Meeting with the DM

Yesterday, I was invited along with a number other students, to meet the Deputy Minister (DM) of my department which I work in, at the government. Should have tweeted it out that I was attending. Got lazy. Anyways, the meeting with the DM was an informal discussion. He was dead panning throughout the one hour chat, sharing with us in broad strokes what the department/government is all about, while we as students brought to him our myriad of concerns, in the form of questions.

Most of the questions posed to the DM were predictable. “What do you think about the Canadian government downsizing the size of the government and its employees?”, “How can we make the federal government more efficient”, and “I was in line for a job and didn’t get it. What’s the best way to force my manager to hire me?”. Ok the last one was a little exaggerated but it was something along those lines. As I sat 4 rows back from the DM, I was thinking of these all valid, thoughtful questions. But here is one statement I would have posted to my fellow colleagues to quell all their fears:

“You have all the skills right now to make yourself a valuable employee to the federal service or anywhere for that matter. Trust in them and grow with them.”

Quite frank, I know, but not totally out of the blue if you care to follow.

When you look at the current trends, high unemployment rates in Canada, U.S. ,and across the world, the rise in term/contract work, apparently in teaching profession in particular, according to the DM, and the desire to hire experienced (I’ve seen a lot of PR postings requiring 5+ years experience in my little job search) your pointed in this direction of the this job reality. Yes, ideally, you want a full-time job in the government or elsewhere. But what happens if it doesn’t come? What happens after your finishing masters program, there isn’t a position? Or after your student contract, they look elsewhere and hire another candidate? Well, what happens is you have fall back on your skills, your area of expertise, probably from your subject of area of study in school, that you’ve invested so much time into, to be your fall-back plan or number one option.

Today’s job market is extremely competitive. I remember being younger and applying to jobs and getting many call-backs. Not anymore. When observing my peers, I don’t run into many of them who aren’t thinking about adding a masters program, MBA, or other courses to push them ahead of the pack. This is the new reality for the next generation of workforce in Canada, both in the government and private sector, where the masters is the minimal requirement. Happy trails Bachelor of Arts!

Does this route guarantee employment right away? Of course not, but it is a trend worth noting so you aren’t caught in an unemployment situation. That is why this blog, as an outlet for my thoughts, ideas, and writing is so important. Prospective employers are always looking to what gives you an edge, and why you as an individual would be an important addition to the team.  For me I think that’s my personality as well as my skills/knowledge I have in my writing, investing, researching in the world around me. Whatever your passion is, putting time into it has the potential to create greater opportunity for yourself down the line. It’s never a waste of time. Something I which is much better than waiting on that job which may or may not come through.

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Sharing your voice

Yesterday, I received my first edition of my latest magazine subscription obsession, (after forays withfinding your voice yearly subscriptions to SI and GQ magazine) Canadian Business. It’s an awesome publication and I look forward to getting many more. It has a little bit of everything, including the biggies that I love in technology, social networking, marketing, and investing. In its June edition it had an really good article on an Erin Bury, community manager at Sprouter in Toronto (@erinbury on Twitter) and how she has grown her personal brand into an authentic influencer to her network of close to 10,000 Twitter followers.

With that, my mind immediately jumped to Twitter, and all the other marketing/PR pros like Bury that I follow on there. There is a wealth of information they share, from personal opinions, to ideas, to just general observations/commentary of the world around them. It’s great, but I didn’t follow them to simply absorb everything they share and retweet it as gospel. In fact, rather I wanted to have a feel of what the PR world that I hope to enter soon, is like (it’s a small world, especially when viewing my timeline and seeing the consistent chat from PR pros specifically in the U.S. and Canada, as proof of this) and add to this conversation, in my own unique way. That is the great thing about today, with the power of technology, namely the internet and a laptop. Anyone can find and then share their voice to the endless number of conversations that interest them, both professionally and personally.

