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It Loves Me, It Loves Me Not: The Truth About How Companies Treat Employees

 It Loves Me, It Loves Me Not: The Truth About How Companies Treat Employees

While most relationships are reciprocal in their affection for one another, that’s not always the case for the employee/employer relationship. In a recent survey by Virgin Pulse, nearly 75% of employees said they loved their companies, while only 25% felt their companies loved them back.

Why We Love Where We Work

The reason for adoration of an employer vary, but some of the reasons in the survey include:

  • They felt they had interesting and challenging work
  • They liked their company’s mission and what it stands for
  • They love their co-workers
  • They have a flexible work schedule
  • They get great perks and benefits
  • They get paid well

The Feeling Isn’t Mutual

Despite many employees enjoying what they do and where they work, many don’t think their employers feel the same. But exactly how does a company show that it cares about employees?

The survey revealed many obvious answers, like managers showing more praise or offering better work/life balance. Surprisingly, money isn’t the only way employees feel appreciated, though it certainly helps. Great benefits like life insurance, maternity leave, and 401k plans also make employees feel more cared for.

And it seems like some employers try but somehow miss the mark. While a company might think that nap time and weekly massage are what employees really want, the survey showed that most care more about services and benefits that help them maximize their quality of life, such as an on-site gym or healthier cafeteria options.

How to Get What You Want from Your Employer

If you’re one of those workers who feels underappreciated at your job, don’t assume your only option is to jump ship. It is highly possible that your employer simply doesn’t know what you look for in terms of feeling acknowledged. A little dialogue about it can go a long way.

  • Talk to your colleagues. Are others feeling walked over, or are you alone in this? If you band together, you’ll be able to present a more solid case for what you all want from your company.
  • Brainstorm. In an ideal world, what would your company look like? What perks would it offer? Now, in a realistic world (read: small budget), what would you be satisfied with? Maybe you’d love a dream gym where you can work out in your building on your lunch break, but you’d settle for a free pass to the gym down the street.
  • Make your case. Make a list of accomplishments you and your colleagues have made over the past year to show that you’re dedicated to the success of the company. It’s easier to ask for something when you’ve proven that you’ve given in return.
  • Schedule a meeting. Bring a few of your co-workers (not so many that your manager feels bamboozled) and give a well-prepared presentation that explains how you’re collectively feeling about the company, as well as your ideas about how to improve morale. Realize your manager may not have final approval on your ideas, and that you may have to be flexible in what results you get (that company sauna might not be a reality). Being open to conversation is what you really want.
  • Follow up. You don’t want a meeting that results in a lot of empty promises that never amount to anything. Ask for dates that you can expect the ideas to be turned into reality. Obviously it would take longer to build that inter-office gym than it would to snag employee passes to a local gym.

Remember: you can’t always leave your workplace happiness in the hands of your employer. Don’t be afraid to take measures into your own hands to get the results you want.

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PR Agencies in 2014

shutterstock 124525963 300x204 PR Agencies in 2014

This is a post from PR Columnist, Alison Kenney.

Last week I attended a Social Media Breakfast Boston event called “The Evolution of PR, Marketing & Digital: What’s Next for the Agency World?” It featured panel speakers from big PR agencies (FleishmanHillard and Racepoint Global), a small virtual PR agency (PerkettPR) and an ad agency (Mullen).

So just how have these firms “evolved”? Here’s what I took away from the discussion about what’s it like to work at a PR agency in 2014:

Agencies today offer a mix of disciplines

As FleishmanHillard’s Seth Bloom pointed out, it used to be that no matter what client they were pitching or what the business objective happened to be, agencies primarily offered some flavor of media relations as the solution. There was talk about integrated marketing campaigns, but those rarely came together unless you were working with a very large brand that had a budget large enough to grab the attention of multiple sister agencies and could afford the massive amount of coordination work. As an example of how this has changed, Bloom ended his presentation with a short video his team created to tease the launch of a new, waterproof Samsung phone. I couldn’t help but think how the launch would have been teed up ten years ago, most likely with a focus on media pre-briefings.

