Category Archives: career guidance

Learn How Much You Don’t Know


In 2009, I participated in the St. Louis Public Relations Society chapter’s training program for PR certification. I attended sessions all over town and gathered knowledge and wisdom from a number of PR pros. I picked up and studied the suggested textbook. Yes, I learned a lot. I was unaware of the full scope of public relations. I realized I didn’t know as much as I thought I knew.

Last month I took a course in Web Analytics at University of Missouri/St. Louis (UMSL). As a result, I am now certified in Google Analytics. I learned how analytics can reveal a wealth of information about traffic to websites. In addition to exercises on the Google dashboard, I had the chance to use Adobe’s Omniture analytics setup.

I may not be ready to be a lead analyst, but I now know enough to be a contributing team member. After completing the course, though, I realize there is much more about web analytics that I still do not know.

Even More To Learn!

This month I took a Social Media Strategies course at UMSL. I am now a Hootsuite Certified Professional.

I’ve been a Facebook admin and have used Hootsuite Pro for several years. Although I knew a lot about social media going in, the course revealed many areas I had not ventured into. I learned new ways that Hootsuite can help me and my clients. I gained insight about best practices for Facebook and Instagram. Again, I learned how much I did not know and how much more there is to be learned.

It feels good when you receive significant enlightenment or have an “aha” moment. My younger kids, both digital natives, have given me useful computer tips, generally without condescension. But every time they share, I am also made aware of how much I don’t know. Always and forever, there is so much to learn.




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What Have You Done For Me Lately?

Have you ever had a client praise you for your good works and outcomes and then, within weeks or months, decide to end your working agreement? Have you ever brought in positive measurable results in a job only to have, shortly thereafter, your employment terminated?

Circumstances change. Budgets get reassessed. Ownerships/partnerships are revised. Measurable results can go south. Clients/employers find candidates they think can do the job better. Or cheaper.

In 2016, more than at any point in my lifetime, it is a “what have you done for me lately?” world in business. A college basketball coach takes leads a team to two straight conference titles. He wins awards! Heaping accolades roll in! Then he has two losing seasons. Goodbye, coach!

I have lost jobs when I was performing at my best and delivering strong measurable results, but my superiors thought someone else could do the job better. (OR just as well, for much less money.)

It happens. Unless your parents own the company or you have an ownership stake, you can be bounced from any gig. Even if, just recently, you were golden. How should you deal with this uncertainty?

  1. Perform at a high level always. Don’t coast.
  2. Make sure the person or persons you report to are aware of all the good outcomes you deliver. Don’t assume they know.
  3. Note that even if you do good work, consultants, corporate types and fellow managers can suggest to your boss/client that your talents may not be as valuable as earlier believed.
  4. Celebrate your wins as they occur. Next time the outcomes may not be so rosy.
  5. Always be thinking about your next work situation. When someone extends a feeler, don’t brush it off. Listen and ask questions. There may be something better out there for you now.
  6. Keep your resume, portfolio and LinkedIn profile updated. You may be, as Sinatra sings, “ridin’ high in April, shot down in May.”
  7. Negotiate employment contracts carefully. Many are one-sided, favoring the employer/client. Make sure there are protections for you in the deal, just in case.
  8. If you are an “HCE” (highly compensated employee), be aware that you may be particularly vulnerable when budgets are slashed.
  9. Don’t get overly attached emotionally to any job. Things change.
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What YOU Can Learn From Nick Saban

saban book

A new biography of Alabama’s head football coach Nick Saban provides a portrait of a man who is intense and driven. Saban: The Making of a Coach by Monte Burke provides lessons we can take from Saban’s career and apply them to our own professional lives.

Over-prepare. In addition to making sure his teams are familiar with opponents’ tendencies, Saban’s year-round conditioning program for players assures that his teams do not run out of gas in the fourth quarter. As described in the book, each time Saban would meet with a potential new employer, he arrived with a yellow legal pad full of notes, which allowed him to demonstrate his understanding of the employer’s needs. How well do you prepare for important meetings and interviews?

Network. The universe of football coaches is a small one, as it is with many specialized professions. Still, it pays to establish and maintain strong relationships with select industry colleagues, work your best connections and stay informed about jobs that may soon open up.

Don’t hold grudges. Saban’s current offensive coordinator at Alabama is Lane Kiffin who was a less-than-friendly opponent when he was head coach at Tennessee a few years back. Later, when Kiffin was not working, Saban recognized Kiffin’s ability and brought him aboard. With Kiffin running the offense, Alabama had a good season in 2014. Would you be willing to work with a former nemesis?

