The culture is so unique that I knew immediately what Joan Avagliano was all about when I began to do public relations writing assignments for The Dilenschneider Group. She was Catholic, striving, ultra hard working and knew the importance of loyalty. When my communications boutique collapsed in 2003, I conjured up the spirit of Jersey City for a comeback Download CUsersjasneDocumentsjg
Now the city is being gentrified. Will that process suck out its soul. Extreme wealth and striver hunger can't co-exist. There's no white space in between for scrappers to build something out of nothing. Generations of us went from the public school system (Henry Snyder '63) to the Ivy League (Harvard Law School) to Corporate America (Chevron, Chrysler, IBM, Kraft).
Over on the Lower East Side of Manhattan artist Clayton Patterson has thrown in the towel. He is relocating to Austria because of gentrification. Here is the coverage in The New York Times. Will the current residents of Jersey City who want to do it their way leave for locations like Mexico. There entrepreneurial activity has no best practices. The hungry just jump in.
Had I not learned survival on the streets of Jersey City I couldn't have stayed in business. Those skills can atrophy amid affluence.
The hard cold world of business had effectively humanized itself by leveraging symbolism related to the ordinary lives of people. In America, a universal symbol was the dream of home ownership. Added on were the right to a college education for one's children, safe communities and a happy retirement.
That was then. With the ongoing fragmentation of social values, financial objectives and institutional trust, no symbol remains universal. For example, alluding to home ownership in a speech might trigger puzzled looks or even pained expressions. Having been through so many rounds of special assessments, even the notion of owning a condo doesn't sit well with me.
The speechwriter or ghostwriter has to research what evokes positive emotion in that particular audience or target markets. That takes more than simply interviewing those in the loop. If the talk is being delivered in a subsidized senior citizen development in an urban area which is nearby, walk around those streets, talk to the people and stop for coffee. Soon enough what we uncover is fear. Lots of it. The categories range from inflation eating into fixed income to the onset of dementia. Yes, introduce the topic of fear itself and propose solutions for reducing it.
But the fear meme will only be effective if it's a perfect fit for the speaker. She may be the Chief Financial Officer, uncomfortable with topics embedded with emotion. Therefore, the talk would have to be focused on the math senior citizens have to deal with daily and in the longer term.
The role of business speechwriter and ghostwriter is more difficult in 2014. There is such diversity in symbols and in kinds of executives. We can't assume anything.
Yes, participating in a job interview is a type of public speaking. Yet, no one tells you that you are likely to feel as terrified as if you were delivering a formal speech. So, you assume you are so nervous for the wrong reasons, e.g. not being the best candidate. Also, few agree with you that the situation is high stakes.
You are right to approach the job interview with the same seriousness, willingness to practice and to solicit feedback from others as do keynote speakers. Here are four tips:
Research. The more you know about the organization and the interviewer the more you can anticipate the questions asked, the curve balls thrown and the hostile comments. Regarding the latter, had a lawyer asked around about the small law firm she interviewed at she wouldn't have been thrown - and unable to respond - to a series of mean remarks. The firm is known for its lack of social skills. Since jobs are scarce in the downsizing legal sector, this person wanted the job. Her regret was that she wasn't able to neutralize accusations that she had had too many jobs in her career. She could have explained how much more she had learned from the diverse settings than she would have in any single job.
Tell the story they want to hear. Interviewers usually have a set idea about the professional they will hire. The trick is to figure out that composite and then present yourself as it. You are not there to present yourself. You are there to align with what they have in mind.
How do find out what their ideal candidate is? Read between the lines on the help wanted. For example, it will be obvious that they want you to work all the time. Let them know in the interview you are all-work, whenever. Also, ask around about the organization's culture. It may be conservative. You present yourself as totally buttoned-down. Read third-party reports on the organization.
Hold the personality. The era of personality is over. Organizations need a warm body to do X task. End of story. Yes, present yourself as friendly and enthusiastic. But leave it at that. There are exceptions, of course. One would be if you are applying for a sales position.
