Careers

Be Your Own Recruiter

Mesh Jobs BoardJanuary brings lots of new years' resolutions to be better at this, that or the other. Career aspirations are often somewhere on the list. I recently started a new position as Manager of Client Services for Sequentia Environics, which basically means I am responsible for account and project management and anything in between. I am now two months in, and the novelty has far from worn off. I'm learning new things every day and love the feeling of being challenged. Unlike most of my previous jobs, this role did not land in my lap with little to no effort. Quite the contrary. I decided a while ago that I wanted to pursue a career in digital media and communications. By the fall I was ready to start seriously putting myself on the market. I started where most people start, by dusting off my résumé, shining it up with new achievements and aspirations, and sending it out to a few job postings that fit my desired role. Tick-tock went the clock. I got a few call-backs and a couple of interviews, but nothing major and no real offers.

I decided to enlist the help of so-called professional recruiters. I focused on the firms that specialize in the digital media and communications industry. I  only got one or two more interviews from a total of three recruitment firms. Sigh. Time to take matters back into my own hands.

Throughout the last year and a half, I attended a ton of different networking events and met people who were heavily invested in the social media community. I decided to start with this network. I set up phone and coffee meetings with my contacts. These meetings were never phrased as interviews in any way. Their purpose was for me to ask questions to experienced professionals about what skill sets they would look for in a potential hire, and also to tell them about what I wanted to do. They were never formal.

I found these meetings really beneficial and educational. Often times, if the person I was speaking with wasn't looking to expand themselves, they led me to speak to someone else who might be. I also got to talk shop with some pretty interesting and well respected people. Once the well of my own soft contacts (and their contacts) started to dry up, I was still jobless, BUT I was definitely making some inroads.

Next, I started doing some further research to find other firms and individuals who were making digital waves. This took me all over the place, from Advertising to PR to Marketing and In-house. I figured my best bet was to cold call and cold e-mail the people at the top of these organizations—often with the same aim of grabbing a coffee and chatting about the industry and what I was hoping to achieve. I was surprised how many people said yes within a day of receiving my e-mail or phone call. Almost everyone I reached out to was really receptive and open to sitting down with me. Now I was finally getting somewhere. This is exactly how I landed my new role at Sequentia. I saw Jen Evans speak at The Canadian Institute's Managing Social Media conference and e-mailed her to see if they were expanding. As it turned out, they were. Within two weeks of that initial e-mail I had a firm job offer.

Like I said, this was not an easy process. It took about four months and a lot of networking, reaching out, tons of coffee and not being scared to pick up the phone or send someone an e-mail (no matter how high up their title read). If you want to make a move, be your own recruiter. It will pay off, but be patient and stick with it.

What are your thoughts? Do you have any job-seeking secrets to share?

The Bottom-up Perspective and Public Relations

Over the past few months, I've really come to enjoy reading Timothy B. Lee's blog. The computer programmer, writer and think-tank worker bee is now pursuing a PhD in computer science, and is blogging his thoughts about "bottom-up" thinking. What is bottom-up thinking? Its not something racy, nor is it about chugging beer. As Tim says:

"I’m convinced that Silicon Valley’s fundamental strength is the fact that it embodies what I’ll call a bottom-up perspective on the world. The last couple of decades have brought us the dominance of the open Internet, the increasing success of free software, and the emergence of the free culture movement as an important social and political force. More generally, Silicon Valley is a place with extremely low barriers to entry, a culture of liberal information sharing, and a respect for the power of individual entrepreneurs."

For the most part, Tim's posts have reinforced some of my own opinions about the way things should work. He has also occasionally caused me to second-guess my own actions; but never as much as a few weeks ago when he wrote a critique of the Public Relations industry ("The PR Firm As Anti-Signal").

"PR people seem to be floundering in this new environment," he writes, before going on to explain that hiring a PR firm sends the message that your company "doesn't get the web." Tim feels that if your product or company is good enough, you don't need PR. People will talk about you, write about you, and do business with you. It was particularly tough to swallow considering I'd just made the move from Product Management to Public Relations (the two really aren't as different as you'd think).

However, upon closer inspection, it seems that his complaint is about PR companies that also don't "get the web". You know, the kind that we always complain about, the ones that send the cookie-cutter pitches to thousands of reporters on the very off-chance that they might write about their client.

What Tim doesn't understand is that PR isn't just about sending pitches. Its about communicating.

Tim is fortunate enough to be able to write clearly, and I'm going to guess that this isn't a skill that every computer sciences PhD candidate has. In fact, I bet that Tim is a bit of a renaissance-man rarity in his world.