Focus on “the process.” Saban teaches players to take care of the fundamental elements and not focus on the end result. In other words, work on blocking, tackling, running, passing, catching and positioning correctly and scoring opportunities will come. This may be impossible in your business, but, at times, concentrating on each small task within a large project may help you reach your goal more efficiently.

Trust your spouse. Loyalty to an organization is a good thing, but your family’s needs should be your top priority. Coach Saban’s wife Terry, who married him before he was famous, has provided input and necessary nudges along the way to help keep his career in motion. Is your spouse/partner involved in your career development (and are you involved in his/hers)?

When changes occur, make adjustments. After opposing coaches complained about Saban’s huge number of visits to high schools his recruiting targets attended, the NCAA prohibited those visits. Now Saban visits those recruits via video conferencing, which is within the rules. Are you able to adapt when changes come?

As a University of Alabama grad and a lifelong Crimson Tide fan, I am happy that Nick Saban has been able to straighten out a football program that had gone off the rails. Beyond merely getting things in order, he has also won three national championships at Bama.

Thanks to Saban hater Daniel Tosh, who alerted me to the Saban bio in a hilarious segment on Tosh.0 on Comedy Central. Click HERE to view the Tosh bit. (Why the hate? Tosh is a Miami Dolphins fan. Saban ditched the Dolphins after two seasons to come to Alabama.)

Saban with trophy

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Perfectionists, Give It Up!

DaliBeing a perfectionist is a tough path to follow. I know. I am a recovering perfectionist.

I have never achieved perfection, but have often thought that I could do things just a little bit better. I have occasionally been annoyed when co-workers did not share my commitment to perfectionism. This desire for perfection has led to much frustration.

Obsessing over details that are only slightly significant can sometimes cause one to overlook the big picture issues. Getting the basics right is much more important than those tiny details which may not matter as much as you might believe.

A big problem with perfectionism is the resistance to acknowledge any criticism, constructive or otherwise. During my lengthy perfectionist period, if I regarded my work as being perfect (or close to it), any second-guessing could cause me to respond defensively. Taking pride in one’s work is important, but refusing to accept any feedback about it can be counterproductive.

Working in a team situation is particularly difficult for perfectionists. The perfectionist may see input from any non-perfectionists as not useful. If one’s work is perfect, how can anyone else on the team possibly improve it?

If you are a perfectionist, give it up. You will never make it. Realize that nobody is perfect. Best selling books have typos. Network news anchors stumble over words. The top quarterbacks throw bad passes.

Do your best. Check your work. Strive for accuracy. Tend to details. But realize that you will make an occasional mistake. If you’re human, it’s going to happen.

If you can learn from your mistakes and avoid repeating them, you will be a better performer and a better person.

(During Summer 2015 I am revisiting some earlier posts. This one was originally shared in December 2011.)

How To Be Likeable


PR pros spend much of their time working to get various publics to like a person, a product, an organization or an idea—and not just a Facebook “like.” But how much effort do you put into making yourself likeable?

If the people you interact with like you, they will be more likely to take your call or open your email. Being likeable might help you keep your job at budget trimming time. Yes, performance and production matter. And likeability alone won’t keep you employed if you’re not doing the work.

How can you make people like you? Here are some ideas.

  1. Contribute to the workplace scene. Does that mean bring in doughnuts once a week? Maybe. Offer a positive attitude and try to really care about your co-workers on a personal basis as well as a professional basis. Be a good listener. I have also heard that people who have candy on their desk for co-workers to share have better job security.
  2. Share credit for success. You’ve seen Oscar winners. Some are thanking a long list because they feel they have to, but most winners know that they are a part of a team. When you complete a major project or make a big sale, you don’t necessarily have to thank your mother and father, but offer appreciation to those who helped. If you did it by yourself, credit the guy who designed the software that helped you accomplish what you did.
  3. Say hello. Don’t snub people. Compliment people.
  4. Give people nicknames. To me, this seems like an affectation—something I would not do—but I know people who do it and, at least partly because of that habit, are well liked. If it feels comfortable for you, and you can give good nicknames, you may want to give it a shot.
  5. Be funny. Okay, how do you become instantly funny? Steal. Repeat something you heard on TV or read online that made you chuckle. But know when to stop and know where the line is between clever and smartass/dirty. If you cross over to the smartass/dirty side, your act will quickly get old.
  6. Can the whining.

