Hire Learning

Final Post: Will Focus on PR Career Blog

Ron Culp

Corporate executive turned agency guy.


In restaurants and in life, we sometimes bite off more than we can chew.  When Jimmy Greenfield approached me to blog about job search advice for ChicagoNow, I was flattered and felt I would be able to manage it along with my full-time job while continuing to write Culpwrit, my PR career blog.  Unfortunately, I simply can't find that 25th hour in the day, so I'm sadly giving up Hire Learning

Culpwrit will continue to offer career advise, mainly focused towards PR, marketing and communication careers.  You also can follow me on Twitter @culpwrit

Thanks and good luck to the entire ChicagoNow team. 




Tips for Landing a Job in London

Ron Culp

Corporate executive turned agency guy.

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Q.   I will graduate next May and am interested in pursuing public relations on an international scale (I hope to move to London).  How do you suggest pursuing internships/jobs across the pond?  -JS

A.  Landing a job in London is not easy for non-UK citizens, but it's possible.  The best way to do so if by attending college in the country and then migrating to an internship or full-time position.  You also have a better chance if you're working for an American company that has operations in London. 

Since there are a lot of rules and regulations that affect jobs in the UK, I asked someone who has managed through the process -- my goddaughter, Amanda Felt.  Amanda is director of business development, executive education for the University of Chicago Booth School of Business in London.  Amanda worked for the University of Chicago in Chicago before being asked to move to London.  Here are Amanda's tips and suggestions regarding London jobs and internships, and how to navigate the process. 
All visas come with a price.  Legal assistance is helpful but not necessary.

Work Sponsored-Visa:  Many (if not most) Americans living in the UK have been sponsored by their companies and are on a work permit visa.  These visas are tied to their company.  So, if they are no longer employed by that company they are no longer legally able to reside in the UK.  Work permits are normally valid for a period of three years and are then renewed.  After five years, you are eligible to apply for an indefinite leave to remain that isn't tied to a company. 

Continue reading...

Jobs for Social Media Addicts

Ron Culp

Corporate executive turned agency guy.

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When I began my agency career seven years ago, I hadn't yet heard of a Social Media Strategist.  Come to think of it, I don't recall seeing the title until maybe two years ago.  Today, agencies and corporations have created a bull market for the digitally savvy.   

Individuals addicted to social media are the best candidates for careers in online networking.  College students should hone their skills in social media--going beyond routine texting and Facebook.  Those with a true passion for everything digital emerge as top candidates for excellent, fun social media jobs. 

CareerBuilder blogger Rachel Zupek cites the following five prospective jobs for social media gurus:


1.  Recruiter
2.  Strategist
3.  Enterprise architect
4.  User operations analyst
5.  Director of social media


Freelance Career Primer and Helpful Links

Ron Culp

Corporate executive turned agency guy.

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Jeff Holmquist



Thinking about becoming a freelancer rather than an employee of a company?  While the flexibility and variety of projects and organizations may be appealing, you need to do your due diligence and prepare before making the switch. 


Start by looking inward and realistically determining if you have the characteristics required to be an entrepreneur:

·         Do you like frequent change in assignments, teams, and schedule?

·         Do you enjoy learning new things?

·         Are you willing to do whatever it takes to complete client assignments on time in a high quality manner?

·         Are you willing to devote the time necessary to find new assignments? 


Websites such as entrepreneur.com and inc.com can help you determine if you have the characteristics necessary to be a freelancer.  You may also want to take an interest inventory at a local college's career and placement office to see if business and management come out high on your results.


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Tough Job Search? Relax, Take a Break

Ron Culp

Corporate executive turned agency guy.

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I lost my prescription sunglasses last week, and spent several hours on-and-off looking for them.  Finally, I gave up the search and decided it was time to buy a new pair.  That evening, they mysteriously turned up on the floor of my car.  Once again, I was reminded that sometimes the best way to find something is to stop looking for it.  The same sometimes goes for a job search. 

Pressures of landing a job are so intense that we sometimes need to take a break.  Guest poster Tim Conway sent me an article from The Miami Herald that suggests if you're working harder looking for a job than you ever did in your last job, maybe it's time for a break.

More often these days, the right opportunity comes from connections.  Lauryn Franzoni, vice president of ExecuNet.com, says that her recruiting firm's research shows only 20 percent of jobs available are advertised.  The best places to learn about hiring, she says, are the golf course, basketball court, a book club or church meeting.

``Get involved in something you love and wish you had time for and use it as a way to meet others who can help you,'' Franzoni says.

Needless to say, there's a lot of stress associated with any job search.  Circumstances driving urgency of landing a job include rent and mortgage payments, student loans and expiring unemployment benefits.  However, if you've been searching non-stop for a job, don't let guilt keep you from taking a break.  You need to recharge your mental and physical batteries, and someone you meet might lead to the job you're looking for. 

Young CEO Asks Insightful Interview Questions

Ron Culp

Corporate executive turned agency guy.

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Aaron Levie

Two years ago, I read Inc. magazine's top 30 under 30 feature story (a.k.a. America's coolest young entrepreneurs).  At the time, I wondered how many would find ultimate success in business.  Today's New York Times Corner Office column validates the career and wisdom of one of those young entrepreneurs--Aaron Levie, co-founder and CEO of Box.net, an online file storage company that allows access of data from anywhere. 

