Finally Friday!

I’m about to kick-off an awesome weekend, including a concert for Explosions in the Sky! Here’s some links before you kick off YOUR awesome weekend:

 

For the marketers, via Forbes: The Next Big Thing In Marketing

For those nervous about public speaking, via The Daily Muse: Speak Easy: Tips for Public Speaking Like a Pro

For those wanting to retire early, via Mr. Money Mustache: How We Retired in 9 Years

For those dealing with odd parent relationships: Awful Things Moms Have Said (this is a pretty hilarious link, not meant as serious advice!)

 

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Payoffs, Pain and the Little Things: Lessons from the Trail, Part 3

This is the final post in my 3-part mini-series on lessons from the trail. You can view the first post here and the second post here.

 

 

Lake Conroe, the "big" payoff after two days of hiking.

 

Gorgeous scenery on the ENTIRE Half Dome trail.
Much bigger payoff was worth the pain!

 

I’m a fit person, but my feet were killing me after just a few miles. We’d planned to camp for two nights, but mid-way through the second day of hiking, we determined that it was best not to stay a second night. The biggest factor, was that we felt the payoff wasn’t worth it. Honestly, hiking with a 30 lb. pack, eating freeze-dried food, and going to the bathroom in the woods isn’t all that fun! It’s the scenery and the quiet connection to nature and each other that makes it worth it… but the scenery wasn’t amazing, and the wind was picking up to the point of discomfort. Our feet were in terrible shape during our Half Dome hike, but standing on top of a mountain is pretty good at melting away the pain. I also figured out that the 30 lb. pack was killing my feet more than any other part of my body, but my standard-size backpack during the Half Dome hike didn’t have nearly this kind of impact (even though the load was not well-distributed like it is on a backpacking pack). Basically, the little extras in my pack for a few days had way more impact than the one-time stress of the standard backpack.

So, I have to ask, is your payoff worth it at your job? Is the money, work, and sense of accomplishment actually making the pain worth it? Does the “dream job” measure up? I know we all have bad days at work, and sometimes it feels like we’re ready to retire at 30, but for me, I’m generally happy and satisfied when I’m working at my job. The pain in the job is usually a long commute, boring work, low pay, or long hours, as opposed to aching feet (although, I’ve had my share of aching feet after trade shows!). It’s these “little things” that end up making the payoff less than stellar. For me, a long commute is a pretty big impact on my payoff, as the cost in gas, time away from my husband and my hobbies, and stress of traffic makes me hesitant to accept a job that requires more than 30 minutes on the road (traffic included, hate it!). I’m terrible about rationalizing that the stress isn’t that bad, but the little things add up. And, if you’re waiting for a payoff that never comes, you need to re-evaluate your career path. The “little things” take a mental, physical, and emotional toll, and you need to know when to pack up and head home.

I thoroughly enjoyed my first backpacking trip, but it taught me quite a lot about what is and is not worth it. A little pain is acceptable for the right payoff!

Dealing with Obstacles: Lessons from the Trail, Part 2

This is part 2 of my 3-part series on my insights from my backpacking trip over Labor Day weekend. You can view the first post here.

Overcoming Obstacles... Over, Under, or Around?

The Lone Star Hiking Trail is full of huge, towering trees. Sometimes, these trees fall down, right over the trail. You can see by my face that I’m a little dismayed at this particular tree, as the light wood at the base indicates that it fell recently (obviously, a little disconcerting when you plan to sleep in a flimsy tent beneath these timbers!). This wasn’t the only tree we happened upon, and I climbed over, under, or around many obstacles in our path.

Business is the same way, with a seemingly straight, easy-to-tread path, that often ends up being twisty, hard-to-see, or filled with obstacles. The real question is: how do you view the obstacles? Are obstacles a reason to stop the project entirely, or an issue that needs to be fixed to make the project better than before? I’ve run into my share of projects that use obstacles as a reason to keep the project from moving forward, instead of using them as an opportunity for improvement. Here’s how I’ve managed to overcome some of the obstacles:

Climb over. Sometimes, the trees in our path were clean, and the brush was over-grown around them. Thus, it made the most sense to just climb right over the tree to reach the path on the other side. I’ve found that sometimes it helps to get a little muscle behind your projects at work, and climb right over the obstacles. I’m not suggesting going over your boss’s head, but I am suggesting that you talk with a decision-maker if you’ve come to an impasse on a project. For example, when working on one company’s website, we had several key players at the same level who couldn’t agree. By involving a decision-maker one level up, we were able to come to an agreement and keep the project moving toward completion.

