3 Tips to Building Your Network While in School

“It’s not about what you know, but who you know.”

If I had a dollar for every time someone had said this to me, I probably wouldn’t owe as much as I do in student debt. As much as I would like to believe my existing network of friends or my GPA will be able to help ease my way into the workforce, it’s probably not going to happen.

The reality is, networking is almost unavoidable these days. You feel the pressure in your classrooms, in career advisors office, through pedway posters on campus and for some of you — even your parents.

As if it weren’t enough, now not only do you have to maintain your grades, work a part-time job, and keep your friends from asking if you’re still alive, you should be connecting on LinkedIn, attending professional mixers and searching out the next networking event.

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The truth is there are other ways you can “network” without having to awkwardly introduce yourself to the random stranger by the food table at the next event. Here are 3 tips to help you build your network while you are trying to balance being a student and remembering to shower.

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Connect with your professors: not sure what you want to do when you’re finished your program? Have a quick chat with your professors! These are your people. By now they may be familiar with your work ethic, how you work with others and your strengths. They may even keep you in mind when an internship opportunity or job opening comes under their radar.

Speak up in class: Some classes work hard to invite industry professionals to guest lecture or present. Close your laptop and pay attention. Most of these guest speakers have taken time from their day to chat with you; they may even be scoping to hire a student for part-time work during the summer.

Make new friends while you’re here. Expand your network by getting involved on campus, not only will this help connect you to others but will help build your experience with networking in the future. Who knows, maybe your new friends can hook you up with a shiny new job when you’re done!

Well, there you have it folks! A few networking tips to get you connected and if you’re lucky, maybe even hired!

GIFs from http://giphy.com

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Don’t feed the trolls

One great thing about the Internet is that everyone has a big, loud voice.

One terrible thing about the Internet is that everyone has a big, loud voice.

People LOVE to complain, and social media is the perfect soapbox.

When someone feels wronged by a company, you can practically see the Twitter bird flapping around in their brain as they formulate the angriest 140 characters they can come up with.

For a social media coordinator, complaints can be a minefield to deal with, but the way you handle negative comments online can have a HUGE effect on your brand.

This is why we hire social media professionals.

It’s not always a straightforward process, but negative comments are an excellent opportunity to engage with your community and make meaningful connections.

Here are five types of negative comments you’re likely to encounter and how to deal with them:


  1. The indirect comment

This is the kind of comment where someone casually drops your brand’s name in a complaint rather than aiming it right at you. They’re airing their grievances, but they aren’t necessarily expecting the problem to be solved, so if you CAN solve their problem, there’s huge potential to get into their good books. Let them know you’re listening and concerned. If you can help them, you’re likely to create a new, loyal customer.

  1. The mixed review

These often come from a fan or someone who really wants to like you, but feels let down somehow. Again, there’s huge potential to make a lasting connection with this person. Always engage with these. If you go above and beyond to help the commenter, even if you can’t solve their specific problem, it will let them know that you genuinely care and want to keep them happy. They want you to keep them happy, so it’s a win-win.

  1. The ill-informed commenter

This person is upset over something that isn’t actually true. This might be your (or your company’s) fault for not communicating things properly. It’s important to address these ones so that the misinformation doesn’t spread. Unfortunately correcting someone on the Internet is always a dangerous game.

Be careful about the commenter’s ego. Let them know you’ve made a mistake by not communicating the facts clearly enough. Look at your communications and make sure that your messages are actually clear and correct. Fix what you need to fix, and let them know you’ve fixed it. Establish a positive connection, and then ease yourself into correcting the misinformation. Have a conversation with them to help them understand. And for the love of God, don’t make them feel stupid.

  1. The irate commenter

This person is past the point of consoling, and you’re not likely to change their minds about your product or service right now. But you may be able to tame the flames a bit.

Before you respond, check them out to see what kind of person they are and how they react to things. If their Twitter feed is full of complaints to companies, they’re probably habitually grumpy and/or just trying to get free stuff. Address them if it doesn’t seem too dangerous, but don’t go out of your way to appease them. It’s a waste of your time and you’ll get dangerously close to feeding the troll. Those watching the conversation will likely realize this, too, so don’t worry so much about your reputation here.

If it seems like this is a one-time incident, you need to take it more seriously and figure out what your company did to make this person so mad. Have a real conversation with them through direct messages if necessary, and if they are reasonable, you should be able to come to some sort of mutual understanding.

