Life, Marketing/PR

Unemployment sucks. A guide to helping folks through it.

unemployment sucks

Three months ago, my job ended. I feel ashamed and embarrassed. I loved the company, the CEO, my team, the work I was doing and completely thought I would retire there. So when I “wasn’t the right fit,” I was shocked, disappointed, and bummed! I mean, I have furniture and rugs in my farm house purchased with award money for doing such great work just a few weeks earlier…I don’t get it.

But let me tell you, unemployment sucks. I’m not good at it either. For instance, to collect unemployment, you have to put in three applications a week, so I do eight and get told I’m spamming the system. Apparently, my over achieving personality makes me get rejected automatically for putting in too many (smh). So, I focus in and really work on 3 special jobs. I literally spend like 4 to 6 hours on each – researching, rewriting my resume with all the key terms that match (you know to get into the automated systems), writing and rewriting pithy cover letters and completing the online application only to get an automated email reply stating they can’t wait to review it, but will only contact if you’re the answer to their dreams. Then crickets.

I try remote, freelancing, job classes from back in the beginning of my career. The only consistent job that keeps coming up is Lyft drivers needed in our area. Oh hey girl, hey…need a ride? Now, don’t get offended, it’s a great, flexible job, but let’s just say I don’t think there are enough hours in the day for me to make the salary I need.

So in all honesty, here’s the truth of where I am at in this unemployment journey and my advice to those not in the journey. Here’s how you can support…or not, you decide. Disclaimer: mom, hubby, close friends and church friends, just work with me here. I’m half jesting and half venting, put down your lecture and rocks. I’ll be ok, promise.

1. Talking about “it”. There are two camps of people, seekers and avoiders. The seeker wants an update, every.single.time….even when there isn’t an update. I love my mom, but do you freaking think I’d not tell you if something came up after nearly four months of this special form of purgatory? Of course there is no update! But thank you for asking (insert sweet smile here). The avoider never asks. Pretends it’s not a thing and if they don’t make eye contact or never sit still, the awkward “it” won’t come up. I’m out of work, not dying or dumb. But thank you for your consideration to my heart.

2. Praying about “it”. I believe in God, I know He has a purpose and plan for me, I am praying and reading every day and most days I am trusting that the right thing will come along. I have sweet, sweet friends and family who are praying for me too and I am so grateful. But, I wouldn’t be honest if I pretended like that was all there was. Sometimes I am not dealing well with it. I’m worried, I’m mad, I feel frustrated and feel a little like I’m stuck in this weird version of Ground Hog Day, except I don’t have a job and I’m not waking up in a hotel. Nope, it’s me and goats, and the dogs, and the chickens in this same day over and over again. Get up, pray, read, look at job boards, look at email, check for requests for interviews, contemplate a lottery ticket. This process is hard and I don’t do “nothing” well. It’s hard, just let it be hard sometimes. It’s ok, I won’t stay there.

3. There, There-ing “it”. I have had an amazing career to date and unbelievable opportunities, teams and companies. I have awesome friends from jobs of the past whom I love dearly. I’m so blessed. But, I have also lost myself and nearly my health in a job, adopted my identity based on what I did at work, lost that identity and had to find a new one and that is jolting. I have done it really wrong and done it really, really right and I usually land on my feet, but it doesn’t come with no sweat off my brow. I know I have talent and mad skills in a variety of scope. Not in a “she’s so fancy, look at me” kind of way, but a confident, I know my stuff. I’m honest and deliver great work, on time and on budget. That’s good, that’s marketable. But I’m shaken. Let me be real for a moment. Don’t there, there me and quiet me so you don’t feel uncomfortable with the truth of where I am. Sometimes I don’t feel like all that and Lord knows the hiring process is not one that builds self-esteem. But, I’m using this time to pause, to learn from my mistakes, to ensure my identity comes from God and NOT my work (look at me go!), to study and stay on top of the market and trends, to volunteer, help my mom, support others and do a few projects. This time is a gift, I know. I know I will wish I had it back when I’m working, but for now, I need to be able to be honest without a “yah, but”. Please, just let me be real.

