The Importance of Stretching

I was crammed between an elderly Chinese man and a young corporate woman riding home through San Francisco’s Russian Hill. I could tell by the sing songy enthusiasm that the two women a few seats to my left were catching up.

“You started your new job today right? How was it?”

“Yeah. It was like any first day. ‘Read this, meet him.’ You can never really tell on the first day.” She mentioned her new employer in passing.

Before this moment I had only seen people who beat me out for jobs on LinkedIn or updated corporate bio pages. I craned my neck slowly to see the young woman who snagged one of the dozens of jobs I had applied to since early 2012. I wasn’t jealous, more curious.

“It’s a bit scary,” she said. “I’ve never done it before…”

So she had no experience?

“…but that’s a good thing.”

The weight that I had felt since starting my new job nearly a month ago melted away.

I turned back towards the elderly Chinese man who calmly hugged the metal bar, steadying himself as he did every day having mastered this one simple movement that allowed him to grin inwardly when children teetered as the bus jerked away from each stop.

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My Chair

photo (1)

This isn’t any chair, this is my chair. It took me nearly a year to get this seat but last Monday I claimed it as my own on my first day as WildAid’s US Communications Director.

This chair is not just mine though. It belongs to the many of you who supported me with your well wishes, network opportunities, edits to my writing, and encouragement since May 2012. That’s when I relocated to San Francisco with my newly promoted wife and jumped into the deep end of a poor job market.

San Francisco is a constant reminder of life’s extremes. Office buildings are filled with startup dollars while the sidewalks and underpasses are crammed with homelessness. While I hadn’t really connected with the new money crowd I was sympathetic to those who were cast aside and passed by during the rush hours every day.

I don’t mean to say that I in any way can appreciate the true horrors of homelessness, but I can thank my lucky stars that I have a support network that kept me afloat. So here’s to:

The human resources representatives, who kept the rollercoaster of emotion moving forward with every email and call to update me on my application status.

The interviewers who helped me sharpen my pitch and learn how to better present myself.

To old friends who introduced me to new friends with leads on job openings.

To the editors who chose my work to post on their sites and keep my name in front of my peers.

To the nonprofits that thought they were getting me for free when they were really keeping my motor primed and ready for work.

To former colleagues and better friends who edited my resume, reviewed my cover letters, sent me links to job openings, set up meetings to network, and kept asking me back to the east coast.

To my new colleagues who saw something in me to bring me on board.

To my family who always listened, never judged, and only provided support.

And last but not least to my wife, who works tirelessly at her job while encouraging me to only move forward when the fit is right.

For so long I felt like a statistic in the quarterly unemployment updates, now I fill another graph. It’s a subtle switch that means the world to each number who is subtracted or added.

This chair belongs to all of you. I hope that someday if you ever find yourself out of work, and I truly do not wish this on anyone, that I can provide you with as much support. It makes all the difference.

Job Dating

“Job hunting is like you’re a 4 dating someone who’s a 10. That’s the process.”

My friend Howard said that yesterday. We were discussing my job search and the frame that’s provided to job seekers. Self-confidence therefore plays a large role since this imposed structure is not empowering.

Interviews are subjective and can warp your self-image if you are not vigilant. You need to remind yourself, throughout this process, of your worth. Howard’s idea, that the game is rigged against the job seeker, highlights this need to learn from the experience while not allowing negative results to devalue your skills and expertise.

As we talked we discussed the importance of leveling the playing field, reclaiming your position as a qualified candidate who is interviewing potential colleagues just as they question you. I wholeheartedly endorse and practice this approach. That’s the difference between finding a job and continuing your career.

The Lynchpin: A Newsroom of One

Imagine a newsroom with only one reporter, typing away on a laptop, surrounded by empty desks and unplugged monitors. Now picture this reporter going out in the field with a camera slung over a shoulder. An hour later the reporter/photographer returns, sits back at the desk, edits the photos, runs reports, sifts through data, designs a graphic, marks up the article, lays it out, and finally hits the publish button.

