Monday, December 18, 2023

"How to Get Out of a Rut at Work" Webinars Coming in January 2024

You’ve been in your job for some time now. Perhaps you’ve been promoted. Other exciting professional development opportunities have come your way. But recently—not so many. Your daily routine has become drudgery. You watch the clock, looking forward to your lunch break and the end of the working day. You know you’re good at your job. You earn the praise of your supervisors.  But you’re bored and find few challenges to keep the spark you once had for your profession alive. Simply put, you feel stuck. You’re in a rut, and you’re at a loss as to how to escape it short of finding a new job (and that’s often easier said than done).

But all is not lost. Many of us at one point or another in our careers find ourselves in similar circumstances. Fortunately, we have options for identifying and learning from them. We do so by applying time-tested strategies to reinvigorate our work and life. In other words, the passion and enthusiasm we once had can return if we take action.

I'll discuss the positive steps we can take to get out of a professional rut in two webinars I'm delivering in January 2024 for PCI Webinars. To learn more about the content of these webinars, go here or contact me. 

Tuesday, September 19, 2023

The Importance of Greeting (and Being Greeted)

Here I stand behind the registration table for the weekly meeting of the Rotary Club of Monterey. For the last year, I’ve been delighted to have the opportunity to serve in this role (and similar ones).  Why? I consider it vitally important to greet attendees, members and newcomers, alike.

There’s nothing like a warm hello, and even a handshake, when you enter the setting of a group meeting. It signals you’re among friends. Your presence matters. People appreciate your attendance.

A newcomer to the group benefits as well. Perhaps the person knows no one at the meeting. It’s difficult to walk into a room of complete strangers. Despite my outgoing nature, I often find it difficult. An enthusiastic and warm greeting when I arrive provides an instantaneous personal connection. It converts my anxiety and fear about being brand new into a warm feeling. I know I am welcome. I know the group is happy to have me.  The likelihood I’m going to enjoy the gathering increases. The likelihood I’ll attend again in the future does as well.

Regardless of the occasion or context, we can always spare at least one person to greet arriving individuals. The benefits--a more engaged and enthusiastic group of attendees--make it worthwhile.

Friday, September 15, 2023

How to Reach out (and Connect!) with People You Don't Know on LinkedIn

In response to the uptick in requests to connect on LinkedIn from people I don't know (and who don't know me), I humbly offer the following four step process to members of the community with the hope they'll use it to increase the likelihood of making such connections actually happen.

To start, let's say you've identified a person you want to connect to on LinkedIn.

STEP ONE: Read their profile.

STEP TWO: Get clear about why you want to connect.

STEP THREE: Communicate clearly and directly your reasons for wanting to connect.

STEP FOUR (part of step three, but worth mentioning separately as it's most important): Communicate why it would be mutually beneficial for the two of you to connect.

You'll want to combine steps three and four in your introductory message to the individual. In other words, avoid simply sending an invitation to connect without any explanation (or a vague one, such as "I want to network with you" or "you look like an interesting person.")

Most people who reach out to me haven't read my profile. Those that have may know why they want to connect with me, but are neither clear nor direct in their communication. So I decline the vast majority of requests to connect from people I don't know (or who don't know me).

It doesn't have to be this way. My hope is that the process I've outlined here can help elevate the quality of these efforts to connect, which in turn can make LinkedIn ever more rewarding.

Wednesday, August 30, 2023

Article on Work-Integrated Learning the in Public Relations Campaigns Course

I recently had an article published on the public relations campaigns course as an example of work-integrated learning. You can view the article here

The article identifies the many challenges faculty face when they invite outside organizations to work with students on course-related projects. While my piece focuses on one course (which I taught over a period of fifteen years), I draw on 25 years of experience in engaging organizations outside the university and pairing them with my students. I describe such opportunities to my students as "real work, for real clients." I aim to continue writing and publishing on this topic, given how near and dear to my heart it is.

Thursday, July 20, 2023

All Questions Are Good Questions

I often hear presenters and educators label questions as "excellent," "insightful," or  "thoughtful." I cannot help but wonder how these individuals would describe questions that do not merit a label at all. They'd never call them out as "stupid" or "obvious," but do they believe that? And how is the audience member to feel when they're question doesn't earn praise from the speaker?

As an educator, I want questions. I need questions. I rely on them to get a sense of what's going on in my classes. For example, if a student in a course has a question about an assignment I need to revisit my instructions.  If students ask about topics I may not have planned to include in the course, perhaps I need to do so at some point. That may be now or in future iterations of the course.

That's why I consider all questions as good questions. And I don't need to label them as such. 

Thursday, January 5, 2023

When "I Don't Feel Like It" Isn't Acceptable

I recently read Seth Godin's book The Practice. It's chock full of practical advice.  Anyone grappling with the challenges of being "creative" will find it useful.

As I read the book I came to recognize that I haven't written as much as I'd like to over the last year. Why? I can offer lots of excuses. I taught a lot. I advised several students completing theses and related projects. I took on other work and volunteer projects. I joined the Rotary Club of Monterey. I commuted two hours from my home to my workplace. Blah blah blah. The list could go on and on.

What I told myself was, "I'm best in the morning. It's when my thinking is clearest. So, if I don't write in the morning it's not worth my time." I'm referring to blog posts, book reviews, and other academic works. 

Godin's primary point is that a practice such as writing demands we commit to it. We need to show up for it regularly. The practice itself matters, not any specific outcome. You have to produce a lot of work--a lot of ideas--in order to produce good material. No one can or should expect to succeed every time out. 

In other words, we cannot wait for inspiration. "I don't feel like it" isn't an excuse if we're truly committed to our practice.

