Being Confident

Earlier this week, I had the great pleasure of meeting with Carrie Nygren of Laughlin Constable’s Milwaukee office. I have known her for years as the mother of an old skating buddy, but recently rediscovered her as a wise woman in the advertising world. We talked about a lot of thing—the sad state that figure skating is in, the differences between the North and the South (she grew up in Tennessee), the pros and cons regarding various agencies in town, and the small world of Milwaukee PR.

As she looked over my resume, Carrie offered up one main critique: “Be more confident”

She smiled, letting the initial wave of shock behind her statement resonate with me before it faded into confusion. Furrowing my eyebrows, I look from my resume to her, then back to my resume. As I opened my mouth to question her, she laughed and explained that she knows I’m confident. “But,” she said as she pointed to the first few bullet points on my resume, “these points do not necessarily showcase that”.

I could feel my eyes reaching full expansion capacity as she continued her bullet-by-bullet explanation. Obviously, she was right. What I couldn’t believe was that I had been doing the same thing that so many women before me had done. I had been doing exactly what so many professors had been warning us about and begging us not to do.

I had been selling myself short!

I know, I know. It's shameful.

I know, I know. It’s shameful.

As Carrie knows, confidence is not something I lack. Maybe this was instilled in me through DSHA. Maybe it was through my life in the spotlight as a competitive figure skater. Maybe it was through my bombtastic friends who always make me feel like a San Fran 49er pre-SB ’13. It could just be my Puerto Rican blood. In fact, my parents might tell you that I came tumbling out of the womb radiating spunk and tenacity. I really can’t say. Regardless, I know I’m smart, funny, fun, talented, and whatnot. Plus, on the few days a month when my hair decides to drop its attitude and behave, I am nearly unstoppable!

Bringing it back to my future career, talking and writing have always been my strongest points. To the dismay of my grade school teachers and the delight of my current professors, it’s what I do best. Everyone who knows me knows this.

Yet, as Carrie pointed out—not once did I mention my communication skills on my resume. Similarly, my writing skills had hardly been touched upon. The same went for my unique ability to connect with pretty much any audience. The points on my resume could effectively let an HR person know that I have had legitimate internships, but it hardly describes the extent to which I threw myself into my work experiences and turned it into something more valuable than a job description on Big Shoes Network.

When professors spoke of women who rely on hedging as a crutch, who are afraid to ask for a raise, and who continuously fail to highlight their successes, I never thought they were referring to me. Surely, blunt and boisterous Becky rose above all that! Right?

I mean, look how strong and aggressive I am!

Look how strong and aggressive I am!

Nope. What’s worse is that I thought I was properly displaying myself to the world. I thought I was coming off as a powerful woman. Alas, I had fallen into the same trap as so many others. As it turns out, the disconnect between women’s true selves and the way they portray themselves on paper is more common than I had assumed. This type of behavior is so customary that some of us are oblivious to our own passiveness!

Talk about a much needed reality check. Looks like “amplify resume’s aggressive power” just got added to my weekend to-do list.

So, to my fellow dynamic female compadres—check yourselves! This could be happening to you. Look over your personal branding material. Could you be taking a more aggressive approach to the presentation of your skill set? Standing out in a crowd is crucial to success, and bland resume statements are the equivalent of a beige sweater.

After all, no one wants to be the Michelle of the group.

After all, no one wants to be the Michelle of the group.

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Why I Loved The Oscars

CZJ at the Oscars

Sunday’s Academy Awards ceremony was one of my favorites. I have a large amount of movie critic fans who had a host of negative things to say about the way the show ran and the ultimate results. And of course, as many have noted, Seth MacFarlane wasn’t exactly a crowd favorite. Fortunately, as a lover of music, none of these minor details tainted my viewing.

You see, while the Oscars are typically a celebration of film, Sunday’s ceremony  celebrated the importance of music.  It highlighted the extent to which the film (if not entertainment as a whole) industry relies on the glories of music. Tantalizing tributes to musicals sent chills down my spine. Few things are as powerful as hearing the union of so many vivacious voices pairing with the booming sounds of an orchestra. It’s no coincidence that the Academy chose to commemorate 50 years of 007 with a medley of the legendary tunes that have been enhancing the identity of the series since the beginning.