I’ve seen this right in front of me, by looking no farther than at some of my friends who have started to create their own niches online. In the last couple months, 3 of them have started their own blogs and gotten accounts on Twitter. Their specialties, if we wanted to give each one a specific area of expertise, are in the self help, lifestyle/tech, nutrition spaces. I remember hearing comments, from one of the above (won’t name names) that “Twitter was useless”, and  it had “little value”. Every time I see a tweet or re-tweet of his, I think one more point for me. More so though, it is about how they have embraced their voice and decided it being worthwhile to share and use as benefit to others, which adds value to people seeking information in those areas.

The importance of your online voice (I hope you have a real world one as well) is that you get to provide your views on the world around you, which is important, since everyone’s voice is unique. Looking at an even closer example to me than my friends, is my sister. She is a sports fanatic, who I helped push to start blogging. Often times her thoughts on things in the sports world is usually ahead of what sports broadcasters say, particularly in regards to one of my favourite spectator sports next to soccer, hockey. Having a blog allows her to get her own voice out there, create her own personal brand, which in my opinion, adds another interesting viewpoint and layer to conversation we can’t get enough of,  just as sports caster A does.

I started blogging in 2006. Not  as consistently throughout these past 5 years as now, which is absolutely vital to this endeavour (especially in the beginning) if you want to build your personal brand or become an influencer. But the fact remains that although striving for consistency, what I have shared and added to conversations online thus far, has been something I can be proud of, as being a benefit to others, which makes blogging register as having a strong appeal to me. Along with that is how blogging can help improve your writing skills (the #1 skill for a PR pro), while allowing you to provide unique commentary on a variety of topics/issues, and the simple fun of writing each post, which I treat as a “new assignment”, is a reason why I think everyone should have their own blog. As my friends from outside the PR world can attest with their work, it isn’t all that bad at all.

Thoughts on LinkedIn IPO, future IPOs for Facebook, Twitter

I won a bet today with a friend. I said that we would get at least one social media company that went public this year.linkedin 2 It was an easy bet to win. Many of these social media companies, Facebook, Twitter, being the two big ones had been in the news for over a year with plans on going public. But today, LinkedIn, was the 1st to pull the trigger. I’m on all 3 sites (as a PR student it is quite necessary) and use them almost everyday, so I I’ll tell you what I think of all 3 of them as focus on Facebook and Twitter my views on them having an IPO (initial public offering or simply being listed on the stock market) in the future.

LinkedIn is an interesting case. Of the 3, it is the most professional and I appreciate that aspect. Apparently so do a lot of my peers. The past couple months it seemed every week,  I have been adding old colleagues at a feverish pace, to keep in touch with them all on LinkedIn. Besides this though, I haven’t used or rather dived into LinkedIn as much as I’ve liked to…yet. But it’s use is evident. It is a networking tool, with a global network, a key point in this new reality of economies being so closely tied together with each other more than ever.

I have heard that their groups, which I am a part of about 10 related to PR/communication, really makes LinkedIn a valuable source in organizing people for business development discussion. This is definitely something I want to explore more. When I put my investor hat on and seeing how LinkedIn quickly doubled from its IPO price of $45 to an intraday high of over $122/share, to a close of a healthy $94.25 with over 30 million volume, this is positive news for their company. Obviously it won’t do 30 million everyday but impressive nonetheless and good on them for this amount of initial support  for their target valuation.

Facebook is a different story. Their IPO will no doubt be a top news item, but  I’ve grown rather tired of Facebook, as a company, to be honest. Two big reasons are one being the growth of spam on that site, and  two the messaging system or Facebook chat.

