Jun 13

Despite BP Disaster, Tourism No Longer “Slip Slidin’ Away” for Gulf Shores

Today's guest post is by Peppercomer Sam Ford.

Would last summer’s daily dose of tragedy from BP and a gulf full of grade A “black gold…Texas  223226_652727826048_709098_34420278_5301955_n tea” keep you from vacationing on the Gulf of Mexico? We didn’t let it, and I couldn’t be happier about our experience.

Not too long ago, my family and I decided to take a trip to the beach. My wife and I were married on the beach, a little over 10 years ago, to be exact, in Charleston, SC. But, in all honesty, we hadn't been on much of a vacation since. (Even that wasn't a vacation, since my best man ended up bumming around in our beach house for the first part of the honeymoon, before we could get rid of him.)

So, to say our next beach vacation was a bit overdue is an understatement. Amanda and I are both notoriously bad about having trouble unplugging from work, but we decided to make our trip as device-free as possible, especially to give our 2-year-old daughter (Emma Belle Ford, pictured) some dedicated attention before her little sister arrives in a few months.

The only question was, "Where?" We talked about heading back to South Carolina. But, as we shopped around, we found that the "steal of a deal" was Gulf Shores, Alabama.

I've never been to Gulf Shores. I'd been close by for a basketball team trip to Ft. Walton Beach, Fla., in high school. (My physique might reveal I was a staff member, not a player…) Plenty of family and friends had piled down in years past, including my wife in her youth of summer "extended family vacations." But, given my requirements were really just peace and quiet, it seemed a good fit.

What I wasn't sure of is what the state of Gulf Shores would be. After being hit hard in tourism by the BP oil spill of last season, they'd put some significant effort in convincing people their food was still fresh, their beaches still viable and their town still a destination for your vacation dollars.

And our trip was no disappointment. The people were friendly. Business seemed back up. And there was no shortage of outlet mall shopping, seafood restaurants, and kitschy family activities. We spent most of our time at the pool. (And enjoyed some fine dining at Lambert's Cafe– any place that brings sorghum and fried potatoes by your table for free during dining and aims rolls at your head during the meal is fine by me.)

I ran into a fellow former Kentuckian who helped manage the local donut shop, and she predicted that business would only be down by about a third from two years ago, something to celebrate by standards of the previous summer.

But one sign ensured me that Gulf Shores was "back": when I picked up The Mullet Wrapper, Gulf Shores' local publication of what's happening (and I'm sure the source of much derision from snarky tourists along the way…), staring back at me was Paul Simon.

Now, caveat: I am an ardent Paul Simon fan. His music is the soundtrack of my life. And his latest album was the soundtrack of my vacation, played through I'm sure several dozen times throughout the week. But, according to The Mullet Wrapper, Paul was a sign that the tourist drought had ended for this beach destination. As part of the release of Paul's new album, So Beautiful or So What?, he was headlining their Hangout Music Festival on the beach. (The Foo Fighters were also on the roster of performers, among others.)

Unfortunately, my vacation ended right as the 35,000 people swarmed the beach to see Paul prove he's "still crazy after all these years." But, as I drove back to Kentucky with his new song "Rewrite" playing in the background, I couldn't help but think that Gulf Shores might have just found a rewrite of its own.

Apr 07

The Fed’s Fireside Chats

Today's guest post is by Peppercommer, and RepChatter Co-host, Brendan Mullin.

Perhaps it’s no coincidence that Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke has declared he will hold quarterly  press conferences during our current Great Recession much like President Roosevelt launched his fireside chats in March 1933 during the Great Depression. Then, FDR sought to connect with Americans to discuss complicated issues and reassure depressed countrymen that brighter days were ahead. Ironically, in his first fireside chat, FDR spoke to the nation about banking and why so many banks had failed.  Sound familiar?

Storm_fig01bBut, the question of the moment is, “Will the Fed’s modern day update on the fireside chat prove useful?”

While everyone is for more transparency – and make no mistake that is what this move is intended to symbolize – many wonder if it is enough or if it will even work.

Dow Jones managing editor Neal Lipschutz wrote recently that he believes Bernanke has the right personality to handle the pressure of open communications but wishes there would be more than just four “meet the press” moments during the year for the chief banker (note: “Fed chief” and “personality” are as closely linked as “Britney Spears” and “class”).

