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How Some of the Worst Jobs Have Made My Career Better

how-some-of-the-worst-jobs-have-made-my-career-better

For anyone who has worked summer jobs, internships, entry level jobs and hey, even high-profile, but highly demanding roles within a business, you know this to be true. There are drawbacks to every job you’ve ever worked.

The hope for a happy career is to ultimately find a job where the positives outweigh the negatives and maybe you even learn to embrace the negatives a little. But until you’ve made it to this point, you’re likely compiling a bunch of horror stories of jobs that make you consider moving to a remote island and living off the land.

To offer you some inspiration and encouragement that you’re not alone, here’s a breakdown of some of my worst employment experiences and what I learned from each of them along the way.

The Job: Under-the-table lawn work

The Lesson: It’s no one’s responsibility but your own to make the job enjoyable (or at least bearable). I learned this at the age of 16 when I spent hours in the hot sun, by myself, pulling weeds and moving mulch for a neighbor. At first it sounded great. I could set my own hours, work as much or as little as I wanted in a week and get paid in cash. However, I hated every hour I spent in that gorgeous lawn as the minutes barely crept by. I realized if I was going to survive the summer – and earn my spending money – I needed to find a way to make it more enjoyable.

I started to bring a radio with me, set goals and mini rewards (snack time, anyone?) to breakdown the work day and work efficiently so I could knock projects off in a fraction of the time they estimated it would take. The lesson I learned was if you’re bored or miserable with your job, first think about what you can do to make it more enjoyable. Little changes can make a world of difference!

The Job: The dining commons on a college campus

The Lesson: Everyone needs to share in the sh*t work. At the dining commons, I mostly had the same shifts in the area I enjoyed working the most. But one Sunday each month, I (and every other employee) was assigned to work in the wash room where I would clean the gunk off plates and trays next to a steamy industrial washer. Not glamorous at all. I hated when this shift came up on my schedule and good luck ever finding someone to switch! The lesson I learned here was that in order for the sh*t work to get done, everyone had to take a turn. In the grand scheme of my work schedule, this was such a small fraction of my time, and I got to spend the rest of my work hours doing something I actually felt was fun. Because we all took our turn, it lessened the load for everyone.

The Job: A desk job in state government

The Lesson: Give every job an earnest effort, but if it’s not taking you the direction you want to go, have courage to change courses. This pretty much sums up my short, but life-changing experience in state government. Coming off a statewide political campaign and being dumped into a snail’s pace desk job, felt like falling off a speeding train. At first the set hours, more than manageable workload and low expectations seemed great. But it didn’t take long before I realized I couldn’t do this for another month, let alone another 9 years to get vested.

I realized that this job would waste the precious early years of my life, the ones where you have unjaded ideas, unlimited energy and a mindset to take on the world. I couldn’t risk suppressing the talents I know I had to be an entrepreneur – so I made the leap…and never looked back. God, I’m grateful for that job that pushed me over the edge!

The Job: A virtual writing position

The Lesson: Don’t let anyone undervalue your talent or monopolize your time. This was a gig I actually took on as I was simultaneously running Bennis Public Relations (and working from home with my 6 month old son). I thought it could be like any of my other consulting clients where I had set monthly deliverables, worked virtually and could provide what they needed. Simply put, I was very, very wrong. This client monopolized all of my time and because I was technically on payroll (and not a contractor), it’s not like I was getting paid more for the additional work they threw on me.

It felt eerily similar to my political campaign days and my gut told me it was all wrong. Not more than 6 weeks in, I made the hard decision to give my notice and leave the position. Up until this point I never “fired” any client or left a gig, but in retrospect I am so grateful I had the support of my family and the confidence to get out when I did! As fate would have it, not more than one month later, two awesome clients cold-called me and we’re still working together today!

What terrible job experiences have you had that have actually had a positive impact on your career? Share your stories by commenting below!

 
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Posted by on November 28, 2016 in Business & Success

 

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Can an Introvert Thrive in a Career in Public Relations?