My personal highlight of the night came in the form of a hot jazz number.  Chicago is my all-time favorite musical, and the 2002 movie blew my mind. I was in 6th grade when the movie came out, and the vocal performances of the powerhouse cast left me staring at the screen in awe, reflecting on what I had just experienced as the credits rolled past and the DVD defaulted back to the main menu. Catherine Zeta-Jones has always had a special place in my heart, and to see her reprise her award-winning role as the great Velma Kelly 10+ years after the smash hit movie was released and after she herself went through serious rehabilitation and treatment for her severe bipolar disorder was nothing short of phenomenal. In spite of the years that have passed and the toils she’s worked through, CZJ’s voice rang as clearly and wholly at the ceremony as it does on my well-worn DVD of the movie.

Shirley Bassey

Music is timeless. A song can summon a long-forgotten memory and replay it before one’s eyes. The clarity of an image or of a film can give away its age. Fashion trends come and go. But the sound of one’s voice, or the sound of an instrument, can live forever. Music is the fountain of youth.

Knowing that music can control an audience and fuel a cause is why the Academy chose to celebrate singers and the songs behind the movies as much as actors who brought the roles to life. Sometimes, words and body language are limiting. They can only express so many things. A defining major or minor chord can completely change the way in which a person interprets or relates to a scene.

In figure skating, competitors often chose scores from powerful movies like The Man In The Iron Mask or delightfully artistic movies like Chocolat. We do not do so because of the acting in the movie, or even the plot line. We do so because of the dynamic emotive quality of the scores. It allows us to exhibit our own forms of the characteristics the score originally defined in its film. Music gives us power.

AdeleThis is why fans of an artist get upset when they see a song being misused or misrepresented in a commercial. It pains them to see the power of a song supporting the wrong cause, or simply being forced into a misshapen mold. Using the wrong song at the wrong time can truly hack the life of a movie or a commercial to death. Malformed soundtracks can disorient a viewer and the mixed symbols can cause them to form a negative opinion of the product as a whole.

Putting the right sound to the right product is an underrated art. Few take the time to appreciate how a melody enhanced a movie, or how a song gave an event its identity. There is a fine line between empowering your product and turning off the media as well as your entire target audience. Those who dance on the line and end up taking their final bow on the side of triumph absolutely deserve our attention as well as our standing ovation.

This is ultimately why I greatly appreciate this year’s Academy Awards ceremony. Finally, music gets the attention and the appreciation in the film industry that it so richly deserves. Next time you watch a movie, I encourage you to take note of the melodic accompaniments. Become aware of the way it fills your soul and aids in your cathartic development. Love music the way the Oscars did.

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Where is the (Communications) Love?

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Tuesday morning, I woke up with a bounce in my step and a smile on my face.

Unfortunate clichés aside, I truly was more inspired than usual to go throughout my day. Nearly grand jeté-ing out of bed at 7 a.m., I quickly showered and began packing my things.  My open laptop hummed, and a quick glance at the screen confirmed that my recently edited document was ready to make its grand entry into the world.  As my printer birthed a fresh stack of newly-revised resumes, I slipped into a black and turquoise dress and plugged in my curling iron.  A bowl of Special K and a few swipes of mascara later, I was out the door and speed-walking to my first class.  Aside from the brain power it took to strategically avoid the suspiciously well-hidden patches of ice on the non-salted sidewalks of Wisconsin Avenue, my mind was focused on the events that would unfold later that evening.  At around 6 p.m., I was to attend my first Reverse Career Fair.

As a graduating senior without a job already secured for mid-May, events like these give me hope.  We have all heard about “that one person” who attended a career fair or a networking event and got hired on the spot.  If only that were a common occurrence!  Nevertheless, a good number of students (like myself) look forward to these events as a chance to network with professionals and learn about companies that are hiring in their field.

So, it was with a great deal of enthusiasm and vigor that I bounded up the steps to the AMU ballroom and signed in at the registration table 20 minutes before I had originally been scheduled to arrive.  Questions swam through my mind as I walked towards the room: Will tonight be the night I meet my future employer? How many people will I get to network with (and more importantly: Will they all have a LinkedIn account)?  Did I print out enough resumes?

Ah, but alas.  Upon entering, the cruel fist of reality introduced itself to my stomach, effectively knocking the questions out of my mind.  Two of my peers were standing behind our uncomfortably vacant table shooting rage and envy-fueled glares towards the astrophysics booth kitty corner to ours.  There, approximately 89% of the employers were fighting like teenage fan girls to get a word in with the super genius equivalent of a 90s boy band behind the table.

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Ladies, please. Calm yourselves.