  1. The troll

If someone is being abusive or offensive, it’s time to use the exercise your right to the block button. Do not engage. Do not pass go. Do not collect $200.


No matter the type of comment, some rules will always apply:

  • Take your time. Don’t EVER respond to a comment while angry.

    Don't ever do this.

    Don’t ever respond like this.

  • Be honest. If you say you’ll communicate their concern to someone, actually do that.
  • Apologize sincerely. “I’m sorry you were offended” doesn’t count.
  • Keep your tone on brand. Straying from your established persona could be unnerving to the commenter. Connect personally, but stay on brand.
  • Genuinely listen. Besides this just being a good customer service tactic, there will always be nuggets of wisdom in a negative comment. Listen and learn from them.

    Don't ever do this either.

    Don’t ever do this either.

If you’re still feeling lost, take a look at the US Air Force’s social media flowchart below for their tips on how to survive social media.

Air Force social media

Had a traumatic experience with negative comments? Let us know about them!

Spilled Milk Allergies: Procrastination Management

 

 

Calvin and Hobbes on Procrastination by Bill Waterson (1992)

 

I am a chronic procrastinator. While this problem is as common as a common cold, I treat it more like an allergy. Though it might be caused by external stimuli, it’s not viral as in the external environment trying to compromise my immune system. Rather, it’s the irrationality of my immune system reacting to non-toxic substances such as, say, the blooming fear-of-failing pollen.

 

In an earlier post, Shereen talked about working your way through a mistake after the milk has been spilled. I, on this post, attempt to encourage you to take that milk jug and start pouring. Don’t think of the spill that may or may not happen.

 

 

Just pour it!

 

 

As a writer, I get procrastination hives (manifested in six-hour Netflix itch and spastic video game attacks) often enough to develop a longing for a procrastination antihistamine. In Megan McArdle’s article “Why Writers are the Worst Procrastinators,” she indicates that putting off writing is a very common allergic hazard of the craft, but procrastination is not exclusive to writers. It’s so commonplace, you’d be the weird one of you didn’t do it.

 

Its predominance doesn’t make it right, and it doesn’t make it less of a problem. Here are my thoughts on dealing with procrastination. Maybe you can share yours after.

 

 

  1. Acknowledge that you are procrastinating, and that it is a problem

 

They say the first step is admitting you have a problem, but with popular culture celebrating procrastination, it’s actually quite hard to take seriously.

Retrieved from someecards.com

 

 

However, if by the time your work is nearing due you find yourself parched for that milk you were too afraid to spill, and you find yourself wishing you were the type of person,who is never afraid of spilling milk, then procrastination is a problem.

 

It is a problem if it has turned your hobbies into escapism, when you know, deep down, you have compromised yourself.

 

It’s a problem, and you know it.

 

Now is the time to take charge.

 

  1. Shitty First Drafts and Short Assignments

 

I treat Anne Lammott’s Bird by Bird as my procrastination repentance bible. I like reading it when I need to be talked down off the ledge of procrastination. Lammott reminds me of shitty first drafts, and that if I do something now, I will have time to re-do it if necessary. It’s not about not spilling the milk, but having that leeway of pouring yourself another glass if you do spill. And because procrastination is an allergy, not a temporary viral infection, I need constant reminding doses of this fact when my procrastination hives act up. It’s normal. Don’t spend too much energy beating yourself up for procrastinating. Remember, there is no cure, just management.

 

“Short Assignments” is basically a tip about time management and perspective. It’s about taking it “bird by bird” and not being overwhelmed by the whole bird kingdom. If the blank page is your Mt. Everest, maybe try using subheads to fill the void like land markers. As they always say, it’s not about the destination; it’s about the journey. And sometimes knowing there are picnic stops is what keeps you going.

 

  1. You are not Proust or Wilde or Orwell

 

Let’s talk about the Myth of the Genius, about how society has created this idol of success where we mere mortals of mediocre achievements spend our time writhing in envy. Originally, according to Roman religion, the genius is a divine phenomenon. As the all-knowing Wikipedia puts it, the genius is the individual instance of a general divine nature that is present in every individual person, place, or thing. Therefore, when society demands genius, it demands godhood, and well, who doesn’t want to be God, right?

 

But this desire to be the next Wilde or Proust or Orwell or the next “genius” is unhealthy. The obvious result of this desire is crippling yourself via procrastination, but it’s also notable that this can lead to suffering from the Impostor Syndrome: thinking all your achievements don’t count for anything–that you are merely posing as “the genius”.

