access to your materials. You'd be surprised how impressed professionals will be that you've taken the time to wow them. It can only lead to greater opportunities down the road - like an excellent internship and/or your first "real world" position.

Are you ready for the interview? If not, it's time to prepare

So you've prepared the perfect portfolio and are darn proud of your resume. Now it's time to review what questions you might be asked, thoughtfully prepare your responses and carefully craft your own questions. Here are some suggestions to get you ready for the big day.

- Research, research, research.
- Review the company Web site in detail.
- Google executives who might interview you.
- Read news stories about the organization.
- Prepare questions for the employer.
- Understand the job responsibilities, nature of workload, organizational overview and reporting structure.

Make sure you have the right interview mindset
- Remember: You’re interviewing the employer, too.
- Observe the 50/50 rule of speaking/listening.
- Take 20 seconds to two minutes to answer questions.
- Be a part of the solution, not the problem.
- Bring evidence of your work (portfolio).
- Do not bad-mouth previous employer(s).

Some questions the employer might ask
- Why are you here?
- What can you do for us?
- What kind of person are you?
--- Strengths
--- Weaknesses
- What distinguishes you from 19 other people who can do the same task?

Questions to ask yourself

- What skills are essential to this position and do I have them?
- Will I fit in with the culture?
- Can I balance my course load, part-time job and this opportunity?

Taking the extra time to ask yourself the tough questions upfront will only prepare you for the curve balls. It's better to have already thought them through, in advance, rather than appearing like you haven't a clue.

Make a positive and lasting first impression

Professionals consistently say they assess a student's willingness to take an internship seriously based on their dress and personal image. Below you'll find tips on what to wear and what to avoid.

DO:
Carefully select your attire.
Carry a pen, planner, and portfolio with plenty of resumes.
Dress conservatively.
Groom your hair.
Iron your shirt.
Keep it basic with your the jewelry selection.
Make sure your colors coordinate.
Remove piercings.
Stick with basic colors: black, navy, gray, brown.

Ladies should wear:
dark closed-toe shoes and avoid stilettos.
pantyhose with skirts.
skirts at or below knee length.

Men should:
shave or trim facial hair.
wear a tie.
wear a sports coat- if you have one.

DON’T:
Dress as if you’re going to a nightclub.
Soak yourself in cologne and perfume.
Wear revealing clothes.
Wear spaghetti strap tank tops and limit cleavage.
Wear short skirts.
Wear excessively tight clothes.
Smack on gum, candy or other foods.

Bottom line: first impressions are lasting. Take a few extra minutes to reconsider your dress. You'll appear ready to take on a professional opportunity that could very well catapult your career.