Mirror. The fundamental of selling anything, including yourself for a job, is to simulate the ethos of the organization and the interviewer. If it's Millennial cool, you will present yourself in a casual manner. If the interviewer speaks fast you will pick up speed in your normal pace.
A lot of this you can find out by research before the interview. Once there, do a quick scan of the waiting room, the interview room and the person conducting the interview. Then adjust everything from tone of voice to body language to click in the pieces.
As with delivering speeches, the more interviews you do the more skilled you will become. That's why it's useful to apply for just about anything in order to access interviewing experience. If you continually strike out, you could ask the interviewer for candid feedback on what you could have done better. I did that with the executive director of a non-profit in central Connecticut. She took me out to lunch and brought along the first client for my business. Caringly but firmly she told me I should be an entrepreneur, not an employee.
It's intuitive. Those of us in communications got it that those framing whatever in terms of "healing" were limiting the reach of their message. After being bashed as individual human beings and an economy since 9/11, we are plum weary of being told to heal, how to do that and our responsibility for helping others do it. Also, face it, dynamic leaders such as JFK didn't talk about healing. Their meme was building.
The healing space is easy to get stuck in. And, indeed many who have become comfortable with that terminology are indeed stuck. The response to them ranges from glaze-over to flight.
Instead of healing, frame conversations with messages of resilience. We can see the world in terms of poor wounded me, I have been through so much or what a trooper I am, making it through all that.
Through my own experience hustling for clients and in coaching presentation skills among job hunters I know this: We have to invest time in doing the cover letter right. "Right" means creating a narrative that aligns with the poster's idea of the perfect professional to do that job. Of course, that requires analyzing the specifications to uncover that wish list. Then we have to show that we are indeed that pro.
The trick is to make a judgment call: Do I want such-and-such an opportunity enough to put in the legwork? Yesterday on Mediabistro.com there was a help-wanted ad which demanded doing plenty of homework and thinking. For example, we would have to surf the web to identify and find sites which were models of the kinds of writing the poster wanted. Then we would have had to provide quite a few topics for possible articles. The laundry list of requirements didn't end there.
A Millennial I coach asked me: Is this worth the time? There is no absolute answer to that. Everything depends on how much you want the opportunity. Also, you need a good scam-detector. The poster might just be fishing for ideas, free. If the name of the organization is given, the possibility that it's a scam is lower. If the whole enchilada seems to walk, talk and smell scammy, report the poster to the website.
In short, finding work takes work. You gotta get shrewd about which seeming opportunities to make it your business to showcase your edge.
Personal branding. Decades ago, that's what Tom Peters (Millennials probably never heard of him) hammered was necessary, no matter what professional setting we operated in: Organizational, self-employed or startup.
At the time, Peters was right. We had to have a way to differentiate ourselves from our colleagues and competition. And the meme caught on to the extent that those doing the hiring or buying bought into it. Somehow, maybe it was affluence, we doing the selling got away with pitching, "My personal branding is _________."
Now, if we're savvy or been banged up enough by this turbulent economy, we don't dare introduce the concept of personal branding. Sure, there are still powerful personal brands out there: Journalist Michael Wolff, lawyer David Boies, politico Hillary Clinton and corporate leader Mark Zuckerberg. They can leverage all those wonderful attributes which once branding embodied. That's them.
When we go after something it has to be in real time with an explanation of our real edge, outcomes we have already achieved and the strategies for how to achieve them for the employer, client or investor. That's the new script.
Actually, I learned that by accident. I was pitching to do the copywriting for an app. The whole thing, including creating banner ads, was new to me. So, I had to figure out how to present myself. That's when the epiphany happened: That team wants to sell more of its apps, not generate a premium brand or have content in its marketing communications which wins awards. I went in and explained how what I would do for them would generate leads. Then we could convert them into sales. I got the assignment. From then on, no more personal branding memes in my own marketing communications.