Now agencies offer lots of different services under one roof. A typical corporate CMO wants a mix of paid, owned and earned media and PR agencies are more and more frequently offering it, rather than just a piece of it. I wonder if this means the new business teams at PR firms find themselves going up against new types of competitors and having to position themselves against different types of agencies? Tom Foremski thinks now is the time for PR agencies to go after ad agency business.

What does this ‘new agency look’ mean for staff? Employees at PR firms are expected to understand the ins and outs of each discipline — as Racepoint’s Dan Carter said, “you need to know what a creative brief is.” Account teams need to know how to package and sell different program elements and also, importantly, how to report the results in a way that a CMO can appreciate and understand.

Account teams touch lots of technology throughout the day

Without fail, these types of events always feature a question about what tools are most useful. I think everyone just wants to make sure they’re not missing anything. The panelists didn’t disappoint – they rattled off a laundry list of technology used by their firms to monitor, manage and report on work being done. The names included tools for tracking sentiment, cross-channel posting, listening, content creation, analytics, email marketing and social marketing. Skyword, Netbase and Hootsuite all got shout-outs, and the bigger agency representatives mentioned the proprietary platforms and software they use, such as FH’s Blackbox, as well as a social media task force (at Racepoint) that evaluates new technology as it comes along.

Employees are more diverse

Although one of the perks of working at a PR firm is being surrounded by co-workers who do the same type of work you do and understand what you’re going through, that may be starting to change. As agencies branch out with a wider array of service offerings, they’re hiring workers with different skill sets. Mullen’s Eric Fulwiler, who has worked previously at VaynerMedia, Forbes.com and the Clinton Foundation, advocates hiring the right talent, which you should identify by gut and then train internally.

The panelists settled on some core skills that remain important for agency hires, including writing skills, media savvy, judgment (empathy), an entrepreneurial spirit, the ability to learn and to work with others who have different perspectives. As always, PR agency pros are expected to dive deep into their clients’ cultures. Today they’re also expected to be savvy about indirect competition like pop culture.

Alison Kenney an independent PR practitioner with more than 15 years of PR consulting experience. She is based on Boston’s North Shore and has worked with organizations in the technology, professional services and consumer industries. She writes a bi-monthly PR column on LindsayOlson.com. You can find her at www.kprcommunications.com. Learn more about Alison Kenney.

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What’s In & What’s Out in the PR World for 2014

 What’s In & What’s Out in the PR World for 2014\

This is a guest post by PR Columnist, Alison Kenney.

Happy New Year! If you’re like many of us, you’re probably eager to see the last of some of 2013’s industry trends and welcome new, better habits for 2014.

 

Here are a few to look forward to:

IN:

Social Media Tracking – Most PR pros I know use a mashed up manual method for tracking social media metrics. It works like this: you start with the metrics your various tools give you, then manually add metrics that are important to your campaign or client to come up with a way to show progress (or not) toward meeting your goals. The last few years have shown us that the data and technology are there, perhaps this will be the year we’ll have customizable apps to help us track and measure social media efforts.

Tear-jerking videos – I’m betting that we’ll see a few more of these this year. Some of 2013’s viral videos were stellar, like WestJet’s Christmas Wishes Granted and Dove’s Beauty Sketches. But some tried to marry their brand with a serious issue and didn’t quite pull it off (IMHO), like this one from Special K.

Budgeting for formerly ‘free’ social media plays – In the second half of 2013, Facebook made some changes to encourage brands to pay to promote their posts. Now that Twitter is a public company, expect to see a push for ad dollars on that platform too.

Female empowerment – Topics like ‘Lean In’ and ‘Having it All’ peppered the headlines in 2013. Will the buzz build or fade away in 2014? Brands are reflecting our interests in the topics, as we’ve seen with the Dove and Special K ads mentioned above, plus Pantene’s Labels Against Women ad, which pretty much rides Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In messaging.

Native advertising – Formerly known as advertorials, expect to see more PR pros pitching media partnerships in which their clients or brands contribute regular content or sponsorship to a media outlet. Even the venerable New York Times is preparing for more native ads in 2014.