Go under it. Going under a tree branch with a large backpack requires some flexibility, and sometimes, work projects need a little flexibility as well. Don’t get so stuck on one idea or one strategy that you forget that there’s other ways to solve a problem. For example, I’ve had to be flexible in my approach to designing our CRM system at work. I use the system for a different purpose than our sales reps, customer service reps, and management, so I’ve had to re-work some fields and policies to accommodate the needs of the other members of the team. Had I stubbornly adhered to my own perspective on the system design, many of my team members would not be able to use it effectively.

Go around it. Sometimes, the tree was too big or too over-grown with brush to effectively climb over it or under it, and the same is true in the office. If you can’t overcome an obstacle by taking it up a level, or re-working a solution, it’s best to evaluate the project for value, and find an entirely new strategy to deal with the problem. Some obstacles indicate flaws in the foundation of a strategy or project design, so if you’ve exhausted all other possibilities, you might need to go back to the drawing board. For example, I work on a lot of mock-ups for design projects at work, and sometimes I have to scrap entire concepts. It seems frustrating at first, but once the final project is settled, the results are much better than the original ideas.

Try not to take it personal if your ideas aren’t working, and view the obstacles for your ideas as a way to improve the project. With a little flexibility and muscle, you’ll be back to the path in no time!

Marketing Hype? Lessons From the Trail, Part 1

My husband and I enjoyed a backpacking trip over Labor Day weekend on the Lone Star Hiking Trail. Even in the middle of the woods, I couldn’t help thinking about marketing and the corporate world! So, I’ve got a quick 3-part series of posts with some of my thoughts from the backpacking trip.

 

From the source...

 

Straight to Your Bottle!

When trekking through the woods for a few days, you either pack all your water, or find water sources along the trail. The water sources along the trail need to be purified, so we used chlorine drops to make the trail water safe. It struck me that most bottled water companies advertise their bottled water as some variation of the message “pure, straight from the source.” There’s usually a picture of a rushing stream, or a lake surrounded by mountains. They sell this water at a premium, and people swear that “pure stream water” tastes much better than “fresh mountain water”. But here I am, LITERALLY getting water directly from the source, and I can’t sell it at a premium… in fact, it’s basically free (I suppose we can count the pennies worth of drops used to purify the water in the cost, but that’s trivial). I think most people would agree that my drops-induced creek water tastes a little funny, and isn’t worth paying top dollar.

On the flip side, if you’re without water in a desert, you’ll pay top dollar for ANY water, not just the fresh, purified stream water. At the point of dehydration, you might not even care if the water is purified at all, figuring a stomach ache is worth the risk to avoid the possibly fatal effects of going for days without water. We weren’t in dire need of water, but we were glad to find this little creek on our route. This creek water was much more satisfying than the lake water (confession: I couldn’t drink the lake water… it was just too gross-looking!).

Thus, my water in the woods is ironically not a “premium” product, even though it lives up to the “straight from the source” marketing, but it would become a premium product if it were more scarce. This was a fun realization in nature, and I look forward to sharing my other insights from the weekend!

Friday for All!

I’m much less grumpy today, so thanks for bearing with me on yesterday’s less-than-happy post! I am ready for the weekend, and here’s what I’ll be reading:

 

For those looking to manage their online presence, via The Daily Muse: You Are Not Your Resume

For those debating the value of education, a controversial post, via Forbes: Why You Should Drop Out Of High School

For those wondering, “how much is enough?” via Corporette: Are you rich? If so, why? (check out the comments, REALLY interesting)

For those interested in the jobs crisis, via CNN: Are Jobs Obsolete?

 

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“Internships” and “Administrative Support”

I think I’m grumpy today, so this post may sound a little sour. However, the sentiment is spot-on, so I’m going to attempt to write about it in a balanced, professional manner. We’ll see how it goes!