But at the same time, there aren't very many Public Relations professionals that know much about computers (seriously, as a group, we're not as tech-savvy as we like to think we are).

Computer programmers (coders, developers, etc.) need PR pros to help them tell people about their product, explain what it does and communicate with the user base. They need designers to make it look nice. They need sales people to sell it.

And the patent lawyers that Tim talks about, the ones that he recommends start a blog instead of getting their PR people to offer to comment on various issues? If they're really experts, they're probably too busy with cases to start a blog. But a PR team could help lawyers set one up, and teach them how to write concise posts that draw on their knowledge but require a communicator's skill to make them more palatable to a wider audience.

As I heard someone say about this same issue a year or so ago, "Sure I can paint my house myself, but why wouldn't I just hire professionals who can do a better job?"

Tim, if you read this I hope you give PR a second chance. We're not perfect, but we're learning. And there are some public relations practitioners who are redefining the profession using the bottom-up thinking you preach.

-Parker

Stop Reading PR Blogs

Earlier this year, I suggested that PR students wanting to get involved in the online world should avoid starting a PR-focused blog. Now, I'm going to suggest that we all stop even reading PR blogs. They aren't that representative of the real world—the wilds of the internet.

Rather than focusing on how this tightly knit community (I believe David Jones referred to it as a "circle-jerk" on Inside PR) does things and communicates, why not spend that time getting more involved in understanding the way actual people use the internet?

Learn how your clients' audiences look for things online. Learn about what they're interested in. Become passionate about what they are passionate about, or at least try and understand their passion.

I'm willing to bet that most of you don't spend your evenings re-reading your old PR textbooks (nor do you buy the latest version every year), but that you probably do browse your region's daily newspapers on a regular basis.

Do you have any idea how few people care about RSS feeds? How many of your friends (outside of those involved in the communications industry) actually care about Twitter or even understand what it does?

Forget case studies. Forget best practices. When is the last time you did something truly new and interesting?

-Parker

On LinkedIn

A few weeks ago, I found one of my coworkers on LinkedIn and added her as a contact there. The next day, I received an email from her explaining that she didn't really use LinkedIn very often and wasn't sure how it worked or how to use it effectively.

As with all social networking sites, I think you will get out of it what you put into it. I don't actually use LinkedIn very often (I prefer Twitter and Facebook), but I still maintain a presence on the site. My thought is that if someone wants to connect with you, make it easy for them.

To start out, having a completed, up-to-date profile that includes a photo is a must (this goes for most networks). This lets people know that you are actually active on the site, and that your message or invitation to connect won't sit in their inbox for months at a time.

You can take your level of involvement further than just maintaining an up-to-date profile. By answering a question in the Answers area of LinkedIn, I was able to make a good connection with someone that I would have otherwise never met.

I also always say that social media is social, and that when you are requesting to add someone as a contact don't just send the templated "I'd like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn" message. Instead, personalize it. Remind the person of how you met, or if it is someone you know well send them a quick hello or maybe why you'd like to connect with them on LinkedIn. Just as a personalized, relevant pitch letter to a journalist can go a long way, a personalized, relevant inviation to connect on LinkedIn is worth a lot more than the service's pre-written invitations.

I was reminded of this a few weeks ago after receiving a whole bunch of the pre-written inviations in a row, then recieving one that was personalized. In the future, I'll probably remember that one connection more than any of the others.

Now, this is by no means the definitive guide on how to use LinkedIn, and if nothing else has gotten me interested in learning more about it, and being a bit more active there.

LinkedIntelligence, the unofficial blog for information about LinkedIn, has an exhaustive list of "Smart Ways To Use LinkedIn."

Dave Taylor has a good article about LinkedIn, and notes one of the reasons why you should have a detailed profile:

"It makes you more findable for others, but even more importantly, when you initiate communication with someone else, the first thing they'll do is go and check out your profile. Even if your profile isn't that great, the fact that you've spent the time trying to make it comprehensive will tell them that you're serious, that you respect their time and attention, and that you want to use LinkedIn to its fullest capacity."

An article from last August called I Got My Job Through Social Networking was an interesting read, provided some interesting advice about asking for recomendations on LinkedIn. However, I feel odd about asking for recommendations on LinkedIn. it just seems forced.

What are your thoughts on the recommendation system on LinkedIn? Do you have any LinkedIn advice?

If you're on LinkedIn, feel free to add me as a contact: http://linkedin.com/in/parkermason

-Parker

Advice For Those Planning On Starting A Blog About PR and/or Social Media

Don't.

