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Allowing Talent to Determine Your Calling

My calling is in writing and communicating with the world around me

A quote by Aristotle was once shared with me that says, “Where you talents meet the needs of the world, therein lies your calling.” It’s easy to gloss over these words without truly taking them to heart, but if you read it again—more slowly—you will realize the power this timeless quote holds.

Whether you’re a newly graduated student, someone looking for a career change or an entrepreneur ready to start your own business, there is a lot of uncertainty you must face. I’ve asked myself these same questions: what do I want to do, what am I good at, what’s my purpose? And I can’t say I’ve come up with definitive answers as of yet. These may be lifelong questions which we continually ask ourselves to re-evaluate our life goals every so often. But I do know one thing for sure, where you talents meet the needs of the world, therein lies your calling.

The biggest push I had to leave my former career and start Bennis Public Relations, Inc was the belief that I had more to offer the world than working a desk job and answering phones. I wanted to work with a variety of different people—all with different communications needs—and share my talents to help them better themselves and their business. This was my passion and my drive. I still know when I’m on the right path when I get excited for the tasks ahead of me each day. And this is the message I want to share with you—we all have a passion and a talent for something.  Right now, today, are you using yours to meet the needs of the world?

I recently came across a video clip of a man who should have every reason to feel sorry for himself and question his self-worth—but he doesn’t. Instead, he uses his talents to meet the needs of the world, the need to inspire us and put our blessings into perspective. While dealt an unfortunate situation, he has not only survived, but has become an immensely talented speaker. Imagine what you could do with your talents?

I strongly urge you to take just 4 minutes out of your day to watch this video.

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19 Comments

Posted by on January 9, 2012 in Wisdom

 

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Technology: Bridging the Gap or Building the Wall?

My day begins with technology. The first sound I awake to in the morning is the ringing of my phone alarm which I immediately grab—but not just to shut it off. Instead, I proceed to check the weather and then my email all while still lying in bed. If I head for a run, I use the RunKeeper app on my phone to map my miles and track my pace along with my iPod to ensure there’s not a moment of silence or serenity from the time my feet hit the ground.

Before 8am I feel so connected to the world, but yet I haven’t had one single face-to-face interaction.

Let’s rewind this scenario and this time take away technology. I might wake up and have a cup of coffee with my boyfriend instead of checking my email. Without a phone or an iPod to keep me busy, I might choose to walk with a friend and catch up on each other’s life. Without the technological noise, I’m now available to engage a neighbor in a morning hello and actually get to know the special people who live right around me.

So what role does technology play in our lives? It’s certainly the Great Connector, but just like any other tool—it’s all about how you use it. I can use smart phones and social media to stay connected with people all over the world; for this reason, technology bridges the gap. But the moment I refuse to “disconnect” long enough to interact with the world right around me, technology instead begins to build a wall—a fortress, really.

At one point or another, we have all found ourselves in at least one of these scenarios: G-Chatting with a friend sitting two computers away. Sitting at a restaurant where everyone at the table is looking at their phone, texting. Thinking the person in the bathroom stall next to you is engaging you in conversation, when really they’re on their phone. Breaking up via phone call, email—maybe even by simply ending the relationship on Facebook. Asking someone for directions only to realize they have an iPod in and didn’t hear a word you said.

These are such trivial examples, but they’re signs that bigger problems are on the horizon. When did we become a society more comfortable Skyping with someone continents and oceans away, but too uncomfortable to talk to the person bagging our groceries?

Technology is one of the greatest tools we will ever possess, but it’s up to us to use it to build bridges not walls.

 
14 Comments

Posted by on September 22, 2011 in Technology

 

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Making Time to Live

Before I officially took off the training wheels and launched Bennis Public Relations, Inc nearly two months ago, I found my mind often fantasizing about the free and flexible time I might have as my own boss. I could make weekly trips to the farmer’s market, eat lunch on a park bench by the river and become a regular at the city library. I could use the free WiFi from a trendy café and sip lattes while I clicked away on my laptop or take an afternoon cat nap after watching the Price is Right. While some of these visions were both dramatic and unnecessary, I’m disappointed to admit that two months later, my “new boss” hasn’t allowed me much more free time to pursue life’s little slices of happiness to exist all around me.