What I love about the Corner Office column is the weekly questions about how CEOs hire.  Hearing how a 25-year-old CEO thinks about hiring is especially relevant to young job seekers as well as hiring managers.  Here's how Aaron responded to two key hiring questions: 

Q: Let's talk about hiring.

AARON:  One thing that's really important is understanding what they've done in their career.  Just walk me through how you got to where you are today.  What are the factors that led to specific decisions -- that can give you a level of insight into behavior and how they make decisions. One thing that I'm asking now is to talk about a project or job -- "What could you have done differently to do that bigger or get more revenue or execute better?"  You see if they can look back on their decisions and find out where they could have improved.

Energy and persistence are the two most important factors, in addition to just having a clean résumé where there's nothing crazy going on.  In a business like ours, we have to be super, super competitive, and we have to be able to get people who are going to be persistent and relentless and have a level of energy that gets them through challenging things.

Curiosity is another big thing and a way to identify who's going to be energetic and have the right attitude. Sometimes the best people are the ones who are very curious about our business model, how we're going to grow.  They actually care a lot about us as a company; that's actually been a pretty good way to find people who are going to be really dedicated to the business.

And ultimately, we're looking to hire people who can adapt to what a role might become, not just what it is today.  When you're at a start-up, things move and scale very quickly, and you want to hire people who can grow with the company and into roles that expand beyond the job description they were hired for.

Q:  If you could ask a job candidate just a few questions, what would they be?

AARON:  "What questions do you have for me?" That will help you see how they're thinking about the challenges.  A lot of times I'll say, "When you're thinking about Box as an opportunity, how do you compare it to other organizations? What do we have that you want to be a part of?"  Getting them to articulate the values back to you about what kind of organization they want to be a part of can actually be very useful.


8 Tips for an Eliot Ness Career

Ron Culp

Corporate executive turned agency guy.


Guest Post By Melissa Tamura

Several readers of this blog have asked about non-traditional jobs, perhaps totally unrelated to their college degrees or current positions.  Melissa Tamura writes the following guest post about a career possibility that had never crossed my mind--but I'm impressed with what it takes to become a modern-day Eliot Ness

Every year hundreds of eager recruits apply to join the Federal Bureau of Investigation, yet only a small handful are accepted. Many potential applicants are disqualified or quit because of a few basic misunderstandings regarding the work of the FBI, and the qualifications for employment.

 If you are serious about joining the FBI, here are eight important issues to consider before you apply.

1. The FBI is Focused on Crimes Within the United States.

While the work of an FBI agent may take them overseas on occasion, the primary focus of the FBI is domestic. Foreign affairs, especially espionage, are typically under the jurisdiction of agencies such as the CIA and NSA.

2. Special Agents Are Only a Part of the FBI.

Special Agents get the majority of the publicity, and typically when new applicants think of the FBI, they are envisioning themselves as agents. However, most of the FBI's 30,000 employees are involved in more common-place occupations, such as Accountants, Engineers, Architects, Researchers, Budget Analysts, Chemists, Software Engineers, Graphics Designers, Intelligence Analysts, Lawyers, Police Officer Linguists (a particularly important need at the current time), Pilots, and Security Specialists (including hostage situations).

3. Your Past May Disqualify You.

If you have ever been convicted of a felony, particularly illegal drug use, or failed to register with Selective Service, you may not be allowed to work for the FBI. Even defaulting on a federal student loan can put your application in jeopardy. You will be subjected to an intense background check to verify your application information before you are invited to training.

4. The FBI is One of the Most Diverse Employers in the Nation.

Over 25% of the FBI workforce is comprised of minorities, and over 45% of FBI employees are female. Because they are a federal agency representing all of America, the FBI strives to reflect the diversity of the nation. Any racial, ethnic, or gender offenses are carefully investigated, and may disqualify you for employment.

5. You Must Pass Physical Fitness Requirements for Employment.

FBI employees, particularly Special Agents, must complete a physical fitness test, which includes situps, pushups, a three-hundred meter sprint, and a 1.5 mile run. Details regarding the fitness requirements are available at: http://www.fbijobs.gov/.  You also must pass visual and auditory tests before you can be considered for employment as an Agent.

6. Education is Helpful.

Because of the wide range of available positions within the FBI, there are no standard educational degrees that are required. However, individual jobs have specific requirements. For example, if you are interested in a research position, you may need to have a science degree to apply. Additionally, prior experience and education can qualify you for a higher pay grade more quickly.

7. You Will Have to Take a Polygraph Test.

All prospective FBI employees must submit to a polygraph (lie-detector) test covering such issues as your application, past drug/alcohol use, citizenship status, and national security matters.

8. The FBI Investigates a Large Range of Crimes.

Media outlets tend to publicize specific arenas of FBI investigations, such as drug enforcement or organized crime like Chicago's own Al Capone. However, the FBI enforces over three hundred federal statues, covering crimes ranging from terrorist attacks, cyber crime, organized crime, white collar offenses (such as Enron), and public corruption. Additionally, the FBI is committed to assisting other organizations, including agencies at the federal, state, and local levels.

However, despite the range of investigations, please note that the FBI does not currently investigate paranormal phenomena; there is no X-Files division. Officially.