Spam has gotten so bad I find myself filtering so many people, this filtered list is becoming the same size of my hundreds of friends. The messaging system, Facebook chat is a mess. It is that simple. Throw in the recent bad press of Facebook using world renowned PR firm Burston-Mueller to smear Google’s reputation, and you really see that maybe the movie “The Social Network” really wasn’t that far off in portraying the company. Not helping my career or other PR professionals when we have to deal with being labelled “spin doctors”, as the profession is so commonly wrongly described.  All of these types of "soft feelings” I’ll call them, because they pull on my emotional attachment  in regards to Facebook. Throw in their just insane valuation (roughly 70 billion market value) and I would have a hard time, going for this in an IPO situation.

Twitter I like a lot more. It has half as many people on its site (300 million) as of today that Facebook has. (Yes it was big day for social media if you’re following). It has become the most efficient way to break news, as evidenced by the story of a journalist Pakistan directly or indirectly breaking the news of the U.S. Navy Seals Team Six killing of Osama Bin Laden. It’s fun as well. Some of the people I follow strictly use it to ply their comedic antics and this is accepted and adds to Twitter’s fun factor.

Personal views are encouraged, which makes for great back in forth between celebrities, media personalities, and just regular people like you and I. Twitter has a broad appeal,  in both professional and personal use, making it a great blend, more so than LinkedIn which is more purely professional and Facebook which is more purely personal. This makes it a more attractive target for me if I were to pursue it in an IPO.

Being in the field of PR, it  is exciting to see how social media is growing and impacting everyone. In terms of these companies. whether they become sustained profitable entities, without the fear of  them imploding is anyone’s guess. I would rather invest, as I have done so, in hard assets (gold), dividend funds, and equities. Of course, those that made a quick double and then some on LinkedIn today would argue to the contrary. However, herein lies an obvious, although key point. Regardless of whether my predictions are right or wrong, for both my stocks I’m invested in or those that invested in LinkedIn today, you only make as much money in investing as the amount you of money you put on the line. As was proven today, with the 30 million shares traded, this has occurred in such an impressive manner, which LinkedIn hopes is just the start of great things to come for them as a company.

Poor PS3

Poor PS3 owners. I can’t help but have a little bit of delight in your misery. You’re locked out of online gameplay,ps3 while the rest of us serious gamers (Xbox 360), can continue to delight in late night Call of Duty: Black Ops play.  A fairly large contingent of my friends who demanded I get a PS3 are now left with nothing to say. I guess hacking a network could happen to anyone could it? Of course. Tell me that after I’m done with these new map packs, I’m just too busy right now to care.

Could you imagine if this happened when Call of Duty Black Ops was released? This would definitely be much more of an outcry. I could see 15 year olds, writing letters in their broken English and foul tongues, to Sony HQ demanding them to get things up and running. I guess PS3 owners can take solace in the fact at least their online gaming experience is free. Which is useless now since the network is shut down, with the latest news saying it will be out till the end of May! Yikes. So what can Sony do about this disaster? Here are some suggestions:

Give a credit

Give a credit to PS3 users to use towards free online content or something in the large PSN (PlayStation Network) world. People need to be rewarded for their investment in you, and even through this frustrating time, it’s time to step up and give them reason to continue to support the PS3 brand.

Take blame

Some of the worst things when a PR nightmare like this happens is when the responsible party doesn’t take the blame. It may not be your fault, but as the face of the product,  you must own up to it somehow. To let the situation become a spiralling mess of uncertainty with no one taking responsibility, doesn’t help people have faith in your product. Management  should have owned up immediately, rather than go silent.

Stay the course

Sony is a great brand. I’m writing this on a Sony Vaio laptop. I believe in your brand. You also gave us the first portable MP3, the Sony Walkman. People love your products. So by just staying the course people will realize that yes you made a mistake but you have a good history with other products and in your brand in general, which will help to keep brand loyalty high.

Good brands don’t just die. I remember people saying they would stay away from Toyota forever right after they had their major  automotive recalls a while back. Last time I checked they were driving their Camry’s around the neighbourhood. Like Toyota, Sony has a lot of name power, along with this being (I’m assuming) a minor blimp in an otherwise impeccable resume. There is light at the end of the tunnel. In fact, I should actually be getting a PS3 quite soon…funny how things work, isn’t it?