4. Rushing “it”. I am NOT good with the middle space. I want to rush to the end point – skip the journey and all of it’s great epiphanies to the next step. You know, stay busy, distracted….don’t feel. But there is part of this process that is necessary, so necessary for me. Trust me, I am doing everything in my power to find the right next step for me, but to skip this process and time will skip part of the next success. The lessons I’m learning here will make me better next. And, the answer may not be the next great multi-level marketing solution to save the day that so many sweet and sincere folks have offered. I do buy from a couple of subscription companies, but I do not feel called to build a business with either. So, whether I end up driving for Lyft (hey girl) or running a marketing team again, I know that this process, whether I like it or not, has been essential to grow my faith, my character and my talent set for the next “it”. If I’m not gonna be in another job for a company, I’m gonna find a way to start the farm business I have been dreaming of for years. Insert a miracle here would be just fine with me!

So I jest a bit, but through my sass, please hear that I am so, so grateful to all of my tribe who supports me. Thank you, sincerely for your support through this time.

And seriously, if I have offended you, message me, I’ll see what I can do to restore, but unemployment is not an easy time frame….just hoping for a little grace in the process and that maybe you’ll just giggle with me.

Life, Marketing/PR

“Unrush” Me.

Since I was 16 years old, this is the first time I have not worked over the holiday months. In a break between jobs, I decided I was going to use this space to take a good look at my career, what I want to do, where I want to be and how am I going to be a 106better leader. Here are a few of my thoughts.

  1. Be the boss.  I have been working long hours for years. In this time of reflection I realize that my success, stamina, resiliency and attitude are directly correlated to the investment in my own health. My best work has come when I was sleeping enough, working out regularly and eating well. When I let those things slide, it impacts much more than my waist line!
  2. Be present. Our lives get filled up with meetings, projects and to-dos. In the press of it all, we lose connection to this moment. A bleary eyed, worn and stressed professional cannot recognize or enjoy the truly memorable micro-moments of our own lives, let alone that of our teams or customers. Being present takes discipline and practice, but it can help reduce stress, help us connect more meaningfully to one another and can inspire new ways of seeing our business, work and life.
  3. “Unrush” me. We are always pushing for more, newer, faster, better. But, we can’t force innovation and just trying harder doesn’t help. Sometimes we need to be willing to slow down.Whether it’s time off, free space in your calendar, going for a walk or just leaving the project alone for a bit, by “unrushing” we give innovation time to settle in and new ideas to take shape.
  4. Keep learning.  In my busy professional life, I intended to make room for reading, learning, classes or training. I snuck a few opportunities in, but my jam-packed schedule made learning feel self-indulgent and wasteful. I’m reminded how beneficial a few hours a week to read, take an online course or listen to a webinar can be to provide fresh perspective on your work. It’s not selfish, it’s actually very smart and a great way to remain even more effective in your work.

This time of rest and reflection has shown me how I can be a better employee and marketing leader. You don’t have to have weeks off, but maybe over the holidays, you can “unrush” a little and take some time to refresh your mind, spirit and body! Happy Holidays. Cheers to a fabulous and successful 2017!

 

Life, Marketing/PR

Losing the Art of Connection

Ah, social media. We’re “connected” all the time. We know all about your dog, your outfits, your new hair style and your relationship status.  We “see” friends and family that we may not have been in the presence of in decades. We support people we’ve never met who 216773_1031748287320_3793_nare a world away and get glimpses into their lives from a digital portal. We peek in on the famous or successful and study their posts or photos for insights. We can engage on the periphery of your life and never have to talk to you.