Others have made the argument it’s just not necessary as the Fed’s monetary policy is already parsed to extremes.  As we’ve seen the last few years in particular the markets hang on the Fed’s every word.  Will we now see wild market swings based simply on Bernanke’s non-verbals!? 

It ought to be interesting (or comical) to see the pundits analyze Bernanke’s look and style during his April 27th inaugural press conference as much as the substance on which he speaks. And, I can envision Bernanke’s flack instructing him on the eve of the press conference, “Remember Ben, dark suit, white shirt, solid tie. Oh, and be sure to sit on your coat tails.”

Kidding aside, disclosures and transparency on monetary policy and global economic realities are very serious matters. I just hope the concept – or experiment – of a “press conference” is genuinely meant to be more open about the fiscal decisions the Fed make. And yes, I’m talking about those decisions that have profound effects on the markets, and directly impact everyday citizens who, knowingly or not, are participants in the very delicate economic conditions the Fed seeks to monitor and maintain.  

Maybe Bernanke & Co. did listen to FDR’s first fireside chat and believed it when he said, “After all there is an element in the readjustment of our financial system more important than currency, more important than gold, and that is the confidence of the people.” As we wait for curtain to rise on Bernanke’s first press conference later this month, for Ben’s sake, let’s hope FDR was also right when he said, “We have nothing to fear except fear itself.”

Get your popcorn ready. 

 

Feb 07

Sorry, but this is my elevator

Erstwhile Merrill Lynch CEO Stan O'Neal had his own private elevator at corporate headquarters. Fatcat-banker-1 After being deposited at a separate, ground floor entrance by his liveried driver, Mr. O'Neal would stroll into 'his' elevator and zoom upwards to his world-class corner office on the 32nd floor. When he was done mastering the universe for the day, good ol' Stan would take a few steps, push the elevator button, descend down and be met by his driver.  All in all, not a bad day. 

But, O'Neal was canned after racking up some $30b in toxic assets and trying to sell Merrill without the board's knowledge. He was replaced by former NYSE CEO John Thain who, upon hearing of O'Neal's private elevator, declared it “…ludicrous.” Thain wanted to demonstrate his Midwestern, common man roots, so he began riding up and down in the same elevators as the hoi palloi. Goodness gracious! Such sacrifice. 

Ah, but according to Greg Farrell's page-turning 'The Crash of the Titans,' JayThay was no slouch himself when it came to excess. Along with his PR henchwoman, Margaret Tutwiler, Thain completely gutted O'Neal's corner office and refurbished it to the tune of $1.2m (all this while Merrill was capsizing under a crushing debt). JayThay's also the stand-up dude who decided to pay all the Merrill executives huge, year-end bonuses with government TARP monies. That sly maneuver cost him his job when Bank of America CEO Ken Lewis, who had just bought Thain's Merrill at a fire sale price, found out.

I miss the wanton greed of those egomaniacal Wall Street CEOs of yesteryear. I'm sure the current crop still buy themselves $4,000 commode seats and $100,000 area rugs, but the Kublai Khan types such as O'Neal, Thain and convicted felon Dennis Kozlowski, seem like a distant, if fond, memory.

So, in an effort to fill the breach and re-position PR executives as masters of the universe in our own right, I've decided on the following:

– A full-time butler. Sure, I'm dressed in business casual most of the time, but one never knows when a suit-and-tie prospect will come a knocking. And, I'll need Jeeves on the payroll to assure I'm neatly pressed and ready to impress.
– My own elevator. I may only travel five floors, but I need to make a statement.
– A full-time assistant for my assistant. O'Neal and Thain each had multiple assistants to assist their other assistants, so why can't I? Effective immediately, Dandy assumes the title of executive vice president (hey, if Margaret Tutwiler could hold that title at Merrill, and be responsible solely for “…burnishing John Thain's image,” then so can Dandy). Hey Dandy, maybe Mags could be your assistant? She may be in need of employment.
– A liveried driver behind the wheel of a Maybach. Thain paid his driver $225k, plus bonuses for overtime. That seems fair. I'm tired of cabbies. A master of the universe needs coddling. But, I'll call my driver Jimbo, instead of James. I also need to project a more down-to-earth image and Jimbo seems more accessible.

