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Archive for the ‘Personal Branding’ Category

Failure, Youth and Success

January 14, 2008 Leave a comment

For I am young, and young people always believe that tomorrow will be better than today. Youth try the impossible. Scale the mountain that is supposed to be inaccessible. And dare the things that age will fear.
~ Unknown

Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.
~ Winston Churchhill

Actions and the anonymous

January 7, 2008 1 comment

It’s Sunday and that means $1.63, Starbucks and the Sunday Times. This afternoon while in the middle of yet another arduous 6,000 word article, I watched an interesting scene unfold at the bar.

A gentleman who was paying for his drink watched the barista accidentally knock two empty cups off the bar. The cups hit the floor next to the customer. Instead of bending down to pick them up, smile at the barista and make her feel less clumsy, or even acknowledge the situation, he just kicked the cup to the middle of the store and went along his business.

After he left the barista walked around and picked them up.

It got me thinking. I know I have done similar stuff. I’ve missed the trashcan and acted like I didn’t notice. Spit on the sidewalk only then realizing an old lady was walking towards me. Turned my head when someone needed help.

The big question is who was watching and what were they thinking.

So next time I have the chance I hope I make the right decision and act accordingly, because who knows who’s watching and what they are thinking.

New Social Capital blog — Worth checking out

December 12, 2007 1 comment

A few months ago, I wrote a post about social capital and why college is a perfect place to build your network.

In the post I referenced a very smart blog I had been reading on the subject of social capital and interconnectedness.

Now that blog has spun off into another blog, and even though I truly hope it can survive, I’m still a bit skeptical about the business model of a blog and if it can make money to support its writers.

Penelope Trunk, the “it lady” of modern Gen-Y blogging, left a great comment on Ben Casnocha’s blog regarding book deals, questioning why more people don’t write blogs instead of pursuing a book.

I agree with Penelope, but only to a point. My blog helped me get my current job as an Intern at a national magazine, but editors still want hard clips that have been printed on someone else’s dime.

Not just digital content that lacks an editor and submission process.

So then why do I continue to write a blog you might ask?

For starters, it allows me to voice my opinion on a wide range of topics in an open forum which can accessed anywhere there is an Internet connection.

Secondly, a potential employer who spends more than five minutes on my blog will see I can discuss several high-level issues regarding journalism, technology, economics, photography and others.

Thirdly, it has allowed me to make connections and build relationships with professionals who were not accessible beforehand.

For The Little Red Suit, that is exactly what building social capital is all about.

So as Tiffany Monhollon breaks away and starts another blog, I can only hope her decision to go digital will pay off .

Which is exactly why I think you should take a second and check it out.

Forget Facebook and Pick up the Phone

November 26, 2007 1 comment

The business card is no longer. At least that’s what several new social networking sties want you to believe. I personally use a few, but am now finding it impossible to keep up. With hundreds of millions of dollars being invested by over-zealous-money-driven VC’s, and just about every superpower taking on Facebook, it’s a wonder any new network can stand out.

Take for instance my situation:

Facebook – Started in college senior year and quickly added a few hundred friends. I used the site to join frivolous groups, stalk perspective dates and post pictures. After college I started to use the site to network with potential bosses, and found myself interacting with journalists. With the explosion of apps a few months ago, I now spend minutes every day rejecting stupid invitations like: Slasher App and Top Friends application.

MySpace – Stared after college and now have almost 300 friends. Every person I can pick up the phone and call (my one criteria on Myspace). The layout is archaic, and an eyesore. I hardly use it.

Linkedin – Joined last year. Use it to network with perspective employers, journalists, co-workers and old bosses. Spend 10 minutes a month on the site, and haven’t checked it for a few weeks.

The list goes on.

What I’m finding here is that I’m spending almost an hour a day, throughout the day building my online presence, and hating it. When I could be outside drinking beer, going on a run, or actually talking to a friend, I find myself making connections, writing emails and looking at pictures of last night’s keg stand.

In other words, the applications which are supposed to “bring us together” are really tearing us apart.

So what is a young professional to do? For starters, pick up the phone. Everyone is busy, some are really busy, but in reality no one should be too important that they can’t talk to you. A CEO may be booked for weeks, or just give you the runaround, but a younger professional may not be.

I’ve found myself calling numerous editors, writers and professionals for advice. They initially clam up, wondering why the hell this kid is asking for an open ended conversation, but when they have the courage to converse it becomes beneficial for both of us.