Long form journalism – There may be fewer examples of this type of reporting, but the good ones will blow you away – as evidenced by this list of 2013’s best longform writing. The New York Times was so successful with its “Snow Fall” project (a Peabody award-winning feature story about surviving an avalanche told in print, video and multimedia) that the Times created a new position to edit ongoing similar projects.

Tweeting responsibly – This is IN, right folks?

OUT:

Traditional Media Business Models- By the end of 2013, we learned that hyperlocal crowdsourced news wasn’t the answer (see The Fatal Error that Doomed AOL’s Patch). I doubt 2014 will be the year that everything changes for newspapers although I wish Jeff Bezos the best. Sadly, I think we’ll continue to see newsroom cuts and media consolidations in the year ahead.

Marquee reporters on staff – 2013 was a doozy of a time for top-of-the-pack journalists to leave their long-time jobs. David Pogue departed the New York Times for Yahoo; Dan Lyons left Forbes to work at HubSpot and theWall Street Journal said goodbye to Ben Worthen (who joined Sequoia Capital) and Walt Mossberg and Kara Swisher (who moved to NBC).

Social Media Faux Pas – It’s not a new lesson (see my 2011 post, Is Tweeting Hazardous to Your Job?), just one that we seem to re-learn each year. Justine Sacco is 2013’s Tweeting Before Thinking poster child.

Critical online reviews – In this criticism of BuzzFeed’s new policy not to publish negative book reviews, Maria Bustillos suggests that BuzzFeed will therefore become a source of “mere publicity” -or even worse – “a tool for monetizing everything and erasing the line between advertising and editorial content.” Other online review sites – Yelp, Amazon, among others – have faced this issue in the past and consumers have adjusted their expectations for perspective and credibility accordingly when visiting these sites.

Alison Kenney an independent PR practitioner with more than 15 years of PR consulting experience. She is based on Boston’s North Shore and has worked with organizations in the technology, professional services and consumer industries. She writes a bi-monthly PR column on LindsayOlson.com. You can find her at www.kprcommunications.comLearn more about Alison Kenney.


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10 Holiday No-Nos for the Office

Surivive office holiday party 10 Holiday No Nos for the Office

The holiday season — while filled with joy and good cheer — can be a landmine in the office if you’re not careful. Here are 10 potential pitfalls you should watch out for this season.

1. Don’t Overdo it at the Office Holiday Party

While you certainly should relax at the company holiday party, do so within reason. Use it as an opportunity to talk to people other than the usual suspects. For some reason, whenever co-workers start drinking together, embarrassing things tend to happen. Pay attention to your alcohol consumption, and avoid the temptation to put that lampshade on your head.

2. Don’t Give an Inappropriate Gift to Your Boss

It’s perfectly acceptable to give the people you work with small tokens of appreciation for Christmas, but don’t give anything — especially to your boss — whose intent could be misunderstood to mean you have romantic interest in him or her, or simply want to get ahead in your career.

3. Don’t Take Vacation at Crunch Time

If you work in an industry that’s bombarded with work this time of year, try to avoid asking for vacation time unless absolutely necessary. You’ll come off more of a team player if you wait to unwind on the beach after the stressful period of work is over.

4. Don’t Flood the Break Room with Fattening Treats

Sure, most people love munching on your gingerbread cookies,  but when everyone is worried about packing on the pounds around the holiday season, healthy alternatives are appreciated.

5. Don’t Angle for a Promotion at the Company Party

If you’ve been vying for a promotion or raise, bringing it up to your boss at the party is definitely a no-no. He’s there to relax too, and will be put off if you’re spouting off all your accomplishments as he’s trying to do the Electric Slide.

6. Don’t Hook Up with a Co-Worker

We keep coming back to that office party, don’t we? Inter-office romance is a tricky thing, and one-time hookups at the holiday party definitely make for an awkward and strained work environment. Instead, bring a date (even if it’s just a friend) to the party to avoid being tempted by the new hot intern.

7. Don’t Be Exclusive with the Gift Giving

Okay, you don’t have to get everyone in your office a gift, but unless you can subtly hand off a giant wrapped box to your favorite co-worker, try to get something for everyone, even if it’s just a card. This can help dial down the jealousy and keep cohesion in the office.

