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ExPRessions :: Career

Archive for the ‘ Career ’ Category

Recently, my good friend Mikinzie Stuart blogged about balancing priorities. Lauren Novo also recently wrote about her blog taking the backseat.

These two blog posts echo my own thoughts about work-life balance and blogging.

I typically work from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Afterward, I try to catch a fitness class to keep myself in shape (and sane). My evenings are spent managing Vision Mid Michigan, planning events for Social Media Club – Great Lakes Bay and writing freelance articles for magazines. I also manage to fit in some freelance PR work sometimes.  I’m also a 2012 bride-to-be. Blogging has obviously fallen to the wayside.

I love what I do, but there’s more to life than just work. Through managing all of these responsibilities, I’ve learned a few things to help me balance everything and avoid burnout.

1. Say no. It’s easier said than done. But, when something comes up that I know I can’t handle right now, I simply refer the project to someone else. This has actually helped me build great working relationships with other freelancers.

2. Think outside the job. Reading fiction on my Kindle has become a great way to refresh my mind. Sometimes I even read a few chapters while eating my lunch. I’ve downloaded several business books, but lately fiction wins every time.

3. Break a sweat. Working out after a busy day is one of my favorite ways to relieve stress. I personally love Pure Barre (disclaimer: I do some PR for the local studio…but I’d promote it even if I didn’t).

4. Go out with friends…And, don’t discuss work. I recently had a coworker and her husband over for dinner, beers and Wii mini-golf. I laughed so hard that night that my face hurt.

5. Disconnect. You really don’t need to be accessible at all times of the day, even though most of us feel like we should. This is sounds really simple, but I don’t think many people do it these days. Give it a try.

What do you do to balance your career with your personal life?

Overlooking small details can be a big mistake for PR professionals. Misspellings, bad links and poor planning can erode your credibility with clients, coworkers and bosses.

Here are 10 ways to help you catch mistakes before they affect your career:

  1. Start at step one. Review all of the input before getting started on a project.  Be sure you know where the main focus should be and what the goal is before putting your pen to paper.
  2. Back to basics. Spell the company name right. This sounds really simple, but mistakes do happen. Add your company or client’s name to your Microsoft Word dictionary to avoid the embarrassment of a simple misspelling. Learn how through Microsoft Support.
  3. Go out in style. A style guide can help you and your coworkers produce consistent work that gets it right every time, such as standard wording for a disclaimer or a phrase that’s always capitalized. To save even more time and effort, you can copy and paste often-used verbiage from a style guide to help you avoid typing mistakes.
  4. Let Me Google That For You. Does the product require a ™ or ® mark? Do you have the entire company name? Google will become your best friend for making sure the details are correct.
  5. Kill a few trees. Print out every piece of work you produce and review before passing it on to the next level. Your eyes could be glazing over small mistakes on the computer screen. If you feel guilty, plant a few saplings and be sure to recycle your bad drafts.
  6. Save the comments and criticism. The best way to learn is from your own mistakes. Keep notes on things you often forget to do or have done incorrectly in the past.
  7. Think like Jason Bourne. Don’t trust anyone or anything. People may inadvertently give you the wrong number or a misspelled name. Always double check information or compare it against valid sources, even when the information comes directly from the client.
  8. Don’t become the weakest link. Try out every Web address to be sure it goes to the appropriate place, whether it’s a Web page or e-mail. If you’re working on a print piece, type in the exact address shown to check it out – even if it looks correct and you know exactly where it leads.
  9. Be personally responsible. Do you assume that someone else will check the links? Do you hope someone else caught any potential spelling errors? Never assume and double check everything to ensure its correctness.
  10. There are no stupid questions. But, try to find the answer yourself first. There’s no shame in asking questions, but it’ll save everyone time if you try to find the answer yourself. (Go back to No. 1 and 4 to learn how.)

Small, simple details are the easiest to miss. And, they may affect your credibility more than one big, unexpected mistake. Detail-orientation is an acquired skill. By paying close attention to the work you do, the things your produce will be more thorough. The devil is in the details.