Everyone has an ego. Online the egos are inflated by number of friends, subscribers, comments and trackbacks. On the phone, the ego is limited to time.

So I challenge the younger generation to step outside the box and connect the old fashioned way. Because as we all know when the Internet goes down it seems the world tends to stop, and God forbid your livelihood depends on such a fragile infrastructure.

Paying for an Internship — Why one magazine’s charity is pushing young journalists apart

November 3, 2007 2 comments

It is so competitive for an Internship today, the free labor that most of America’s media giants rely on, that people are actually paying to get in. Harper’s Bazaar is offering a one-month internship with them as part of Bette Midler’s New York Restoration Project’s Hulaween Auction. The magazine, one of the largest fashion rags on the market, is donating the Internship in the name of charity.

Myself, a struggling 25-year-old Intern, can’t believe his eyes. Internships are part of the professional fabric when it comes to piecing together a successful career in today’s media. Editors talk greatly about the need to understand the pain of relentless fact checking, getting coffee, stuffing media packets and working with little to no pay. It’s a right of passage almost every successful editor has been though, and many point to it as the reason they are successful. But it’s changing. So fast actually, that it has become a class war, where the poor are left helpless, scratching for clips and the opportunity to succeed, while the rich roll in, designer sleeves up and drink copious amounts of beer at happy hour after turning off their computer.

Just about four months ago I was rejected for Outside Magazines Internship. I was willing to leave a well paying job, pack up my life and move four states away to make $8.15 an hour. The research editor told me I didn’t have enough experience in my resume and therefore would not work.

I stood there, phone in hand, mouth open, ready to scream. “What do you want me to do!” I wanted to yell. “I am on my own financially, have been reduced to working to live at a young age when some of my competition is benefiting from daddy and mommy. Here I am willing to sacrifice just about every materialistic item I have to fact check for you and eat pasta every night!” I was distraught, upset, livid and more determined than ever.

Four weeks ago while sitting in a turnout somewhere outside of Chicago, I had my first and only Interview with Backpacker magazine. I remember praying before hand asking God to guide me in the right direction. I was edgy inside, unsettled and anxious. This was my chance to show them that even though I don’t have a masters degree, clips from the AP while working in France, or a high-level contact inside their magazine, that I was qualified for the position.

I don’t exactly remember the interview, but what I do remember is that the words seemed to come to me effortlessly. When asked delicate complex questions, I provided short concise answers that proved I had done my homework and understood the industry. When it was over I felt relieved, almost sure that I was at least in the running. That night I ended my month-long journey drinking beer with a very wise man who opened up my eyes by being vulnerable in wisdom.

“Find out what you can provide,” he said, “and hone that skill. You may be able to write well, but is it writing that you enjoy? Or storytelling? So many people try to do it all themselves, but what you don’t know, is that you may meet someone that can take your skill and bring it to the masses. When you find your skill, work on the vehicles to get it out there, but until then, work hard, work smart and always push yourself.”

Our conversation lasted over three hours, and it changed my life. At the end we discussed the Internship with Backpacker. We talked about the pros, the cons and the advantages to ending my trip early and pursuing my dream. It was clear by the end of the night that given the chance I would drive west the next day and find a place to live in Boulder, Colorado.

The past three weeks have been a blur. The past two have found my immersed in Backpacker’s office, wide-eyed and grinning from ear to ear. But regardless of how well I do, how much impact I make, there is still the great possibility of being laid off in six months when my Internship ends and going back to unemployment. It’s that uncertainty, that level of vulnerability that seems to set the dedicated apart from the wishy-washy. Unless of course you are able to pay the bills without a paycheck, then it would just be another adventure.

“I don’t have a problem being the 31-year-old Intern,” a fellow Intern at Backpacker said yesterday on the drive home. “It’s what you have to do,” she added. I nodded my head in agreement. She was dead on.

It makes me wonder if whoever bids the most for Harper’s Bazaar really wants to be there as much as the washed-up hardworking American girl waiting tables and stringing for a small daily to build clips. I know it’s not a fair world out there, but paying to participate in an Internship? Have we gone too far? It’s almost like paying for people to vouch that you worked for them on your resume, and last time I checked that took money, not skill.

Facebook to blogs – How answering a question landed me on PR Squared

September 13, 2007 2 comments

Proof that anything you put online can be used in a variety of different ways.