Introvert

On several occasions, I’ve blogged about being an introvert and how this personality type impacts my personal and professional life in countless ways. Most people who meet me don’t believe I’m an introvert; after all, I’m not shy.

For anyone else who is an introvert, you know that while introverted people can be shy, this isn’t the true definition of the personality type. Rather, it’s where you gain your energy. For introverts, we gain our energy from solitude. We can – and often do – enjoy being around people, but only for so long. Once our energy is drained, we crave the peace and rejuvenation of being in a low key environment.

I like to think of myself as an “outgoing introvert.” When I’m running on a full tank of energy, I shine in the social spotlight. Then, like the flip of a switch, I’m ready to retreat and recharge. Choosing a career in public relations may seem like a poor choice for my personality type, but quite the contrary. I’ve found it to be a great fit for several reasons.

If you can relate to being an “outgoing introvert” with a passion for communicating with others, the good news is that you can absolutely thrive in a career field like public relations. However, there are several key things you must be willing to do. Take a look!

Step outside your comfort zone

It’s important to keep in mind that being an introvert is a characteristic and not an excuse. Sure, I’m an introvert, but I know I still have to push myself outside my comfort zone to serve my clients. That may mean video conferencing, making cold calls, emceeing an event or stepping in front of the television camera. The truth is, I don’t necessarily like doing all of those things, but I will do them because it’s part of my job.

Design a workspace that works for you

I work from home where I have a calm and quiet work space with very limited distractions. I can fully immerse myself in the task at hand without being interrupted by phone calls, a chatty coworker or impromptu team meetings. This is how introverts function best. We can become deeply focused, and therefore extremely efficient with our time. We also get to reserve our energy for work without having it drained by small talk and frequent interruptions.

Schedule commitments well in advance

In public relations, it’s necessary to attend client events, networking functions and educational opportunities to stay top of mind and on top of trends. As an introvert, there’s nothing I hate more than having a commitment sprung on me at the last minute. I often have my days planned out and if socializing wasn’t part of the plan, I likely won’t have the energy or right frame of mind to enjoy the event. I make every effort to schedule conference calls, meetings and events at least several weeks in advance so I don’t overload my schedule and so that I allow myself downtime every day.

Protect your personal time

Finally, I protect my personal time like it’s a commitment on my calendar, even if it’s just allowing myself time to read, write and maybe even nap. This downtime is what allows me to work efficiently the rest of the day, knocking of tasks far quicker than I would if I let myself burnout without a break. If someone wants to spring an impromptu meeting or phone call on me during this personal time, I make every effort to push it to another time that I have available for such tasks. Even the most hectic of days are far more manageable when I know I have an hour of personal time to regroup, refocus and reenergize.

Can you relate to being an introvert and working in an “outgoing” career field? How do you set yourself up for success so that you don’t burnout each day?

 
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Posted by on November 21, 2016 in Business & Success, Life

 

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How to Job Hunt While Working Your Current Job

how-to-job-hunt-while-working-your-current-jobJust because you’re currently employed doesn’t mean you’re done looking for your next opportunity or career move. In fact, it’s smart to begin planning your next steps before you quit your current job to avoid a lapse in pay or a gap in your resume. The downside is it can be challenging to find enough hours in the day to fulfill the responsibilities of your current job while putting forth your best effort to find a new one.

From our first-hand experience with this very scenario, we have four helpful tips to make your “working” job search just a little bit easier. Take a look!

Block schedule time for job hunting

Just like you schedule your current work tasks and appointments, you need to also schedule the daily tasks and milestones you need to accomplish to keep your job hunting on track. Treat it like any other commitment on your calendar and make a dedicated space for it. On what day and what time will you check for job listings? When will you update your resume and send to potential employers? When will you schedule interviews? Allow margin in your daily work schedule to accommodate these extra tasks.

Update your Resume

Before you start diving into the application process of your job search, dust off that resume! Take the opportunity to first update your most current employer, if you plan to use them as a reference. Next, research the latest resume template trends and update your formatting, as necessary. Carefully review your content and adjust any areas that may or may not be relevant for the new job you’re seeking. Lastly, add any marketable skills and attributes that would make you more valuable and appealing to your prospective employer.