A college degree is just a piece of paper to me. I worked hard and spent a lot of money on mine. But, it’s not what got me a job. Thousands of people who are without a job right now have that piece of paper…some are just more expensive or earned in different fields.

In order to be a marketable job candidate once you graduate, I believe you need to spend hours outside of the classroom to develop your real-world skills.

You need to make yourself stand out amongst thousands of potential job seekers. Leave your suggestions on standing out in the comments section. Here are my tips:

  • Workplace experience. Whether you volunteer, intern or freelance, you need experience with depth and breadth. This means extensive experience in one area is great, but you also should consider gaining experience in several different areas. The more time you spend working in the real world before you graduate, the better off you will be.
  • A strong network. I always found it annoying when people told me that I needed to “network” more. But, I’ve discovered that networking is definitely more about building professional relationships and getting to know people, not shaking hands and reading name tags at luncheon events.
  • Personality. Bosses hire people who they think they will like working with. I’ve known people who look perfect on paper…but they have the personality of a housefly. Don’t be afraid to be a real person.
  • Professionalism. You will be immediately judged on how you present yourself. I know flip flops have no affect on your skills, but it does put off an impression.
  • Confidence, not cockiness. Sure, you might know your stuff and its good to know it. But, you don’t want to come off as too cocky.
  • Know the strategy, not just the tool. Your clients won’t care that Twitter is cool. They need to know the strategy behind the tools and the potential ROI before they commit to it.
  • Demonstrate initiative. Do things just because you want to improve your skills. Go to conferences, watch webinars, write a blog and read books related to your career.

You don’t necessarily need a degree to get a job. You need skills. That piece of paper means nothing after you graduate if you don’t strive to make yourself better than the rest.

What would you suggest? What areas could entry-level employees improve upon?

I’m entering my second week in my new position of account executive and social media specialist at AGP & Associates

And, I love it.

I wish there were some magical formula to finding the perfect workplace, but there isn’t. In my experience, it is going with your “gut.”

But, there is more to it than that. What considerations should come into play when accepting a job offer? Here’s my thoughts:

My decision to accept a job at AGP was greatly influenced by the fact that I had been working here since September as an intern.

Tip 1: If possible, spend time working (or even volunteering) at the place you think you would like to end up. Not only will you learn about the kind of work you might be doing, but you will get to know the company culture. Additionally, your transition from intern to professional will be easier.

I also love mid-Michigan (hence the reason I freelance as the managing editor of Vision Mid Michigan). I’ve visited both Chicago and Washington, D.C. and knew immediately that I wasn’t a “city girl.” Columbus, Ohio wasn’t bad, but I still missed the Great Lakes State while I was away at Fahlgren Mortine.

Tip 2: Find a workplace near a place you want to live. You spend 40 to 50 hours at work, but you won’t be living there.

One of the really attractive benefits to working at AGP was the opportunities for growth, both within the company and for myself as a professional and person.

Tip 3: Opportunities for growth are extremely important and should be a key consideration when accepting a job.

I’m also excited that my new job challenges my skills and is requiring me to learn new things. I also have the opportunity to carve out my own niche in my newly created position at the agency.

Tip 4: Seek challenges and opportunities. You should never stop learning and growing.

What would you suggest to someone who is considering a job offer?

Relocating To Launch Your Career

March 29, 2010 12:20 pm | No Comments

I recently wrote a freelance article for Young Money Magazine. Here’s the introduction. To read the entire article, go to Young Money.

Finding even an entry-level job can be a daunting task for soon-to-be college grads. With poor local economies, many must consider relocating in order to find a job.

“Most people don’t find jobs in their ‘comfort zones,” said Heather Huhman, entry-level career expert and author of Relocating for an Entry Level Job.
These zones might include the towns they grew up in, where they went to college or where their significant other lives.
“Don’t go months, or longer, without a job because you are unwilling to move away from friends and family,” she said.
According to U.S. News, 18.2 percent of job seekers relocate for a job.

