Pay It Forward: Plain & Simple

28 04 2011

Today, I bring you a special blog post. April 28th marks International Pay It Forward Day, observed now in 28 countries around the world.  You might have seen the movie, made popular by Kevin Spacey and Haley Joel Osment.  If you haven’t, I highly recommend renting, even buying it.

So, what is this all about?  It’s simple – pay it forward.  That means help someone by doing something nice, expecting no personal gain.  You’ll gain something – the best feeling ever because you brightened someone’s day.

Here are a few small things you can do to pay it forward:

  • When you’re in line for coffee, buy the next person’s cup.
  • Help carry someone’s groceries to their car or load them up for them.
  • Leave a well thought out comment on someone else’s blog post and don’t link to a post of your own or your blog.
  • Share useful advice and knowledge gained with others.
  • Tweet articles from others more than you promote yourself.
  • Help a job seeker by referring them to someone in your network.
  • Smile.  Smile at everyone you meet or interact with, even if it’s just in passing.

Here’s a short video that was created for this year’s Pay It Forward (PIF) Day:

I’m excited to announce that next week, I won’t be blogging here on Campus to Career.  What?  Did I just say that?  Yes.  My good friend, Kate-Madonna Hindes (@girlmeetsgeek) will be taking the reins here, sharing her insight with you.  She’s graciously agreed to let me guest post on her blog, GirlMeetsGeek, so we’ll be swapping posts.  Katie and I also blog together on the JobHuntChat blog.  While you’re waiting for her awesome post that will launch next Tuesday, May 3, check out her site.  I think you’ll like it.  If you do, share it with your friends.  Don’t keep the good stuff to yourself!  Pay it forward.

Until next week, keep on rockin’ the job search!


Life Lessons from Airline Delays

26 04 2011

These days, if you travel frequently by plane, you know that delays happen.  They happen to just about everyone.  For me, the airline delays are just a way of life at this point.  There’s no avoiding it.  Whether you’re going through Dallas-Ft. Worth, Atlanta, or Chicago’s O’Hare, you’re going to end up waiting at some juncture.  Expect the unexpected.  While I was on a plane headed to Atlanta via Chicago last weekend, the inevitable happened.  Bad weather = limited flight capability.

We found this out as we were leaving the gate (45 minutes late) and were taxiing down the tarmac.  Everything came to a halt, there was a loud “DING!” and the captain announced that we were at a standstill for the next 45 minutes due to bad weather in Atlanta.  We were 15th in line once the weather lightened up for us, only to have to return to the gate for more fuel.

Now, I’m a patient guy.  I had plenty of reading material, knew better than to book an appointment the day I was traveling in, and happen to be fascinated by weather (I knew we’d be delayed because I was watching NOAA’s Storm Prediction Center’s weather reports.)  Sadly, this was not the case for several passengers on my flight.  I chuckled to myself and thought that this would make an excellent blog post.  You see, inspiration comes in all forms.  You just have to capture it before it escapes you.

Here’s what I’ve learned from the airline delays so far:

Patience really IS a virtue.  Patience and a good sense of humor can really help manage the challenging situation.  Regardless if it’s an airline delay, staff issue, or unexpected work dilemma, patience is key.  Step back ten feet and laugh.  Can you change the situation?  If not, make the most of it.  If you can change it, do so with care.  You’re not helping anyone by being the complainer – it just makes things worse.  Here’s a great example:  One gentleman (we’ll call him Bob) felt compelled to let EVERYONE on the plan know that he was missing an important golf event.  Bob huffed and puffed, calling the pilot, flight attendants, and just about anyone else associated with the airline disrespectful names.  This wasn’t a grumble to himself.  These feelings were expressed publicly and loudly so all could hear.  We didn’t need that.  And, to tell you the truth, his complaining did only two things: It upset a lot of other passengers and it made him look like a fool.

Expect (and prepare for) the unexpected.  Be prepared.  For everything (or as much as possible.)  Can you travel in the day before your meeting?  There are many advantages to this including the fact that if you’re delayed, you won’t miss your appointment.  Plus, you can get a nice night’s rest before going in to land that big business deal, interview, or partnership the next day.  Pay attention to the weather.  Know when to expect delays.  Flying to Tornado Alley in the Spring or Summer?  How about Buffalo, NY in December or January?  Do a little pre-travel research before going.  Believe me, you only have to go to Minneapolis in January (-25F without counting wind chill) without packing gloves, a scarf and heavy coat once.  BRRR!!