Two in One

April was a good month. Went to Toronto twice in one month, coincidentally on the first and last days of the monthapache burgers. On the first of April I went to the Blue Jays home opener and this past week I went to see a Swedish DJ (@Avicii on Twitter). That was a crazy performance, and now I know what a rave is like. Every time I go to Toronto I seem to have more and more fun in this great city. So let me walk you through what went down.

Ping Pong

I’ve written here before in this space on my rekindled love of ping pong versus one of my best friends. Well I got my revenge over him, on his home turf too.  We played our first series on Friday night and I won the best of 7, 4-3. The next day on Saturday I wasn’t so lucky, as I dropped the best of 7 (5-2 or 4-3 I don’t remember). Always such a great workout ping pong is for me, I also influenced by my fitness freak of a friend to do a tiny workout after our games on Friday, my first workout in a month. I should thank him as it did end up feeling quite good. We can only hope the summer gym membership follows.

Networking

I treat every opportunity interacting with others as an opportunity to network. Love doing it. I enjoy asking a lot of questions to find out more about people or things which I have little previous knowledge or experience in. At a party on Friday, I was able to run into a very charming girl who was a grad of the advertising program at  the same college I went to. Instantly we hooked up (professionally people) exchanged information on my Blackberry and it was done. A connection in Toronto to help start to pry open the doors to being a big city PR hotshot.

When I got back home, I sent her my resume and she sent me hers. It was created with InDesign, blowing my resume away. I should have taken design class more seriously because hers definitely has what it takes to get noticed. Something to think about as I gear up for the job search in the next year or so.

Other Stuff

On my visit I was also able to play the new Mortal Kombat game on the PS3. Craziness ensued with 4 of us guys, along with a girl watching in horror, to try and pull off the sickening finishing fatality moves. My best friend was able to get it off a couple times, more than any of us. Man are they gruesome. Check out this video real quick if you don’t believe me.

I know I’ll be back in Toronto at some point this summer. One of my close friends is moving there (today actually) to take summer classes, so I now have another reason to make the easy trip down there. Plus, the city is growing on me, especially the food.

Loved trying out one of the historic burger joints called Apache Burgers (the picture of the one I went to is above) in Etobicoke. It had former hockey players, mostly Toronto Maple Leafs from the early 90s and earlier (which was hard to stomach) gracing the walls, that gave it that small diner/old school feel. As well sushi is growing on me. I would have never ate it alone, but in the group of guys I was with they “always do sushi” so I tried a bunch of different kinds. It’s such a delicious food. Till we meet again Toronto…

Fast Five

Fast five, the latest movie in the Fast and Furious movie series comes out at the end of April. As much as a fan of the series I am, the 1st movie, Fast and Furious is on my top 10 movies list and I’ve watched it at least 10 times, this post isn’t about the new movie. No, the “fast five” I’m talking about is it being a fast five years for me in terms of postsecondary schooling. I’ve been in post secondary for five years, 4 in college and 1 in university thus far, with 1 1/2 years left to go. This has been the fastest year to date as well. I confirmed this by talking to my peers who are also in school. So what has happend during these 5 years in post secondary? Lots. But I’ll try to sum it up best in 3 major areas: school, work, and love.

School

I graduated high school without a clue of what to do. Well I had one clue. I didn’t want to go to university to do a 4 year degree in Poli Sci or English, something very general and I was barely interested in. So with that in mind I turned to Algonquin College. Didn’t know much about the school, or that we even had a college in Ottawa to be honest. But I went into General Arts and Science, the pre-media stream, a 2 year program, and decided to try it out.