Read the rest of this article on Young Money.

2010With only a few appointments and work days during my winter break, I thought I would be very productive. But, I relaxed instead, reading novels, spending time with family and friends, baking cookies and sleeping in.

Reflecting over my last winter break before graduation, I’m glad I took time for myself. While I love being a Go-Getter Girl, I was definitely worn out after finals. In order to be happy and productive before starting my career and another semester, I needed a real break.

I found a list with 52 tips to help with happiness and productivity on Zen Habits. Happiness is linked to productivity – happy people generally work better with others, are more creative and motivated, are problem-solvers and make better decisions, have more energy and optimism, get sick less and learn faster.

Here are 10 tips for a productive new year as a young professional. In parenthesis are the corresponding numbered tips from the Zen Habit’s site that inspired my own tip.

  1. Don’t take on too much. Ambitious young professionals are known for saying yes to every opportunity. Instead of taking on additional responsibility, focus your time on the opportunities that will help you the most. (#2)
  2. Reboot your brain. You don’t have to actually meditate. Find something that calms you, like music or reading, or do something known to have a calming effect, like yoga. (#10)
  3. Keep a notebook. Lara Kretler (@LaraK) got me started on doing this and it has helped me stay organized. She used a composition book at work to keep notes in for everything (or so it seemed to me) and she always seemed incredibly organized. I now have two notebooks – one for work and one for everything else. For work, I take notes at meetings and about assignments. The other notebook holds my to-do lists, grocery lists, ideas and other random things. (#11)
  4. Figure out what you want. Don’t buy into the “you’re a college student, so you don’t have to choose now” idea. Research industries, job shadow at companies and figure out where you might like to be working when you graduate. Think about things, such as whether or not you want to stay in the state or if you want to have kids. You need to know what you want in order to get there. (#16)
  5. Set short and long term goals. Once you know what you want, you need to figure out how you are going to get there. Penelope Trunk’s latest post on keeping resolutions has great tips on goal setting. (#17 & 18)
  6. Choose priorities. Not everyone is a to-do list person. But, you will be more productive if you know the tasks need to be done each week and which ones are the most important. (#20)
  7. Organize your e-mails. Sometimes I’m terrible at this, letting more than 100 emails pile up before I go through them all. I always feel great when my inbox is cleared and I have folders containing the messages I need to save. (#27)
  8. Learn to delegate and accept help from others. Sometimes you don’t have to be the one to do certain things. In addition to not saying yes to every opportunity, have people help you with the tasks that don’t absolutely need to be done by you. (#30)
  9. Stop trying to be a multi-tasker. You are often more productive when you focus on a single task rather than five all at once. (#44)
  10. Take time to relax. Sit down with a glass of wine and good friends or relax in a bubble bath to read a novel. You’ll be more refreshed when you get back to work if you take time for yourself. (#51)

Related posts:

Win a copy of Young Professional’s Guide to Success. Comment on, tweet about or blog about blog posts posted from Dec. 15 to Dec. 21 to gain points to win. Learn more here. Read the contest rules here.

Guest post by: Shane Arman (@ShaneArman)

As a young professional heading into the competitive job market, you should have an online presence and you should manage it well. And, I’m talking about more than just interacting on Facebook and Twitter. Here are a few tips to start building your online image:
Start a blog

Figure out a theme and topic that fits something you are interested in and experiment by posting your own content and interacting with other bloggers. There are plenty of free platforms to get you started (including blogger.com and wordpress.com). Granted, you’re not an expert on anything yet, but having a blog shows prospective employers you’re enthusiastic and passionate about your profession.

Google yourself

Every few weeks or so, I google my name and search through the entire list of search results. Chances are your prospective employers will do the same. Monitor where your name is appearing online and make sure it reflects positively on who you are. If something looks out of place, be prepared to explain why in an interview. Also, set up a google alert for your name. Every time your name is published or mentioned online, you’ll get an e-mail. It’s a simple way to keep tabs on yourself without doing any work.
Create an online hub for yourself – start a Web site that features your online portfolio and links to your other social media pages (Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, etc.). This way prospective employers are one click away from viewing your comprehensive online presence. Weebly.com offers free Web site creation with an extremely easy interface that even tracks visitors activity.