I answered the following question on Todd Defren’s Facebook page. “Is the PR industry starting to make the same mistakes as it did during the Bubble Days?”

My answer: I wonder if PR folks are drinking the Kool-Aid too fast when taking on new startups and then blowing it when pitching the media–who for the most part I don’t think really cares about a new party planning site or way to stalk your neighbors.

Then Todd used the answers he got for a blog post on his widely read PR blog.

Since I answered the question late I was at the top. The amazing thing is that you can simply click on my name and instantly be brought to my Facebook account. Thank God I didn’t put anything too bad on there.

I Am Not A Lemon – Part Four: Building your Personal Brand and Portfolio

August 20, 2007 2 comments

Editors Note: The following is the fourth installment in a five part series about what to do, what not to do, and how to make the most of your college experience. There are a lot of lists out there telling students how to succeed, but not too many of these lists have been written by recent graduates still living in the college mindset. Please read this series not as a “do as I say bible”, but rather one humble ex-student’s suggestions.

I made several mistakes in college, but the largest mistake, besides getting drunk and finding myself in the back of a cop car, was not understanding how to build a strong personal portfolio that bridged the gap between academic projects and the real world. I didn’t save all my work, I wrote papers tailored for professors and most importantly did my final projects to get an A and not a job. Big mistake.

Personal branding is hot right now. There are several blogs about the subject, and even a quarterly PDF magazine written by a recent college graduate. Technorati, flickr, Facebook, LinkedIn are just the tip of the social branding iceberg. This blog itself is a personal branding tool. I’m hoping to show potential employers that I have an unique voice in a very cluttered space. Essentially the blog is an evolving portfolio built on conversation, links, community and my ability to tie it all together.

If you’re in college right now, and I don’t care at what stage, sit back and think for a moment what you have produced that will interest a future employer. And this doesn’t mean the twenty-page research paper on media semiotics. Instead, what do you have that is tangible? What have you done that shows your ability to tie your education into your interests? If you can’t think of anything, then make this your semester goal. Grades are important, but a portfolio is what gets you the job.

Tips for personal branding and building your portfolio

Be smart and think about what your end goal is. – If you’re on the medical tract of course grades are important, but if you’re in a skill-based major it might be more important to have a solid portfolio showing your work. An architecture firm is not going to hire a new employee that has nothing to show. The same goes for a newspaper, TV station, or engineering firm. So think about where you want to go and determine what you need to get there. It might be overwhelming at first, but if you do this Freshman year then you have a minimum of four years to do it, which is more than enough time.
When doing a project think about what potential employers want to see. – This is hard mainly because professors are not employers and what they may want to see can be different than your future boss. When you start working on a project look for discrepancies and discuss them with your professor. Smart professors will see your enthusiasm and understand that you are working not only for an A, but a job. They will then hopefully accommodate your requests. The sad reality though is that many professors live in academia and forget what it is like to build a real-world portfolio. If you run up against them, it might be worth getting the B.
Talk to future employers about what they want to see. – One of the greatest things about being in college is that you can always ask questions. It is much easier to get a CEO to speak with you about his/her experiences when you’re eating Mac & Cheese and drinking Natural Ice. Don’t be shy to ask what they want to see when they hire new employees. Now the most important part…Take their advice and follow it! Talking with people does no good unless you act on it.
Keep a personal journal about what works and what doesn’t. – This doesn’t have to be a novel, it could just be a few notes about what you thought you were good at, and what you weren’t. If you start early it’s easier to know what works and what doesn’t. It is also a vital took for writing cover letters and describing your strengths.
Never stop moving forward – If you fail determine what you learned and move on. It’s hard to explain, but college is meant to test you, and sometimes this means failing at a project or experiment. If you do fail, look at it as a learning experience and not a failure. Those who can move on and maintain momentum are the successful ones.

Finally, and this may be the most important part of building your personal brand, expand your comfort zone. Never stop putting yourself in uneasy situations which require quick thinking and a high-level of skill. By forcing yourself to work under pressure, and in an unfamiliar environment, you will become comfortable with your skills and ability, thus branding yourself as a leader and not a follower.

Of course there are hundreds of other tidbits of advice that I could write down, but they are mostly things that will come to you during college. As always don’t EVER be afraid to ask questions or talk with people. College is the time to learn who you are, what you like and how you work. It’s not an end-all to life discovery, but a vital step in the path to success.

Good luck and please share you own experiences with me so I can continue to learn and build my personal brand.