8. Don’t Grouse About Your Nonexistent Bonus

Times are hard. If you don’t get a bonus from your boss, don’t complain about it. It’s not personal. Your boss will appreciate it if you take it in stride.

9. Don’t Assume Everyone Celebrates Christmas

When giving cards, stick to “happy holidays” messages to avoid offending anyone. And if you know a co-worker practices another religion, find out if she is comfortable accepting gifts before you give one.

10. Don’t be a Scrooge

If you’re not into the festive vibe, don’t ruin it for everyone else. This is one time of year that people don’t work as hard if they don’t have to, and enjoy general camaraderie with others in the office.

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More Real-World Stories on Getting Hired in PR

 More Real World Stories on Getting Hired in PR

Last month I brought you several stories of folks who had unique ways of getting their jobs. Here are even more!

Telling a Story at Your Own Expense

When Brad Hobbs interviewed at Max Borges Agency, a tech PR firm (where he is now Account Director), he surprised the President with his answer to a question about what gadgets Hobbs used daily. Hobbs’ response was “Just my iPhone.” When Borges was confused how someone interested in tech PR could subsist on only one piece of technology, Hobbs dove into his story about how all his other gadgets burned in “a fantastic blaze of glory,”  as they were all in an RV that burned to the ground.

Naturally, Borges wanted to know the full story, and Hobbs told him:

“I went into the full story of how I came about owning a 1978 RV, how I drove it across country with a friend, broke down multiple times, went through 5 car batteries, slept at a gas station, a Cracker Barrel and across the street from a mobile home that was unrelatedly on fire, got 4.9 miles to the gallon, was pulled over in Alabama and accused of smuggling drugs…..and on and on…..just to get it to Florida, fix it up and take it on its inaugural camping trip where it proceeded to light on fire with me and five friends inside.”

Not to worry; Hobbs and his friends were fine, but the RV wasn’t. Borges enjoyed the story so much, he hired Hobbs within days.

Hobbs said what helped him get the job can help anyone: “Don’t be afraid to show some of yourself, of who you really are in an interview.

Being Open to Serendipity

Sometimes despite all the resumes you send out, your perfect job is waiting for you where you least expect it. When Boomer Beam attended his mother’s 25th high school reunion in her stead, he met many of his mother’s classmates. Among them was Elizabeth Nickol, whose family founded All American Clothing.

“The conversation led to an interview, then an internship and eventually a job that I absolutely love. Enjoying a little spontaneity throughout your lifetime can sometimes lead to good opportunities. Keep an eye out for your opportunity. You just never know.”

Beam is now the Director of Marketing and Communications for All American Clothing.

Sharing Your Personal Passions

It’s not always possible to work in a field you’re passionate about, but when your interests align with your job, you stand out to hiring managers.

Kateri Wozny, who has a background in journalism, was looking to break out of the field and move into public relations. She wanted to work for a company that she could identify with on a personal level. She applied with Consortium Media as a PR Specialist, which turned out to be the perfect fit. One of the company’s major clients was a foster service.

“Although I was never a foster child, I was adopted and understood the personal connection that all children deserve a loving family,” Wozny said, “I made sure I emphasized that in my cover letter and my then boss even mentioned in the interview that she was impressed that I could relate to one of their clients and had some ideas for it.”

Her advice to college grads applying for PR jobs is: “make sure you can in some shape or form actually relate to the client/brand and are passionate about it. If you can see yourself having a fun time pitching the brand/client to the press and can bring fresh ideas to the table, you’ll have a shot at getting hired.”

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20 Things You Should Have Done this Year to Make Yourself More Hireable

20things 20 Things You Should Have Done this Year to Make Yourself More Hireable

Are you lamenting over not scoring your dream job in 2013? It could be that you were guilty of not doing one or more of the following tips to position yourself as the ideal job candidate.

1. Network more. It’s easy to say you’ll network, but when it comes down to it, did you regularly attend networking meetings and put yourself out there in the scary world of talking to people you don’t know?

2. Read your resume out loud. Simply tweaking a word here or there on your resume won’t help you really see it from an employer’s perspective. Reading it aloud can help you identify errors and awkward sentence structure.

