Reigniting the Fire When You’re Burned Out

By July 16, I was a puddle. After a very busy spring term, a move to a new home after five years in our previous abode, travel to Chicago for a week with five PR students, teaching summer classes and lots of client projects, July 16 was the final day of my first summer workshop. Even though it was just a blimp, a (very) small milestone, it felt like a much needed end. After I left campus, I barely got off the couch for two days.

I realized as I shook off some of the fog of that crazy busy season was I was totally and completely burned out. I didn’t want to teach, I couldn’t get excited about client work and everything I was supposed to do felt like a giant drag. I wasn’t sleeping well at night, but wanted to sleep all day. My normal productivity is pretty high, but man, it was hard to get anything done. I spun my wheels. A lot. It’s taken me most of the summer to feel like I’m even remotely back on track.

It’s helped to set some boundaries (“I’m not going to be on campus this week, we’ll have to meet next week.”) and enjoy my time with my family. I’ve been reading a lot of advice from others on dealing with this state of mind and here are some of my favorite tips:

Do Only Three Things. I love this idea from an Entrepreneur article with a handful of “lesser known” tips. A big to do list can be totally overwhelming and when productivity is nil, it is impossible for me to get going. But committing to doing just three things a day for the next two weeks feels good. And a little momentum can go a long way. (I also like the “watch cartoons” advice in this article… I love cartoons.)

Create Outlets. Zen Habits suggests finding an outlet – maybe a side project or a hobby that can clear your mind. For me, it’s horses. I’ve also recently gotten involved with Stella & Dot as something completely different than everything else for me to focus on when I need a break. Sometimes “totally different” is a good thing.

Be Assertive. A PsychCentral post says to say “no” and don’t feel obligated to offer an excuse. Oh man, I’m bad at this one. But I’m working on it. I am saying “no” more often, but I totally try to explain myself. I was talked to our director of student advising just today and she was giving me a total out on speaking at an event and I still offered an explanation.

So I’m headed into the new academic year not feeling very motivated and inspired, but at the end of the day, I love my job and that matters a lot.

How about you? Ever felt burned out? How did you cope?

A Year-Long Plan for Senior PR Undergrads

[Updated September 2014]

 “When should I start applying for that internship?”

“Where do I start with my job search?”

“Do I need to be sending my resumes out now?”

There’s a point of recognition where the senior public relations major realizes that yes, barring any major gaffes, chances are good that they’re going to graduate and need to find a job. And then the panic sets in.

Senior year both flies by in a blink and seems to drag on forever at the same time.  Benchmarking a few key activities may help you create your own plan for prepping for graduation.

A quick note: University of Oregon is on the quarter system – we start the last Monday of September and finish mid-June, so this calendar may vary based on your University.

Continue reading “A Year-Long Plan for Senior PR Undergrads”

Making the Most of Office Hour Meetings

I truly enjoy meeting with students. One-on-one chats provide time to explain a confusing topic, go over feedback on an assignment or just chat about career (or life) goals. And everyone’s time is valuable – your time as a student, my time as faculty member and a PR pro.

I ask students to make appointments with me using an online calendar system because it helps me manage my schedule and be more available and present for students.

Continue reading “Making the Most of Office Hour Meetings”

Asking for a LinkedIn Introduction


LinkedIn is such a valuable tool for any job seeker, but for undergrads looking for informational interviews, networking connections or to research a potential company or interviewer, it really can’t be beat.

But using it well (and not annoying your connections) takes a little know how and some LinkedIn etiquette. I think no where is this more true that in asking for introductions.

LinkedIn allows you to reach out to people directly to make a connection (I always recommend adding a personal message about why you want to connect). However, using the “Get Introduced” feature, can help facilitate a connection and give you an edge.

So how does it work?

Start by finding someone you want to make a connection with. You can do this is many ways, but my two favorite (and most basic) are to a) search the connections of one of your contacts. If you’re connected to me, you have access to my 1500+ connections. You can sort by city (say you want to move to Los Angeles) or by company or a few other filters or b) search LinkedIn directly by name or company.

Look for second degree connections. That means just one person exists between you and them.

Recently, I did a company search for Waggener Edstrom Worldwide. A lot of our grads work at WaggEd and it’s the largest PR firm in the northwest. In doing that search, I found an account director to whom I had a second degree connection. I found her profile interesting because we have so many students with an interest in event planning — and that’s what she does for WaggEd clients. Neat.

So say I want to get connected to Megan. Here are the steps to follow:

1. Click on the arrow next to “Send InMail” to get the drop down options. The first says “Get introduced.” Choose that option.

linkedin-intro-screenshot 2. The next screen will show you all the people who you and the desired contact have in common. Turns out Megan and I have several mutual connections. Choose the one that you think would be most willing to “put in a good word” for you. I chose my friend, Erica, also an account director at WaggEd. She and I did our undergrad work together in the SOJC and I know she’d be willing to facilitate this connection for me.