You can learn from the challenges, or you can make it worse.  Like I said before, you can learn from your mistakes in life.  Everybody makes them.  We’re human.  Let’s learn from the mistakes and adjust accordingly.  If you can’t learn from the flubs in life, you’re going to have a long, hard road ahead for yourself.

Don’t be like Bob.  Learn from your mistakes, expect the unexpected, plan ahead and remember: we’re human.  Patience goes a long way.  A smile adds to it.  Be nice.  Be friendly.  Remember to laugh.

So, road warriors – what have you learned from your worldly travels?  Any tips you’d like to share?  Please feel free to leave a comment!  As always, thanks for reading.  I truly appreciate it.

Why Do We Hide Behind Technology?

19 04 2011

This weekend, I sat down with a great group of young leaders to discuss the topic of business communication.  Business communication includes modes like email, IM, text, video, Skype, social media, written letters, and the telephone.  That was the order given when I asked for some examples.  Can you guess what method didn’t come up?  I’ll give you a hint: You use this method of communication every day and it’s what you might call the “original”.  Got it now?  Face to face!!  I thought this was an excellent opportunity to share with you the benefits of face to face communication.

Why it’s good:

  • Humor and tonality aren’t being perceived incorrectly.
  • Nonverbal communication can be seen and understood better.
  • Typically, you can get a quicker response, helping you with what you need.
  • Face to face communication can help build trust with your colleagues, putting a real face with your name.

Why we’re scared to use it:

  • There’s no paper trail.
  • You can’t hide like you can in email, text, IM, etc.
  • It takes confidence and guts – sometimes we don’t feel we have it in us.
  • We have to speak in complete sentences, leaving out emoticons and jargon like “LOL”.
  • It’s tougher to state clear objectives in person vs. via email (think bullet points, request for follow up, etc.)

Face to face communication doesn’t have to be scary.  Take some time every day to get out of your cubicle or office and make an effort to be part of the conversation.  I’m not saying that you have to be best buddies, but a person should be able to communicate effectively on the job and in the job search.  The next time you sit down to type out that long email, ask yourself this question: “Can I get the answer by asking in person or calling?”

Job seekers:  This applies to you as well.  Don’t hide behind email.  Pick up the phone and call to inquire about your application.  Be friendly; persistent, but kind.  Recruiters get hundreds, thousands of emails a day.  Stand out.  Call them (only if the job posting doesn’t say “no calls, please”).  If they don’t pick up, be sure leave a short, concise message.  They have caller-ID.  They know you called, so make the most of it!

What are your tips for communication?  Anything I missed?  Please leave a comment below!  Want to share this with your friends or colleagues?  Pay it forward and send it their way!  As always, thanks for reading.

What Do You Want? Ask For It!

14 04 2011

By way of this article, I’d like to announce that I’m now blogging twice a month over at  I’m with some very good company: Rich DeMatteo (@CornOnTheJob), Jessica Miller-Merrell (@blogging4jobs), Kate-Madonna Hindes (@girlmeetsgeek), Chris Ponder (@ChrisPonder) and from the other side of the pond, Bill Boorman (@billboorman).  #JobHuntChat is a great resource for people looking for jobs, with tons of great content and advice.   What started with a great idea for a Twitter chat has now morphed into one of the platform’s most successful forums for job seekers and career professionals.  In celebration of the recent one-year anniversary of the chat, the website and blog was launched.

So, what do you want?  Do you know how to ask for it? It’s funny how something like a movie can spark an idea for a blog post.   Want to read more?  Click here to see the full post.   And to my other blogger friends, if you’d like a guest post, email me at to chat.  Keep paying it forward!

BONUS: Please register for the FREE webinar 4/26 6pm CT, Social Media – The Ever Present Online Interview.  I’m presenting in partnership with the Association of Women in Communications and Texas Tech University.  Don’t miss this opportunity! Click here to register or scan the QR code below:

Hope to see you there!

Why It’s Good to Travel with the Boss

12 04 2011

There’s a business trip coming up.  You’ve been planning for weeks, booking your airfare, hotel, rental car and meetings.  Then, something happens that completely throws you off-guard.  The boss informs you that they’ll be traveling with you!  What??!!  The first thing that pops into your head is, “oh, no.  Am I in trouble?  Am I being checked out?”  All the articles out there that cover things like Surviving a Trip with the Boss or How to Be Composed When Traveling with Your Supervisor seem to be missing one very important point:  This is an opportunity, not an inquisition!