Harrisburg's McCormick River Front Library

I can’t blame this on my boss, or maybe I can since I am my boss, but in either case I’ve decided to take the opportunity to close my laptop more often and step out into the bustling and beautiful world that exists whether I make time for it or not.

The week before my North Carolina vacation I realized I needed some new beach reading materials and so I stepped inside the Dauphin County Library for the first time since I moved to Harrisburg in December of 2009. While I’m now a proud owner of a shiny red library card, I can’t help but feel a pang of regret for not having done this sooner. The library isn’t big, it’s just one of several branches that the county manages, but it still evoked the same rush of excitement that I felt as a child eying up the rows and rows of colorful treasurers—all for my taking. And so I limited myself to just 5 books which I never read or heard of before but will know intimately, page by page, in just a few weeks.

Now that I’ve experienced the joys (and sorrows) of being a functioning, taxpaying, member of society, I feel that it is my civil duty to make use of all of the free resources this affords me. The County Library is just one. I’ve started a list of all of the other things this area has to offer that I’ve never made time to take advantage of before. So here’s the bucket-list-in-progress that I hope to get through before 2012:

  • Buy my fresh produce from the Farm Show Complex’s Farmer’s Market
  • Complete the ropes course at Ski Roundtop
  • Visit a corn maze, pick pumpkins and drink apple cider
  • Kayak the Susquehanna
  • Visit the Renaissance Festival
  • Ice Skate
  • Go to a Haunted House Tour
  • Read a book by the river
  • And more to come…

If you have any suggestions for fun things to do in Central PA or even just in the autumn season—I’m interested!

 
15 Comments

Posted by on September 12, 2011 in Life

 

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What I wish My College Professors Would Have Taught Me: In the real world, you’re not expected to have every answer.

There are some things that can and will never be taught in the classroom. Maybe it’s because those topics are seen as too radical or have been flagged as a lawsuit risk, but truly these are the missing pieces of wisdom that leave many college grads as an incomplete puzzle with still much to figure out in the real world. In the spirit of Back-to-School, this will be a 5-part series exploring the top lessons I wish would have been included in my own college degree. It’s blunt and it’s honest, but it’s sure to be interesting.

Lesson three: In the real world, you’re not expected to have every answer.

Pop quizzes and cumulative exams have taught us to panic at the thought of not knowing every answer. But this neither prepares us for reality nor sets realistic expectations. If you think you know everything, you’re going to learn nothing from life. Instead, I wish at least one of my professors would have tested us not on our ability to memorize answers but to handle questions we had no way of knowing the answer to in a professional and educated manner.

This would have been the ultimate test to our ability to survive the real world.

I have yet to make a pitch to a client where I haven’t been asked at least one question that I had to go home, gather more information and get back to them about. I feel like being able to openly admit when you don’t know the answer is both humanizing and demonstrating your thoroughness of getting an accurate answer rather than faking one just to look good. I’m not saying DON’T be knowledgeable in your field, but focus more of your efforts on being a genuine and approachable person who has a sincere desire to seek the answers they don’t know.  This will win you more business and more respect than by being a know-it-all or rather—a “fake-it-all.”

In case you missed a few “classes”, here’s some reading homework:

Lesson One: Group projects can be completed alone.

Lesson Two: It’s okay to NOT like everyone you work with.

 
6 Comments

Posted by on August 31, 2011 in Wisdom

 

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What I wish My College Professors Would Have Taught Me: It’s okay to NOT like everyone you work with

There are some things that can and will never be taught in the classroom. Maybe it’s because those topics are seen as too radical or have been flagged as a lawsuit risk, but truly these are the missing pieces of wisdom that leave many college grads as an incomplete puzzle with still much to figure out in the real world. In the spirit of Back-to-School, this will be a 5-part series exploring the top lessons I wish would have been included in my own college degree. It’s blunt and it’s honest, but it’s sure to be interesting.