First, let’s talk about “internships”. I’m not talking about the legitimate, paid, really-gives-you-a-hands-on-look at the business internships, I’m talking about requests for free labor disguised as internships. As a marketer, I possess a soft skill, which means that my role and abilities are often hard to quantify and measure. This makes my role much more susceptible to offers for “internships”. The postings usually go something like this: “Seeking a Marketing Intern for a great opportunity! We can’t pay you, but we’ll provide a fun, passionate environment to help you grow your skills! You’ll learn from some of the industry’s best, with talented mentors and a variety of projects. We expect everyone to pitch in around here, so we’ll need someone who doesn’t mind a little administrative work when it’s needed. Are you ambitious? We’re the company for you!” They proceed to require something like 3-5 years of experience in Marketing, a bachelor’s degree, and several special skills in design software, social media management, event management, and PR or advertising. I’m sorry, but with those credentials, you better stinkin’ pay me! If I’m a freshman in college with a complete lack of experience, you might get away with this, but years of experience and a degree? This is not an internship, it’s a request for free labor. Don’t fall for this, and don’t under-value yourself. You have valuable skills and expertise that this company needs, and you deserve to be compensated for it. Internships should offer some form of compensation, and many will offer college credit as a form of payment. However, be aware that many colleges, particularly for Business majors, require that the internship be paid. Why? Because the whole point of majoring in business is to learn to make money… so there’s a fundamental flaw in working without pay. Don’t get suckered in to an “internship”, but harshly evaluate any opportunities that pretend that a “cool workplace” is a valid form of compensation. (Note that volunteering or pro bono work is completely different. It’s categorized as such, and you know that your compensation is your own personal fulfillment for helping others).

Second, let’s talk about administrative support. Again, I recognize that my skills may be hard to measure and quantify (I make sure that I include specific goals and a “measurement” piece in all my projects to combat this), but they are special skills nonetheless . No, a Marketing Coordinator should not double as a secretary by inputting expense reports and taking phone calls for the boss. If you need someone for these tasks, hire an office manager. It’s not a marketer’s job to keep the white-out and staples stocked. Again, I get frustrated when I see postings that require multiple years of experience, a bachelor’s (and sometimes master’s) degree, specialized skills in a particular area of marketing, and then mention that it’s also the marketer’s job to do admin work. I know that sometimes the lines are a little blurred, as sometimes a marketing role includes activities like “scheduling travel” or “organizing presentation files”. However, the Tradeshow and Event Coordinator should not be required to book random travel for executives and do data entry for their expense reports. This person is responsible for travel related to a trade show, and accounting is responsible for processing expense reports. Individuals should be responsible for collecting their own receipts and putting them into the Excel template that’s given to accounting. Organizing presentation files should not spill over into “filing” random items that have nothing to do with my projects. Again, let each department file their own papers, or hire an “Archival Specialist” to do the filing for the whole company. From a business perspective, it makes no sense to pay a marketer’s salary to someone who is just going to file papers or do data entry (and no, the solution is not to just offer a marketer an admin’s salary, see point #1 about “internships”). If you don’t have enough work to hire a full-time marketing person, just say so, and tell them you need someone for 15-20 hours a week! Just like you need someone with special skills in accounting, engineering, and operations, you need someone with special skills in marketing. Don’t waste your time or money on marketing if you think it’s something that “anyone can do” in between filing papers and ordering office supplies.

All this grumpiness to say, marketers have valuable skills. Experienced professionals with degrees deserve compensation. Your expertise is WORTH something, so be selective in your job hunt and career path. This economy makes people feel desperate, but don’t succumb to an employer’s lowest expectation. Challenge yourself to make the right choice to showcase your skills and expertise, and don’t waste time with dead-end “opportunities”.

Posting at The Daily Muse

I’ve been neglecting the blog the last few days, but I’ve got some posts lined up for next week that should make up for it! In the mean time, click over to The Daily Muse to view my latest post, “What to Look for in a First Job“. I’ve written a few pieces for The Daily Muse, and you can view them in the education and career sections of the site. The Daily Muse offers great articles, advice, and perspective for young female professionals, so I encourage you to read through the posts by the other talented writers!

Happy Labor Day Weekend!

It’s been a long week for some reason, so I’m pretty antsy to get this weekend started! Also, I’m going on my first backpacking trip, so this should be an interesting adventure for me and my husband. Here’s what I’m reading to kick off the weekend.

 

For the marketers, via Forbes: Ford and Zipcar Brilliant Alliance

For HR professionals, hiring managers, and career planners, via TIME: The Beauty Premium

For the hobbyist composer (my husband had this site up last night, pretty cool!): JamStudio

For those considering the MBA, via Daily Muse (my contribution post this week): Are you going to B-school for the right reasons?

 

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