3. Take someone to lunch. That could be a co-worker who’s higher up the ladder or someone else who works in your industry. This is your opportunity to get insider tips for succeeding in your field.

4. Blog. Blogging is especially useful if you don’t have a ton of job experience. Write posts about your take on your industry, interesting projects you’re working on, and other topics that display your intelligence and interest in your field.

5. Open your search parameters. Perhaps you really want to go in-house, and you declined the opportunity to take an interview with an interesting agency. Some agencies have much smaller account loads or you may even work onsite for one client. Opportunities like this could be a perfect bridge with what you are considering to do long term.

6. Invest in interview clothes. Hiring managers judge you the second you walk into an interview. If your clothes are worn down and cheap looking, it doesn’t say that you take yourself seriously as a professional. In 2014, invest in a few key basic pieces you can wear in multiple ways. This is always a good investment and can be used in many situations, not only interviewing.

7. Connect with a recruiter or two. Recruiters have the inside scoop on which companies are hiring, even if they’re not posting on job boards. A key relationship or two could open up a
new pipeline of interesting job prospects in the hidden job market.

8. Learn a new skill. Rather than waste time hating your current job, you could use it as a launchpad to your next career. Take any opportunity to diver deeper in the business or learn a practical skills that will hep with your career advancement.

9. Attend conferences and seminars. Another way you could have made yourself more hireable this year was to attend industry events where you could not only learn new things but also network with others in your field.

10. Read blogs. Read, read, read, and increase your awareness of what’s happening in your industry. You’ll also get ideas for your own blog.

11. Ask questions. Consider yourself a learning sponge and ask smart questions of the people you work with. You’d be surprised how much you can learn just through curiosity.

12. Update LinkedIn. Whether you’re currently looking for a job or not, your LinkedIn profile should accurately reflect your work experience. Continue to connect to people in your industry and follow conversations.

13. Join LinkedIn Groups. Find a few groups that focus on your industry so you can learn from those who have already taken the path you’re on. Also find groups locally so you can network with people at companies you’re interested in.

14. Freelance. Especially if you don’t have the experience to get the job you really want, freelancing can help you fatten up your portfolio and make some extra cash.

15. Volunteer. Another great way to expand your portfolio is to donate your PR skills to a nonprofit or other organization. Volunteering is a good resume builder and a chance to explore new areas of interest.

16. Go Back to School. You may not need a second Bachelor’s degree, but it never hurts to take some continuing education classes or workshops to bone up on new skills.

17. Ask for the Job. If you’ve met someone who makes the hiring decisions at another company, have you truly leveraged that relationship? While you don’t want to take advantage, there’s nothing wrong with expressing interest in working for the company. It can open doors for you.

18. Be Different. The next time you apply for a job, do something different like create a video explaining why you want to work at a company (if that approach fits the company culture). Be memorable in a good way.

19. Look Internally. Rather than seeking a job elsewhere, see what opportunities lie in the company you currently work for. You’ve already proven yourself in your current role, and many companies prefer to hire internal candidates.

20. Be Diligent. You can’t give up after your first 10 resumes don’t net anything. Look for ways to constantly improve yourself, but remember, the search for the right job doesn’t happen overnight. j

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Newsjacking – the Good, the Bad & the Ugly

newsjacking 300x209 Newsjacking – the Good, the Bad & the Ugly

This is a guest post by PR Columnist, Alison Kenney.

Newsjacking is a somewhat negative-sounding name for a real-time marketing technique that can be quite successful.

To make newsjacking work, PR professionals have to be alert, well-read, creative, and thoughtful in order to inject their ideas or angles into breaking news, in real-time, in order to generate media coverage for themselves or their businesses.

How will you know your efforts have succeeded? David Meerman Scott, the inventor of the term ‘newsjacking,’ says that good newsjacking leads people directly into the buying process.