Melissa Tamura writes about online degree programs for Zen College Life

Getting Your Foot into the Ad Door

Ron Culp

Corporate executive turned agency guy.


Q.  I have been looking for jobs at ad agencies and I see many positions that are available.  I've made a lot of contacts through LinkedIn.  The issue I face is that I do not have any traditional ad agency experience.  My major was a discipline that I designed to cover all aspects of advertising from the creative to the management.  Many recruiters have told me to get an internship, but I work to support myself.  Currently I do advertising sales.  What is the best way to approach this situation? I feel like the longer I stay in my current position the more difficult it will be to reach my goal. 

A.  Since my primary focus is on PR, I asked two friends in the ad world to offer their suggestions for your dilemma.  One heads a major agency, and the other is an account executive in her third year at a major agency.

EnergyBBDOPresident and CEO Tonie Paul says you'll need to get serious about finding an entry-level job at an agency before it  is too big a step back for you financially. 

"Depending upon his experience to date, it is possible that he would be a candidate for an entry level position," Tonise says.  "The most critical thing he needs to do is to determine what kind of position he is looking for within an agency.  Then he needs to start hunting to determine his entry options.  He might even explore different kinds of agencies (e.g., events, healthcare communications, digital).  If he is intentional, he can do it!"

Taylor McDougal at Draftcb feels relationships within the industry and through LinkedIn are important, but they only get you in the door, they do not get you the job.

"The most integral part of finding a job at an advertising agency is having relevant experience," Taylor says.  "So although it may be rough financially for awhile, the best choice would be to take any internship offers so that you can start building your skill set within the agency.  After that first internship, it's much easier to move up and get hired within the same agency, or look for entry level positions at other agencies."

Job Search: Don't Over or Under Reach

Ron Culp

Corporate executive turned agency guy.

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A former business colleague called me this week to express frustration about the volume of resumes he's receiving.  He said only one in 20 has relevant experience for the current opening he's trying to fill.  He asked: "Do people actually read job postings anymore or do they simply send resumes to every job posting they see?"

Unfortunately, the tight job market causes people to apply for jobs that are beyond their skill levels.  At the same time, many over-qualified people apply for openings seeking more junior staffers.  A HR manager told me that she received more than 300 resumes for an entry-level position, and nearly half were from people with considerably more than five years experience.  And a corporate PR head said red flags were waving in his head when an individual applied for three different job openings in his department--positions ranging from entry-level to VP. 

While individuals are willing to take lesser positions in this economy, most companies aren't willing to take the risk of hiring over-qualified people who could become bored with the kinds of work performed much earlier in their careers.  It's also not very productive to try to switch careers by trading down to entry-level PR jobs.  For example, we've received resumes from lawyers applying for account coordinator openings.  HR executives correctly advise job seekers to focus their searches on jobs that are within the scope of position descriptions. 

Undercover Career Gold: Be Bold

Ron Culp

Corporate executive turned agency guy.

In a weak employment market, it's a smart strategy to take risks.

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Tim Conway

Push yourself to try unconventional job search methods.  By being a go-getter, you will spot hidden opportunities.

Here are surprising tactics that are productive:

  • compose brief bio and case studies (format of Situation, Actions, Results); send as an alternative to a boring resume
  • create a digital portfolio to showcase academic/campus/on-the-job achievements (fact:  "less is more" so only display best samples such as transcripts, commendation notes and awards)
  • skim "Newsroom" press releases of target employers to spot names of executives; then use those names during outreach campaigns (e.g., postcard)
  • join professional associations to access membership databases; schedule lunch with chapter officers for insights
  • attend industry events; stay afterwards to meet-and-greet speakers/panelists
  • rehearse 30-second Personal Pitch to highlight useful skills/career goal with relatives, neighbors, community/religious leaders, family physician/dentist/attorney and former supervisors/professors/tutors/coaches; mention preferred organizations to spur others to share contacts
  • approach sole proprietors, boutique agencies and fastest-growing firms since these are first to hire during a slow economy; call before 8 a.m. and after 5:30 p.m. when gate-keepers aren't there
  • craft a Solutions Letter to organizations covering specific recommendations to existing problems (that you've identified from input by referrals along with observations)
  • make phone calls to university/Greek alumni to seek advice (objective is to establish a mentoring relationship so do not inquire about job openings; instead ask about hot projects that need support)
  • move cross-country or overseas to an emerging location (check library publications for list of regions/cities)
  • leave short voicemail messages:  "Hello ___________, this is ______ _________.  I have some useful information for you.  Please call me when it's convenient.  Reach me at ___-___-____.   Again, it's ______ _________ at ____-____-_____."  The information you exchange should be about recent category or competitive activity.
  • submit a Results Letter to prospective firms stating your performance commitments for Years 1-2 (e.g., product training, account management, foreign language fluency, sales revenue, cost savings)
  • accept a temporary role or unpaid internship with goal to quickly demonstrate value
  • offer to work for F-R-E-E for a limited time in chosen or related field (for instance, pursue a hotel, rental car, airlines or retailer to build client service abilities)

By taking more chances, you will boost odds of being noticed.  Plus, you'll gain respect of influential staffers for being proactive.