I have many more wants and needs but, based upon the outrage caused by the excesses of Messrs, O'Neal, Thain and Kozkowlski, I'm guessing I'll only have about 10 months or so before being kicked out and handed a golden parachute similar in size to theirs (say, $187 million, or so).

Edelman and Weber may be vying for “the World's Largest Agency”, but I'll be content with being named “the World's Most Exorbitant.” Note to the various awards' programs: that might make for a nice, new category.

Dec 20

I bet no one’s yodeling at Yahoo these days

Today's guest post is by Peppercommer Danielle Rumore.

Sad-yahooWhen I read that Yahoo! had once again done another round of holiday season layoffs, I couldn’t  help but be reminded of Robert Fulghum’s “All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten.” You remember the basic messages in that poem – play fair, don't hit people, say you're sorry when you hurt somebody. That type of thing. In today’s fast-paced, competitive world, I think it’s easy to forget or even dismiss the core point of kindness/do-unto-your neighbor in Fulghum’s poem. If you think about it, it really can be a template for how global business leaders should – but too often don’t – do business today.

I don’t pretend to know a single thing about what’s going on inside Yahoo (or at other companies beside my own), but it seems to me that when you lay off 5 or 10% of your staff around the holidays on a somewhat regular basis, something isn’t quite right inside your house. Worse still, companies that are perceived as quick to swing the ax (especially around the holidays) can get a reputation as being heavy-fisted and dismissive of their people without ever really fixing the underlying issues that plague their firms. When my firm represented Yahoo!, we experienced this iron fist mentality first hand. It’s a surefire way to bleed the good talent you do retain (it has happened at Yahoo!), and that leads to worse productivity still, and so on.

Well, maybe that’s just how I see things.

What I do know is that employees don’t respond well to fear or threats. It destroys morale, and scared or unhappy employees translate to poor-performing employees. This post isn’t intended to pick on Yahoo!, but the timeliness of its announcement couldn’t have come at a better (worse?) time.

Now, I’m not naïve nor am I a modern-day Mary Poppins. I’ve worked through two pretty significant recessions – the Dot Com bust and of course our most recent, ugly downturn. I understand (but definitely don’t like) the necessity of needing to cut costs and conduct lay-offs when these dark times come.  But even with these harsh realities and all the attention paid to cost cutting, being “lean” and global competition, I think leaders have lost sight of basic courtesy, kindness and respect for their most important assets – their employees.

My first boss in the PR world, John Bliss, was not only a savvy communications professional and a great teacher, but also a good man. He always said that an agency’s most important asset is its people – which he reiterated to his staff time and time again. He also said goodnight to each and every one of us every day before he left for the night. Every day. It was the little things that made us feel appreciated and also created a loyal and productive staff. That kind of mentality is about as common today as a landline, and it’s kind of sad actually.

To me, there simply is a right way of doing things and a wrong way. Do your lay-offs, streamline your business, reorganize the hell out of the place but then focus on cultivating, breeding and respecting the talent you do have. Treat them nicely, say thank you, recognize and reward good performance, ask them about their families and their interests. Some cookies and milk in the kitchen helps, too.

Most importantly, though, allow everyone to have a voice. Encourage your people to bring some outside thinking to their jobs. You never know where the next great idea will come from – and that great idea may just be the thing that sets your business apart. Then when the tough times come, your employees may just rally around you if they believe you have always had their backs.

Aug 20

Misspelling the word ‘Manhattan’ isn’t helpful to one’s job search

Having just finished a hilarious novel entitled, “The Pursuit of Other Interests”, my sensitivities Death-of-a-salesman-logo towards middle-aged, out-of-work job seekers is at an all-time high. The book, which profiles a 50-year-old advertising executive named Charlie, paints a bleak, if heartwarming, picture of the current landscape for middle-aged, unemployed white collar workers.

So, knowing how few employment opportunities exist as well as how thin the margin for error is, I was totally flabbergasted to receive the following note from a guy I’ll call Buck.

