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.

Jun 10

In this case, ignorance is anything but bliss

I’m amazed at the number of resumes pouring in from recent college grads or students on SummerJobs vacation.

They’re hungry for jobs and have decided that, after some cursory research, Peppercom would be the ideal match for their talents, energy and aspirations.

That may be, but these college kids are a day late and a dollar short. Most, if not all, businesses finalized their Summer intern and junior hires months ago. We were all set in April.

I’m not sure why so many students and graduates continue to make this very basic mistake every year. It could be apathy on their part, poor guidance by their parents and professors, or some other combination of reasons.

Whatever the cause, the end result is the same. They find few, if any, job opportunities.

Job market ignorance sends a strong, subliminal message to prospective employers: we wonder how prepared these students are for the real world? If they don’t take the time and initiative to learn how and when most firms begin their interview process for Summer/full-time employment, how likely are they to hit the ground running?

So, here’s an assignment for next Spring’s graduating class: start your job research now. Narrow your employers’ list by the Fall. Schedule interviews over the Winter holidays and push hard for a commitment by Spring. Demonstrating knowledge of the hiring process is a small, but important, part of shaping your own image and ensuring a successful job search.

Apr 04

An N.I.T. Sponsorship? Clueless

Imagine you’re a ‘me too’ brand. You’re Pepsi vs. Coke, Burger King vs. McDonald’s or Avis vs. Hertz. YearNit_2
after year, you struggle mightily to improve your quality and service to change the status quo. And, one would hope, you make damn sure your marketing strategy reflects your desired goal. As a result, you associate your brand with everything that Frank Sinatra might describe as, ‘…A number one, top of the heap.’

So, how do we account for MasterCard’s sponsorship of the N.I.T. College basketball tournament? Why would the perennial number two credit card company lend its name to an also-ran tourney that absolutely no one cares about? What were they thinking? Was the strategy to ‘own’ mediocrity? Did someone in MasterCard’s Purchase, NY, headquarters sigh and say, “You know what? We know we’re second best. Everyone else knows we’re second best, so why not strike a partnership with a second rate tournament?”

Thousand of dollars to underwrite target market golf events? Smart. Hundreds of thousands of dollars to ‘own’ category exclusivity at the upcoming Olympics? Strategic. Millions to sponsor a totally bogus college basketball tournament? Clueless.