I've taken Godin's insights to heart. I'm setting out this year to "create" more. That means writing, although I'm not limiting myself. Posting more regularly here will be one measure of my ability to live up to this commitment. 

Wednesday, December 21, 2022

When Meeting Someone New, Ask for Their Preferred Name

My first name is Mitchell. That's my legal name, and what I wish to be called. Not Mitch. I've never used "Mitch" in my life. As a result, I often find myself correcting individuals who shorten my name. 

I'm not alone in having to deal with assumptions about my first name. For example, take someone given the name "Robert" at birth. That person may wish to be called "Robert." Or he may prefer to be called "Bob" or "Bobby" or "Robbie." And that doesn't even take into consideration different spellings or pronunciations. 

The bottom line is that you can never assume someone's given first name is what they prefer to use. More often than not, it isn't. So you'd best never assume. Ask them what they prefer to be called. I've found that such an effort is always appreciated. 

Tuesday, January 25, 2022

A Professional Nickname that Speaks to My Brand (Boots on the Ground)

Here's the final post in my series on professional nicknames that helped give me insight into my personal "brand." 

By way of background, I don't like using military analogies to describe non-military matters. I believe it disrespects, and even trivializes, what happens in war. That said, I was touched to be given the nickname "boots on the ground" by a faculty member at one school where I served as a Dean. 

This person observed me at an event, bustling about, tending to everything from the placement of name tags on the registration table to cleaning up after the event ended. Smiling, she commented, "Mitchell, no task is too small for you, and no detail too trivial. You really get things done--whatever that is. You're our boots on the ground--making sure what needs to get done gets done, often by pitching in and not simply leading by fiat."

In my own words, "I "get s**** done." Talk alone only goes so far. All the plans in the world don't amount to much if someone isn't willing to take action--doing anything and everything necessary to complete a project, hold an event, etc. That, to me, is the meaning of "boots on the ground," and I'm proud now to share that nickname with you as yet another element of my personal "brand."

Monday, January 24, 2022

A Professional Nickname That Speaks to My Brand (The Velvet Whip)

To continue my intermittent series on professional nicknames that have helped me to better understand my personal "brand," consider the following scenario and how it gave rise to yet another professional nickname.

I was a communications consultant for a mid-size non-profit AIDS organization in the early 2000s. They served a specific LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender) population, and by virtue of their mission inclusivity was fundamental to every aspect of their work. That meant great effort was taken to ensure that everyone had a voice in matters large and small--including some of the work product I was responsible for producing.

This emphasis on inclusiveness meant that producing documents representing the agency took more time and effort than at other organizations. I needed to both encourage participation and move the process along, lest what I was responsible for not get done.

And things did get done--specifically, the agency's first brochure and annual report. I had to counter my own sense of urgency (and impatience) with every ounce of dedication I felt to this organization and its mission. I was delighted that we were able to complete the projects, on time and under budget. But I was even more delighted with the feedback I received from the then Executive Director at a midpoint in the process.

"Mitchell, you really understand us. You've taken great pains to solicit input on your projects, while at the same time staying on us to meet deadlines imposed by our funder. You've done so with a deft touch. You're the velvet whip."

The velvet whip, indeed. I'm someone who can get things done with a persistent but gentle touch. And so you understand yet another nickname that highlights an aspect of my personal "brand."

Friday, January 21, 2022

A Professional Nickname That Speaks to My Brand (Meat Thermometer)

A recent blog post discussed professional nicknames as cues about one's personal brand. I've had three such nicknames. Here's the background on the first one: meat thermometer.

Yes--someone I worked for said I was like a meat thermometer. Yes--it was meant as a compliment. More importantly, the comment helped crystalize my thinking about one of my strengths--and, therefore, a critical component of what I like to think of as my "brand." Let me explain. 

I worked at a public relations agency for two and a half years.  I look back on the experience with fondness, even while acknowledging it was a difficult place to work. The owner had a habit of coming down hard on employees who he thought weren't delivering the results he believed were possible. The pressure was intense. We worked long hours and turnover was high. 

I got to know well most of my colleagues during my two and half years at this agency. I heard about their challenges in working with clients, supervisors and colleagues. I was very social, and became known as such--which was accompanied by a quick (and occasionally sarcastic) wit that ruffled some feathers.

Little did I know my socializing had been noticed, and favorably so. The co-owner of the company, who alternated between being personable and difficult, approached me one day as I poured myself a cup of coffee. "Mitchell," she stated, "how is it going? How is everyone doing? What's the general mood like here?" I didn't know how to respond, much less whether it would be wise to do so. l remained silent.

She continued: "Mitchell, I ask you because I know you know what's going on. You have a sense of what morale is like. You know what people are thinking. You have a keen understanding of our agency and its culture. You're like a meat thermometer."

I answered her questions to the best of my ability, and then turned away, aghast at this new moniker. A meat thermometer measures the internal temperature of meat and other cooked foods, letting the chef know whether they're ready and safe to consume. I couldn't fathom how that in any way described who I was.  

Many years later, long after I left the agency, I came to understand the real meaning of my "meat thermometer" nickname. 

I saw I indeed had a knack for understanding what was really going on in that organization, and in most of those I've worked for since as an employee and consultant. I listened and observed, noting what was said as well as what went unsaid. I can "read" situations--whether in an organization, group, or a classroom, and based on that insight, could respond accordingly. It remains hard for me to put into words this skill, or gift, as I like to think of it, even to this day. I just have a feel for what's going on beneath the surface in groups and organizations. In short, I'm grateful for the third party observation that enabled me to zero in on this ability and to understand a critical element in my brand as an educator and consultant.

So you may continue to call me the "meat thermometer."