I started with a note to Erica about why I wanted to connect with Megan.

Screen Shot 2013-05-17 at 9.09.44 AM

 

3. The final part is the most important. To make it easy breezy for Erica to forward my connection request with her own note, I finish the request with a note directly to Megan. Consider a mini cover letter. Why do you want to be introduced?

Screen Shot 2013-05-17 at 9.15.24 AM

 

That’s it! Take a read through, do a final edit and hit “Send Request.”

Erica will get a notice in her inbox that I’ve requested an introduction with the option to forward or decline.

Have you used this feature of LinkedIn before? Any tips beyond what I’ve offered here?

5 Ways to Spend Your Winter Break

Classes are wrapping up at the University of Oregon and we’re all more than ready. I get the need to hibernate over the break. I intend to do some of that myself. But if you feel like getting a job start on the intern or job search, winter break can be a great time to focus. And if I know our PR students, they’re not likely to “hibernate” for long.

Some suggestions to make the most of your winter break:

Update your resume (and LinkedIn). Adding new positions, editing based on instructor or professional feedback, playing with the layout and design… Your resume is in a constant state of change at this stage in your pre-professional career. Make sure it’s up-to-date. While you’re at it, update your LinkedIn profile and add some new connections.

Work on your e-portfolio. An online home for your writing samples and resume is a must. If you already have an e-portfolio, take some time to update the materials. If you don’t have one, this is a great time to start. Finding a platform (I like WordPress) and uploading your favorite writing samples is a good start.

Read. Pick up a PR, social media or general business book. Or update your feed reader and find new blogs to follow. Catch up on your PR industry news and trends while you have some time. Yes, you can even read some fiction for fun. It’s ok! This summer reading list is still pretty relevant if you need some suggestions for books. You can also use my public Netvibes dashboard for PR, marketing and social media blogs to read.

Research. Research companies you want to work for, who their clients are, what kind of jobs are available while you have time to follow the Internet rabbit trails (and have fun doing it!). You can find some tips here to get started.

Do some informational interviews. If you’ve done some research, reach out to people working in PR and set up a time to chat over coffee. Info interviews are a great way to network and get to know the industry. An oldie, but a goodie… this post gives some great advice for informational interviews. It doesn’t matter if you don’t want to work in your hometown, you can always get out and meet some people. PR is a small industry and you never know where a chat over coffee will lead.

What are your winter break plans?
Photo via Flickr by niznoz.

Six Pieces of Media Relations Advice for the Newbies

Heart racing, palms sweating… no, you’re not having a heart attack. You’re pitching your first story as an intern or entry-level pro. Whew! it can be nerve wracking, for sure. Through a good process, you can feel prepared and confident in your delivery.

  1. Know “why.” What’s the point of the media relations effort? What’s the big picture? How does this release, this pitch fit into what the client/company wants to accomplish? It’s ok to ask. You’re not just “smiling and dialing,” asking why can help you craft a better pitch, but also helps you understand the business of public relations and the media relations function.
  2. Know the story. Understand not only the primary story, but all the potential angles. You may not be able to pitch the primary story to every editor (in fact, you probably can’t).
  3. Create, refine and refine again your media list. An awesomely targeted and strategically refined media list is your golden ticket. This part is pretty freaking tedious, but it’s so important. Don’t let the tedium deter you. Tools like Cision and Vocus can help a lot if your organization has a subscription. If they don’t, there are a bunch of free or almost free tools… including your eyes and brain. If you understand the “why,” (see #1), you can be reading, watching and listening to the right sources and you’ll get to know who will be interested in your pitch. This takes time, so the computer-aided-search-tools are a nice boost, but don’t lean on them too hard. Know your organization’s industry.
  4. Write the pitch. If you’re emailing it, make sure the grammar is pristine, the message clear and that it’s SHORT. If you’re calling, make sure the grammar is pristine, the message clear and that it’s SHORT.
  5. Practice the pitch. Have colleagues read and listen to your pitch and give you feedback.
  6. Make the call! (or send the email). But really, you’re going to have to make the call at some point, even if your first pitch is via email.

I asked my friends via Twitter what advice they would give to newbies and, boy! did they have advice. Check it out. And follow these super smarties – some are vets and some are newbies themselves.

