Are You Determined?

Although I work in the marketing department of a small private school, sometimes I find myself teaching. One example of this is my new(er) role as the yearbook advisor for the high school students. I couldn’t be more thrilled or excited. They all have editorial roles, and each student is simply bursting with creative ideas and articles. One of our Friday meetings was cancelled due to a snow day, and the kids took the initiative to work on a few of the pages and interviews during their lunch hour throughout the week. They completely surprised me with it last Friday, and honestly, I nearly cried.

Kids are awesome.

The truth is, over the last few weeks, I’ve become a friend to these kids. And they’ve started to look up to me as a teacher—not just the girl in the marketing office, running around making copies of flyers and spreadsheets. They’ve been saying goodbye to me at the end of every school day and making sure to include me in classroom discussions.

“What about Emily? We need to meet for yearbook!”

“Can we have a 2nd yearbook class this week?”

(My hair is big enough, let alone the swelling of my head they are encouraging.)

Last Friday, the students were so caught up in their articles and photoshop workshops, that some of them missed the first 15 minutes of their lunch hour. I made an announcement, but they just kept working! After most of the kids left for lunch, there was one kid that stayed behind from the others.

He said, “If you don’t mind, Emily, I’m not really that hungry. I’d really rather finish writing my article on the guinea pig farm.”

To give some context, the private school offers remedial support for students with learning disabilities, health problems, or otherwise need support the public, cyber or charter schools cannot provide. Some of the kids go to cyber school, but need in-class instruction to supplement their programs. It’s a melting pot of specialized educational programs and individual circumstances.

The student that stayed behind is a teenager that has been attending the school for years. He also has high-functioning autism. When he first came to the school, he wouldn’t make eye contact or speak to anyone. To be honest, I didn’t know this much about him before last Friday, and I didn’t suspect the severity of his autism because he is so talkative in our yearbook class.

Nonetheless, he stayed behind and continued reviewing the notes he took from an interview he gave earlier in the workshop. And then he paused.

“Emily, if you don’t mind, I have a few questions for you,” he said. “You know Sally is so determined about making this yearbook so good. She wants it to be perfect. And, Suzy is so determined about finishing her book and raising a lot of money for her cousin. But, I don’t know what I’m supposed to be determined about.”

I think my jaw hit the conference table.

“Well, Billy, do you mean you don’t know what to be determined about for the yearbook? Or, life in general?” I asked.

“Well, I want to do a good job for the yearbook because it’s a school activity. But, I’m not sure what I should be determined about in general,” he said.

Can you believe the conversation I’m having with this student? Not really a teacher, only advising the yearbook class for about a month and a half… I was dumbstruck for exactly three seconds. Maybe four.

“Billy, I want to tell you something. You don’t have to know that right now. It is great that you’re concerned about it, but you don’t have to have all of the answers right now,” I started.

His eye contact was unwavering.

“I’m going to tell you about me. When I first moved to Pittsburgh after high school, I was so determined to be a writer for a big newspaper. I had all of these great plans. But, then I got a great job at a newspaper—And I didn’t like it,” I continued.

He looked surprised.

“I didn’t like working at a newspaper at all. So, you know what? I had to change my plans. I had to find out what I was going to be determined about again. Life is like that. Life changes your plans, and you have to start all over again. I’m still figuring out what I’m most determined about, but I think I’m getting close. You don’t have to have all the answers right now. You see?” I asked.

“Yeah, I do. Thanks for sharing your story with me,” he said with a small smile.

We continued to talk about me moving to Pittsburgh, school and plans. He never ran out of questions or curiosity, but decided that he was kind of hungry after all. As he excused himself to eat his lunch (while still scribbling away in his notepad), he said that he really enjoys yearbook and thinks I do a great job.

I’ve tossed around about a million ideas and dreams for my future, and I still do. Late at night, when the sound of silence is deafening and your eyelids become curtains for the play of your future life. I’ve thought about being a reporter, a novelist, a singer, a doctor, a lawyer, a teacher, a therapist, and on and on. Today, I’m in an MBA program at the University of Pittsburgh, and I am exploring the pathway of a career in marketing and strategy.

I’m not exactly sure what I’m determined to be. At first, I thought that was an odd way to word his question. I wanted to correct him. But, the more I think about it, the more fitting I find the word. Determined. What gets my blood pumping? What keeps me up at night—in a good way? What gets me out of bed in the morning?

I don’t know quite yet. And, that’s okay.

I have quite a few things that I’m great at. I’m good at a lot of things, too. I love certain projects. I like doing others. But, what am I determined to be?

What are you determined to be?

 

 

What If You’re Both Underqualified AND Overqualified?