 

Treat this desire for genius and the impostor syndrome like an allergic reaction as well. When these ideas plague you, when you think you can’t be good enough, remember to ask who defines “good enough.” Most of the time, your best will be good enough. You don’t need to be the next Orwell, like he didn’t need to be the next Shakespeare.

 

 

  1. Celebrate

 

I think this is the most underrated tip there is. Who needs to be encouraged to celebrate? Anal-retentive procrastinators, that’s who. So if you are one of us, and you just finished a task where you have powered through procrastination allergic symptoms, good for you.

 

Let your spirits lift, and maybe tackle another thing on your to-do list. If your eyes feel a bit scratchy for Netflix, remember, procrastination does not have a cure, but it can be managed.

 

Be proactive.

 

Start pouring.

Photograph: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Photograph: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

 

In Queen Bey We Trust: When in doubt, be Beyoncé

Starting a new career can be a damn scary thing. If you’re fresh out of school, it’s easy to feel like you don’t know what you’re talking about. It’s easy to defer to your superiors and hide in the background. After all, you probably don’t have a ton of experience. Every job posting wants you to have years of experience but you can’t get that experience if no one will give you a job so that you can get, well, experience.

You start to get down on yourself and comparing yourself to your friends, colleagues, and frienemies. Someone got a better job than you. Someone got a job, period. Someone you work with didn’t like your idea for that marketing campaign. Pretty soon you’re shrinking back in meetings, or shaking hands like you’ve got noodle arms and standing awkwardly off in the corner eating all the cake at a networking event. STOP.

TAKE A DEEP BREATH. NOW ASK YOURSELF, WHAT WOULD BEYONCE DO?

There’s a reason why we love Beyoncé so much. She has confidence that Madonna herself is probably jealous of. She’s known in the music industry for having an insane work ethic. She’s humble, likeable and on top of the world. We could all stand to bask a little in her glory and apply a bit more Bey to our own lives.

Beyoncé can’t be bothered with haters. Did your boss rudely shut down your awesome idea (and then use it)? Did someone make a nasty comment on your blog or send some snark your way on Twitter? Are you scared to start a cool project because you’re worried about what people will think? Screw them. Don’t even worry about it. Constructive criticism is something worth paying attention to; garbage from haters is not. Beyoncé is not worried about what trolls think of her. Beyoncé is on a yacht in the south of France with Jay.

Make like Taylor Swift and shake it off.

Haters gonna hate

Beyoncé is a collaborator. She did not come up with all her fabulousness all on her own. Do you think she would be where she is without Kelly and Michelle? Or her mom sewing all those crazy costumes early on in her career? Even now, as she sits on top of the world as one of it’s biggest pop icons, she’s still collaborating with other artists. 

The woman knows how to WORK. Beyoncé has been working hard at her craft since she was in elementary school. She’s known for a killer work ethic. It’s been said that it takes 10,000 hours of dedicated practice to master a skill. Let’s say you’re doing your thing for 8 hours a day, 365 days a year. It’s still going to take you almost 3.5 years to hit 10,000 hours. Be prepared to work your ass off and enjoy doing it.

Be nice. Beyoncé is proof that you don’t have to be a jerk to get ahead in life. Even through the controversy in the early days of Destiny’s Child, Bey has kept her head held high and been open about how much she cares about the people she works with. And don’t confuse being nice with being a doormat. You can be an assertive badass without being a dick. It is possible.

So when you doubt your life, your decisions, and your self, take heart. Keep calm, and be Beyoncé.

giphy (1)

Long live the Queen.

Working Online Demystified

 

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“Cyberspace City,” Original image retrieved from Desktop Nexus || Edited in Pablo by Buffer

Almost a year ago, I started working as a communications intern for a couple of companies off-site. Even though I grew up during the rise of the Internet and consequently the construction of the streets of cyberspace and the realization of Marshall McLuhan’s “Global Village,” the idea of working solely online still held some sci-fi mystique for me. Though I have spent many hours as a social media user and a web surfer, being a cyber professional seems to be right out there with independent AI’s, cyber cowboys and Keeanu Reeves. My experience, unfortunately, is less cyberpunk “bullet time” and more cyberfrenzy, so here are the things I learned during my trek into the thick of working through the wild World Wide Web.

 

  1. The elusive online work does exist!

As much as I have spent weaving online work into the matrix of cyber fiction, it is real. I am not talking about those suspicious telemarketing “work from home” kinds either. There is legitimate and also various work that is available entirely or partially online.