Is branding itself dead? No. It will also exist to make it easier in B2C and B2B for buyers to choose when it comes to big-ticket items, ranging from a college education (Harvard or the state university) to real estate (town of Greenwich or Milford, Connecticut).
But when it comes down to the invidual player, that game has ended. We are what we provide buyers of our services today. Not yesterday. Not tomorrow.
If you keep up with media, you already know that loneliness can shorten your life. Here Huffington Post presents the research on that.
But loneliness also is probably killing your career. The reason why is this: You talk too much in professional contexts. The brass, colleagues, customers and clients glaze over. They want out of that force field. And you talk too much in business because you have no or not enough human outlets to share your thoughts and feelings with socially and in intimate relationships.
Being too chatty was never welcome professionally. Those of us who were verbose who were lucky got clued into the need to eliminate that behavior during our performance reviews. At Chevron, Bill Cox framed it diplomatically as "being more reserved." Currently, with an accelerated rate of change in the work world, no one can bear it. As with Hamlet, they lament, "Words, words words." This inability to put up with too much talk has seeped into daily interaction. Given the horrific weather in the Northeast, in my complex we often shut down the verbose, bluntly.
How to stop the excessive talk? Genius about human relations Dale Carnegie trained losers to develop a sincere interest in others. The game was to get the others to speak and to listen intently. Not only does that shift in behavior get us ahead professionally. It makes friends. Jumpstarting a career or one's own business can be as simple as asking others questions that compliment and elicit conversation about themselves. An example? "That slacks and jacket for work seem so comfortable, yet professional. How did you learn to put that together?"
No fools, executives know the power of connecting with constituencies through empathy. That lesson became obvious when Bill Clinton told voters how he felt their pain and got elected, despite scandals. Then empathy's dynamics have been explained by researchers who observed the operation of mirror neurons. Yes, we are wired to respond to each other. We do feel each other's pain. That's why we cringe when speakers shame themselves with stale content or cliche wit.
However, the empathy tactic involves risk. The executive bringing home $24 million annually can't really feel the pain of a middle-class couple struggling to hold onto their house. That's because they assume the executive has never been in that pickle. If he or she had, then such must be disclosed. "When I was a child, my parents lost their farm ..."
Another risk is that the audience doesn't want the speaker to share their pain. They find that intrusive. When a state senator in Pennsylvania canned me, he showed he felt my pain by holding my shoulders. How dare he, I thought. I never forgave the guy or his circle.
"I'm thinking about relocating to Mexico." That's what my rooted (her two daughter are in New Haven, Connecticut) neighbor told me today. Both of us were walking our dogs amidst the Polar Vortex. We frequently grocery shop together so we knew each other's high food bills. Creative types who have lived here and there on planet earth, we knew we could make a life and a living elsewhere.
I had researched the two and found that, from what I know of her income, she couldn't afford Mexico. For foreigners it requires about $2,500 in sources of income monthly. The last time I checked, we could live okay in Ecuador for $700 a month and healthcare would run us less than about $100 monthly. In addition, I tutored her about what I was learning about the cost of living in Tuscon, Arizona. Yes, the afternoons were hot but the mornings and evenings were fine.
Of course, we are not alone in questioning if being in the Northeast is worth the whatevers. Connecticut, for example, is losing population. Today a woman whose family is helping her move into this complex from North Carolina said to me, "I am wondering if I made a mistake. I didn't expect this kind of bone-chilling cold weather."
With telecommuting, so many of the growing number of contract workers like myself never see prospects or clients. I haven't been in Manhattan on business in two years. Although the business did well in terms of revenues in 2013, there were only two face-to-face meetings with prospects and clients. One was in Massachusetts and the other in New Hampshire.
Thanks to smartphones and email addresses, the relocation of the business would be seamless. Most clients use Paypal so there wouldn't even be a slow-down in the arrival of checks.
Those in or heading into the upper reaches of the economy have a reason to be on the East Coast. Daily they hop Metro-North from Connecticut for the long day in Manhattan. That's them. For more and more of us in the middle class there is simply not enough actual payoff or potential.