If you want to start a blog, start one about something you're interested in. Not only will you learn everything about social media and blogging that you might learn with a PR blog, but you'll also learn more about something else. While I don't doubt that you do care about PR/Communications/Social Media, I really like to think that you've got other interests (if not, then your problems are greater than my ability to help you with them).

If you're young and think you want to get your start in PR or communications, that's great. Prospective employers will be happy to see that you have a blog and are involved in the online space. They'll probably be happier still to see that you've got enough originality to think outside this realm, and become an expert in something that interests you. You'll also be able to demonstrate that you understand the other side of the media fence.

You can still be involved in the world-changing discussions about social media and the future of PR that happen all over the web these days by reading and commenting. In fact, by blogging outside the social media bubble you might even become more of an expert than some of those social media consultants and gurus.

UPDATE: Darren Barefoot wrote a similar post today called Writing About What You Know. Definitely worth a read.

-Parker

Job Opportunity: Multimedia Coordinator

There is an immediate opening for a Multimedia Coordinator at CNW Group (my employer)!

From the official description:

As the Multimedia Coordinator you will be responsible for all elements related to the distribution of our video and photo services. You will be part of the overall Multimedia Production Team which is responsible for all our rich media products at CNW.

Your primary role will be to assist our Broadcast Producers and successfully manage all our Video Production feeds and our Photo Distributions.

You are able to work with clients, field calls directly, offer advice and support for the production. You will need to maintain good working relations with many of CNW’s various suppliers. Please note there will be after-hours work involved both at the office and remotely.

Responsibilities:

* Organize all broadcast production feeds including: * Fulfill client orders * Prepare advisories and instructions * Book suppliers *Arrange for tape shipments * Manage all our web on-demand distributions * Coordinate all tape distributions * Prepare weekly and monthly tracking reports * Book video crews * Book photographers * Produce Social Media Releases * Process and distribute photos * Assist on team projects as needed

Qualifications and Experience:

* Strong planning and organizational skills – able to identify all components of a project and appropriate resources which need to be applied. Able to follow the project through to completion ensuring all elements are completed properly and on time * Understanding of the technologies used, key drivers, and trends in content delivery * A good appreciation of video production * Proven and demonstrable experience of web production * Excellent communication skills, both verbal and written, pertaining to both technical and non-technical information is essential * Strong work ethics - take pride in your work and strive to exceed expectations * Deadline oriented - ability to work under pressure to meet tight deadlines with a demonstrated willingness to work extra hours as required * Strong sense of urgency – need to move quickly * Assertive – professional with the ability to ensure co-operation of other departments and team members and capable of pushing others where required to achieve results * Ability to work independently in a fast paced environment * Impeccable attention to detail * Self motivated and enthusiastic * Knowledge of Social Media/Web 2.0 concepts * Bilingual (English-French) an asset

If you are interested in the position, please email HR@newswire.ca.

-Parker

The Office Survival Guide

The first office job I had was in Australia for a software company, and things were pretty casual around there. Most days I showed up straight from a dawn patrol session at Currumbin, and was still wearing my boardshorts with a t-shirt and Havis. Wearing a collared golf or polo shirt was getting dressed up. Wearing a button down shirt meant you were crazy. Things at my current job  are a little different, and in the past year and half of being a "real guy," I've learned a lot about what it takes to be prepared in the office.

When I first started at my current company, I was the go-to guy for events. Some weeks, I was going to an event almost every single night and had some early-morning breakfast events thrown in there as well. The life of an awards ceremony-attendee was glamorous, but also taxing. To stay my sharpest, I started keeping a kit at work.

It included:

A complete change of clothes

I don't mean just a spare shirt here - I mean a entire outfit. When you've been at a breakfast at 6am, had meetings all day, and then had to go out for dinner that night you'll be glad that you had a clean white shirt to change into. Keeping a sports coat or suit jacket around is always a good idea, because you'll want to look your best if you get called into a last-minute meeting. Same goes for having an extra tie or two around the office.

Even if you don't think you'll need a more formal outfit for going out for dinner or to an important meeting, its still a good idea to keep a change at the office. A few weeks ago I was having lunch with a friend when she spilled her coffee all over the front of my shirt and pants. Had I not been prepared, it would have been a long afternoon.

Toiletries

When I was teaching English in Japan, I realized that all of the teachers at the Junior High School I worked at brushed their teeth after lunch. So did all of the kids, and after a few days of feeling like a dirty foreigner I too started bringing my toothbrush to work. To the delight of my dentist, this is a habit I've kept up. I also keep deodorant (both a stick of my preferred brand Speed Stick and a can of spray-on Axe for when I need that extra effect); a razor and shaving cream; and hair gel.