As a marketing professional, I weary of faceless rants on social media to complain or provide a one-sided story. I tire of the presentations about insights, research and identities. I disdain a world that is so automated, so precise and so technological that our customer is a perfectly served up bundle of data called a “persona” and companies rarely have to personally intersect with humans. Instead we know exactly what you want and like without ever having to talk to you. We design our websites, our slick IVR, form emails and letters and automated service options to meet your specific expectations. We chase you around the internet, we find you on your phone, in email, we “know” all about you, yet I have no idea if you like rain, if you prefer the bus or a car, if you hope to be a teacher or a service professional. I really don’t know much about you at all.

As a leader in a service industry, the one thing that fills my sail, more than anything else, is to hear from the customer themselves. To hear my team take care of them, empathize and work to solve their needs.

I’m a big fan of Human to Human interaction. I wonder how smart we really are…I believe that the organization that figures out this balance is who will ultimately really win.

Marketing/PR

A Work Related Post – YOU are the Definition of Marketing

20121209-175900.jpgI have worked in the world of marketing and communications for a long time. There are parts of marketing that remain the same, but I have found the role of marketing is completely different, depending on the leadership at the organization. And ultimately, as the marketing director, the definition of marketing is mine to create.

There are those leaders who see the world of marketing as collateral and things. In my experience, these have typically been “old school” minded leaders (not old, many young leaders operate this way too) who focus on numbers, stats and operational measures of success very heavily. Problems are seen as threats, people are appreciated mildly and every issue has someone/something to blame. Leaders seem to get their confidence from being right, in charge and are threatened by initiative that touches their areas. Marketing is a responsive department, a bow-making department that creates pretty flyers and things out of operational plans set by someone up top. These are challenging placements and usually boil down to the marketing team becoming educator and executor at the same time. The opportunity is to teach leaders the value of marketing by sticking your neck out and bringing proposals that meet a business solution. Show them data, provide them reports, market intelligence, dashboards and summaries that spell out the value of marketing. It can work. I’ve seen it. I’ve been part of it.

Working with leaders who get marketing and understand its strategic value to the organization is a dream. These are usually pretty open leaders who understand that collaboration goes a lot farther to achieve goals. And by collaboration, I mean there is no threat, no “my way” or harsh edicts. Problems are not a threat, but deserve examination and consideration. These leaders are hard on process and not on people. They do not get their security from their position, title or accomplishments, but from the overall success of the organization and the greater team. Marketing’s role is integrated, visionary and essential to achieving business goals. Likewise, in these settings, marketing should use their insight into competitive and market pressures, identify needs and trends and be an important part of strategically leading the organization. It works. I’ve seen it. I’ve been part of changing the course of the organization.

As a marketing director, it’s my role to lead, regardless of where I am working. Each day, each campaign, each project is my opportunity to innovate, initiate and challenge the status quo, to move the company forward, to help our team and our leadership be successful. Each day I have an opportunity to make a difference. And ultimately, that is what keeps me coming back to this world I love and that we get to work in.

Life, Marketing/PR

Pep Talk to Myself.

Hang on self, you’ve got this.nap

I’m reading the self-help articles, deep breathing, trying to eat well, get my sleep, doing the things I love to create “balance”, think positively and all. But, still today, I don’t feel like I’m good at anything and frankly, I’m not sure I can do this at all. I’m a perfectionist. I want to be good at everything but there is a certain crushing volume that does not equate with perfection.

I wake up ready to face the day with greatness, get in to the office early, straighten things up, organize my thoughts and to do list…and, by 9:00 am I am seeking a vodka tonic in my mind. This can’t be a good sign.

I manage to redirect, push through, accomplish a lot of pretty great work and 10-11 hours later, I’m leaving feeling OK.  The day was a success overall with a few “dips in the road” and I leave determined to not let stress get to me tomorrow. So, I’ll read some more articles tonight, eat my chocolate with a glass of wine, pray, meditate, vent and focus, ready to tackle tomorrow and make a difference for someone.

I’ve got this. I have what it takes. I have what I need.

Life, Marketing/PR

Ok, got these big girl panties on, now what?