Tim Conway is a one-on-one adviser to job hunters.  He wrote about proven employment techniques in "25 Ways To Make College Pay Off" (AMACOM; 2007).  Reach Tim at:  847-749-1394 (office) or timconway@igniteyoungadults.com

Continue Job Search or Return to College?

Ron Culp

Corporate executive turned agency guy.

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Q.  I have a major decision to make in the next month--grad school or continue my so-far unsuccessful job search.  I graduated in January and can get my grad degree in a little over a year, so perhaps the economy will improve further by then.  What do you recommend?  -LB

A.  Don't assume graduate school will increase your chances of landing a job next year.  You're not alone in weighing the decision to continue your education in pursuit of a master's degree.  Therefore, you will be entering the job market in a year or two with a record number of others who opted to return to college.  More alarming, the Wall Street Journal reports that a grad-school degree doesn't necessarily pay off in the job market.  According to the Journal, the jobless rate among individuals with master's degrees has risen to 4.2% vs. 2.9% in June 2007.  And the Journal indicates the average pay difference between bachelor's and master's degrees -- currently $7,954 a year -- will narrow as more qualified candidates accept lower-paying jobs. 

Syracuse University professor Bill Coplin recommends not using grad school as a place to wait out the current bad job market.  Coplin says, "Deciding to go to graduate school should be a business decision where the risks, costs and rewards of this significant investment in time and money are carefully considered."

Job Success: Read and Listen

Ron Culp

Corporate executive turned agency guy.

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I reluctantly admit that I watch too much reality TV.  Sadly, one of these shows -- "True Beauty"-- featured a discussion in last week's episode where the contestants couldn't recall when they last read a book.  None of these people would get hired by Linda Heasley, president and CEO of The Limited.

In today's New York Times, Heasley says she asks job applicants what books they are reading.  Other qualities she screens for:  passion, curiosity, energy level, sense of humor and willing to take a risk. 

Her advice to new hires: "Take 90 days. The relationships you build in your first few months here are critical to your success. Try not to talk in meetings. I know you're going to want to demonstrate that you're really capable and you deserve to be here by showing your smarts.  But if you listen and let the void fill with what's around you, you'll learn a ton.  It's really important to take the 90 days and watch and listen, and it's really hard to do that, because people want to perform out of the gate."

Dan Edelman's 10 Principles for Success

Ron Culp

Corporate executive turned agency guy.


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Daniel J. Edelman

Chicago PR icon Dan Edelman turns 90 this weekend.  It was 58 years ago that he started his own public relations firm that has grown into the world's largest privately held PR agency. 

Dan's older son, Richard, who now heads Edelman Worldwide, paid tribute at a birthday celebration this week by listing 10 reasons for his father's success.  As a friend, former client and now competitor, I found these 10 principles to be quite moving and full of good career advice. 

  1. Compete Every Minute of Every Day - Don't become self-satisfied because somebody else is ready to take your place. Mourn your losses but learn from them. Celebrate your victories but be quick about it so you can get back to the game. If you get knocked down, get right back up; nobody is going to pity you.
  2. Modesty in Manner and Possessions - Never refer to "I", always to "We", when speaking about the company or the family. Buy new suits only when the old ones get shiny. Drive your car until repair costs require you to make a change. Do not take on debt, either personally or professionally. Grow your business from retained earnings-don't pay yourself much salary and don't indulge yourself with boats, planes or dividends.
  3. Be Well-Informed - Read the New York Times every morning....and the Wall Street Journal, Chicago Tribune, Chicago Sun Times, Financial Times and USA Today. Tear out good stories and send them to your employees or children-they probably missed the important articles.
  4. Stay Healthy - Work out at least four days a week but always in a competitive context (why ride the exercise bike when you can fight it out on the tennis court?). Who else at age 84 would proudly display the twenty stitches on his forehead from crashing into the wall in pursuit of the bouncing racket ball? Or would go back onto the court two weeks later with a hockey helmet, paddle in hand, ready to whip the opponent?
  5. Strive for Perfection - You got just one 'B' in your entire college career-in science, of course. When I came home beaming after scoring a 770 out of 800 possible on a college entrance exam, you asked me what I got wrong.
  6. Become a Citizen of the World -You saw the global potential of PR by the mid 60s when we opened in the UK. You travelled to Asia three weeks every year from the age of 70 until your last trip at age 87. You had the confidence to invest in China in the early 90s and have made it a special point to nurture our operation there.
  7. Give Back - There are three legs to the stool - family, work and community. You serve on countless boards of directors for non-profits, from the Lyric Opera to the Weitzmann Institute to the Art Institute to Save the Children. You made a generous donation to Columbia Journalism School to fund a patio for students to engage in outdoor discussions. You have encouraged our firm to do pro-bono work for important causes such as Reverend Jesse Jackson's Operation PUSH.
  8. Ethics - Internalize the Mark Twain comment, "Always do right. This will gratify some people and astonish the rest." You were once approached by a consultant for a country tourism board who requested a "commission" for delivering the business to Edelman. Your immediate reaction was to throw him out of your office. You were the first and only one to speak out when one of our competitors took on the Church of Scientology-you said that PR is not the law and that not every client deserved representation.
  9. We're All Entrepreneurs - Take chances. You meet a woman from newly united Berlin, and boom, we have a new office. You rely on your instincts (but you know the numbers like the back of your hand). You give your people lots of leeway-there is no one path to success. You encouraged generations of Edelman executives with your Dan-o-Grams, that describe in pain-staking detail every comment in a meeting (woe to the young person who fails to take notes-sure to prompt a "never do that again" comment). So many have been developed into outstanding PR people, from Tom Harris to Pam Talbot, working alongside the master.
  10. Cherish Clients - Every Edelman person is an account executive and required to roll up their sleeves and do the work. You went to every Kentucky Fried Chicken franchisee meeting for thirty years. You ran the California Wines Commission account with a monthly trip to San Francisco (persuading Zsa Zsa Gabor to say that she was "weaned on wine" on Johnny Carson). You knew the CEOs but had strong ties to the heads of PR.