Take advantage of online resources

With today’s technology, we are fortunate to have instant access to countless resources that can make job hunting easier. First, make sure your Linkedin profile is up to date and professional looking. Next, create a profile on popular job seeker websites. Also browse these same sites for potential job opportunities. Finally, familiarize yourself with your ideal employers’ websites to see if they have listed any job openings or career opportunities – and check back often!

Schedule time outside of work

Working a fulltime job while looking for a new fulltime job is essentially working two jobs. It will require a lot of time and dedication, but the reward is a new career that you love! It’s important to not use hours of your current job to look for a new job. Not only could this get you fired, it can also jeopardize this employer as a future reference on your resume. Basically, this requires you to use your personal time to job hunt, which is fair and reasonable. You will need to sacrifice social time and maybe even a little sleep and relaxation to put in the hours to find your new dream job. If this hard work seems intimidating, you should carefully consider your motivation to get a new job. No matter what, a career change requires a lot of work as well as stepping outside your comfort zone. If you’re committed to making a change, these (temporarily) long hours should seem manageable, given the potential reward at the end!

Are you currently looking for a new job while simultaneously working a fulltime job? Let us know how you balance both responsibilities or ask us a question related to this topic!

 
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Posted by on November 14, 2016 in Business & Success, Life

 

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A Guide to the Modern Press Release

The first Monday of each month, I dust off a favorite post from the Bennis Inc Blog archives and give you another chance to enjoy the wit and wisdom that’s been shared. Enjoy this month’s treasure – and if it inspires you – be sure to share it with family and friends!


A Guide to the Modern Press Release

With so many newspapers scaling back or going digital, the value and effectiveness of the traditional press release has become a bit of a mystery to us all.  This has left many businesses even more confused as to how they should communicate with the media when they feel they have something important to say. Is the press release still relevant? From my conversations with print and online reporters and other PR professionals, the answer is absolutely yes! But we have to stay in tune to the changes and advancements to news sources that may alter the definition of “a great press release.” Overall, the core essentials have remained the same, yet are so often ignored – even by professionals in the field. In an effort to shed some light on the lost art of press release writing (and to adapt it to the modern art it has become) here is my general guide to writing a solid press release right now.

Modes of communication

Whether you own a fax machine or even know what one looks like, this is still one of the most common and important ways to disseminate your press release. When researching a reporter’s contact information, don’t assume the fax is an outdated system. Some reporters truly prefer receiving news this way, especially if their email inbox functions more like a black hole. The second big mode of communication is indeed email.  I’d suggest using both email and fax whenever possible, and re-sending the email after a day or two with a new subject line for a second (or third) shot at getting noticed.  Make the news relevant to each reporter (do they cover a specific interest?), their target readership and personalize the message whenever possible. Aim to build an ongoing relationship with reporters; don’t just spam them with press releases whenever you want their attention. One great way to do this is to provide them with consistently useful information in a neatly packaged press release. More on that now…

The title

Now that we covered how to get your message out there, we can dig deeper into strategically packaging your news, and of course the title will be the first thing reporters see – and judge. The title should be the most newsworthy element of your press release. While it may be tempting to stick your business’s name or your own name up there right away, this is not likely the information that will catch a reporter’s eye and make him think “my readers need to know this.” For example, Jack Smith’s Auto Shop Merges With Tasty Treats Ice Cream has no immediate relevance to a reporter. A better title might be Two Locally-Owned Businesses Combine Auto Parts, Ice Cream In Unusual Merger. Really? Yes, because the second title spells out why a reporter should care to cover this news– it’s local and it’s unusual. These are two newsworthy elements that always attract readers’ attention. The reporter will likely change the title any way for their story, so don’t worry about writing for the masses. You just need to get the attention of one person – the reporter. This is your three-second “elevator pitch” and it has to cut to the chase. You are trying to sell to the reporter; the reporter is trying to sell to the reader. Remember that.