[blackbirdpie url=”https://twitter.com/#!/Bookgirl96/statuses/106815124261703680″]

 

[blackbirdpie url=”https://twitter.com/#!/JenJAshley/statuses/106816028138422272″]

 

[blackbirdpie url=”https://twitter.com/#!/mculpPR/statuses/106815993988386816″]

 

[blackbirdpie url=”https://twitter.com/#!/mculpPR/statuses/106815639099949056″]

 

[blackbirdpie url=”https://twitter.com/#!/JulieMa/statuses/106812944096047105″]

 

[blackbirdpie url=”https://twitter.com/#!/jpitts/statuses/106817252728389632″]

 

[blackbirdpie url=”https://twitter.com/#!/RACHELkoppes/statuses/106816629446410241″]

 

[blackbirdpie url=”https://twitter.com/#!/jenna_levy/statuses/106819096561192960″]

 

[blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/#!/behindthespin/statuses/106831502993657856″]

 

[blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/#!/KellysDavies/statuses/106832108646965249″]

 

[blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/#!/ztzinthecity/statuses/106820662022250496″]

 

[blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/#!/jamescrawford/statuses/106832389141037056″]

See James’ blog, too.

 

[blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/#!/kevinkennedy320/statuses/106833121214865408″]

For even more tips & advice, check out my Delicious tag on media relations. And I’d love to hear what you think? What would you add?

Setting New (School) Year Resolutions

January, schmanuary. The real “new” year for those of us who are students and teachers is September. So as we all gear up to head back to the classroom, it’s time to set some new (school) year resolutions.

SWOT Yourself

Take an objective view – well, as objective as possible – about your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats.

Strengths and weaknesses are internal.

Strengths: What are you good at? What kinds of activities are a natural fit for you?

Weaknesses: What areas are more difficult for you to master? I’m not going to say “what can you improve on?” because that’s not always an effective use of your time. But are there specific skills that you need to add to your repertoire? Particularly tactics or skills that you want to learn?

I highly recommend a book called StrengthFinder 2.0. Take a little online quiz and get back your top 5 strengths. We did this last year with AHPR and it was eye-opening. You can read about it here.

Opportunities and threats are external.

Opportunities: What activities, events, programs can you take advantage of? Where can you gain the experience you need?

Threats: Where are the potentials for time sucks? What external factors can diminish your ability to achieve your goals?

Threats are tricky when you’re looking at yourself as a students. It might be a heavy class schedule, for example. You can’t really do anything about that, but you can be aware it’s coming and plan accordingly.

Thanks, @CBLangev for this suggestion.

Make a Plan

 


Now that you understand what your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats are, make a plan for making the most of the good and minimizing the impact of the not-so-good.

Some tips:

  • Start with the end in mind. What do you want to accomplish? And what does that “end” look like?
  • Be realistic, but ambitious. You can’t do everything. You have to make strategic decisions about where your time will be best spent. Where is the best return on your time investment.
  • Have a good planner. Whether you need a written planner or an electronic version, make friends with your process and use it to stay organized. About.com has some nice (basic) tips for collge student calendar management.
  • Find tech tools that support your goals, and focus on those tools.  I’m a little bit notorious for giving a new tool or app a try, but not spending enough time with it to really integrate it into my schedule before I get distracted by the next shiny, new thing. Don’t do that.

Find Balance

You have to be able to balance school/academic work, extracurriculars, internships, volunteer opportunities and your social life (more on that in the next point). In a professional program like public relations, you really do have to look and think beyond the classroom – even in your in the honors college… even if you know you’re headed to grad school.

The challenge of course, is figuring out how to fit it all in. Refer to the aforementioned planner/calendar system. Find your process! It is possible to create balance when you know what your goal is and how you plan to get there. (Oh, look at that! All these fit together…!)

Thanks, @ColbyReade for this resolution.

Have Fun

You’re in college. Have fun! Find time to make what you do fun and to have a social life outside of the books and the work. I went through a goal setting process for myself recently and found that I was conflating “have fun” with “have a hobby.” I don’t have time for a serious hobby, but I do have time for fun.

And I have fun all the time. I think life is fun! And I find the fun in work, family time, vegging out in front of the TV… all those can be (and usually are) fun. So it doesn’t have to be BIG fun. But make sure you’re including time for you.

So there’s my list. They are all “big picture.” Tell me about what you have planned this year. What are your new (school) year resolutions?

Special thanks to my Twitter & Facebook friends for offering their suggestions! 

Brand-Tweeting-New: Tips for Twitter Newbies

We’re kicking off another year at the University of Oregon. I’m not teaching social media-focused classes this term, but I always encourage my students to tweet and use a hashtag for the course. This term you’ll likely see #J350 and #J453 tags from students. Because the classes aren’t social media oriented (although certainly infused), I don’t take time to “teach” Twitter. But I’m not under the illusion that it’s intuitive and doesn’t need to be demonstrated. It’s been awhile since a did a post with resources and tips for those new to the microblogging platform, so here you go!