This is the world we live in: a newsroom of one. It’s not a new concept. Many of us have been doing just this for years and calling it content creation or in-house journalism. It’s been a necessity, a survival trait among the more successful communications professionals. It started as being a “Renaissance Man”, then a jack-of-all-trades, then multitasking, and finally employable.

So why are people asking if brands should retain a newsroom?

Here’s a pro and here’s a con.

It’s a question of content creation and scale. How does a brand create thoughtful content quickly to contribute or lead 24/7 dialogues? How does this ability span markets, countries, time zones?

There are many models, as there should be. Side note: Beware anyone who says there is a single solution. Some departments may scale up to build an internal team similar to a modern, digital newsroom. Others, usually due to budget restrictions, will ask staff to take on new responsibilities. Yet others will retain agencies when applicable, possibly with several on retainer for rapid response social media and creative.

The most important thing to retain is a staff member that fully understands these many moving parts. This colleague will either run the ship him or herself or oversee the team members spread across the globe. You need a colleague who participates in the creative process, practicing “social” media not just posting online, and produces not only collateral but content strategy. You need a colleague who appreciates the capabilities, limitations, and roles of the technology that is available. This colleague must be an analyst, running reports, sifting through the data, and detecting trends to drive relevancy. And above all, this colleague must have an editorial producer mind to package the end result and create thoughtful dialogues to increase support and sharability.

The “newsroom” is the latest buzzword. Translated it means “multifaceted team members who contribute across your organization’s departments/structure.”

The new economy has created a workforce of individuals with multiple professions and skill sets and we’re looking for positions that require using as many of these skills, and acquiring more. Luckily for you, we enjoy this demanding work life and only require one benefits package.

Dear Future Employer

WillWorkForMilkCatThe dialogue between job seekers and hiring managers is changing. It’s easy for candidates to slightly alter a cover letter, attach a résumé, and apply for any job posted online. The initial vetting process by companies can then take ages, no thanks to the mounds of unqualified applicants who thought, “Why not?” when sending in their application. This process is causing many applicants to dig deeper, create customized documents for each position (as it should be), and research the heck out of each company.

Researching potential colleagues and senior team members is easy thanks to social media platforms and digital media however it can quickly lead to a loss of individualism when a paycheck is at stake. (I’ll speak more about this in a future post so stay tuned.) In the meantime, I took a whack at producing slightly more honest recreations of correspondence between job seekers and hiring managers. I hope that your experiences in no way look like this and I would like to point out that I have had some incredible conversations with hiring mangers and their colleagues over the years.

(It’s best to listen to “Brand New Key” by Melanie when reading this post.)

Dear Future Employer,

I am writing to convey my excitement and qualifications for the incredibly vague job description you posted. I like your company/organization and attached my résumé with a photo. I understand that your POS-5000 Résumé Reader does not look kindly on photos but I thought you should know that I am a living breathing person. Please respond, I’m desperate.

Sincerely,

Job Applicant

*      *      *

Dear Job Applicant,

We received your non-descript résumé and cover letter. Please await further details.

POS5000 Résumé Reader

*      *      *

Dear Future Employer,

It’s been three weeks and I’m nervous. Are you still considering me? I emailed my prospective supervisor and they said to await further details too.

JA

*      *      *

Hello JA,

It’s been two months since your application, however we assume that you want to work with us so badly that you never applied anywhere else and certainly have not found a job you would like as much as working here. What are your salary requirements?

Thanks,

Hiring Manager

*      *      *

Hello Hiring Manager,

I really don’t want to discuss salary requirements yet since you haven’t shown any interest in me and will only use this information to either disqualify me or lowball a salary later on.

Best,

JA

*      *      *

Hi JA,

We can discuss it later. Can you have a call with us in 10 minutes? Any information you can share such as your online portfolio, urine sample, or photo of you hugging our building would be appreciated.

HM

*      *      *

Hello Hiring Manager,

What? I’m taking a shower. Yes, yes. I’ll hurry.

JA

*      *      *

Hiya JA,

Thank you for speaking with us. We’ll be in touch. Please hold the next month open in case we call again.