Before we look at the good, the bad, and the ugly examples of newsjacking, I want to clear one thing up: there is a difference between newsjacking and commemorating. For example, the September 11 tragedy means that news organizations will plan to cover news about the event on that date – e.g. events in honor of the tragedy, updates on those involved, etc. It also means that many people and brands want to commemorate the date by issuing sentiment or offering something special. Sometimes the ‘special offer’ becomes part of the news, but in general, brands shouldn’t try to generate “news” from their commemorations.

Wondering how to get started? First, you need to be on top of the news. This means using technology like TweetDeck, Google News and other monitoring techniques to follow what’s happening in your industry. It’s also helpful to plan ahead with tools like AP Planner that can help you build out your editorial calendar.

The New York Times recently wrote about Gary Vaynerchuk’s VaynerMedia and his efforts to help clients exploit topics that are trending on Twitter.

Vaynerchuk says, “Creative today is more about breaking news. We need clever, funny and quick. If orange juice trees burn down in all of Florida, is there a play for our Tropicana client?”

And the NYT writes: A “play” in this context means some kind of post that pivots off the news, most likely on Facebook or Twitter. Three weeks ago, a team of employees gathered with Mr. Vaynerchuk in a conference room to discuss a brand they oversee, a cookie that the client did not want named. The team spent much of the meeting trying to figure out how this brand could exploit topics trending on Twitter. They call it “riding the hashtag” here.

In this Entrepreneur article, Scott Smith and Jeana Anderson recommend asking these questions before newsjacking:

  • Does the event directly affect your brand or its consumers?
  • Is this largely self-promotional?
  • Could anyone say it?
  • Have you reviewed your scheduled content for that day? More important, has anyone else?
  • Is your post really better than saying nothing at all?

Lewis PR offers some other tips for getting going and recommends thinking about your spokespeople and the topics they are qualified to talk about.

Content Rules co-author Ann Handley recommends hiring a brand journalist to help you capitalize on news opportunities.

Intel’s Jamshed Wadia offers similar tips and shows how his company is leveraging news and trends in Asia Pacific.

Now, for a few newsjacking examples:

Banana Republic successfully capitalized on attention for Twitter leading up to its IPO.

Mixing in political messages or referencing scandals usually isn’t a recommended tactic, but Bertolli pasta pulls it off.

Unfortunately, the Golf Channel doesn’t pull it off.

When it comes to commemoration, I love this commemorative post by Devils Tower National monument on Veterans Day (click on the arrow keys to see additional photos of other military aircraft flying by the monument)

But the line between appropriate and inappropriate is a thin one, as these commemorative 9/11 gaffes show.

Share your newsjacking examples and experiences below!

Alison Kenney an independent PR practitioner with more than 15 years of PR consulting experience. She is based on Boston’s North Shore and has worked with organizations in the technology, professional services and consumer industries. She writes a bi-monthly PR column on LindsayOlson.com. You can find her at www.kprcommunications.com. Learn more about Alison Kenney.

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Consider Working Holidays to Gain New Experiences

 WorkingHolidayVisa7101 Consider Working Holidays to Gain New Experiences

This is a guest post by Matt Milstead.

Many people choose to spend their vacations relaxing somewhere on a beach or by the pool at their spa/hotel. Instead of going for the cliched holiday, perhaps it would be a good idea to experience a working holiday in a new country.

The idea of working through the holidays may not sound appealing, but working in a different country can often be the experience of a lifetime. Many individuals travel to places such as Australia and New Zealand to work during the holidays. Getting a visa for these job opportunities is very easy, and the experience can often be life changing.

Skilled Workers Needed

Areas such as Australia have a shortage of skilled workers, which is why medical recruitment is always taking place overseas. They are more than happy for people to travel from other parts of the world and spend a few weeks or months working in major cities. Areas such as Brisbane, Sydney, and Melbourne all offer many vacancies when it comes to temporary hospital jobs, as well as jobs in other industries requiring skilled workers.

Great Pay

You would be surprised by how well paid employees are in countries such as Australia and New Zealand. Many people have spoken about how they earned more in one week in Australia than they would make in a month in the United States. That is a serious opportunity to make money, and one that should not be passed up. Their minimum wage is double that of the United States, and most skilled workers make two or three times that minimum amount.