Richard Edelman, president and CEO of Edelman Worldwide, writes the 6 a.m. blog, which provides a link to his father's 1988 Today Show interview where he discussed his remarkable career. 

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Don't Jinx Job Search With 'Teaser' Emails

Ron Culp

Corporate executive turned agency guy.

Several hiring managers have asked me to encourage job seekers to stop sending "teaser emails."  These are short messages containing few details, but almost always seeking an opportunity to meet in person.

Agencies receive hundreds of quality resumes each month, so some hiring managers speculate that applicants leave resumes off their email inquiries in hopes of increasing interest to learn more about them.  I'm not alone in feeling such emails are woefully incomplete, presumptious and annoying.  "Unless I personally know someone mentioned in the email, I automatically hit delete on any such email that doesn't contain a resume," said the HR manager director of a major agency.  

Rule of thumb, always include your resume any time you're communicating with a potential decision maker in a job search.  Don't think a cleverly written "teaser" email will engage a hiring manager into a two-way dialog resulting in getting your foot in the door. 

By the way, the same email expectations apply to phone inquiries.  Unless you know the hiring manager or are referred by someone who is well connected to that individual, don't make the call.  Send an introductory note and resume before dialing. 

Casual Attire Leads to Job Casualty

Ron Culp

Corporate executive turned agency guy.

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Casual rules in the workplace today.  But job applicants shouldn't let their guards down by showing up for interviews in casual attire. 

I talked with a devastated job seeker last week who said he did everything right:  a one-page, results-oriented resume, showed up 10 minutes early for the interview and nailed Q&As during three separate conversations.  He also called in advance to determine the company's dress code, and dressed accordingly.  That was his only mistake.  Despite the firm's in-office casual dress code, he learned from the HR director that he didn't get the job.  She also let him know that he was the only candidate who didn't show up in business attire.  Although the office environment is casual, they wear business attire when meeting with clients or attend outside meetings.  Even though the interviewers were in casual attire, they felt the young applicant should have elevated his interview attire to a higher standard.  They also wanted to see how he might physically appear when meeting with clients. 

Once the job is landed, you also need to be mindful about how to properly dress in a casual work environment.  As a former boss once told me, "too many people don't know the difference between business casual and beach casual."  While The Etiquette and Dress Experts.com provides 10 helpful tips on how to properly approach casual attire, I offer a simpler way to guarantee success: Pick out one or two people in the organization who are in leadership positions and dress accordingly.    

Get Your Resume Read: Don't Just Attach It

Ron Culp

Corporate executive turned agency guy.


Every day, my Junk Mailbox contains a dozen or more emails that weren't delivered due to questionable attachments.  As I scanned through the offers of cheap prescription drugs and watches, I found two legitimate messages--both containing resumes.  I don't know what triggered their quarantine status, but I have now moved them along to our HR director.

To avoid the risk of ending up in junk mail or raising concerns by individuals reluctant to open documents from unknown senders, I have a a suggestion:  Cut and paste your resume into the body of your email rather than making it an attachment.  

Many of us are reluctant to open documents from people we don't know, which underscores the importance of cover notes.  Since many HR functions prefer the stand alone resume, you might attach a resume along with pasting it into the cover email.  This requires keeping the cover note short and to the point.   Since most e-mail programs are based on a 72-character format, be sure to limit each line of your email resume to 72 characters.  This will prevent dropped and jumbled lines.   

Pros and Cons: Freelance vs. Full-Time

Ron Culp

Corporate executive turned agency guy.


Q.  Since graduating a year ago, I have been unsuccessful in landing a full-time job but I've picked up several freelance assignments.  I enjoy the work, lifestyle, and make decent money.  Is it practical to make a career out of freelancing? 

A.  Many freelancers do quite well, but most would rather be working full time--especially recent grads.  Freelance work is a good bridge over the current job gap, but I don't recommend it as a long-term career goal.  Most recent graduates should work in agency or corporate jobs in order to gain experience and insights that boost their long-term careers.  

Three of my friends have done quite well in their freelance careers, but they worked in corporate jobs for at least 15 years before becoming freelancers.  One friend recently returned to a full-time corporate position, citing the inconsistent peaks and valleys of freelance work.  He was bored one week and swamped the next. 