It’s okay to NOT like everyone you work with.

Having provided the warning that this particular post is blunter than what I usually write, I’m just going to put it out there—Your job is to provide a product or a service, not to make friends.  I feel like my professors forgot to mention the fact that unlike turning in a college paper, you can try your hardest and think you’re putting your best foot forward and people will still choose to not like you. It sure would have prepared me for a few jobs where, without reason, a colleague would be unbearable to work with. I struggled with the “why don’t they like me” questions and it truly became a work-hindering distraction.

If friendship develops among colleagues, which many of mine have, that’s a fabulous bonus, but it’s key to remember it’s neither necessary nor helpful to force a friendship that just isn’t there. If you find yourself in a situation where you cannot stand a co-worker it most certainly IS your job to be mature and respectful, but accept the fact that you won’t click with everyone and not everyone will or should like you. Sometimes the most efficient working relationships are the ones that stay at the office. You keep to the task at hand and have major incentive to complete it as quickly as possible.  If you’re going to choose to let your differences divide you, open communication is essential.  As soon as your differences hinder your ability or willingness to communicate, it becomes a roadblock to your work. Maturely confront the situation head on and refocus on your one, shared goal: getting the job done and getting it done well.

I suggest a required college class solely focused on office etiquette and how to handle those awkward and complicated work situations we will all inevitably encounter. Hey, I’d be more than happy to take my past experiences public and guest lecture if it means less grads will be blind-sided with this career road bump.

In case you missed a few “classes”, here’s some reading homework:

Lesson One: Group projects can be completed alone.

 
10 Comments

Posted by on August 28, 2011 in Education

 

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What I wish My College Professors Would Have Taught Me: Group projects can be completed alone.

There are some things that can and will never be taught in the classroom. Maybe it’s because those topics are seen as too radical or have been flagged as a lawsuit risk, but truly these are the missing pieces of wisdom that leave many college grads as an incomplete puzzle with still much to figure out in the real world. In the spirit of Back-to-School, this will be a 5-part series exploring the top lessons I wish would have been included in my own college degree. It’s blunt and it’s honest, but it’s sure to be interesting.

Lesson One: Group projects can be completed alone.

Group Projects –We all remember them and probably share similar horror stories for a variety of reasons. My own experiences are quite negative as well. I always felt forced into a group project where, for better or for worse, I would take over and do it all myself. And to be perfectly honest, I’m not blaming my group members as much as my dominating personality. I would have much appreciated a professor to extend the option of working alone. It wouldn’t have given me any extra credit or held my project to a special grading scale, but it would have given me the opportunity to find my entrepreneurial roots sooner. I would have more readily realized that what any 5-person group was doing, I had the capability of not only doing alone—but also the ability to create a better, more cohesive project overall rather than the slapped together, mismatched work of a group project handed-in in such a rush that the still-wet printer ink smears in the professors hands. I digress…

By making groups an option rather than a mandate, teachers could have taught us to find our true potential, challenge our work ethic and learn what working style best fits our individual personalities. Yes a large project may be big and scary when looked at as a whole, but a project of that scale has the potential to teach students time management and what may seem overwhelming and impossible for one person to complete really isn’t all that bad when broken down.

Don’t get me wrong, real work situations will require you to work in groups of all numbers and learning team work skills is crucial. What I’m suggesting is rather than those classes that ONLY allowed students to work as teams or in groups is to at least present the option to mix it up and try new working combinations. This would allow us to better grasp the scope of our capabilities sooner–and maybe this is so important to me because I believe they far exceed what we ever imagine possible.