Experience New Places and New People

Going back for another week of your usual, mundane job would not appeal to anyone. However, travelling around the world and temporarily living in another city sounds a lot more exciting. While you are working in the location of your choice, you would have plenty of time to explore different cities, check out tourist spots, and get a feel for a completely different culture.

In addition, the people you work with will provide further fresh experiences. You could make new friends, hang out with different personalities, and get a completely different take on life from the one you are used to. There are many advantages to taking a holiday work experience in a new country, but experiencing a new culture has to be right up there.

Work/Life Balance

The balance between working and having time off is outstanding in most jobs you will get in Australia or New Zealand. You will work from 9 to 5, but you will have the rest of the day off to enjoy yourself. In addition, your weekends will be entirely free for exploration and relaxing experiences.

If you want to experience something different in your life, it may be time to get a holiday job in a new country. Instead of doing the same things you have been doing for the past 20 years, this experience will give you a chance to be different. You can also witness first hand why so many people love living in Australia and New Zealand.

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How I Got My Job: 4 Real World Stories from Successful PR Pros

cover letter opens doors 300x200 How I Got My Job: 4 Real World Stories from Successful PR Pros

When it comes to getting hired in public relations, mainstream job hunting efforts sometimes will not do. These stories, coming from PR professionals at all stages of their careers, highlight some of the innovative ways people have gotten the attention of their future employers, and provide insight to help you score your next job.

Working on the Other Side of the Fence

Susan Coulby, Media Relations Manager at Camden County College in New Jersey, found her way into media relations by starting out in journalism. She majored in journalism and then worked as a general assignment reporter and editor at a daily newspaper. From there, she already understood what she needed to know to be successful in PR.

“My background has served me extremely well because it made me learn how to write like the journalists to whom I’m pitching and gave me understanding of the newsroom/deadline experience. This, in turn, gives me a level of credibility with the media that is unavailable to those without my background: I speak their language AND I get where they’re coming from in terms of challenges to do their job.”

Coulby, who has worked as the Media Relations Manager at her community college for 14 years, encourages those interested in PR to serve on the communications committee of Junior League to get real-world experience promoting an organization.

“I would give the same advice to anyone trying to break into the field that was involved with a nonprofit: do volunteer work helping out with communications and learn the ropes for real-world experience,” Coulby says.

Being Open to Opportunity in Unusual Places

Sharon Rosenblatt, who works in IT Accessibility Services and Document Remediation at Accessibility Partners, LLC, never thought she’d end up with a job when she took on part-time work as a personal trainer. As she helped a woman named Dana get in shape, she lamented her lackluster results of finding a full-time PR job.

Rosenblatt’s client offered to review her resume and help beef up her professional writing portfolio by assigning her press releases for the company Rosenblatt’s client ran. Rosenblatt wrote a couple of award nominations and pitched some articles — not for money, but for experience.

“Needless to say, I wowed them and began volunteering my time to improve her company’s PR with her over the summer, “ Rosenblatt recalls, “I gained more responsibilities and as the exercise portion of my employment waned, my business writing portfolio grew. In the fall of 2010, they made me a full-time offer. I’ve been with the company now for over three years!”

She says the best career advice she’s been given came from her mother: carve a niche out for yourself, and make yourself indispensable in whatever role you’re in.

Networking for the Big Picture

Everyone knows that networking is key to scoring a great job, but many job seekers don’t realize how long it can take to reap the benefits.

When Charles B. Henderson, who now serves as National Director of Communications for the Society of St. Vincent De Paul, was between engagements and looking for a full-time job, he met a gentleman who had served as the national president of Henderson’s current employer through a volunteer fair. This man also happened to be a member of Henderson’s church.

The meeting may have been uneventful at the time, but years later, Henderson opted to attend his church’s earlier service, where a representative from a nonprofit organization would speak about getting involved with the group. Guess who the speaker was? Yes: the man he’d met at lunch years before.

After the service, Henderson sought out the speaker, set up a networking meeting later in the week, and was rewarded when his contact put in a good word for him for an open position.

Henderson says the key to his success was smart networking: “Keep a log of the people you talk to. Don’t just get names and contact information of the people to whom they re-direct you. Ask them to make a personal introduction for you, either by phone or email.”