I travel the nation throughout the year from St. Louis to Georgia to NYC to Philadelphia to San Diego.  Most of this travel is solo, but occasionally I have the opportunity to have my boss travel along with me for partner meetings.  Something to keep in mind is that my boss is the President (sometimes the CEO even comes along with me and my co-workers) of my organization.  I’ve learned that there are some very positive things about traveling with the boss.  Here are a few:

You get to know them as a person. Believe it or not, your boss is human, just like you.  Don’t be the silent worker when traveling with your boss.  Instead, use this time to get to know them better.  Ask them questions about where they grew up, their family, or career.  I traveled with my boss a few weeks ago.  Know what I learned?  She is hooked on American Idol this season, has music tastes that are just as eclectic as mine, and prefers to patronize local restaurants rather than the usual chains.  All things that we have in common (well, I haven’t watched AI at all this year…bad Kirk!)

It’s great networking. The time with your boss can certainly be used to get to know them better, but don’t be afraid to share things about yourself!  It’s a two-way street when it comes to networking.  Use this opportunity to highlight your accomplishments, share things about your personal life (not too much) and your goals.  That last part is very important: your goals.  Tell your boss what your plans are for the future.  You never know – they might be able to help you get there!

There’s an opportunity for seeking mentorship/advice. Regardless of your age or the age of your boss, mentorship can be very beneficial.  Each person has different experiences and a frame of reference.  This is a great opportunity to ask for advice.  Seek answers and consultation from your boss to help accomplish your goals.  Even if it doesn’t relate completely to the job, it’s okay to ask.  I’ve gained some of the best knowledge in my life just by hearing what others have to say.  Listen to that advice.  NOTE: Your mentor shouldn’t always be your boss.  It’s okay (and recommended) to seek out 2-3 mentors outside of your profession.  It’s a great way to gain a different perspective and learn more about a different industry.  See one of the archived articles, The Importance of Finding a Mentor, for more on this subject.

Your bags are packed, appointments are scheduled, and you have time with the boss.  Are you ready for this opportunity?  Sure you are!  Now, go get ‘em!

Make the Most of Daunting Deadlines

5 04 2011

“I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make when they fly by.” – Douglas Adams

April 15th is fast approaching.  It’s tax season.  I think we’re all familiar with deadlines.  Some people live by deadlines while others loathe them.  As a job seeker or career professional, deadlines are crucial to your success.  They can make or break you.  So, what are deadlines good for, anyway?  I’m glad you asked!  Here are few reasons why deadlines are important and tips on how to maximize your results!

There for a reason. The deadline could be a test.  If you’re a job seeker, pay attention to the application deadlines for career opportunities.  The employer is asking two simple questions:  can you follow directions? Are you able to provide info by the date requested?

Response is required. A deadline is great because it demands a response.  How many times have you sent an email or asked a question in person, only to receive no response?  Put a follow up date on your message.  Give them some time.  Here’s an example:

“Hi Jim.  I just got your message about your request.  I wanted to let you know that I’m working on the answers at the moment, but do have one question for you.  Could you let me know how many people will be joining us for dinner tonight?  I’ll need to make reservations soon.

Please let me know no later than 11am CST Wednesday, April 6th.

Thank you! “

Make it crystal clear. Ever wonder why you don’t get a response from your emails or phone calls?  More times than not, it’s because the action item is buried in the email.  When you want a response, put the action request where it can be seen (subject line, first line of email before greeting in bold red font if needed).  Speaking from experience, this works for me.  My boss receives hundreds of emails a day.  If I need a response quickly, I put this in the subject line and first line of the email before my greeting:  ACTION REQUESTED BY APRIL 6, 2011 11AM CST. This way, she knows that I’m waiting on her response before I can move forward.  It’s not an FYI email, a weekly update, or meeting request.  This is what I use when I NEED a response by a deadline.

Make it personal. Don’t rely on email. Sometimes it is much better to pick up the phone. I’ve found myself in this situation a lot recently.  Instead of sending 2-3 emails (initial, follow up, thank you), pick up the phone or request to meet for five minutes.  Or catch them when they’re getting coffee, walk with them on the way out of the office, etc.  Don’t just hit send and call it good.  Some people simply don’t respond to that medium very well (as frustrating as it may seem).  Calling them on the phone or meeting face to face can help build a better relationship with your co-workers or supervisor.  Email is tough to read when it comes to the tone.

Don’t be like Douglas Adams (see quote above) and let it “whoosh” past you.  Tackle deadlines head-on!  Regardless of it’s your taxes, your career, or job search for that internship or full-time position, set a deadline and stick to it.  Meet or exceed expectations of deadlines set for you.

What are your tips for setting or meeting deadlines?  I’d love to learn from you!  Please leave a comment below and feel free to share this article with others.  As always, thanks for reading!