The critical first paragraph

Once you make it past the title, there is still another part of the press release that is of paramount importance for determining whether it lands on a reporter’s desk or in a trash can. It’s the first paragraph. I was taught that the first paragraph of a press release should never exceed two sentences. These can be long sentences, but two sentences is the rule of thumb. I doubt any reporter would see three periods in a first paragraph and toss a press release out solely based on this, but sticking to this rule does get you to get to the point – fast. The first of these two sentences should be the quick attention-getter and the second should be the single sentence that summarizes the key points of the entire press release. Sound like that’s asking a lot? The first paragraph is never easy. It may be the most time you spend on putting together two sentences and it should be. This is a critical component that far too many people gloss over. You may have heard that a press release (and any news story) should be written like an upside down pyramid, with the most newsworthy information on top, working down to the least newsworthy. With this analogy, you want to be sure the biggest part of your pyramid, the first paragraph, is built rock solid.

What’s in it for…everyone else?

Once you’ve made it past the title and the first paragraph, you’re ready to dive into all the other details of your press release. But this doesn’t give you a free pass to ramble on about unrelated, non-newsworthy tidbits. Throughout all of your writing, you need to keep a single question in mind. “What’s in it for everyone else?” Write this on a sticky note, the top of your word document or your cat if you need to, but don’t lose sight of this direction! Every paragraph in your press release should have an easily identifiable WIFM (what’s in it for me?) element – with “me” being the reporter/reader. It’s easy to see what you’d be getting out of a press release that’s picked up for a news story…free press! Don’t spend too much time tooting your own horn in the content. Instead focus on why anyone else should care about what you have to say. How will they be personally affected by this news? How will they benefit having read this?

Formatting a reporter will appreciate

Reporters and journalists adhere to Associated Press (AP) Style when formatting their news stories. For Public Relations professionals, it’s an industry-best practice to write press releases in this same style to keep all formatting the same. It also adds to your credibility. Everything from when to abbreviate a city, how to format dates and time, when to capitalize professional titles and more and more and more can be found in the AP Style Book! It was a handbook I bought early on in college and still have to this day (dog-eared pages and all). Resources to help you with AP Style questions can be found all across the web. Here’s the main web page. If you think you’ll be referring to this often, I’d suggest buying a copy. It’s far too much information to ever fully commit to memory, so having a copy on hand makes life, and press release writing, a lot easier.

Common mistakes and missed opportunities

Keep it to one page – It would take a compelling news story or announcement to convince me that more than one page was absolutely needed to cover all the truly newsworthy elements. Reporters can contact you if they’re intrigued enough and want more information. That’s why you provide that information in the header. Two-page press releases seem just as obnoxious as two-page resumes. Save something for the interview!

Quotes – Quotes are a key way to say something you would otherwise just write into the press release, while calling out a specific person of importance and breaking up the content. Quotes coming from you or your client can be easily molded to say exactly what you want them to say. Just make sure you format them correctly according to AP Style!

Make use of the subtitle – This is the sentence that appears directly below the title (and before the first paragraph). It is a great opportunity to explain the title a bit further as well as include a link to your web site, if relevant. By utilizing this part of the press release, you’re less tempted to weigh your title down with too many words.

Include a boiler plate – The boiler plate is that final paragraph that appears right before the “###” which signals the end of the press release. It’s a paragraph which can stand all on its own and usually summarizes the business or organization. Instead of trying to shove this same information into the body of the press release where it may not belong, the boiler plate provides a separate and organized space to highlight the core facts about your business at the very end.

One final thought on adapting to technology…

Video news releases (VNRs) are changing the way many reporters view traditional words-only press releases. I’m not entirely convinced that VNRs will take over the market anytime soon and so I suggest sticking with the written press release, but adding in b-roll footage, video clips and photos whenever available. Especially for online news sources, the more photos and videos that accompany a story, the more enticing it is to feature it. As readers, when we surf the web we’re drawn to images. Stories that include images are that much more attractive to news sites. It’s all about the web hits and readership!