Dear Seekers of New Revenue:
I am currently seeking a full time, salary plus commission New Business Position in Manhatan. I would address these personally, but with over 2,300 names, I need to solve the challenge  quickly. I am the most dedicated, energetic, and knowledgable person in the Tri-State Area with respect to opening doors for corporate pitches.
I have been in the business for over 15 years and I work from 7 to 5 and can make at least 100 calls per day. I can very quickly develop a custom database for cold calls for your firm and set 2 pitch meetings per week.
Should my skill sets meet your requirements, I would love to speak furthur. Also, should you have a person or people in place to handle cold calling, I also work as a consultant on a per diem basis to upgrade their best practices.
Best Regards,
Buck McDesperate
(800) 555-1212 DesperateBuck@ISPProvider.com

To begin with, it was e-mail addressed to Sally Kennedy of Cossette Communications in Canada. Sally: sorry to be reading your spam. Second, Buck lets it be known that he’s an accomplished business development dude looking for a full-time salary plus commission gig in Manhatan. Yes, that’s Manhattan minus one ‘t’. Ouch. Misspelling Manhattan in the opening sentence of one’s pitch letter doesn’t augur well.

But, it gets worse. Buck lets me (or, Sally to be precise) know that he has a Rolodex with 2,300 names on it and is the most dedicated, energetic and knowledgeable person in the Tri-state Area (I wonder if that includes Toronto where, I assume, Sally is headquartered?). Buck’s been in the business world for 15 years, works from 7am to 5pm daily (he later amends it to 6am to 5pm daily), makes at least 100 calls each and every day (and that has to start hurting the fingers after awhile) and can produce “…a minimum of 2 valid pitch meetings over week.” Talk about Always Be Closing. Wow.

But, here’s the rub. If Buck is really that good and can produce a minimum of two valid pitch meetings per week, why is he blasting unsolicited e-mails to me (via Sally, of course. Sorry Sally). The sad truth about Buck, and the hundreds of thousands of other Bucks out there, is that he’s desperate. He’s probably been out of work for at least a year and has no solid prospects whatsoever. So, driven to desperation, he creates a rambling, semi-lucid, almost laughable pitch that is chock full of typos, poor grammar and inconsistencies.

Buck is not unlike the fictional character Charlie in the aforementioned Jim Kokoris book. Whiling away his time in an outplacement firm’s offices, Charlie puts together a database of former co-workers, clients, prospects and friends and blasts out a periodic e-newsletter entitled, “The Charlie Update!” Its subtitle is “Charlie B. Out on the Street.” One by one, the people on his hit list asked to be removed from the unintentionally hilarious mailings as Charlie becomes increasingly desperate and despondent.

Buck and Charlie are part of what a recent New York Times article called the 99ers. If memory serves, there are some 1.4 million unemployed, middle-aged, white collar workers who have passed the 99-week mark and no longer qualify for unemployment benefits. That’s when, driven to the brink of despair, they hit the send button and distribute embarrassingly bad missives like the one from Buck. I feel for these people and I wish I could help. But, sadly, I don’t have an answer except to suggest a dictionary and Thesaurus.


Jul 15

Jobs tonight. Earth tomorrow.

Today's guest post is by Ann Barlow, President, Peppercom West & Director, GreenPepper.

We need jobs now and we need the earth later.  Why can’t the two go together? 
Broc_obama_2

According to an Economix blog earlier this week, green jobs, even with the spotty help they’ve gotten from government and private investment, are growing at 2½ times the rate of the rest of the jobs out there.  With the dire need for jobs and a job-led economic recovery, isn’t this something to build on?  God knows, we have a ton of work to do to become as energy efficient as Europe and even China at this point.  And renewable energy must be integrated into our existing infrastructure if we are to rely on something more advanced than burning the liquid and the rocks we dig out of the ground.  So why in the world can’t we address these two huge needs through one comprehensive, government-led program that will provide tens of thousands of jobs now while building for our future?

Oh, I can hear all of you ‘big government is our enemy’ folks yelling now, “That’s all we need! Another government project funded by the taxpayers!”  You’re not wrong; a wasteful, poorly managed program is the last thing we need.  But look at what can be done when the power of this nation’s government is wielded, power that is supported by a public that puts everyone’s needs ahead of their own personal ones.  Bridges and dams and parks and roads get built.  Power sources and grids.  Think of all of the people who were able to feed, clothe and house their families thanks to FDR’s New Deal, and the legacy they left for generations to come.

I hope this President, who came to power with so much promise for taking on the big problems, can seize this moment, becoming the Architect in Chief of a program that will relieve the suffering felt by so many millions right now while preserving the planet for their descendants. 