HM

*      *      *

Hello Hiring Manager,

Sounds great! I’ll start cyberstalking your senior team now. I hope you will all follow me back on Twitter or RT my posts that will now only focus on your mission/product.

JA

*      *      *

Wassup JA?

Much of this position will require writing. Please translate the Gutenberg Bible into Japanese. This should show us that you will do anything to work here.

Besties,

HM

*      *      *

Hello HM,

Really? Well just this once. Attached is the translated text. I stayed up all night to get this to you ASAP.

JA

*      *      *

JA my man,

Thank you for sending us the translation two months ago. My sincerest apologies but we decided not to hire for the position anymore and then sort of, kind of decided to open the search again. We assume you have put your life on hold until now. Please fill out this background check so we may begin the interview process.

HM

*      *      *

Hello HM,

Happy Thanksgiving! Attached is the completed background check. Please let me know if you want some blood. I have quite a bit.

JA

*      *      *

JA!

We hope you had a lovely Easter:) No need for the blood. We hired someone a few months ago and decided to keep them on board after their review. We have your DNA from the tears you wept over the bible translation you sent us. We will keep these on file somewhere but never look at them again. All the best in your job search!

HM

*      *      *

Dear HM,

Thank you for this opportunity to mold myself to your image, produce work free of charge, and never meet you in person. I enjoyed rearranging my life and researching your interviews/blogs/tweets/FB posts/videos/etc. trying to guess what might get your attention since you never once provided any feedback. Please keep me in mind should you want to put my life on hold again for several months.

Yours forever,

JA

A few related posts:
8 Pitfalls to Avoid When Job-Hunting from Home

6 Inspirational Quotes For…Job Seekers

Your Big Break

There are those moments in your life that will stay with you forever: your first love, welcoming your child into the world, or even that moment when your professional life took the direction you wanted it to. Here is a video from Christiane Amanpour and her first big break. Take a few minutes, watch the video, and let me know in the comments section below when you had your big break. I’d love to hear how you got where you are.

Going In-House: Shifting from the agency world

The public relations world is split into two distinct categories — those who work at agencies and those who work “in-house” at organizations. I juggled clients and prepped for pitch meetings as well as managed PR vendors for specific campaigns and those on retainer. I spent years learning clients’ stories and later captured news on-site with my trusty camera and note pad.

Looking back at when I made the shift away from the agency side in 2006 I wish someone had explained how things would stay the same yet change so dramatically. In the hopes that I may be able to provide some advice to those making a similar leap I took this opportunity to lay out what I found once I went in-house.

Experiencing stories
SWOT analysis, competitive research, company tours, and so forth. None of these things can take the place of living and breathing an organization every day. When working at an agency I juggled an average of 6 clients, all with different stories and needs. I logged my time, adhered to weekly call sheets, and strove to meet agreed upon deliverables. When I made the switch to in-house communications my perception of PR changed.

When you’re on-site you realize that your clients are the departments that need your help sharing their stories. The workload is the same, just different; the bonus being that you can poke around. There are still buffers that impede you from learning everything about a company and you’ll find ways around that, however for the most part you’re there to chronicle daily life.

Real time
By experiencing stories in real time you can react faster to the 24-hour news cycle. I can hear someone behind a desk at an agency reading this saying, “Hold your horses mister! When news breaks with a client, my phone rings and I am on it.”

While that is true, the agency PR staffer is receiving a filtered story from their client contact. I know this because I used to be on both sides of that call. The story that is told to a PR vendor is on its third, fourth, fifth iteration. Decisions have been made either by the contact or an internal team about what to share and how to proceed: dictate terms, ask for consultation, or frequently both in reverse order.

The on-site communications leader experiences news in real time. You uncover the news as it happens and choose those items you want to pursue from the unfiltered source. It’s a huge distinction between the trough of stories that you will be allowed to experience when you are in-house and those you are permitted to see on the agency side. Of course there are always exceptions to the rule and some agencies actually place a staff member in-house several days a week to better experience their client.