Henderson also offers advice to break into PR:

“If you want a job in PR, learn to write and think like a journalist.  That means you have to know correct grammar, spelling and punctuation.  That would seem self-evident if you’re seeking a job in public relations, but writing skills in this nation are deteriorating and some of the most egregious examples I’m seeing are from PR and journalism students.”

Using Social to Your Advantage

All networking doesn’t have to be done offline. Logan Stewart got her job as Community Manager & Public Relations for OrthoCarolina through Twitter, where she met her current boss.

Both had marketing roles for large organizations in Charlotte, North Carolina, and each knew who the other was on Twitter.

“For quite a long time, we’d just exchange conversational, often humorous tweets – we talked about sports teams, work, local news, whatever the topic of the day was. After getting to know each other on Twitter, we eventually met for coffee several times and discussed social media strategy for our individual companies as well as potential ways that our organizations could partner. Our personalities fit well together because we’re both extremely social and knew a lot of people in the community, and were willing to share those relationships to benefit each other.”

At the time, Stewart wasn’t looking for another job, but when her contact created a new position that was a hybrid of public and media relations with a new community manager-type role, Stewart was at the top of the list, and is now happily managing PR for the company.

Stewart says that networking, offline and on, is invaluable in the job hunt: “Twitter is a goldmine and a valuable resource when it comes to networking. Follow those in your industry in the city you want to work. Reply to their posts regularly without being overbearing. Be funny, be engaging and be relevant. Eventually people will notice you.”


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10 Things You Do or Say That Undermine You at Work

communication style 10 Things You Do or Say That Undermine You at Work

You’re trying to do whatever it takes to be promoted or get a raise. But have you taken a look at your speech and communication style? They very well may be keeping you from excelling at work. If any of these describe you, it’s time to nip the behavior in the bud.

1. Uptalking. When you make a statement? If it sounds like a sentence? People don’t take you seriously. Whatever comes out of your mouth should sound confident and leave no question that you know what you’re talking about.

2. Speaking Arrogantly. There’s a fine line between being confident and being arrogant. If your comments come off as arrogant, they’ll drive people away. If you sound confident, people will respect you. Pay attention to people’s behavior and decide which vibes you’re giving off.

3. Apologizing. If you’re constantly saying “sorry” when you walk in someone’s office or interject in a conversation, you belittle yourself. It seems like you think you don’t have the right to be there or to share your opinion. That’s no way to show off your stuff!

4. Putting Yourself Down. If you’re in the habit of saying things like “You’re so much smarter than me,” or “Duh! That was stupid of me,” co-workers — and your boss — will believe you don’t think much of yourself. And if you don’t believe in yourself, how can you expect others to?

5. Talking Too Fast. Sometimes this stems out of nervousness, but if you talktoofastforanyonetounderstand, people will stop listening. If you want your ideas to be taken seriously, take a deep breath and go slowly.

6. Gossiping. Talking behind your co-worker’s back is no way to win over friends in the workplace. Find other ways to get people to like you, like complimenting them.

7. Interrupting. No one likes being cut off mid-sentence. Even if you’re eager to share your thoughts on the topic at hand, hold back. Otherwise, you seem impatient, and as if you don’t value the thoughts of those you’re conversing with.

8. Dominating Every Conversation. If you’re like Hermione from Harry Potter and are the first person to speak in a meeting, watch yourself. It’s one thing to be eager to participate in the conversation; it’s another to want to have the spotlight all on you. Remember you’re part of a team, so try to bring in your co-workers to the conversation.

9. Not Listening. If you’re not really paying attention to what your co-workers have to say, they’ll feel it. Be fully in the moment whenever anyone is speaking to you. Pause, then respond when appropriate. Try repeating in your own words what you just heard to reassure the listener you actually understood what she said.

10. Not Acting like Yourself. Men and women communicate differently and just because you work in a mainly male or mainly female environment doesn’t mean you should change your communication style. Acting like someone you’re not is obvious and comes off badly. You’ll get a lot more respect from your colleagues by being aware of the communication styles and sticking with your own.

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