Two years of pre-media ended up being one year. Because in pre-media, specifically in media dynamics class, I chose to do my major project on PR. A passion was born and I was outta there. For the project, I interviewed the communications director at Casino Lac Leamy and a woman (who has been a helpful mentor to me to this day) that runs her own PR firm downtown. I learned more about PR as a profession and career and since it also so happened that Algonquin had a PR program, I took the test and got in to start the PR program for the next year.

It was supposed to be 2 years of PR, but ended up being 3 (7 classes/semester and too much fun I guess). Which was fine because it just so happened (I’m a lucky guy if you haven’t noticed yet) that UOttawa created a PR program the year I finally graduated Algonquin. Sweet. I could continue learning about PR, for a degree now, with my diploma in my backpocket. And here I am. Uottawa PR student.  Little over a year to go.

Work

I’ve worked a lot of jobs since high school. About 8. All with a female manager or supervisor. All of them in either retail or customer service. These are the entry level jobs where you have people who stay for 3 days, 3 months, 3 years or 3 decades. You get people from all stages in their life, which makes for interesting conversation while on the job. From these conversations I was able to learn a lot though. By taking other people’s views and opinions and compairing them to my own perconceived ideas, I discovered I was way off on some things, bang on with others, and perhaps had to think more on certain things. Overall, these conversations increased my knowledge of the world around me and for that I’m greatful.

However, sometimes I wonder if all the job changes were necessary. I left jobs, quit jobs, got fired from one job. But in the end, looking back at where I am today, it was necessary. I’m really one of those people who believes everything happens for a reason. The jobs I liked I held down, starting with my first job at a major department retailer and with my current job at the government. The ones I quit, where not important as I had already secured another job. And the job I got fired from, I decided that talking to my friend was more important than working.

It was with holding down my first and current job though, is where I felt I’ve learned the most. Because as you grow older in an organization, other moving parts (like co-workers from different stages in their life as I mentioned earlier) come on board and you have to adapt and adjust to this newly created work environment. As well, you might get added roles, responsibility, and more pressure. So with those challenges, I’m glad I’ve lasted this long in my current job and ready for the new opportunites that await.

Love

Love can be mushy. Let’s try not to make it that way. However, thats probably impossible. Looking back on my “1st love” (so lame writing like that) it was crazy all the things we got into. Being young and in love applies here. Being in love you grow, learning more about your needs and your partners. After 2 years in a deeply commited relationship, I decided that this was not the way I wanted things to go in terms of my needs. The future looked very cloudy. So I left and moved onto something different.

That something different was very different but just as exciting as the 1st love. You have to agree, that the beginning of a relationship is the best time. You’re full of excitement and the possbility of what can happen is pretty much wide open. Possibility is the positive word in a new relationship but sometimes another p word, problems, becomes something that you can’t escape.

Romantic relationships are tough to say the least. Saying they are rough is probably better. However, it’s all in the way you handle them. In my 5 years of being in romantic relationships, I’ve always been extremely honest. To the point where I have a clear conscious and know I didn’t fool myself or lead on my partner for the duration of the relationship.

I’m not a big fan of being in a relationship for the sake of being in one. Over time, I think that in your 20s as you have love for someone and as you mature, you run into the decision of how you want to make it all function along with school and work, so everything can co-exist in a beneficial way for you and your partner. I have a lot more to say these 3 areas (school, work, and love)  for y’all. Stay tuned this summer.

Fin

It’s been a fast five. So many lessons learned in school, work, and love. Makes me feel old. I’m more knowledgeable than the 18 year old kid who stepped out of a clicky, abnormal social envrionment, into a world with endless possibilities though. That is probably the greatest thing about today. In all 3 areas, there is limitless potential. I just hope the next 5 years are as good as the last 5. And that they go a little slower.

Night of Networking

Networking is something I simply love doing. With that said however, when looking back to last year and in particular to last summer, there were a lot of networking events going on but I didn’t end up attending any of them. Very strange for me. Apparently meeting people at a nice lounge that has a patio and drinks wasn’t that appealing for me. Normally though, time and money permitting, I try to attend a handful of networking events a year. Thinking back to last year though, I did attend one in particular that stands out. It was a networking event on social media, the Social Media for Government Conference, and I actually got to go to it for free.

