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If you were an Algonquin College Advertising student

I’m going to be stopping in to Algonquin College as a guest speaker tomorrow. I’ll be speaking with students in the Advertising Program and the particular course is Professional Practice, which is described like this:

Attitude, communication, and human relations are the key to surviving in the ever-changing world of advertising. This course helps you prepare for workplace success by providing practical expectations and useful tools to make a successful transition from school to workplace. The course discusses self-management, workplace politics and etiquette, building relationships, and tools for the future.

To date, the students have covered all the basics such as resumes and interviewing skills. Now the professor has reached out to the community and a number of guest speakers have given their time.

I’m billed as a “freelancer.” While only a small portion of these students may be interested in pursuing a writing-related career in advertising, many may consider working freelance now or in the future. The idea of bringing in guests is to simply expose students to as many different career paths as possible so that they can be aware of the multitude of options, as well as to provide a safe space for asking questions of people already in the workforce.

So, my question to you is: if you were to start over again in the workforce, what would you like to know now that you didn’t know then? What valuable tips do you have that I can share? Lessons learned the hard way? Any “reality check” issues that I should bring up?

Your help is really appreciated! Thanks.

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  1. Hey Julie! As a hiring manager, I can say that I’m always keeping an eye out for people who seem genuinely interested in my organization. And, if you demonstrate that you’re organized, don’t use the words “like” or “ummmmm” too much, I think you’re a winner.
    Plus, finding a job is hard work. It’s a job in itself. Don’t get discouraged. Everyone can’t have a horseshoe up their bum all the time, you know?

  2. Oh! And take risks. Calculated risks – a career isn’t a straight line. It’s a series of opportunities that you find along the way. You need to have the courage to take the interesting opportunities, and you need to trust your gut.

  3. Many of the case studies taught in school are “ideal” situations that do not necessarily represent what you will face in the work world.

    Like many new graduates, I learned more in my first year in the work world than I did in my 4 years, completing a post secondary program.

  4. Similarly, many “situations” in an interview are ideal. I would want to know how to deal with the absurd.

    I also think that a lot of new professionals think that they aren’t being watched by the organization, and they need to know the importance of professionalism.

  5. 1. Avoid Entry-Level Syndrome – This is when you think you’re over-qualified for the work. Yes, you may be smart with respect to subject matter, but understanding the culture of an organization comes with at least a little bit of on the job experience.

    2. I just read the following in a silly piece of chick lit I picked up while waiting for the girl to finish her art class: “When you’re drinking martinis and your martini glass is full of tears, you gotta ask yourself, is the Universe trying to tell me something?”. SO TRUE. If it feels wrong, it probably is wrong. Don’t be afraid to quit and try something new, especially when you’re young (after you give it a fair shot, of course). It’s sort of the whole ‘fail fast’ idea.

    3. Learn how to manage yourself. Forget the boss, the colleagues & the stakeholders. Take resonpsonsibility for the one thing you can actually control: yourself. (a la Stephen Covey).

    Since you asked…

    Good luck!

  6. Great tips I received from twitter:

    @mattbarnabe: 1. Work in lots of different places. Intern, volunteer, whatever, get lots of experience. 2. Work in the biggest firms you can find. There is always a smaller firm, but the big guys have processes and controls that might come in useful later.

    @finola: My advice would apply to pre-college. Choose the program that is right for you, not the one your DAD wants you to do!

    @heyglenns: It’s tough because at present Boomers, Gen-Xers, Y-ers & millenials are all alive but all doing it their way

  7. A Manager says:

    Assume when you apply for a job that your (potential) future employer will google you. Think about that when posting those drunken party pics on Facebook.

    Show up early. Drink in any experience you can. Work late. (I can’t tell you how many interns we see waltzing in after 10 am with a Starbucks, and leaving around 5pm). Dedicate yourself to learning as much as you can in your field.

  8. I *was* an Algonquin College Advertising student (and graduate) way back in 1992. The best advice I have to offer anybody on professionalism is:

    Be sincere, be engaged and be concerned for your audience. Address people by their names, always! And smile. Smiling is everything.