What I thought would be a quick glimpse into writing a great press release has become a lengthier guide than I anticipated. I still have so much more information I could include here, but will save that for another time. Until then, please share your own experiences and expertise on writing press releases. Is there something I missed? Something you disagree with? Or something you’ve found to be particularly effective? Please share by commenting below!

 
 

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Life Inside a Chaos Bubble

The first Monday of each month, I dust off a favorite post from the Bennis Inc Blog archives and give you another chance to enjoy the wit and wisdom that’s been shared. Enjoy this month’s treasure – and if it inspires you – be sure to share it with family and friends!


Life Inside a Chaos BubbleRecently I used the term the “Chaos Bubble.” It happened during a conversation in which I was describing how some people whose time is in such high demand actually become immune to the whirlwind of chaos surrounding them. So to properly define this new concept, a Chaos Bubble occurs when the heavy demands of your work and hectic lifestyle create a protective layer to the outside world and insulate you from the chaos.

I’m of course basing this off of several people I have met who have the “luxury” of experiencing this Chaos Bubble phenomenon. These people are in such high demand that their email and voice mail are consistently filled to capacity. Not a single new message can be received. Their phone rings but almost always results in a missed call due to a dead phone battery or because they’re in and out of meetings all day. Their secretaries or personal assistants are the gatekeepers. If you need input or an approval, your best bet is to get the message to their #2 or risk it bouncing off this Chaos Bubble never to be seen, heard or so much as acknowledged.

To reach such a threshold where chaos becomes a protection and no longer a threat, first takes going through many uncomfortable, and at times unbearable, levels of chaos. It’s fairly comparable to being in the eye or a hurricane. Outside of this inner circle a fierce storm of mayhem is constantly brewing, but inside all you experience is an eerie silence and false sense of calm. To get inside this eye, you may spend years being whipped by the winds and swirled around to the point of not knowing which end is up, but once you make it to the inner circle, the chaos spins around you—not within you.

For the most part, chaos is an unwelcome and heavily avoided part of life. But when the dinging and ringing of emails, iPads, cell phones and calendar reminders reach a high enough volume, they have the ability to create a white noise that cancels out their sounds all together—leaving just you and your thoughts inside your own Chaos Bubble.

 
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Posted by on August 1, 2016 in Life

 

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Independence Day

The first Monday of each month, I dust off a favorite post from the Bennis Inc Blog archives and give you another chance to enjoy the wit and wisdom that’s been shared. Enjoy this month’s treasure – and if it inspires you – be sure to share it with family and friends!

This month is particularly meaningful as I look back on the very first steps I took on my entrepreneurial journey (nearly 5 years ago!) and reflect upon where my personal “Independence Day” has led me since this day in 2011. 


Beautiful Young Woman with USA Flag

I declare today to be Independence Day—my Independence Day. I’m aware of the irony of celebrating my personal independence on a day that our entire nation also celebrates its independence. But what could be more appropriate?

There are two reasons that call for this special occasion. I am celebrating my last day  working a desk job AND my first day of being my own boss. Both are as exciting as they are scary. Since I like focusing on beginnings not endings, let’s place our focus on the latter reason.

Today is a date I first set two weeks ago with HR when I decided I was going to take the leap (hopefully not the plunge) to branch off and put my entire heart and soul into launching my own public relations firm, Bennis Inc. It was an arbitrary date at the time, but has since become my hope, my inspiration…and now, my Independence Day.

As per handbook policy, I had to give two weeks notice to leave the Department and remain within good-standing plus it was a payday so I knew I wouldn’t have to wait around for my final pay check. It made sense. For the past two weeks, day by day, it became the light at the end of the tunnel. Some days I felt like there was so much to get done before this day that it was like being sucked into a jet propeller. Other days I felt like time simply stopped moving altogether.