Some of my favorite resources on Twitter basics

  • Twitter 101 for Business: Written by the folks at Twitter, this guide is a terrific how to on using Twitter professionally. For journalism students, you really do have to think about all social media in that way. You’re a professional communicator and all your communication should reflect that.
  • Twitter’s Twitter Basics: A helpful guide from Twitter that covers a wide variety of topics.
  • College Students Guide to Twitter: This has long been one of my favorite resources for Twitter. I’ve shared it many, many times.
  • 10 Ways Twitter is Use for PR Practitioners: An overview on the top 10 reasons PR pros can find Twitter useful.

Who to Follow

  • Twitter Starter Pack for PR Students – a list created by another professor of her recommended people to follow. You can follow everyone at once.
  • 100 PR People to Follow – another list based on a blog post that identified the top 100 people in PR to follow. The two lists will have some overlap.
  • WeFollow.com – A handy directory of Twitter uses categorized by tag.

More Tips

  • Give Twitter at least 30 days & aim to follow and be followed by at least 100 people. Thirty days because Twitter is not intuitive – it takes time to figure it out. And the 100 following/follower level forces you to think outside your physical/offline networks and connect with new people.
  • Participate in chats: There are a few Twitter chats either specifically geared toward students or are particularly useful. Top 10 chats for PR & Marketing professionals. That list doesn’t include two that are specifically targeted at student and young professionals, so check out #PRStudChat and more about #u30PR0.

What are some of your favorite Twitter basics tips or resources?

My Top 5 Shortcuts: #4 Use a Smartphone

This is a quick tip, but an important one. See tip 1 on feedreaders, 2 on creating a process and 3 on using twitter, too!

If you’re in communications – get a smart phone. For real. It doesn’t have to be an iPhone. Just get a smart phone.

A quick scan of Twitter or Facebook, a timely update to your Tumblr or blog, even being able to handle an urgent situation are all possible from the palm of your hand. Knowing I can “hear” if someone is talking to me (or a client) saves me a ton of time.

It’s also not all about social media specifically, but for generally being productive and saving myself time.

Applications I use to help:

  • Twitter for iPhone
  • Tweetdeck for iPhone (yes, I use 2, I monitor a bunch of accounts)
  • Facebook with all the Pages for which I’m an admin bookmarked.
  • Tumblr for posting photos (this is a personal outlet for me)
  • WordPress (although I rarely use it, I have it set up if I need to)
  • LinkedIn (again, not often used, but you never know!)

Other productivity apps I use:

  • Harvest (my time tracker. If it’s on my phone, I can track my time on the fly.)
  • TeuxDeux (my favorite list maker, to do list builder)
  • Huddle (my project management/coordination program)

Do you have any apps you use to help manage social media (or your life)? I’d love to hear about them!

photo by K!T

My Top 5 Shortcuts: #3 Use Twitter

Bloglines, my first feedreader, announced this week that it would shut down October 1. If one can feel nostalgic about something like that, I certainly did.

The spokesperson said that the “writing was on the wall,” that most people were getting their news from Twitter & Facebook. I’m not going to disagree that more people are indeed doing so, but I don’t think the feedreader is dead. At least not for people who work in communications. You can’t possibly get all your news from Twitter and Facebook.

However, you also can’t subscribe to every blog on your topics of interest. Using the two tools in a complementary way will help you stay in the know and also save you time.

Find the right people to follow

It’s important to find the opinion leaders and influencers for you on Twitter. There’s a lot of noise, so be smart about who you pay attention to. That doesn’t mean to be a follow-back snob (you can see my follow back tips here).

I wrote a post a while back on how to find people to follow, too.

Build lists

Before Twitter integrated its list function, folks (like me) were using Tweetdeck’s column feature to filter their Twitter stream. Lists can do that, but, because they are public, they can also help show your participation in a community and build connections across your network.

However, as a time saver, lists can serve a couple of purposes. The first is to organized the updates of people who you follow by category, industry, name, whatever you choose. Most third party applications (see the next tip) will let you sync your lists, too. The second is you can see other people’s lists, which can follow. No need to build that CNN Reporters list if one already exists, right?

Use a third party application like Tweetdeck

Twitter can be a giant time suck, I’m fully aware. Time suck? Sort of the opposite of short cut. However, Twitter is a necessary tool. I use Tweetdeck for my personal Twitter use. I leave it running most of the day and have the notifications set to only alert me when I’ve been mentioned, I have a direct message or one of my search terms has a new result. The visual and audible notification means that I don’t pay attention to Twitter unless there is something going on. Well, that’s not entirely true, but it does help a lot.

How about you? Any twitter-related shortcut tips to share?

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