Hesitantly, I asked my fellow PRSSA members if anyone had yet approached our table.  Without breaking their gaze, they replied with a clipped “Nope!”

Looking around the room, I noted that a laudable amount of employers had also gathered around the other engineering and business tables in the room.  Greek Letter Organization tables were also receiving more action than us!  Aside from the other communications table, everyone was receiving a heavier flow of traffic.

As time passed, even the employers wondered what was up with the lack of attention we were receiving.  Curious as to why our table was so empty, the occasional employer would walk towards us.  Upon reading our sign and seeing (what I can only imagine was) our desperate grins, they would either throw a sympathetic look our way or sharply turn their heads and quicken their pace as they shuffled in the direction of the astrophysics table.

We did get approached by 2-3 companies, but they quickly and awkwardly cut their conversations short with us when they realized that we were all seniors.  They had been looking for sophomores or juniors to apply for their unpaid sales internships.  Before their sharply tossed business card landed on our table, they had almost reached the door.  “Tell your friends about us!” they said with a backward glance as they briskly walked out.

Disheartened, we began looking over and critiquing each other’s resumes to assure ourselves that we hadn’t completely wasted our time by attending this event.

It affected us on a deep level.  The College of Comm is often a punchline of many a mediocre joke delivered by students across campus.  I wonder if Career Services sees us in the same light.  I have attended standard MU-hosted career fairs and have had similar experiences.  I hoped that the reverse career fair would be different, but that was foolish of me.

We in the Comm school are proud of what we do, and we know that it takes a hefty amount of intelligence and wit to succeed in our fields.  So, why does Marquette continue to embarrass us at events like these?  Where were the agencies and companies with marketing/project management/communication departments?  Why must I attend off-campus events that cost anywhere from $10-$50 bucks in order to network with local professionals in my field?  Why does this site have to exist?  Why does our college have to stand alone, without the support of the university?

Where is the love, Marquette?  Why won’t you support us?

The Last First Day

Never again will I wake up and prepare for the first day of the semester! It’s an odd feeling.  In just a few months, I will wrap up my undergraduate career with a degree in communication studies (and minors in PR and English Lit!).  Ideally, I’ll also have a job in an agency in the Milwaukee area.  I will then move to what I hope will be Shorewood and start making money and paying off the $80,000 of debt that I gathered during five years of higher education.

Five years.

It’s hard to believe that it’s almost been five years since I graduated from high school.  As cliché as it is, it truly feels like just a few months ago I was an eager 17-year-old moving into the dorms at UW-Madison.  I remember how excited I felt that day—thrilled at all the possibilities the next few years held for me.  Ever since I was a young girl, I knew I wanted to attend the University of Wisconsin-Madison.  Fortunately for me, I got accepted—and not only did I get accepted, a large chunk of my friends from varying cliques (West Allis, Figure Skating, Port Washington, etc…)  had also gotten accepted.  Itching to leave the nest and experience a new town and a new-found sense of freedom, it seemed like that move-in day could not come soon enough.

May 2008: The future Badgers among DSHA’s Senior class

Little did I know, most of the things I learned in college had nothing to do with the classes I took.  In fact, most of the things I learned in college were from my peers.  College students are fascinating case studies.  Every person I ran into taught me something new about human interaction.  When I took the required Philosophy courses at Marquette, I realized I already knew what the TA was teaching us.  Each type of philosophical ideal matched a person (or the decisions of a person) I met at UW.  Stoicism, Feminism, Hedonism, Utilitarianism, Nihilism, Existentialism, and more. I loved talking to people, whether at parties, over lunch, during study sessions, at work, while watching TV…whatever.  Picking their brains and getting to know them—why they think and behave the way they do—and hearing them communicate about themselves and their circumstances, was more fascinating and revealing than any lecture I attended. I wish there was a way to explain it in a few words on a resume. In spite of my inability to use my ever-increasing knowledge of behavioral patterns/types as a resume enhancer, I absolutely do not regret investing so much time honing my abilities in that area.  In fact, I truly do not regret anything I’ve done in college.  Each of my experiences taught me something, whether it was good or bad.

I had to laugh a little at how nostalgic I was feeling as I wrapped up my last first day (and first week) of this chapter in my life.  Graduation is months away, yet I already feel like my “college experience” has ended.  Perhaps it’s because nothing seems new anymore.  Perhaps it’s because I have to spend this time focusing on the future, as opposed to the present.  Perhaps it’s because so many of my friends are getting married/engaged and getting “real” jobs.  Whatever the case may be, I decided to go through and reflect on all of the old photos I have from the last 4.5 years and share some of my favorites.  Oh, college.  What a crazy time you’ve been.