Response time
As the in-house communications leader you’re the barometer of response time. I’ve waited for clients to call me back with updates as I craft a press release, media alert, or whatever people want to call it these days. It stalls a conversation and kills momentum. In-house you can become known for pushing, in a good way, and carrying a story through to completion.

Sometimes you’ll be greeted with a sigh by co-workers and other times a smile. You’ll interview your colleagues every day, search for and learn about kernels of stories, vet them, and decide which should blossom into news. The more you perform this duty the faster you’ll be able to gauge the success of your news.

Decisions
Welcome to your new role as being the decision maker. As part of an in-house team you will have multiple team members, you may even have a VP to report to, however you were hired to bring your expertise and consultation in-house and you better use it.

Some days you’ll see a story, take photos and video, write a release, and send it out, all without running it up the usual chain of command. Your process is different and more likely consists of department heads that verify information rather than sign offs from your boss. Now you can stand in doorways, hold up a red pen, and ask for corrections before the story wilts on the vine. This may have been unique to my experiences however if you can balance how you ask your colleagues for assistance with demonstrating how you are helping, this can become a smooth process.

Crisis
All of this ties together nicely when a crisis strikes. While agencies can be prepared for layoffs, facility closures, or changes in leadership, the in-house communications leader is uniquely positioned when disaster strikes. If a crisis strikes quickly it is extremely beneficial to be on-site. I have had the unfortunate pleasure of handling arson, thefts, and unannounced picketing while in-house and I believe that the internal and external communications benefited greatly from time-saved and institutional knowledge.

When it comes to long-lead crisis, such as downsizing, the external communications may be handled equally well by agencies or an on-site team however the real difference can be seen when the dust has settled. At this point it is the in-house communications leader that walks the halls, takes the pulse of the organization, shapes and reshapes messaging, keeps departments informed, and calms many of the nerves once the ground has finished shifting underneath employees.

Your thoughts?
I’m sure there is more to say on this topic, which is why I started this discussion. I would love to hear from anyone in PR that is passionate about working in-house or on the agency side. What makes it ideal for you? Write a post about your experiences and let me know or drop me an email at brianadamspr@gmail.com.

8 Pitfalls to Avoid When Job-Hunting from Home

Some routines should be kept.

Stop watching Law & Order: SVU, put on your pants, and shave your face. You are in-between jobs not on an extended holiday. Just because you’re only seen by your dog does not mean that job-hunting from home is your time to slack off.The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported earlier this month that long-term unemployment (27 weeks and over) remains above 40 percent. The BLS also stated that the average length of unemployment hovers at more than 40 weeks. Probably not what you want to hear especially if you just left or lost your job.

Many days you will not network or have an interview. Most of your 40 weeks spent searching for your next opportunity will involve you, your desk, and your computer. Sorry to tell you but it’s a tedious cycle of researching opportunities and cyber-stalking hiring managers and potential colleagues to address your cover letters. It’s worse than all those years spent sitting in your cubicle next to that toxic colleague.

The temptations for distraction surround you now that your day-to-day routine has been disrupted. You need to keep to a schedule if you are going to beat-out the next candidate. Here are a few simple and effective ways to keep your mind focused on the task at hand day-in, day-out.

Don’t Sleep In
Keep your schedule. There’s no need to change your alarm since you still have a full day of job-hunting ahead. Hop in the shower to shake off the cobwebs from a good night’s sleep.

Don’t Grow a “Job Hunter” Beard
Continue to shave your face, wax your legs, or trim your eyebrows. You never know when you might bump in to a former colleague or future employer. Keep yourself groomed and ready to land your next job opportunity.

Don’t Become a Hermit
Step outside and grab the newspaper or a cup of coffee. If you look like an extra from “The Descent” you need some sun. It’ll help put a little hop in your step and boost your energy when you return to your desk.

Ditch the Robe
You’ll be surprised just how much wearing pants keeps you feeling more professional and focused than donning a robe or shorts. It’s about keeping your head from thinking you’re on vacation.