The conference was last March and I won a contest, run by social media guru Joseph Thornley of Thornley Fallis (@Thornley on Twitter) who was giving away  2 free tickets to attend the conference ($400 value) to two students who could demonstrate in a written piece how attending the conference would benefit them. Here was my winning response. After making the cut it was time to enjoy what would turn out to be a great event.

The Social Media for Government Conference was a two day event. I remember being dressed up (wearing a suit on day one as most people were in business casual) honoured to be Mr. Thornley’s guest. I heard many great presentations about how businesses in the private sector such as Royal Bank of Canada and Microsoft Canada as well as those in the public sector such as government organizations like HRSDC and Parks Canada, were using social media to connect with those who use their products and those they serve.Simply put, It was a great experience  to listen to so many passionate speakers from these organizations. Now fast forward to last week, almost a year to the day of the Social Media Conference, I would find myself  getting ready to go back into networking, but this time at my university.

This past Thursday’s at my university I attended a networking event which featured professionals in the areas of writing, publishing, journalism, broadcasting, and public relations. It was a dream bonzana of talented individuals in fields that I have a lot of interest in. However, the way it was set up was a little different from the Social Media Conference. It was set up kinda like speed dating, with 15 minutes at each table, making things move much more quicker than the two day Social Media Conference. Luckily, I was still able to get a lot of great info though, which I will unpack in further detail for Friday’s post. What I really want to talk about are some of my observations of the event in general,  thoughts on networking and finally a couple tips that have worked for me and perhaps could work for you when you’re out networking.

Overall the event was a success. Hard not to be when everyone is looking so good, dressed to impress. But seriously there is more to that of course. The flow of the event, orchestrated by the sound of a bell indicating a table switch, and the excellent billingual moderator kept everything moving efficiently. Speakers were great and very attentive to me personally.  I asked a couple questions and engaged them for information so really made it one on one, just me and them having a conversation, amid a busy table of 6 other students. First quick tip, ask questions. Makes the conversation more personal and you will definitely get more from the experience.

Everyone at the event were students from the university from a variety of different programs. From programs such as Arts, French studies, and a few others I don’t remember. It really is too bad there wasn’t an organized after party, where we could have grabbed drinks and discussed our aspirations among each other. This is something I have to get involved in for future school networking events, being responsibile for the after networking get together.

Now onto what I think are three good tips that will aid you in your networking efforts. Hopefully you’re not like me and have to have a one year gap in between to use them.

Bring a notebook to write in

You are never going to remember what someone says no matter how great your memory is. They had given us a notepad to take notes but I found it too small. I actually don’t mind taking notes, so quickly I was scribbling down information. Came away with 2 full pages after the night was done.

Save the drinks

I always used to grab an alcoholic drink at the bar when everyone else did. Monkey see, monkey do. However, being the mid weight I am  and after a long day of work then settling into a networking event, it probably isn’t the brightest idea. Grab a ginerale or water and focus on who you meet. You can always grab an alcoholic drink after when things get more fun.

Ask for advice, rather than for a job

Networking is all about the exchange of information. What I have found in my experience, is that people are more than willing to give their advice, especially if you show a genuine interest or passion about what your asking them about.  It is your job to make the link as to how to go about getting the job after you’ve obtained the advice. Getting a job is very competitive and most likely these professionals, unless on a recruiting trip, will not be walking around with a list of job openings. So keep that respect in mind and ask for advice rather than pressing for a job.

Conclusion

Networking is fun. As long as you get into it! Listening to someone talk for hours is not your only option. Ask questions that relate to what the speaker is talking about, try and engage them. They will definitely appreciate your genuine interest. The results for you will be even greater as the more you know, the more opportunity you create for yourself.