 

I personally found my first distance internship through SCIP (Serving Communities Internship Program). It’s a matter of finding the virtual positions available that match your skills and time commitments.

 

As far as my second virtual placement, I did a virtual scouring of potential publishers that are more inclined to hire offsite workers. This hunt meant a lot of reading on their mandate and about page. Keywords to look out for are “global market,” “moving with technological advancement,” “web based,” etc. When the company you are looking at seems to be technologically advanced or savvy, they are more likely to be open to virtual workers. In my experience, I had to ask if there are possibilities for a distance internship, and though this might not work for regular employment, I think keeping in mind that there are jobs out there that don’t exist until you ask is very important.

 

  1. You are mostly working on self-management, and surprisingly, the management can still suck.
How to Focus

“Focus Infographic,” Retrieved from fundersandfounders.com

I think the most attractive myth around working online is the myth of independence. You work mostly for yourself. Sure, there are deliverables, but it is working at your own pace with as many coffee/Facebook breaks you want.

It is common for freelancers to find their inner self-boss more lenient—allowing  3-hour lunch breaks, impromptu Netflix binges, and indulgence on another pointless cat video. Of course by the end of the day, your inner boss realizes you are a horrible slacker, and you are now on a roller coaster guilt trip nose dive.

Independence in an online setting is equivalent to huge self-accountability. This independence also means you may not have support at your fingertips. For example, I was given a project working with a new software that my boss wasn’t an expert on and the software support wasn’t particularly helpful. I needed to take initiative, be responsible and work my way through the problem by myself. I had to learn how to be a good self-manager, and I must confess I am not my ideal boss.

 

  1. Working on your own time may mean you work longer.

 

As per discussed above, the challenges in working online involve being online itself (i.e. Netflix, Facebook, Twitter, cat videos, wikiHow, Forbes, etc.). When information (both useless and potentially useful information) is just a Google away, you can easily get distracted.

 

There are programs to keep your slog through the World Wide Web on the productive path. Leechblock and SelfControl can block certain sites that leech on your productivity. Having set working hours and break times are also crucial in keeping your professional online commitments.

 

To keep yourself motivated, break down large projects to a manageable to-do list, then create a priority list per day. Spend your first working hours tackling your top three priorities instead of working on easiest-first rationale. Achieving at least the top priorities of the day will leave you with an accomplished feeling that should sustain your motivation until you clock out.

 

On that thought, try to keep overtime at the minimum. You may be tempted to try and barrel through huge projects, but this behaviour will only tire you out in the long run. Remember, be a good boss to yourself, and that means knowing when to let your worker-self have some me-time away from the inner boss.

 

These are the three things I learned from working online. If you have a similar experience and are willing to share your online kernels of wisdom, we’d love to hear from you.

The Art of Failing

I am a compulsive perfectionist in many areas of my life, which is very difficult for me because I have never once been perfect. This becomes particularly challenging when it comes to career development and my work, but like a good Millennial, I don’t blame myself for my perfectionist ways. I blame the system.

From grade school onward, students are rewarded for being right and are told that wrongness is the path to certain doom. Right and wrong are taught to be binary, and only one will lead to success. This is a terrible thing to be taught.

Spencer Silver, a researcher at the 3M Laboratories, was trying to make a new, stronger adhesive, but what he created was actually weaker than what already existed. For years it sat around as a useless product. By all accounts, he had failed. Then one day Art Fry had the idea to slap that stuff onto some paper and call it a Post-it Note.

Mistakes have created all kinds of cool things: penicillin, the Slinky and the microwave, to name a few. More than helping us discover great new things, mistakes help us learn, whether it’s knowing not to do something again or encouraging us to look at it from a different perspective.

The lucky ones

The lucky ones on the Titanic’s last lifeboat.

Obviously there are times for throwing caution to the wind and there are times when you should try very hard not to make mistakes. Not having enough lifeboats on the Titanic? That was a pretty big mistake. Napoleon thinking he could invade Russia in the winter? Not a great choice. But when it comes to our work, mistakes have huge potential to help us grow into far better humans.

Here’s my quick little guide for getting the most out of your mistakes.

1. Evaluate the mistake and take appropriate action.

Is this a little oopsie that you can fix, apologize for and move on with, or do you need to do a deep evaluation of the situation? Can you make sure this kind of mistake doesn’t happen again by putting a reminder in your phone, or do processes need to be re-evaluated?