Read and interact with blogs 

Although this is an obvious one, I think some people may overlook it. Keeping up with relevant blogs will give you content ideas for your own blog and commenting on other blogs can start meaningful conversations with your peers or professionals. 

Experiment with social media

As a young professional, now is the time to experiment with different forms of social media and it shows prospective employers you are passionate about your career. As with anything in public relations, start with a little research. Check out what other students are blogging about and how your friends set up their online portfolios.

Establishing a great online presence takes time, persistence and dedication, so don’t expect your online image to sprout over night. Stick with it and you’ll gradually see the benefits having a solid online presence can have on your future.
Shane Arman is a senior public relations major and business minor at the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh. He is currently an intern in UW Oshkosh’s integrated marketing office and vice president of PRSSA. Feel free to follow Shane’s blog On the PR path, or connect with him on LinkedIn or Twitter @ShaneArman.

Related Posts:

Win a copy of Young Professional’s Guide to Success. Comment on, tweet about or blog about blog posts posted from Dec. 15 to Dec. 21 to gain points to win. Learn more here. Read the contest rules here.

It’s almost 2010! With the tough economy and job market, young public relations professionals should make New Year’s Resolutions to help them succeed into the next decade.

1. Improve your writing skills.

Don’t be vague with this resolution. Set clear steps and goals to achieve it. Great steps include reading blogs about writing (I like Copyblogger and Write to Done) and starting a blog. Set goals, such as freelance writing for a local publication and finding a writing mentor to help give you tips on improving.

2.  Expand your network.

Sometimes it’s not what you know, but who you know. Rather than attending networking events and just collecting business cards, try to establish a good relationship with people. You can do this on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and, of course, in person. Additionally, I suggest meeting a few of your local social media contacts in-person (this is how I met two of my very good friends, Mikinzie and Hannah).

3. Learn something new.

Employers are looking for young professionals who can do more than just write a press release. In 2010, I suggest you try to expand your skills in order to be more competitive in the workplace. I suggest learning how to use Creative Suite 4 (like InDesign, PhotoShop and DreamWeaver) and basic HTML/CSS. Maybe you should learn a foreign language. You also may consider learning more about subjects you know the basics in, such as business, economics, photography, marketing and advertising. Lastly, it’s always fun to learn about other things that may not relate to your career. Last year, I read a book about archaeology and now I am reading about the CIA.

4. Take on a freelance client.

You probably don’t have the resources to take on a client like Starbucks, but your skills could greatly help a local nonprofit or business. Find a prospective client, prepare a pitch and offer your services. Create a communication plan, pitch to local media and help them strategically use social media. It will make for a great portfolio piece and interview discussion subject.

5. Make time spent on social media more productive/effective.

Many of us are on Twitter and LinkedIn and also read blogs. But, are you just lurking? In order to build relationships, you need to participate in the social media sphere. Reply to followers on Twitter, join LinkedIn discussions and comment on blogs. This will help people learn who you are and help build relationships.

Do you have other resolutions to suggest to young PR professionals?

Win a copy of Young Professional’s Guide to Success. Comment on, tweet about or blog about blog posts posted from today to Dec. 21 to gain points to win. Read the contest rules here. I have three copies to give away!

ScrabbleRyan Kohnen, author of Young Professional’s Guide to Success, compiled advice and stories from CEOs, executives and community leaders for his book. Here is an interview with Ryan, who has donated three copies of his book to give away on this blog.

Is there a trait or attitude you see repeating in the stories that led these people to success?

There are two major traits I saw with these executives and leaders. First, they experienced as much as they could within every role they had. They threw the job description out the window and did whatever their superiors said to do AND more. Far too often, young professionals get asked to do things that they may feel are beneath them or not part of their job description. These were the opportunities that these CEOs and leaders used to differentiate themselves. The worst thing you could ever say is, “It’s not part of my job description.” Not only did these leaders willfully do these small jobs outside of their scope, but they embraced the experience and found learning opportunities in them.