20121209-175900.jpgI work hard. In the past two years I think I have worked harder than I knew I had in me.  It’s been challenging, rewarding and I’ve grown from it.  I’ve seen the great results from the efforts and that is very motivating. The business growth has reflected this as well and resources have been added to help continue this upward climb. But it can’t come at this personal pace.

I’ve realized to be a good leader, to really be successful in life and business, I have to have balance. And that is not going to come easily, served up on a plate. I have to create that reality for myself and my team at work. No more excuses. No more wasted time.

So, I have officially put appointments on my calendar for personal time, joined the gym (and really am going!), began reading again, joined a new professional organization and I am eating better. Sure, there are always colliding priorities and meetings and requests and emails. But if I am not mature enough to quit making excuses and take control, I will never be great.

I intend to be great.

Life, Marketing/PR

Strategic What? Simple Strategic Planning Pt. 1

Life in PR, marketing, community relations comes with lots of planning! I’m no expert, but I do get asked a lot to share my strategic planning for communications and PR.  Frankly, I use this same process to plan everything from my son’s graduation BBQ to the crisis communication plan for the non-profit hospital for which I work.

Strategic planning may sound threatening and ominous, like a painstaking process that requires sleepless nights and gallons of caffeinated beverages to accomplish. But it doesn’t have to be. Now, full disclosure here, I’m the kind of person that is organized, goal oriented and creative, I actually like strategic planning! A strategic plan is not scary, it’s more like a road map.  Nothing more than a suggested course of where we may head on our next year-long road trip for the organization.

But just like any road trip, there may have to be adjustments along the route.  So using the road trip analogy, I’ll outline how I prepare a strategic plan.  Whether it’s a single event, a marketing proposal, donor project or complete campaign, I follow this same map and find that it gets me where we need to go, or at least in the right direction! So, pack your bags, get ready and let’s hit the road!

Building a strategic plan:
1.  Pick your destination.  Just like you’d select the city you plan to visit on a cross-country road trip with the family, you have to at least know the general direction you’re heading. Typically we don’t just pick a random city off the map, but we look into it.  What is there to do? How much does it cost? What are some of the main attractions of the area? How can you get there? Can I get the time off work for that trip?  What are the kids’ schedule? You get the idea.

The same holds true for marketing/PR or event practicalities. Ask yourself, what is the event? When is it going to be held? What time and where?  Who is supposed to be there? What else is going on in the area at that time?  What facilities or resources are available? In this section you would also ask yourself questions like, how much budget do you have (or don’t have)?  But most of all you have to know why you are going.  What is your goal with this campaign, event, communications, etc.?  If you don’t know that, you might as well just save yourself the time.  Sit and just write our a check and give it away! To approach a campaign, program, event, project without knowing why you’re doing it is like putting gas into a car with a hole in the tank!

2. Plan the big stuff that you need to take.  If you’re driving and camping across the U.S. you will need a tent, sleeping bags, camp stove, etc.  If you are planning a grand opening or anniversary event for your organization, you will need a speaker, facility, emcee, decorations. Are you serving food? Taking donations? Need a photographer?  The big stuff takes planning.  You have to get these first.  What good is it to plan your wedding and then find out there is no available chapel or preacher for the day you picked?  This is your chance to really look at what resources you have then decide what you can and can’t do.  If I only have an $800 budget for a big anniversary campaign, you may only be able to print and mail to a limited number of people and then use social media, word of mouth and public relations to get the word out to the rest.  Then, you still might have to enlist your mom to help make the cookies!

3. Plan your timeline.  When is your event/campaign/launch/trip to Mount Rushmore?  Put it on the calendar and then work backwards.  When will you need to pack? Prepare packing lists? Hire a house sitter? Request the time off work? 

Again, for successful event planning or strategic planning, break down your project.  Work it backwards from your desired “hit” date.  Create a project flow. Graphic ideas/colors by March, printing by April, mailing in May, social media campaign in May-June, advertising on radio in June, PR hits in July the week of event.

You’re on your way…check back for Strategic Planning pt. 2!