2. Don’t take it personally.

It’s no use crying over spilled milk. Clichés like this exist for a reason. Sometimes failure is unavoidable, and sometimes failure is the direct result of our own actions. Either way, wallowing in self-pity won’t get you very far. You need to remember that even if your actions may have resulted in a failure, YOU are not a failure. You are wonderful and awesome and full of potential, and if you approach a mistake from a negative, accusatory perspective, you won’t get to focus on the opportunity that the mistake could bring. Which leads me to #3…

The international symbol for brainstorming.

Post-it Notes: The international symbol for brainstorming.

3. Find the opportunity.

There is no mistake that cannot yield a positive if you commit to learning—really learning—from it. Sometimes you find a better way to accomplish your goal. Other times, you’ll realize that the mistake has opened new doors or eliminated options so you can make a more informed decision next time. Maybe you accidentally made Post-it Notes instead of super-strong glue. Look for these things and capitalize on them.

4. Continuously monitor your progress.

Are you making the same mistakes over and over? Are people getting frustrated with you because you keep messing things up? Just feel like you can’t get something right? It’s time to figure out why. Maybe you’re not getting the support and training you need. Maybe you need to figure out a process for yourself so you feel confident that you can nail it every time. Be conscious.

5. Find an employer who knows what to do with mistakes.

This is a trickier one, but it’s something I think we should all be thinking about when starting a new job. When you make a mistake (and you will), how will your employer handle the situation? A good manager should be paying attention and looking for the opportunity, just like you should be. They should allow you to fix it and then trust that you’ll be striving for the best possible outcome.

6. Jump in.

Listening to your fear of failure is the best way to get absolutely nothing done. If you’re sitting at home, unemployed, and not applying for jobs because you’re worried you might mess up, it’s time for a reality check. You will probably mess up (a bunch), and you’ll learn from it (a bunch). Get your hands dirty and celebrate your failures.

The world is an uncertain place. No matter how well you plan something out, and no matter how sure you are that you will not make a mistake, you can never know what the outcomes of your actions will be. The world exists today because of continuous change. Get on board that little revolving blue dot and see where it takes you.

That little, pale blue dot is Earth, by the way.

That little blue dot is Earth, by the way.

Photo #1 By a passenger of the Carpathia [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons 

Photo#2 By Shereen Zink 

Photo #3 By NASA (NASA) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons 

 

Social Media Management 101: Quick and Dirty for Beginners

social_media_manager_header-642x250
Over the past six months, I have been learning the ropes as a social media manager and along my journey I’ve picked up a few quick tips worth sharing. As an entry-level communications professional, it is almost guaranteed that a few of us will end up manning a social media account or two; these days, as a young person, it’s almost unavoidable. Here are some useful tools to get familiar with to help you along your way in your new role as a Social Media Manager:

1) Buffer is a scheduling app (AKA: your new best friend) that will keep you from wanting to rip out your hair. This helpful little app allows you to schedule content for multiple social media accounts on Facebook and Twitter. Buffer also becomes familiar with the type of content you post and will eventually offer suggested posts for you to plug in when you are at a loss for ideas. If you use the Google Chrome browser, Buffer also has an extension you can download that makes things much easier when you’re browsing and come across content worth posting about. Measure analytics for your multiple social media accounts with Buffer’s built in analytics tool and create impressive graphics for your communications reporting.

2) BuzzSumo is your new savior for generating buzz-worthy content for your platforms. Simply type in the theme or topic you’re hunting for content for and BuzzSumo will track down the most popular articles at the time of your search. Don’t get too excited. This tool will want your money sooner or later. (Note: simply close your browser and reboot, or delete your cookies to search for more.)

3) Twitter’s Lists feature is extremely helpful for curating social media content. Scroll through the accounts you follow and create organized lists based on the industries or interests of the people you follow. Lists are a useful way to filter user content you are scoping out or interesting in catching up with.

4) Feedly: “A single place to read your favorite newspaper, magazines and blogs.” Their tagline basically sums it up. Are you pressed for time and don’t have hours to scroll through the web looking for something worth posting? Feedly’s got your back.

5) Social media blogs keep you up to date and in the know about the latest happenings in the world of social media. Some of my favourite include: Buffer’s blog and Mashable Social Media.

Whether you are looking to pursue social media management as a full-time gig or you have been pigeonholed into it, these tips will hopefully make your new role a little easier. Do you have tools and resources that you think I’ve missed? Add them in the comments!