Mar 23

A distant ship’s smoke on the horizon

March 23 Ever since writing the very first RepMan blog back in 2006, I’ve been trying to find a good fit for my favorite Pink Floyd lyric, ‘A distant ship’s smoke on the horizon.’

And, while I’ve never been quite understood the lyric’s context within ‘Comfortably Numb,’ I’ve always found it incredibly evocative (and, can actually visualize that ship sailing on the horizon trailing a plume of smoke in its wake).

So, here’s the link. I’m starting to see just the faintest hint of an economic turnaround. A distant ship’s smoke on the horizon, if you will. 

The initial harbinger was a robust two or three week’s worth of new accounts and new business prospects at my favorite PR firm. Yay!

The second was the hustle and bustle at the good old Lincroft Inn on an otherwise quiet weekday night. Virgil, the ever-affable bartender, confirmed that he, too, has been noticing a definite uptick in midweek elbow benders.

The big breakthrough, though, came today at Boom, my local Park Avenue fitness club. There, in the men’s locker room, I spied Q-Tips. This is a very big deal. Those damn Q-Tips have been noticeably absent since the market meltdown in mid-September of 2008.

Q-Tips are important to me. They form part of my daily hygiene program. And, based upon the brand’s longevity, I would suspect they play a role in many others’ wellness programs. In fact, in their heyday at the pre-market meltdown Boom, Q-Tips disappeared faster than one could say Bear Stearns. So, for me, a Q-Tips free locker room has been a depressing, if not unhealthy, thing.Curious about the big, and unexpected, Q-Tips comeback, I asked the guy at the front desk what was up. He shrugged his shoulders. The fitness trainers were equally clueless. The locker room attendant finally gave me the inside scoop. The Mt. Sinai Medical Center is apparently donating coffee cups filled with Q-Tips to all the fitness clubs in the area. Ah ha. Smart marketing, no?

So, while the Q-Tips may or may not be a distant ship’s smoke on the horizon, might they still be considered a harbinger of better times? Mt. Sinai clearly had the marketing money for the little white wonder sticks.

If not a harbinger of better times, maybe the prodigal Q-Tips at least signal the end of bad times. The latter thought enables me to inject one of my favorite Winston Churchill comments as well. Speaking about his country’s victory at El Alamein, Churchill said, ‘This is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. Though it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.’ Here’s hoping those Q-Tips mark the end of the beginning as well.

Feb 05

There doesn’t seem to be a Robin Hood in this economic downturn

February5 - public_enemies I've been on a Depression-era reading binge of late ranging from 'The Grapes of Wrath' to 'Pretty Boy: The Story of Charles Floyd.' I also happened to catch the surprisingly good flick, 'Public Enemies.'

I found it fascinating to discover that the public enemies of the Great Depression era were often desperadoes with hearts of gold. Floyd, for example, would not only rob banks, he'd tear up the mortgages being held on his friends' properties (that's kind of cool and certainly endeared him to the local kinfolk). And Dillinger was noted for being an early proponent of Ronald Reagan's trickle-down theory. He'd often hand out recently stolen bank money to passers-by in the street and occasionally pay the drivers of the cars he'd just hijacked.

Floyd and Dillinger were also said to be extremely friendly and courteous, especially to local citizens who lionized the bad guys for 'getting even' with a system that had let them all down. Locals not only provided food and shelter, they'd often send pursuing G-men on a wild goose chase.

The public enemies of the Great Depression chose crime as their way out of poverty. But, some did it in such a way that their image and reputation often rivaled that of, say, a Babe Ruth or Jack Dempsey in terms of popularity.

Juxtapose that phenomenon with today. We're in the midst of what many are calling the Great Recession. Yet, I sure haven't seen any examples of latter-day Robin Hoods, have you?

Today's criminals seem to range from Al Qaeda operatives and white-collar Dennis Kozlowski types to drive-by gangstas who murder innocent kids and muggers who kick the bejesus out of helpless octogenarians. If there's been one bad guy with a good heart, I've sure missed the story.

So, how come Dillinger and Floyd had hearts of gold while Madoff and the Christmas Day underwear bomber don't? (Btw, how'd you like to be remembered for the rest of your life with that sobriquet? 'Hi, I'm Steve. I do PR, and you?' 'I'm Achmed. You may remember me as the Christmas Day underwear bomber.').