No matter what it felt like, it was 14 days, 336 hours, 20160 minutes of planning, preparing and waiting. In those moments, I grew by at least seven years. I did things that people decades older than me have never had to tackle, and maybe never will. I rolled over my minuscule retirement fund into a Roth IRA. I hired a tax attorney to incorporate my business and get me prepared for a whole new experience when it comes to taxes. And I started pounding the pavement, putting myself out there and finally telling people about this business I’ve been building from the ground up since college.

I realized I have never before officially declared my independence as an entrepreneur and business owner, though I have been one for almost three years now. I always felt like I had to hide it or refer to it as a “side business” so as not to appear like a conflict of interest with my day job or schooling.

Well, that all stops today.

Today, I am officially open—open for business and open to praise, criticism, success and defeat. But it feels great. I feel like I’ve finally woken up and am taking my first deep breath of fresh air. I can’t wait to see where this Independence) Day will lead!

 

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How to Work From Home with a Child

Sometimes food is a necessary incentive to keep the kiddos quiet long enough to make a phone call!

Sometimes food is a necessary incentive to keep the kiddos quiet long enough to make a phone call!

Working from home can be hugely beneficial to growing your business, increasing efficiency and saving money. Where things can get tricky is if you’re not the only one at home during the workday. Yes, I’m talking about those pint-sized “coworkers” called children that can’t yet understand the difference between work time and play time.

For some parents, balancing work and childcare from home is the only way they can make it all happen. If you’re among the lucky ones who can enroll your little one in caregiver program at least 2 days a week, even if just for a 3-hour block of time, you can get a ton done in these golden hours! But what about the other days when your child is home with you like snow days, sick days or holidays? These seem to pop up during the most inconvenient times, turning what should be a simple work task or conference call into an extremely stressful balancing act.

The good news is with a little creativity and flexibility throughout your day, you can indeed find balance in this work situation. Here are some tips to make working from home with your child a success!

Create Fun Activity Kits for Your Little One

Even if you only have a few hours’ notice that your little one is going to be at home with you on a workday (i.e. a stomach bug or big snow storm), you only need a little time to put together some activity kits that will keep those tiny fingers busy (and independent of your attention) as you tackle your most important tasks

For example, bust out the play dough and give them an “assignment sheet” of the shapes or objects you want them to try to create. Create a “craft kit” with all the necessary tools and ask them to create something specific, like a birthday card for a relative. Another idea is to assemble a dress up box with fun clothing items and accessories you have lying around the house (bonus points if it’s something they haven’t seen before!). If you have multiple kids at home, create a contest for the best costume that you will judge once you’re off your call or done with your project. Don’t forget about educational DVDs! Sure, some people may try to make you feel guilty for all that “screen time,” but when you’re in a pinch and just need an hour or so of peace and quiet, you do what you have to do!

Block Off Time for Undivided Attention
Have you ever been wrapped up in an assignment, trying to concentrate, but your toddler is literally tugging on you and begging you for some attention? This is when you know it’s time to take a short break from your computer or phone and give some undivided attention to your little one. Take time to get down on their level and play with your toddler for a while. Yes, this is time you aren’t getting work done, but by investing even just 20 minutes or so into making your kid feel noticed and loved, your reward will be a content child that is happy to play independently again until you can return to him or her.

Utilize Family

To say it takes a village to raise a child couldn’t be more accurate! When you have a young family, you quickly realize the importance of trusted family and friends who live close by. If you can foresee a big project coming up at work or an assignment that will need your full attention, don’t be afraid to ask for help with your little one

A family member, neighbor or friend who is willing to take your child on a walk or simply be an extra set of hands for you in the house, if worth their weight in gold! Not only will you feel calm and at ease while getting work done, your child will also enjoy some one-on-one time with a new “friend” who will make them feel like the center of their world. Even if you don’t have family nearby, build a network of friends and fellow moms who are willing to help you out in an emergency situation. You never know until you ask! I have found people are more than happy to help out a busy mom and give her a few well-deserved moments of peace.

Do you ever have to balance work and childcare on the same days? Share your personal thoughts by commenting below!

 

 
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Posted by on May 30, 2016 in Business & Success, Life

 

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