Cash

One of the things that my dad taught me is that you should always carry a bit of cash. You never know when you'll forget your lunch, have to pay for a taxi or want to buy a cute girl a drink. Even in this day and age, not everyone takes debit or credit cards (and bank machines are always broken when you need them), so its always a good idea to have a little bit of money hidden at your desk for when you need it.

This might all sound like overkill, but it is way better to have this stuff and never need to use it than to not have it and wish you did.

What goes in your office kit?

-Parker

Friday Morning Highlights

I was going to write a full-on blog post this afternoon, but I think I got too much sun today so I'm going to leave you with a couple of other posts I think you should read: -David Meerman Scott has a great post about personal branding and Twitter - it was so great that I shared it with some of my coworkers, then immediately realized that my own Twitter page isn't exactly up to par (I'm working on it!).

-io9 makes the point that web-series are the new direct-to-dvd. The example that they use is for a series called The Artifact that is being offered on YouTube and on the show's website. I think that's just a great way to repackage something, and it will actually make me (a guy that doesn't have a tv at home) more likely to watch it.

-Our favorite PR Maven has some good advice for young job-seekers (in the field of PR or not): don't skip the "interests" section on your resume. This is your chance to stand out.

Until next time...

-Parker Mason

Getting in Touch with Michael Arrington by Violating Everything Social Media Stands For

If I had to describe Web 2.0/ social media with two words it would have to be "good manners": Communicate, connect, collaborate, share, exchange, listen, learn, criticise to improve not to hurt, don't mean ill but keep it nice, value people's time, appreciate their efforts, say please and thank you. Apparently a definition not shared by everyone. As the Blog Herald reports the Earthcomber CEO tried to connect with Michael Arrington – by suing TechCrunch. From Arrington's blog:

I called Earthcomber President Jim Brady this morning to verify the lawsuit. At first he wouldn’t answer - all he did was try to explain how he’s been wronged by Loopt. When pressed he did confirm that the lawsuit was filed, but quickly added that he didn’t really mean to press it with us. He wants to go to court with Loopt, but is willing to quickly work something out with us to make this go away, he told me, hinting that he’d like to partner with us. He also said he’s been desperately trying to get me on the phone but hasn’t been able to, so he decided to sue us instead.

Trying to connect with someone by violating everything the Web stands for certainly isn't a very clever idea, even more so when your aim is a partnership – which obviously isn't going to happen.

Writes Arrington:

The problem with using a lawsuit as a negotiating tactic is that you can’t put the cat back in the bag. The door is open, and it has to play out. In other words, suing someone to get them to return your calls is not exactly a sign of brilliance. (…)

I’ve asked our attorneys to spend whatever it takes to kill this lawsuit, and to find a way to counter sue this guy into the stone age. (…)

We will not be bullied, and people who file frivolous lawsuits need to be put down. I would rather run TechCrunch into the ground and go out of business than let this guy win.

Keep your good manners – keep your company.

-Jens

The $7 I-forgot-my-business-cards insurance policy

Now that Parker gave some tipps on how to get started with twitter, speak in public and live happily with your job here's some clever advice that might make your life even easier: Matthew Buchanan's $7 I-forgot-my-business-cards insurance policy. While being at a baseball game with his family he met an incredibly interesting person that has quickly turned into a key contact for him and the firm. Unfortunately he didn't have his business cards with him.

Explains Matthew:

She was talking with someone else in line, so I had a few minutes to think on my feet. I came up with a solution that, honestly, I thought was goofy at the time, but that I’ve grown to appreciate. I thought “I need a memorable, personal (i.e., not the firm) domain precisely for this situation…one that functions solely to convey my contact info to folks I meet.”

I checked a few domains and settled on IMetMatt.com. I told my new friend about my gaff on the business cards, and then mentioned the domain (not mentioning the fact that I wouldn’t purchase it until later that evening). “Remember - I Met Matt - Go there tonight and jot down my info.”

End of story: She called, several times in fact. Calming your conscience for $7 and keeping in touch with people, not a bad investment!

-Jens

Hustle Is The Most Important Word Ever

A few days ago, a friend of mine asked me for advice about work. She said she enjoyed part of her job, but not all of it. I told her to focus on the things she enjoyed doing, and make those her jobs.

Gary Vaynerchuk takes my advice one step further.

"Ask yourself: What do I want to do everyday for the rest of my life? Do That. I promise, you can monetize that shit," he says.

"Stop crying, and just keep hustling."

(thanks to Todd Defren for pointing out the video)

-Parker