Skated with UW's senior synchronized skating team at Nationals

Skated with UW’s senior synchronized skating team at Nationals during my freshman year.

Unnecessarily camped out in a tent on a bitterly cold night for the release of The Dark Knight for my 18th birthday in Madison.  We're weird.

Unnecessarily camped out in a tent on a bitterly cold night for the release of The Dark Knight for my 18th birthday in Madison. We’re weird.

Rainbow meets Lara Croft!

Rainbow met Lara Croft during my sophomore year Halloween! They’re still good friends to this day.

Went through that rebellious teenager stage a little late in life during my sophomore year.

Went through that rebellious teenager stage a little late in life during my sophomore year.

Joined the Nationally ranked UW Freestyle team during my sophomore year!

Joined the Nationally ranked UW Freestyle team!

Of course, I went to a lot of concerts.

Of course, I went to a lot of concerts.

Seriously, a lot of concerts (Can you find me? I'm on the left in the middle-ish.)

Seriously, a lot of concerts (Can you find me? I’m on the left in the middle-ish.)

Rang in several holidays with great friends, like at this 4th of July party.

Began a relationship with the best man I've ever met—Junior year.

Began a relationship with the best man I’ve ever met—Junior year.

Transferred to Marquette, moved back to Milwaukee, and began to re-experience the city.

Transferred to Marquette, moved back to Milwaukee, and began to re-experience the city.

Went to my first Packer game! They won, of course.

Went to my first Packer game! They won, of course.

Skated with my Canadian pen pal—she's a World Silver Medalist too, no big.

Skated with my Canadian pen pal—she’s a World Silver Medalist too, no big.

Saw a lot of great things happen to others, too. Adam graduated and got a job right away in his field—end of my Junior year.

Saw a lot of great things happen to others. Adam graduated and got a job right away in his field.

My little sister even graduated from high school this past summer!

My little sister even graduated from high school!

A childhood friend of mine got married.

A childhood friend of mine got married.

And my best friend got engaged!!

And my best friend got engaged this past fall!!

Twittering: A Reflection Post

From late August through early December, I tweeted with the hashtag #ADPR3600 50+ times.  I think it’s safe to say that this ongoing assignment was one of the most relaxing and enjoyable semester-long projects that I’ve participated in during my collegiate years.  Not only was it fun for me to tweet, it was fun to click on the #ADPR3600 hashtag and see what others were saying.  Seeing what others were up to was often as insightful as it was entertaining.

Sure, there were ongoing posts about Irene’s inability to stay healthy for more than two days, and at one point Rosalee and I were tweeting about Jimmy John’s, but overall it gave me the chance to learn and explore.  Through the #ADPR3600 project, I learned about Zara, some pro tips for accelerating my career, corporate communication missteps after Sandy, and more.

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Alright, but bringing up Jimmy John’s again was a mistake. I’m really hungry.

Since it’s so crucial to have a presence on Twitter in the communications field, I appreciated that this class encouraged us to develop and maintain our professional image on this popular social media source.  Thanks, Gee, for simultaneously teaching us how to hone our PR writing skills on Twitter and for ensuring that we keep up to date on the happenings in the PR world—something most classes do not make time for!

It’s been a great semester to be in Gee’s #ADPR3600 section.  I’ll definitely be on the lookout for what next semester’s #ADPR3600 class has to say, too!

“We Never Retire”—The Secrets to a Successful Life in Communications

Last week, I had the honor of dining with Mary Henige after listening to her speak in my PR writing class and before I heard her speak again at my PRSSA meeting.  This polished and powerful woman hails from Detroit, where she is currently the Director of Social Media & Digital Communications at General Motors.  For over two decades, Mary has been blazing trails through a variety of communications-related positions at GM (which, as a side note, has been rated as one of the best places to work).

Fortunately for us at Marquette, part of Mary’s simple success formula is helping others.  “Always give back,” she told both our class and our PRSSA chapter.  As a result, Mary makes sure to do what she can to help budding PR professionals like us succeed in today’s communications environment.