I highly recommend taking on freelance assignments if you're currently unemployed or lacking creative fulfillment in your current job.  Several sites list freelance opportunities, plus they allow you to register your freelance services.  Among the sites I like are:  Freelance Job Search, Freelancer and iFreelance.  If you decide to pursue a freelance career, be sure to join the Freelancers Union, which provides excellent job leads and offers insurance and other benefits that normally are provided by an employer. 

Building Your Own Mentorship Network

Ron Culp

Corporate executive turned agency guy.

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Individuals seeking jobs need to form their own network of mentors and coaches.  Knowing the difference between the two support roles is important for the mentor, coach and protégé.

 Most of my mentors and those I mentor have developed over long periods of time.  Some of my mentors are nearby and others live thousands of miles away.  I've looped back to several of my mentors during each of my major career decisions.  Importantly, they and I stay in touch in between those conversations.  A coach normally is a shorter term arrangement.  I've often played coach by providing one-time or occasional advice, such as reviewing a resume.  Both roles consume considerable time for those willing to be mentors or coaches, so it is important for those seeking either advice to carefully approach potential mentors or coaches.  

Initially, recruit individuals who know you well, perhaps family members or family friends.  Don't make cold call requests.  Once you're employed, its easier to identify and recruit mentors from within your organization or other firms with whom you work. 

The New York Times recently provided excellent advice on how to identify and best use mentors and coaches.  The article discusses roles and expectations of the mentor and protégé.  The article also discusses reverse mentorship where talented younger employees work with more senior employees.  I have benefited considerably over the years from such mentoring and coaching. 

Don't Drink and Interview

Ron Culp

Corporate executive turned agency guy.

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I'll never forget the job interview I had many years ago with an agency head who clearly was a regular at his club.  Seconds after sitting down for lunch, two martinis were delivered to the table--one for him and one for me.  Minutes later, a second was delivered.  Thankfully, the third arrived as he was notified of a phone call (pre-cell phones), so I poured most of it into my water glass as he was talking with a client.  While the interviewer didn't seem phased, my head was spinning and I couldn't recall much from the conversation.

What I learned from this experience is the importance of being prepared for a variety of interview situations and settings.  Today, interviews are conducted via phone, Skype, in-person, in group meetings, in restaurants, bars and Starbuck's.  Therefore, it's important to assess the interview environment and have a game-plan in mind. 

Klimpton Hotel Chief Operating Officer Niki Leondakis provides some insights into a hiring manager's interview technique in Sunday's New York Times' Corner Office column.  When asked how she hires, Leondakis says she attempts to have a variety of conversations -- "phone, face-to-face in an office environment, and a meal." 

Why a meal?  "I think people get a little more comfortable, and I can observe how they walk through a restaurant and whether they barrel through or let others go first," Leondakis says.  "When the server comes to the table to take the order, do they respond by looking them in the eye, or do they talk to them without looking at them, as if they're invisible?  It's telling to me how someone treats the service staff." 

Bottom line: Be prepared for every interview situation, don't wing it.  Think through what you'll order (my rule--nothing messy or on a bone), order iced tea or Diet Coke, not a martini.   

Want Success? Make 5-Point Daily 'To Do' List

Ron Culp

Corporate executive turned agency guy.

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Dr. Sanja K. Jha




Motorola's Co-CEO Sanjay Jha said he wakes up every morning and makes a list of the five things he needs to accomplish that day.  During the Q&A session following his speech last week to the Executives' Club of Chicago, Dr. Jha cited the following key leadership elements he employs to achieve his goals. 

  • Clarity of vision. 
  • Be strategically clear.  Have a clear execution plan.
  • Fast decision making. 
  • Do things you enjoy.  Follow your passion. 

Dr. Jha brought agreeing smiles from the crowd when he said "it is more important to make decisions fast rather than dither in place."  He emphasized the importance of the "to do" list, suggesting that three to five items should be on the list every day. 

Besides co-leading telecommunications giant Motorola, Dr. Jha is CEO of the company's mobile devices and home businesses.  He told the audience that he expects Motorola to split into two publicly traded companies by the end of the year. 

Practice Skills Employers Want

Ron Culp

Corporate executive turned agency guy.


Guest post by Tim Conway

The ideal time for aspiring professionals to nurture on-the-job competencies is during college.  The good news is that anyone can acquire these proficiencies; it simply takes time and effort.

Due to ultra-competitive job market, future executives must showcase in-demand talents at job fairs, special events and interviews.  Here are essential habits to perfect if you want to excel in your next career opportunity:

Professional Demeanor (friendly smile; confident handshake; stylish attire/grooming; upright posture; articulate voice; direct eye contact; positive attitude; be polite to everyone)

Social Manners (unplug IPod upon entering building; be prompt for meetings; take initiative to turn off cell phone/PDA; display patience; send sincere thank you cards; grasp office culture)

Dining Etiquette (chew slowly; wipe mouth; engage peers in conversation; be active listener)

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New Job: Getting Off On The Right Foot

Ron Culp

Corporate executive turned agency guy.

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Guest post by Katheryn Rivas

Many young professional career advice tips proffer suggestions on how to prepare for the interview, how to construct the perfectly executed resume, or how to get your personal brand on. In short, they talk about everything that you need to do before you step into the office for the first time.  Or, on the other hand, tips to carry you through the job as a whole--that is, what you should consider generally as you move along your chosen career trajectory.