Great! I like you better already!


(During Summer 2015 I am revisiting some earlier posts. This one was originally shared in May 2012.)




Your Job Does Not Define You


It happened last week and it will happen again today. A person who loves her or his job, has performed well and is well liked by coworkers will be terminated. The reason for the termination is not important. What matters is how the person handles the situation.

When you lose a job, you spend time wondering what you did wrong. Did you say something or do something that you shouldn’t have? Should you have seen it coming? Was a certain remark a few months ago intended to serve as a warning?

You may wonder about your identity. All the folks in the neighborhood, at church, at the gym, etc. have known you as “the web design lady” or “the medical supplies guy.” When you’re unemployed, you may feel unworthy of any such designation. You may begin to doubt your talent in your chosen field. That former coworker you considered a good friend may not have time to return your calls. Your self-esteem can take a big hit.

Here is a reminder that you are not defined by your employment. Maybe you wore a shirt with your company’s name on it. Maybe your name is on that “employee of the month” plaque in the break room. Maybe you worked all weekend several times for this organization to get projects completed. Remember that your employment was, is and will be a business relationship.

Being committed to your job is a good thing. Going the extra mile to bring success to the company can help you climb the corporate ladder. Loyalty to an organization and its mission is admirable. But remember that any company can and will make personnel decisions as needed. Those decisions are based on current and future situations, not on what was happening in 2006.

Your value as a human is not defined by what you do and whom you work for. Look at all the people who have successfully made career changes in the last decade. Look at all the people who have transitioned away from jobs they hated to radically different jobs they love. They know who they are as people, not just as employees.

On my Twitter profile, I list myself as a “St. Louis morning radio host now doing PR and Marketing.” Some people in town still know me better as a morning radio guy than as a PR guy. That line tells what work I did and now do.

No matter what work I am doing, I am still who I am, with all my own personality, quirks and flaws. Likewise, you are who you are. You job may be a big part of your life, but don’t let it define you.

(During Summer 2015, I am revisiting some posts from previous years. This item was originally posted in December 2012.)







Advice For Recent Graduates

grad cap

As you make your way into the world, consider these suggestions:

  1. The best way to improve your writing is… to write! Write a lot. You will need good writing skills whatever your career path. And, as you work on writing, work also on editing. Writing clearly and concisely is vital.
  2. Take the opportunity to meet people in your chosen field. Don’t just visit with people your own age. Don’t just talk to the attractive people.
  3. Be flexible. You may not land the job of your dreams anytime soon, if ever. But you may find that what’s available is far better than you could’ve imagined.
  4. Improve your tech skills. You are a digital native, so dealing with the digital world is instinctive for you. Learn how to shoot good video and how to edit and post what you shoot. Learn the basics of web development. New platforms and techniques will emerge, but if you have a good foundation, you will be better able to quickly adapt.
  5. Archive your work. If it’s all on a laptop, back it up to an external drive. The laptop could disappear or be dropped or could simply fail. Blog posts will likely stay around, but other web content you’ve authored can vanish at any time.
  1. Don’t be timid. This may be my most important piece of advice. It can be hard to ask someone to hire you, to ask someone to go out on a date with you or to ask your parents for money. Just do it. Even if they say “no” the first time, they may say “yes” later.
  2. If a relative or two gives you a copy of the Dr. Seuss book Oh, the Places You’ll Go, just smile and say thank you. “Places” is a classic gift for grads, although I’d recommend instead the more useful You Can Negotiate Anything by Herb Cohen.
  3. Start putting some money into a retirement plan as soon as you start earning a paycheck. Age 60 is a long way away, but the earlier you start putting aside some cash, the more you’ll have when you get there. Even if you’re paying off a huge student loan tab, sock some away.
  4. Call your mom and dad every now and then. They may or may not want to micromanage your life, but they’d still like to know what’s going on. Keep them in the loop.
  5. Enjoy your life and don’t whine too much, okay?

(During Summer 2015 I am revisiting several of my posts from previous years. These suggestions were originally posted in May 2012. I had recently shared many of those thoughts with an attentive group of students that spring in a PR class at Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville.)

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Important Career Lessons From Jay and Conan

War Late Night

This weekend I read Bill Carter’s 2010 book The War For Late Night. It tells the story of NBC’s colossal mishandling of two of its most important talents, Jay Leno and Conan O’Brien.