Speaking of her simple success formula,

  • Be prepared:  This is the second guest speaker to have emphasized the importance of preparedness.  As we all know, “expect the unexpected” is a phrase that anyone in the communications field needs to embrace.  Stay on top of your toes, and be able to adapt to anything.  We were just discussing this at my internship just last week!  One girl mentioned that she had once participated in an interview where the company inquired about her thoughts on zombies.  We can only imagine that this was asked in an attempt to both test her creativity and her ability to ad-lib.  After all, no one plans on being asked about zombies (I think?).

  • Show up:  Whenever Mary made a point, she attached a famous quote with it.  The quote for this one was by far my favorite: “80% of success is showing up”—Woody Allen.  How great is that?  It certainly is true, though.  Eventually, if one continually shows up at meetings and events, they are bound to get noticed.  Simply continuing to be present implies a certain amount of responsibility and dedication.  Showing up can lead from anything like great networking to a future career!
  • Get involved:  Similar to showing up, getting involved can seriously boost one’s reputation.  Not only will it reveal one’s passion for their work, it provides more opportunities for “showing up” and obtaining leadership positions!
  • Work hard:  Mary truly emphasized the importance of working hard.  First of all, no one likes a slacker!  Secondly, working hard encompasses everything a PR professional should strive to be.  It covers all the little things.  The phrase “work hard” means be professional at all times.  It means pay attention to detail.  It means expand your network.  It means follow up with people.  “Work hard” also means be self-directed.  In sum, “work hard” epitomizes everything about working in the communications field.  Do it all, and do it well.
  • Keep learning:  Things are always changing in our world.  Social media takes on new trends, the public develops new opinions, people begin to learn differently, technology upgrades, celebrities appear in the news, and politics continue to make waves.  For these reasons (and many more!), we need to keep learning.  PR professionals need to keep digesting new information every day.  This applies to everyone, whether they are in school, whether they just graduated, or whether they have been at their job for 20+ years.  Re-invent yourself as time goes on.  What can you add to your repertoire?  Learn, learn, learn!
  • Help others:  The reason I am able to write this post is because Mary graciously donated her time and knowledge to our class and community for a couple days.  Mary emphasized that we all blessed with the knowledge and the skills to go somewhere with our lives.  However, none of us would be where we are today without the help of a variety of people.  It is our duty to continue that chain of donating our services to the community.  Quite simply, it is the right thing to do.

See?  That is all it takes to conquer the communications industry.  Take it from a pro like Mary!

 

Thanks again to Mary Henige for speaking to our class and PRSSA chapter!

“Be Cool, Stick Out, Make a Difference”

On Tuesday, our professor brought in MU alum, PR professional, and inspirational quote machine Molly Currey to speak to our class about public relations outside of the classroom.  Since 1999, Molly has been working at Chicago’s GolinHarris—where she’s done some amazing things.  Molly was the driving force behind the opening of the Hard Rock Hotel Chicago and the Elysian along with an impressive litany of successes with her motorsport clients.  Needless to say, she knows what she’s doing.  We learned a great deal from her, but here are some quotes that particularly impacted me:

  • “You never know what will happen the day you walk in the door.”

Molly labeled this nugget of wisdom “the biggest lesson” she’s learned over the years.  I have to be honest, the first thing that came to mind when she said this was the song “Be Prepared” from The Lion King.

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Be prepared, indeed. Watch your step, Simba! Uncle Scar’s got it out for you.

But honestly, Molly speaks the truth.  Every time I’ve been interviewed for an internship, the interviewer emphasizes how important it is to be able to adapt to any situation.  I am often told that every day is different.  PR professionals have to be on top of their game.

  • “You can do it all.  Play hard.  Work hard.  Live hard.”

This made me smile.  Some other things you may not know about Molly are that she is a former off-roading world champion and that she is a breast cancer survivor.  She epitomizes the idea of living hard.  Seeing her passion inspired everyone to fight for their goals—both personal and career oriented.

  • “Be cool, stick out, make a difference.”

When discussing how to succeed in the PR industry, Molly put serious emphasis on the importance of being awesome and showcasing your life experiences.  Everyone will have some amount of former experience.  What’s important is the lifestyle experience you’ve had.  Shy and boring are two qualities that cannot be applied to any successful PR person.  Having a unique perspective and interesting life stories imply creativity and an ability to tell spin extravagant tales with ease.  Again, be passionate.

So, to sum it all up:

  1. Expect the unexpected.
  2. Give it everything you got.
  3. Don’t be afraid to showcase your awesomeness.

Thank you, Molly, for sharing your wisdom with a room full of young hopefuls.  What wonderful lessons to live by!