Secondly, these executives and leaders were always extremely prepared. I’m not talking about the big events, such as an annual performance review. I’m talking about EVERY little event. For example, if your boss says you have a meeting in four hours, but does not say what it is regarding, anticipate what it could be about. Show up prepared on a variety of topics and issues. Sometimes you may not guess properly, but sometimes you’ll be more prepared than anyone else.

How can young professionals help set themselves up for success?

Among the other items discussed, I would encourage all young professionals to practice and engage in more face-to-face communication. I’ve noticed our generation is much weaker at face-to-face conversation and communications. The importance of communication, relationship building and public speaking skills is of utmost importance when you are in major leadership role. Go to lunch with your friends instead of texting. Go to a business luncheon and TRY to ask more questions and learn from people as opposed to talking or sitting their quietly. Instead of sending that email, call the person. Ninety percent of most communication between young professionals is through technology. Try to get that to 80 percent and when you’ve hit 80 percent, go for 70 percent and so on.

You refer to Generation Y as “Generation A.D.D.” Why is this and how can millennial overcome stereotypes?

A lot of the stereotypes about our attention spans, communication style and approach to work and life, are true! Yes, I’m part of Generation A.D.D. – and I embrace these things. I have grown up with the Internet, text messaging, video games and extreme stimulation from all angles. I don’t think its about overcoming stereotypes.  It’s about showing the value in our different way of doing things and thinking.

What is the biggest mistake young professionals make?

I would go back to the biggest opportunity young professionals have – experience everything! Young professionals sometimes have a bit of “Entitlement Disorder,” where they feel like they don’t have to do certain things or are “above” performing certain duties and tasks. A lot of us are ready for the next challenge or opportunity before we are actually given the opportunity. This is probably the biggest weakness of our generation. We need to slow down and embrace some of these other opportunities and find the value in it.

madWhen I was in junior high, I received death threats from two girls. It stemmed from petty jealousy issues. After I was named editor of the school newspaper during my senior year, I overheard catty comments and my Jeep got keyed.

Although people mature some in college and in the workforce, I’ve noticed the issues of dislike, contempt and jealousy continuously. After recently discussing it with another friend who has experienced the issue, I wanted to post on it.

“Understand that sometimes no matter what you do, you will be unfairly labeled. As long as you assert yourself fairly and honestly, don’t worry about being called names.”

(Source: Anita Bruzzese’s blog, 45 Things and her recent post about gender communication and the book, Taking the Leap)

I’m an introvert. I love discussing ideas, but I need time to myself as well. Unfortunately, some people have taken my quietness as being as sign as something else. I might be percieved as withdrawn, uncooperative, aloof or unmotivated. Through the grapevine, I’ve heard a lot of the things I’ve been called. It always gets around and eventually the message gets back to me. It’s always something petty and catty.

Here’s my opinion for others who have experienced this:

You don’t have to be liked by everyone, especially those with petty reasons for disliking you. Be true to who you are, work hard and strive for success.

The hard part about this is that public relations is such a relationship-driven field. Many young professionals faced with similar situations wonder what they can do to improve, or at least neutralize, the situation.

What do you do when you’re dealing with a petty/catty person?

  • Don’t stress over being liked by this person. In the scheme of things, it’s probably not that big of a deal.
  • It is impossible to make everyone happy, so just be civil and respectful.
  • Don’t let other people’s opinions dictate your actions. Do what is right for you.
  • Be confident in your skills if you know you rock at them. But, don’t be afraid to say, “I don’t know.”
  • Be honest with who you are and what you want.


Rachel M. Esterline works in public relations and marketing communications. Her blog, ExPRessions, contains her musings about PR, marketing, career and professional development, Gen Y issues, personal branding and more. Rachel also does freelance consulting and writing. She is originally from Genesee, Mich., and will graduate from Central Michigan University in May 2010.