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Archive for May, 2009

Please excuse my absence, but I am in full summer mode for a few days. It’s nice to have some down time.

In addition to some much-needed rest, I am focused on the IABC World Conference in San Francisco June 7-10, 2009. I will present on strategic communication planning and management on Sunday, June 7.

I can’t wait to see IABC staff/friends there. An IABC World Conference recharges your professional batteries like nothing else.

In fact, IABC has given me every good thing I’ve known in my career:

  • Every good job I ever had I got directly or indirectly from IABC, including consulting assignments as president of LES POTTER INCORPORATED and my beloved teaching job at Towson University.
  • Every bit of professional development to keep me current (in addition to earning my MBA and current work on my doctorate) come from IABC’s excellent products and programs.
  • My best friends are friendships made and nurtured in IABC.

Am I an IABC zealot? You bet. Join me in San Francisco, and you will see why.

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I’ve noticed that among my Millennial students, there is a disturbing lack of curiosity. I wonder if I am the only person who feels this way.

This concerns me because it has employment implications. A lack of curiosity may well hurt graduates’ hiring prospects. The Washington Post reported May 17, 2009, that after contacting eight to 10 area schools, about 35 to 40 percent of seniors are graduating without jobs or a predetermined plan in place. Typically, that number is 10 to 15 percent.

Given, this is the worst economy we’ve seen in a long time. Companies are hurting, and jobs are scarce. But that is all the more reason for graduates to pay attention to every detail that will help them secure a good job.

Why am I saying there is a lack of curiosity? This past spring semester, I had approximately 75 students in four classes. I interact with these students in class twice a week. I talk with them in the halls. They come to my office for things. They participate in our PR Group, the student professional association chapter. Yet in all of these interactions, only occasionally will someone ask a question of any substance. Few make observations that capture insightful interest in or understanding of things. Most never even comment on their surroundings. They seem oblivious to a deeper exploration of ideas and concepts, not only the abstract or obtuse, but the practical as well, like how to get and keep jobs in communication/PR/IMC.

In short, they seem to be devoid of curiosity. Some specific examples:

  • Students rarely if ever ask about the working world. I spent 35 years earning a living doing what I now teach. It seems to me that that might provoke some questions. College is a time of becoming exposed to many new and different ideas and concepts. Why then are there so few probing questions? Why so few substantive questions about careers and work?
  • Students don’t ask why things are the way they are. They seem to accept everything at face value.
  • This is a personal, nonscientific observation, but I think it tells us something; students don’t seem to notice things around them. A specific example of this is that students do not see things in my office. I have a small but nicely appointed office with a few carefully chosen decorations, like interesting photos and original art. I purposely designed my office to be an interesting and relaxing place to visit or work. But students don’t comment on photos, memorabilia, etc. They don’t even see these things.

It does not hurt my feelings that students who visit my office do not comment on my artwork. But it does bother me that they don’t even notice their surroundings. What if it was a job interview? The ability to converse easily, perhaps initiate a conversation about a unique photo or piece of art, is a plus for the job seeker. The abiity to build rapport and sell yourself with employers is critically important.

As a manager who hired, trained, and terminated many employees in my career, the ability and willingness to ask probing questions is a competitive advantage for job seekers. 

One of my more memorable supervisors got furious at employees who didn’t demonstrate curiosity. He blasted employees who “were not the least bit curious at why sales were flat, or why this project did not work, or that process cost so much, etc.” In general, he wanted curious employees who dug deep to find better ways of doing things. Those employees were favored. The employees with curiosity were trusted with more meaningful assignments. They got raises and promotions. But first, they got hired.

As May graduates try to enter the job market, I think a sense of curiosity is a big plus.

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But for now, instructors like me grade and grade and grade. The stacks are piled high. So much effort by so many students. So many end-of-semester projects. Now, the assessment.

The halls are mostly quiet. A few classes still meet for final exams. Many students are gone already. Professors hide away behind stacks of ungraded assignments.

Many soon-to-be-former students use Facebook to express their happiness at completing college. Many lament that fact. Bob Dylan said it best, “the times they are a changin'”.

Change is never easy. Elation today may give way to frustration tomorrow as job searches drag on and on.

But tomorrow will take care of itself. Today is a good time to celebrate the accomplishment of college graduation. A diploma is an entry fee for career succcess, a huge card punched to use life’s career transit.

God speed, graduates.

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Welcome to my new look. I’ve been writing in my old theme since I created More With Les, and I decided it was about time to freshen the look.

It is amazing how hard the decision was to change themes. I guess we all become creatures of habit. I certainly do. The old theme was, well, it was More With Les for so long. Time to shake things up a bit.

I hope you like the new look. I find it refreshing. Nice to see a photo for a change, a soothing photo of a pleasant scene. Calms the nerves in these troubled times.

Thank you for your support of MWL. It means everything to me.

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It’s the calm before the storm. Next week, my 75 students in four classes will be toiling away at the ubiquitous end-of-semester assessment instrument, the final exam.

It’s like waterboarding, but without the water and the board. But finals do serve the same stated purpose, that is, to extract the truth.

I hope that while I am writing this, my students are studying for their finals. Most of the students who will take my finals next week are graduating in May. This is one last obstacle before they walk.

I wish them much luck, both on their exams and in their lives after graduation. I will miss them.

But before they can go, they must pass one last exam. It’s too late now to go back and get it.  It’s all over but the successful completion of finals and then the graduation ceremony. In a matter of days, they’ll walk out of Towson, diploma in hand, and try to find work.

My May grads face the toughest job market we’ve seen in decades. But they will find their way. I know this. I know this because I did. If I can do it, anyone can. They will, too.

In the end, it is not the destination, but the journey that matters. My May grads will come to know this. Being successful in life is largely a matter of handling what life throws at you. Finding a job is a first great test, a harsh one this day and time no doubt, and certainly not the last test they will face.

But it is a start. Now it’s time to clean up the Facebook pages (especially the photos), get some businesslike clothing, practice speaking in complete, coherent sentences (and writing them, too), and hit the job search circuit.

In time, I will hear from some of my former students when they find work. They will proudly tell me all about the new job. I will celebrate with them, knowing all the time that they would do it.

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