The job market is tough. We all know it. We all hear about it on the news. Every. Single. Day. But, unemployment in general isn’t the major economic issue facing the job force in our country today.

No. Instead, we need to further investigate the underemployment rate, especially for that of college graduates. Recent college graduates are taking jobs outside of their field of expertise simply because it is a job. That is an example of underemployment. Not to mention, underemployment includes part-time jobs and companies that do not provide benefits to certain employees. To stay in their chosen field of study, college graduates are taking unpaid internships while balancing one or more part-time job to pay the bills.

I have never been one to be unemployed. I always manage to find a job, because I have held full-time positions since my first summer vacation in high school. I have extensive–if not ecclectic–experience in various fields. But, one thing is true, I’ve always managed to multi-task and make my pay checks work for me. I was paying my way through school, living in my first apartment in the city when the Great Recession hit in 2008. I was working at three part-time jobs, freelance writing, taking 18 credits in college & babysitting and assisting a professor at my school. It hurt, but I made it work.

Today, I’m facing a similar situation. I’m working three part-time jobs, going to grad school part-time & trying to break into my chosen field of work. I am strategically promoting myself on all social media outlets, updating my LinkedIn profile and writing a business-minded blog. I am doing everything right—but, something is still missing. I am still missing the mark and receiving rejection letters & e-mails from wonderful companies.

What am I doing wrong?

It may not be me. It is probably the state of the economy and the job market. The climate isn’t stable yet. The job market is 10 times more competitive and reaping 10% less in salary and wages than in pre-recession years. We’re fighting tooth-and-nail for positions we would’ve laughed at a decade ago. Oh, and education is creating a smoke-and-mirrors effect on resumes. Some employers expect a graduate degree, and other employees see MBA candidates as a dime-a-dozen today. It’s hard to decipher these employers prior to an interview, so it ultimately wastes a lot of time. But, to a point, these employers together are completely reflective of the assumption of education in America today. We’re in limbo today. Some think a graduate degree is required and isn’t that special, and others think a graduate degree is a seal of approval of the highest quality. America is of the same mind—College is the new high school and now everyone has a degree, but an MBA still is seen as difficult and a great accomplishment.

In the job market today, too much education can make you seem overqualified for a position. For example, I am an MBA candidate at the University of Pittsburgh. I am in my second year. And I have one marketing internship under my belt, equivalent to a little more than one semester. I am overqualified given the breadth of my education; however, I’m underqualified for certain positions I’d hope for this far into my education.

It’s a Cache 22. And many prospective employees are in the same boat Post-Recession Era. Perhaps my only way out of this mess is to invent the tactic to bridge this awkward stage in a graduate student’s career, and I can employ myself.

How many of you have a job, but still feel UNDERemployed? What’s your strategy of pushing the ceiling up a bit and moving up to your rightful seat?

Are We Smothering Our Customers with Social Media?

I bought a tube of lipstick on a rainy weekend afternoon. I love lipstick, and I love the store in which I bought it. But let’s be real—It’s just lipstick.

After the purchase, I was given a receipt that had an online survey to fill-out about my experience in the store and my purchase. As a former sales associate, I understand the employee bonuses are often tied to these survey results. I almost always complete these surveys, especially after a good experience. So, I filled out the brief survey with all positive marks.

Next thing I know, I’m invited to join the mailing list, follow them on Facebook and Twitter. Then, I’m encouraged to follow Pinterest, Instagram, YouTube and Photobucket for special offers.

“Hashtag our name, and you can get a free sample of face wash!”

“Like this picture, and you’ll be entered in a drawing for a $500 shopping spree!”

“RT and we will follow YOU!”

When does it all end?

As a fellow marketer, I understand where the company is coming from with their social media campaign. They want to be connected and part of the conversation with their customers.

Awesome.

There is definitely something to be said for staying current and constantly evolving with the changing times. It’s really important! And most large corporations have entire teams or task forces managing a specific and separate social media platform. In a small business, like the one I work for currently, I am pretty much it for our social media footprint. I can see from the front lines when engagement turns to smothering; however, the further the person responsible for the update on Facebook is from the customer, the further they are from seeing this change.

How do big corporations fix this?

This isn’t necessarily a problem for each corporation or business individually, but the trend has a possibility of becoming overload. It can lead to Unfollows, De-friending, Opt-Outs in e-mail blasts, or even, causing a customer to leave the business and adopt a new company.

I think we would all benefit from a minute to think about that. We don’t want to smother our customers, and for the most part, we are coming from a good place. We simply want to talk to our customers. It’s important to practice balance. Consider a balanced approach to social media. And for those big corporations with different teams managing Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest: Let’s commit to do what we intend to do. Let’s actually engage and communicate with our customers. And each other.

What companies are you following on Twitter today?