But what about that first day you step into the office?  While career preparation is critical, the first few weeks of work are just as fraught with importance.  Here are a few things to remember.

1. Yes, first impressions still count just as much as they did in your parents' day.

Even though you may have wowed some people during your interview, your most important first impression is what you accomplish when you first start.  While these considerations may seem self-evident, they cannot be stressed strongly enough:  Dress appropriately, show up on time, shake hands with everyone you meet, and smiley warmly and sincerely.

2. Ask questions.

Just as when you were in the hot seat for the interview, when you first begin work, asking questions is crucial. While the first day won't be all that exciting in terms of work, since it's more of an introduction to what you'll be doing later, make sure to pay attention regardless.  If you aren't very clear about specific tasks you'll be assigned, do not be afraid to ask.  The more questions you ask, the better impression you'll make and the easier your job overall will become

3. Attitude is the only true make-or-break.

Incidentally, this is true in all aspects of life.  The attitude that you bring on the very first day and sustain throughout the first few weeks will generally dictate your disposition in the workplace. If you come in with apprehensions, you will only be shooting yourself in the foot because this first mental impression will darken your outlook.  If, however, you arrive knowing that you were chosen for the job because you were the most capable candidate, and that you can, within reason, handle anything that is thrown your way with grace, then your job will be all the more doable. Attitude makes a world of a difference.

4. Don't be too hard on yourself.

The first few weeks are an adjustment period, and your employers know this. You won't do everything right the first time.  In fact, you may do something terribly wrong.  This is normal.  It's how you handle mistakes that matters.  If you slip up, the best way to tackle mistakes is to admit them, accept them, and go back to tip 2--ask questions.  Ask what you can do to improve, and what you can do to avoid the same thing happening again. Remember--mistakes are learning experiences.  Nothing more, nothing less.

This guest post is contributed by Katheryn Rivas, who writes on the topics of online universities.  She welcomes your comments at: katherynrivas87@gmail.com

What I Wish I Had Known in College

Ron Culp

Corporate executive turned agency guy.



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Dean Denise Schoenbachler

What I wish I'd known....

1.  Get to know your professors.  Take the time and effort to really  get to know your professors while at college.  Your professors can be incredibly helpful in job hunting, career advice, and even navigating the university system.  Professors make great references for jobs. If you decide to pursue a graduate school program later on, you will need references from your professors.  If they don't know who you are, it is difficult to get a good reference letter.  Your professors should be a part of the network you are creating while at college.  They have a lot to contribute to your professional life...today and tomorrow.  Don't be intimidated by profs.  Most are more than happy to get to know, and to help, a good student who takes the time to get to know them.

2.  Study abroad.  There is no better time in your life to have the opportunity to travel and learn a new culture.  Don't be intimidated by the language; English is the world language and you will get by (better yet, study a language while at school...we all regret that we didn't!).  Don't assume it is too expensive or you don't have the time.  Look into the options your university offers to travel or study abroad.  It may not be as expensive or difficult as you think.  The experience will be life-changing...and a differentiator on your resume.

3Take advantage of every opportunity you can.  Most colleges and universities offer programs, classes, clubs, speakers, events, activities that let you try new things or learn about new subjects.  This is the best time for you to push yourself and explore and try things.  Is there a great keynote speaker coming to campus?  Then go to the presentation.  Is there a panel of women executives talking about  what you need to succeed?  Attend.  Have you always wanted  to learn fencing?  Or horseback riding, or sky diving, etc.  Check and see if the activity you are interested in is offered.  The more you do while a student, the more you will get out of your university experience and the more you will have to talk about on your resume or in an interview.  Your activities and interests in school not only help you learn and develop skills and interests, they also help differentiate you from everyone else who is job hunting  or applying to graduate school.  So, turn off the reality TV shows and do what you came to college to do, learn.

4.  Have lots of fun.  The time you are in college is supposed to be fun.  Make friends.  Go to parties.  Get involved.  Fall in love.  Enjoy everything about it, but don't forget to study, too!

Denise Schoenbachler is Dean of the College of Business at Northern Illinois University.  This is the sixth and final post from participants in a panel discussion at NIU featuring six successful women graduates. 

Proper Follow-Up Key to Job Search Success

Ron Culp

Corporate executive turned agency guy.


Q.  I've sent emails to more than 40 agencies in search of internship or entry-level jobs.  I've followed up by email and phone calls with places that list job openings, but have only heard back from one or two firms.  How many times should I follow up before moving on? Any other tips?  -CB

A.  Regrettably, understaffed HR functions in many firms sometimes are forced into bad business etiquette.  Every email job inquiry deserves a response, but that isn't happening in the current economic times.  My follow-up rule of thumb recommendation: two follow-up inquiries with organizations where you know there is a job opening -- one by email and one by phone.  If your inquiry is by email, don't ask:  "Did you get my resume?"  Attach another resume.  If calling, do so 48 hours after sending your resume.  Otherwise, it already will be buried under others.  If there are no job openings in the agency, loop back with another email and resume in six weeks or so. 

Ideally, check with friends to see if they know anyone within any agency with a job opening.  Even in this economy, many agencies pay referral fees to individuals who recommend job candidates that are hired.  If there is an active job opening in the agency, non-executive staff members have a real incentive to get your resume into the system. 