Don’t Litter
Keep your workspace tidy and free from distractions. Don’t let the newspapers pile up alongside your coffee mugs.

Don’t Skip Breakfast…or Lunch…or Dinner
Sure, we all worked hard at our last job, skipping lunch, downing energy drinks, and generally burning the candle at both ends. Well, now that you’re in between jobs you have time to clean the engine so to speak. Reboot your system by making time for healthy meals. You’ll have plenty of time to starve at your next job.

Don’t Miss an Appointment
Keep a calendar and update it regularly, just as you would at your job. Landing your next job takes planning and structure. Scheduling time for drafting cover letters, tweaking your resumé, and conducting online research prevents the day from slipping away.

Don’t Watch Shows That Start with “The Late…”
Even if you have a water cooler at home no one is there to share in that topical joke from the night before. Get some sleep. Tomorrow is another day and hopefully it will be the last one you spend unemployed.

What’s your job-hunting routine?

WSJ: Whose Résumé Was That?

Not my résumé but a few great tips. (full image below)

Since relocating to San Francisco for my wife’s promotion, and my dream of always living in California, I have been searching for work. In the last few months I have revised my résumé several times, drafted countless cover letters, placed daily calls and sent follow up emails to hiring managers, picked brains at informational interviews, secured numerous actual interviews, and turned down exactly two jobs that were not the right fit. So when I opened up the Wall Street Journal this past Monday I was excited to read their Leadership In Human Resources section.

The short, the four page feature contained several great articles including employees that are online celebrities (I can only hope), a human resources personality test (I seem to fit into categories that do not describe me), and tips for improving your online résumé (image below). That’s when I saw it…a generic résumé for Brian Adams.

Of all the names that the Wall Street Journal could have chosen why did they select mine? Is it creepy (?) or more of a positive sign (?) that they selected my name? To be honest, it is a bit of a generic name made famous by that Canadian singer I am always obligated to acknowledge when making dining reservations, calling reporters, or when a cashier reads my credit receipt.

Well I am going to take it as a good sign that Human Resources professionals now have my name on their mind, at least subliminally. My qualifications, however, are much different than the generic Brian Adams in the Journal. Take a peek at my LinkedIn profile and let me know if you have any leads that can help me land my next job (brianadamspr@gmail.com). At the very least you will receive a public thank you here on my blog as I try to climb to online super-stardom. (FYI – My current non-profit work is all pro bono but I feel a paying job just around the corner.)

6 Inspirational Quotes For…Job Seekers

Sisyphus by Titian

Job hunting sucks. It is a soul draining process that begins with wide-eyed optimism at the possibility of landing your dream job. Months later it is a scary place filled with self doubt and despair. If you’ve been out of work recently then you probably relate to my statements above.

My job hunt began earlier this year when my wife was promoted and relocated by her employer to San Francisco. We had always wanted to live in California and we agreed that this opportunity was too amazing to pass up. I decided to leave my position at United Way and take a chance.

I am now entering my fifth month of job hunting. Each day brings new challenges and I find it is important to keep a positive outlook to prevent the doubt from lingering too long.

I searched around this morning for a few inspirational quotes to put the job search in perspective and wanted to share them here. Hopefully they will help you in your own search for employment, whether it’s a dream job or a paycheck you are after.

Get Organized
“The secret of getting ahead is getting started. The secret of getting started is breaking your complex overwhelming tasks into small manageable tasks, and then starting on the first one.” – Mark Twain

Cast a Wide Net
“There are very few jobs that actually require a penis or vagina. All other jobs should be open to everybody.” – Florynce Kennedy

Network, Network, Network
“Things may come to those who wait, but only the things left by those who hustle.” – Abraham Lincoln

Put in the Hours
“I’m a great believer in luck, and I find the harder I work, the more luck I have.” – Thomas Jefferson

Stay Focused on Your Goals
“Never confuse motions with action.” – Ernest Hemingway

Don’t Give Up
“The fight is won or lost far away from the witnesses, behind the lines, in the gym, and out there on the road, long before I dance under those lights.” – Muhammad Ali

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