Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Find a Unicorn and Teach It to Fly

I'm speaking at an IABC-NJ professional development event at Rutgers next week and posted this preview on the organization's website...

Observing George Washington’s birthday yesterday, I couldn’t tell a lie:

When my colleagues on the IABC-NJ Board, Kristin Federico Nestor and Jeryl Turner, first suggested an event called “Obtaining and Enhancing a Career in Communications,” I thought a more honest title might be “Finding a Unicorn and Teaching It to Fly.”

After all, great comms jobs are hard to find and harder to excel at. And the ever-changing nature of what a career in communications looks like these days is not for the faint of heart.

But Kristin and Jeryl are fearless — and well-connected. They’ve lined up two of the industry’s best to lead an informal panel at the Rutgers University School of Communications & Information in New Brunswick on Wednesday evening, Feb. 24 (ticket info and more details here).

  • When it comes to “obtaining a career in communications,” there’s no better expert than Sandy Charet, who has been recruiting for the PR and corporate communications industry for over 20 years. As president of Charet & Associates, based in Bergen County, she has led her firm to grow along with the changes and developments in the communications industry. She regularly places top talent in fields such as digital content, integrated marketing, social media, employee engagement and corporate social responsibility.
  • When it comes to “enhancing a career in communications,” there’s no better expert than Deidre Breakenridge. If you were at IABC-NJ’s spring social last May, you know she’s an entrepreneur and the CEO of Pure Performance Communications. A 25+ year veteran in PR and marketing, Deidre is the author of five Prentice Hall and Financial Times Press books. Based in New Jersey, she speaks nationally and internationally on the topics of PR, marketing, branding and social media.

As the keynote speaker at our chapter’s spring social, Deidre asked, “Are You the Modern Day Communicator?” She stressed that the future of communications is now, and emphasized how as communicators we must drive that future. Sandy has also been a friend to our chapter. At a career development seminar this past July, she encouraged the audience to work with purpose and passion, pointing out how job candidates are often more concerned about salary and title. She closed with a favorite quote from Confucius: “If you choose the job you love, you’ll never work a day in your life.”

I’ll have the pleasure of joining Sandy and Deidre on the panel at Rutgers on Feb. 24. I plan to provide the perspective of someone who has been lucky enough to have spent a long career in communications. I’ll likely mention the value of professional development, and the value of organizations such as, well, IABC-NJ.

With constantly updated skills and a supportive professional network, you may find that building a career in communications really isn’t unicorn-impossible. It does take some work, though. It might be right up there in difficulty with finding true love and making it last.

But I know that’s possible too. After all, I was reminded of this the day before yesterday, on Valentine’s Day.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Book Reviews by a Fan of Stephen King

I've been posting book reviews at Goodreads for the past four years... sometimes off-handed, but always heartfelt. Reading them as a whole, all on one page -- which you can do right here -- reveals some disturbing things about my character. For example:
  • I like to be "entertained" and invent drinking games
  • I absolutely love Harper Lee
  • I absolutely hate "Pride and Prejudice"
  • I have a passionate love/hate relationship with Stephen King
Of course, Stephen has no idea I exist. Still, I've been hyper-critical of the author in some of my reviews, and a feeling of King-like dread enveloped me recently when I saw his name appear on my phone's caller ID display at work.

And of course, I answered -- I mean, you always open the door at the top of the stairway when you're alone in the house, right?

The fellow on the other end of the line sounded, in fact, like the real Stephen King. Everything he said, however... a blur of words about a concern that I dutifully took notes about and sent to Verizon's Customer Service department... sounded not-at-all King-like.

Finally, I broke character before saying goodbye. I assured him I would look into his concern, but then added that I had recently listened to both "Finders Keepers" and "The Bazaar of Bad Dreams" using Amazon's Audible app (and, in fact, would have given them both 4 stars had I reviewed them on Goodreads -- although I didn't mention this). I still think King's stories are too long -- but, really, what's so wrong about settling in to a good long story, well told? It's one of life's luxuries, for free.

"I'm a big fan," I said, lamely.

"Well, thank you," the man on the other end of the line said politely, adding, "My own favorite is 'The Stand'." 

Shortly afterward, I heard back from Customer Service about the resolution.

"By the way," I started to ask, "was that...?"

The Customer Service manager simply laughed in anticipation. "Oh, no," she said, "that wasn't THE Stephen King."

"Oh, of course not," I said. "I didn't think so."

But yet another disturbing thing about my character is that, really, I did.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

The Half-Life of Carly Simon

Boys in the Trees: A Memoir
Boys in the Trees: A Memoir by Carly Simon

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Half-Life of Carly Simon

This is an enjoyable listen – and I do mean listen, since the audio version of this autobiography is read by the author and includes a musical score woven throughout – about the first half of Carly Simon’s life.

The narrative basically ends in 1984, when Carly (as I’ll take the liberty of calling her) visits the obnoxious CEO of the publishing company that bears her father’s name. Suffice it to say, I’m very glad that this book has been published by Macmillan.

Still, it’s an enchanting read – in the same way her 1988 song “Let the River Run” (too current to be mentioned in this book) can enchant you with lyrics that, while poetic and evocative, don’t necessarily make sense if you think too much about them.

That’s exactly what happens with the writing here too. It so often, and sometimes infuriatingly, lapses into semi-poetry. But Carly uses just enough significant detail about the often-shocking incidents of her life that you feel compelled to keep reading (or listening).

Charmed or bewitched, I stayed for the whole show… a “final” chapter, an epilog, then two more “chapters” (a song and a legal disclaimer). Her stories took me back to high school and the anthems of my first girlfriend -- from first kiss (“Anticipation”) through breakup (“That’s the Way I’ve Always Heard It Should Be”). I never knew that Carly passed right underneath my first apartment in New York one night on her way to confront James Taylor’s lover. I recalled, years ago, first hearing her cover of Cat Stevens’ “Into White,” and thinking, “Wow, that’s random.” After listening to this book, I learned it wasn’t random at all.

So, for a few hours, I got to hang out with the cool kids, and realize that, hey, they’re just people too. In fact, even though Carly still loves him, good ole’ JT is a bit of a self-centered jerk, isn’t he? But then, the same might be said of me – and I’ll really have to hustle to contribute even a sliver of as much beauty to the world.

I’m awestruck by anyone who can look back on life without having to say, “I wish I had done that.” I appreciate, and admire, that Carly’s half-life makes for a pretty full, and memorable, book.

It will certainly be in my head the next time I visit Martha’s Vineyard. I’ll wander hand-in-hand with my wife on some street Carly might happen to be… and she won’t even know that we passed right by her.