I think yesteryear's bad guys were nicer because they grew up in a 'nicer' society where the Golden Rule still existed. Floyd, for example, came from a classic, hard-working farm family. Neither Floyd nor Dillinger grew up in a 24×7 negative news cycle. Nor did they have access to video games like Grand Theft Auto (although both would have no doubt excelled at it). In short, Dillinger and Floyd grew up in a kinder, gentler world where a man's handshake was as good as gold, people treated one another with respect and role models (for the most part) behaved like role models.

Today's criminal class would probably laugh at the very notion of sharing the loot with the unemployed underclass. Sadly, our bad guys are more like the sheriff of Nottingham than Robin Hood.

Dec 11

RepMan, Sr., vs. RepMan, Jr.: A microcosm of the great American debate 

December 11 Guest Post from Chris "RepMan, Jr." Cody

RepMan and I take pleasure in discussing geopolitical issues with each other. Though we agree on many issues, President Obama’s decision to send an additional 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan has led to the most profound disagreement we’ve had in recent memory. RepMan is staunchly against sending the troops while I am vociferously in favor of it. Though we have amicably agreed to disagree, our debate translates to the wider dispute throughout the nation.  Getting this decision right will directly impact the image and reputation of our country and our president.

RepMan, like many Americans, opposes Obama’s escalation of the war for several valid reasons.  First, he argues that if we couldn't win the war in eight years, why do we think we can now? Why continue to sacrifice young American lives? Second, RepMan points to the difficulty of sustaining attacks across the border into Pakistan. His third argument is that the liberal base will turn against Obama for escalating the war. Finally, perhaps the most convincing reason he cites is that the continuation of the war will drain more money from an already badly damaged American economy.

Rather than attempt to refute this logic, I believe one has to acknowledge it has a degree of validity. Yet when compared to the other end of the spectrum I am firmly in favor of the troop escalation. One must first recognize the war in Afghanistan is a war waged against both those responsible for the 9/11 attacks and their supporting ideology. The Bush administration, however, diverted the resources necessary to succeed away from Afghanistan and toward an irrational invasion and occupation of Iraq. Hence the reason we have not seen success in Afghanistan.  Now, with Iraq beginning to stabilize and a competent American leader finally at the helm, we have the chance to rethink and formulate an approach to successfully wage the war. A pull out would destabilize the region, sink the country into bloody civil war and embolden a highly dangerous Islamic terrorist organization responsible for the deaths of thousands of Americans. 

Continue reading

Sep 25

The misery never ends

September 25 - newspaper

I just visited the College of Charleston Thursday and Friday, attending board meetings, delivering lectures and participating in panels. I love the C of C. It's a beautiful campus with bright, alert students. 

As might be expected, most of the students said finding a good job was their number one pain point.

I shared my job search/interviewing strategies, but also heard some smart tips from fellow advisory board members I thought worth sharing, including:

  • Think global. Relocate to the hot markets that have jobs, such as China. Spend a few years there gaining experience and leverage it to come back home to your ideal job.
  • Demonstrate a basic knowledge of how business works. (Note: this doesn't seem to be an age-specific problem since the Council of PR Firms routinely reports the 'lack' of such knowledge is the number one criticism of agencies by their clients).
  • Learn a second language. With American's rapidly-changing demographics, fluency in an Asian or Spanish language or dialect can be a huge plus.
  • Master writing and, in particular, writing on deadline. PR demands multitasking and PR pros must be able to write quickly, clearly and consistently.
  • Be willing to do whatever it takes. If assigned grunt work, be the best possible grunt.

That last point prompted one young lady to raise her hand. She'd just finished an internship and, frankly, didn't care for the grunt work. "When will the misery end?” she asked. “Never,” I responded. “The misery changes as one moves up the food chain, but it never goes away. It just becomes more intense.” I don't think she cared for my answer.

Another student disagreed with my advice on job interview preparation. “Do you have any idea how busy we are? We don't have the time to do all the research on a company that you suggest we do. Besides,” she said, “That's what the internships are for. You learn about the company when you get the job.” I wished her well and suggested she had a real Catch-22 situation on her hands since a company won't hire a person who hasn't demonstrated the time or energy to learn about them in advance.

The students were fully engaged in the lectures, grateful for the advice and will, I'm sure, do very well once they hit the real world. I just hope they come prepared and accept the fact that the misery never ends.