  9. It’s wonderful that you have the opportunity to do this Julie!

    This might seem very basic but I would stress the importance of dressing well at an interview. I was on the hiring end for awhile and couldn’t believe how many people didn’t arrive for the interview ironed and polished. First impressions are critical.

    What would I like to know now that I didn’t know then? It’s okay to ask questions. Knowledge is power! And act brave, even when you’re not, because no one can tell the difference. And most importantly, never ever burn your bridges. I learned this later. :) (Of course I never burned any bridges, but I could tell you some stories that would curl your hair.)

  10. -Your boss is not your mother, sister, best friend, or therapist. Watch what you share, do and say, even if she seems trustworthy and friendly. If it comes down to your job or hers, she’s going to protect herself, always.
    -You are not the center of the universe. Let little slights go, think of others first, and remember you are just part of the whole system.
    -You get a lot more done if you don’t worry about who gets the credit.

  11. More great advice via some great tweeps!

    @OttawaDonC: U have a great list of advice there. Already put in my 2 cents, but would like to add: Don’t be afraid to ask for help!

    @LiteMochaMom: The ability to spell (I kid you not!) React to situations with maturity. Actually be able write a news release. There is also a sense of entitlement that prevents kids from wanting to start at the bottom.

  12. In interviews, answer questions truthfully, not with what you read in a book that you think the interviewer wants to hear. This helps with the “fail fast” strategy discussed earlier, and stops wasting everyone’s time.

    At work, listen much more than you talk. Keep personal sharing to a minimum until you make one or two true friends, then still do it privately. Nobody needs to follow your personal soap opera.

    Odds are you know the least about what’s going on, so don’t try to show off. “I don’t know, but I’ll find out” and “I don’t understand, can you explain it again?” are two useful sentences that make everyone’s lives much easier. Never pretend you know what’s going on when you don’t.

  13. Hey Jules, neat topic! I’m sure I can think of something intelligent to contribute later on. (Need more coffee!)

    Saw this on twitter, though, and was just curious — what does this have to do with “creepy thesis”? Very little if any of my professional life got tangled up in that.

  14. Hi Dani – The use of “creepy thesis” was to spark thought about re what you put on the internet is public. Like the note above re facebook page pictures. I didn’t actually mean the content per se of the thesis itself, just the whole concept of what is public/private space and conversation. Does that make more sense now? Jules

  15. Thanks for the clarification!

    A good note on this point is the Farm Boy/Facebook kerfuffle circa 2007. There was a part-time employee who made some highly disparaging remarks on FB about his employer, and he was promptly fired because of it. At the time, there was some discussion of whether FB is a private conversation or not. Seems almost a quaint idea now!

    Another example is a boss I know who found his employee’s personal twitter acct when she tweeted about work and he had a google alert set up to catch all references to that employer. She was rather bold about tweeting some pretty wild details about her personal life — and I’m sure she never imagined her boss read each one.

    When I spoke to a group of CEGEP students at the time, the large majority of them never considered the possibility that *everything* they put onto the ‘net is not only public, but more or less permanent.

  16. Awesome comments so far – especially agree with dressing for an interview, and the ‘entitlement’ thing. Even if you start at the bottom, if you are a hard worker, good at your job etc. you will be surprised what doors open and how quickly you will rise to the top.

    Don’t be afraid to try a new challenge or new responsibility – don’t stay inside the job description box all the time.

    You will make mistakes, and that’s ok – as long as you learn from them and grow with them. It’s not going to be the end of your career (hopefully 😉 but if you ignore it or don’t learn from it, then history will repeat.

  17. Thanks so much to all of you for generously sharing your advice and experience!

    It was a treat to be in a room full of young people again. Many are in the middle of interviewing for job placements, so your advice was particularly helpful. I walked through my own career path and experiences, but this collective group of thoughts is far more powerful!

    And if any students are out there reading this — remember that we’re all on your side! The workforce is eager to have you. Work hard, stay humble — success will come! :)

  18. Sorry I am a day late on this Julie, you got some great tips up there. I am glad to hear it went well, my Stepson will be going to Algonquin next year and I have been spend a lot of time this past school year trying to prep him, including encouraging him to enroll in a co-op program, which has turned out to be his favorite subject.

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