 
9 Comments

Posted by on August 25, 2011 in Wisdom

 

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Beating the Hourglass: My Foundation for Better Time Management

I get asked quite frequently about my “secrets” for time management because apparently I seem to look like I have it all together. This couldn’t be further from the truth and even I have moments of stress, panic and sheer exhaustion. But I have established some guidelines that I regard as my foundation for better time management that I’m more than happy to share. They’re not one-size fits all, but they fit perfectly into my life.

My Office Assistant, Pinot sets a poor example of time management

Keep a Weekly White Board

I keep a white board in my office that’s divided into seven columns for each day of the week.  This allows me to visually map out my “Must-Get-Dones” for each day and set priorities for the week. Moving these tasks from my mental to-do list and to my white board has been a huge stress reliever and organizational tool. I can clear my mind long enough to focus on a single task and when I have time to move on to the next project or if something were to come up and change my plans, I can visually move around my tasks from day-to-day and change them as often as my schedule does. I also find myself completing tasks based on priority not based on ease or interest which I’ve found to be my own personal form of procrastination.

Block Schedule Your Time

All too often I would find myself in the same workday scenario. I would be trying to complete 4 tasks at once, have at least 8 pages open on my browser and be checking my email every 3 minutes. Not only was I not getting anything done, I was also causing myself more frustration and stress. The answer I found was to block-schedule my work time. I focus on what task I need to complete, estimate the appropriate time it should take me and schedule time on my calendar to work solely on that task until completion, just like I would schedule a meeting or conference call. And because I wouldn’t check my email in the middle of a meeting or hang up in the middle of a conference call, I am able to see one task through to completion and find myself with a better quality product in the end.

Be Productive Even When You’re Not Working

No one can be productive for 8+ hours straight. Ok, no HUMAN can be that productive…but we are just that—human. We need to take breaks and my best advice is that when you feel like you need 15 minutes away from the computer screen, take it and make it count. I use my breaks throughout the day to still do productive things that I want to get done, they just might not be work related. I’ll read through a magazine, clean, do laundry or browse Word Press and see what other people are writing about. By using these little breaks to knock routine or housekeeping items off of my list, I’m still gaining that moment of relaxation and mental clarity while clearing even more free time for myself in the future.

Get Into a Routine

As a freelancer and business owner, I set my own schedule. I COULD sleep in until 11am each morning or spend the afternoons shopping, but I don’t. I wake up earlier now than I ever did with a desk job. I exercise, eat breakfast and shower just like I would if I were going to an office. Then I use the first hour of my work day to complete routine business-building tasks. I browse the news, answer emails and update my social media. After one hour, no matter what, I stop. I then focus solely on client work and what my white board has laid out for me that day. My goals for the day are already outlined and I know exactly how much time I’ve allotted to complete each one. This structure in my day helps me to move forward and with greater speed and efficiency. Find whatever routine works for you, but stick with it!

Make the Most of Your Mornings

Get up early. Get up two hours earlier than when you would normally feel like waking up. I promise you, this is some of the best advice I can give to anyone who wants to be successful. Those morning hours are ones you’ll never be able to make up for the rest of your day. If you wake up late, you’ll be playing “catch-up” until you finally crash into bed that night. Mornings are your time to knock as much off your to-do list as possible. If a crisis were to strike in the afternoon, you’ll be well-equipped to handle it without it causing other tasks to roll over to the next day. If you work hard enough in the mornings and find yourself with some free time in the afternoon, then that’s all yours! You paid the piper now enjoy it, guilt-free. Run an errand, exercise, check-in with a friend, nap or give into a guilty pleasure. Eventually this “free afternoon” reward will inspire you to want to work hard in the momings and if you use today’s free afternoon to work ahead on tomorrow’s tasks, you can “earn” an entirely free day later that week.

These guidelines aren’t easy or always fun. They take discipline and accountability. But I promise you, you’ll adjust to the early mornings and new routine and will be even more prepared to accommodate the future growth of your business, your family and all of the chaos that comes with it!

 
142 Comments

Posted by on August 22, 2011 in Freshly Pressed, Wisdom

 

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