Jay and Conan’s jobs at NBC were extraordinary but their stories contain important lessons for all employees.

  1. Promises made may not be kept. If you are told that a promotion or perk awaits you a few years down the road—even if you have it in writing—circumstances can change. New bosses, new ownership, new competitive situations.
  2. If your employer asks you to sign a personal services/non-compete agreement, consult an attorney. Read the agreement carefully before you sign. An important element that was in Jay’s contract and another one that was not in Conan’s help set up the 2009-2010 NBC programming debacle.
  3. Have realistic, reasonable goals. Conan was so focused on getting the Tonight Show gig that he chose not to accept lucrative offers from competitors and, instead, to sit tight at NBC for five years waiting for Jay to exit.
  4. Friendships are good but money triumphs. Several formerly warm relationships became nasty during the course of this whole episode.
  5. A position achieved is not an entitlement. It is a job. Once you attain a level of success you have to perform to maintain the position.
  6. Input from management may OR MAY NOT be useful. Jay constructed his primetime show elements as directed from above, which was a mistake. Conan ignored guidance to make his version of Tonight Show less quirky, more mainstream—also a mistake.
  7. Be open to change if you wish to remain employed. Jay was. Conan was not.




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Do It Different Day

Golf balls

A morning radio team I knew a few years ago in Philadelphia had their daily benchmarks that listeners could expect to hear every day at the same time. Such as: Joke of the Day at 7:15, Trivia Game at 7:45, Show Biz News at 8:15, etc.

Occasionally they would have a “Do It Different Day” with their regular bits running at different times. This served 2 purposes. It exposed regular listeners to daily content they may have missed (because it generally aired before they left home or after they got to work). And it relieved monotony for the hosts!

Could you use a “Do It Different Day”? Even if your work has new challenges every day, it’s easy to get into a rut. Even if you have a job that utilizes your creativity, the predictable patterns involved in checking off your daily list can grow stale.

By varying your daily routine, you may be able to stimulate new ideas and develop new ways to solve problems. Do it different. Drink tea instead of coffee. Make calls from somewhere other than your defined workspace. Invite someone from beyond your usual network to lunch. Stand instead of sit.

I attended the Alumni Hall of Fame induction event this weekend for Parkway School District in suburban St. Louis. (One of my clients was among the inductees.) Many of those honored thanked teachers and coaches for allowing them to think outside the box, for allowing them to make mistakes, for encouraging creativity.

When we are young (high school and college age), many of us have a natural desire to deviate from the norm. I know I always appreciated teachers who gave me a bit of latitude.

Our experiences in the workday world typically lead us to establish and maintain day-to-day structure, which is a good thing. But some days it can feel good to do it different. (Differently, to be grammatically correct.)

Wear shoes that are not in your regular rotation. Listen to comedy instead of the news in the morning. (A half hour of Jim Gaffigan on Spotify might revise your outlook.) Unless you’re doing social for clients, stay off Facebook all day. Okay, that last one might be too radical, but you get the idea. Shake it up.

(photo credit:, Nina Matthews Photography,,

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One Thing Leads To Another

My dad worked for the same company from age 19 to age 60. For many baby boomers, a job with certain companies like IBM grew into a lifelong tenure with the same organization.

It doesn’t work that way now. A permanent job is a rare thing. Anyone who works for someone else knows that her/his job can disappear. Anyone who works for someone else knows that it’s wise to listen when another offer is discussed.

Robert Frost’s poem The Road Not Taken, a metaphor for choices we make in life, hints that it may be good to take the one less traveled. Sometimes we choose not to accept opportunities that are not appealing or immediately rewarding. We may be intimidated because the road is unfamiliar.

But, as the song says, one thing leads to another. Maybe we should give these less attractive opportunities more consideration. I think sometimes about jobs I turned down because of location, money or extenuating circumstances. While not second guessing my career decisions, I know that certain opportunities might’ve opened new doors for me, leading to desirable situations further down the line.

If you accept something new and different and it doesn’t work out as planned (or doesn’t directly lead to something better), you try to move on to something that offers more promise. There are no more lifelong work commitments. (Although there are contracts and non-compete agreements.)

Physical roads not taken can now be seen on Google Street View. And metaphorical untraveled roads can often be scoped out via online reviews and forums.

Whichever roads you choose, think beyond immediate outcomes. Look ahead to those destinations further down the road.


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