Finally, 40 emails and resumes isn't enough.  Long ago when I was searching for a job during another recession, I told a colleague that I had received no responses after sending out 70 resumes.  She asked:  "Today?"  She reported working full time on her earlier job search, sending out up to 70 resumes a day.  Within three months, she had accumulated five job offers.  I told her advice, ramped up my search efforts and landed a job within 30 days. 

Networking: Your Personal Board of Directors

Ron Culp

Corporate executive turned agency guy.

Four dynamic women executives shared their secrets for success with more than 1,400 Chicago-area women (and nearly 100 enlightened men) at last week's Executives' Club of Chicago quarterly Women's Leadership Breakfast. 

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Maria Bartiromo

Panel moderator Maria Bartiromo, CNBC anchor and host of "The Wall Street Journal Report," candidly discussed the importance of creating a "personal board of directors" to advise and assist with major career decisions and hurdles. 

Not surprisingly, Bartiromo and each panelist mentioned their mother as a "life member" of their personal board.  As Bartiromo remarked, her mother reminded her that "you can't be successful without relying around a number of people around you."  Her mom gave Bartiromo her grounded perspective with the aphorism, "Maria, you're not chopping wood!"

Bartiromo also said that you can't be a success without relying on a number of people around you.  She said that tapping into people who have "been there and done that" is critical.  She also received advice that 100 mentors, or persons from many walks of life, is recommended. 

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Carol Bernick

In her comments, Carol Bernick, Executive Chairman of the Board, Alberto Culver Company, outlined her strategies for building a Personal Board:

·     The smartest people I know ask for help.  Ask for help and seek advice from all facets of your life - work, family community.  Out of all of the people that you know, ask yourself who can help and who really cares?  With that, be very selective as you build your posse.

·     I have a core posse made up of family, girlfriends and 10-12 business executives I can call on any time I need to test an idea.

·     The key elements that make a person a contributor as a personal director are strength, smarts and a willingness to push back when needed.

·     Take advantage of every opportunity to look for a new director:  your corporate board work, not- for-profit boards, speakers or participants at industry events who impress you with their insights and a genuine openness.  Be thoughtful and make the connection.  This isn't for a list of Facebook friends.  This is a circle who will really care about you.

·     An important part of your life today is probably giving back to your community with sweat equity, dollars, your insights and passion.  I have found the people I've met through this kind of shared commitment to be an invaluable resource in helping me address all kinds of issues.

Continue reading...

Career Tips: Master Writing, Politics and Networking

Ron Culp

Corporate executive turned agency guy.

Continuing the series responding to the topic "If We'd Only Known This Back Then," Janet Krueger,  State and Local Tax Partner, Chicago, PricewaterhouseCoopers, contributes the following post.

   Janet Krueger 

Learn to write.  Although many times we avoid classes or subjects we do not like or do well at.  There are some areas that we need to learn or improve that will benefit us in the future.  I was always more of a numbers/mathematical person and often avoided any class that involved extensive writing.  I was not as successful in law school in avoiding those types of classes, since writing was required in every class.  Take those writing classes and force yourself to learn and improve in those areas where you feel you have weaknesses.

Politics --- how do they work for you.  Politics in professional organizations is hard to define but usually is related to the influence, impact and your relationship with certain individuals.  Politics and their importance was  something I never thought of or appreciated in college.  My father worked at Standard Oil and the only thing we really knew about politics from that experience is that you had martinis at lunch.  Obviously, in those days, it was appropriate. 

I wish I was more aware of politics and what it meant when I was at Northern.  Politics are everywhere - teams, sororities, etc.  Main thing is to be aware of them - don't necessarily have to participate in them but it is important to figure out where you fit and how they may or may not benefit you in your career.  You may want to speak with someone you trust about politics in the organization and how you can use them to enhance your career development.

Importance of Networking and socializing.  Although you may have a very full day and very little time, it is important to set aside time to get to know others in your organization on a personal level.  The connectivity you gain from those casual or non-business related conversations can prove to be invaluable.  There is a new sense of respect and connection that is achieved through getting to know someone on a personal basis.   You may learn something then that will benefit you in the future when you need their help.  People truly like to help other people. 

Remember this - it will serve you well: you never know who your boss may ultimately be down the road and a relationship that you did not think much of now may benefit you in the future.  Relationships you develop are helpful in whatever your profession.  To enhance or grow your relationships expand your network by joining organizations, getting involved in charity events or volunteering to take the lead in company initiatives.

Career Success: Positive Attitude, Leadership Skills and Knowing It's Okay to Fail

Ron Culp

Corporate executive turned agency guy.

Jill Krueger, President and Chief Executive Officer of Health Resources Alliance, contributes the fourth part of a series stemming from a panel discussion involving successful women graduates of Northern Illinois University who discuss the topic:  Lessons from the Front:  If We'd Only Known this Back Then.

   Jill Krueger 

1. Attitude is Everything.

Solid technical skills are necessary in every job but how you deal with people is what leads you to a successful career.

People distinguish themselves within a company through personality traits.  The top people in the company I work for are technically competent.  However, where they excel is loyalty, dedication, and trustworthiness.  My key employees are also hardworking and have a positive "can do" attitude.

If you do not believe in the direction of the company or respect those you work for chances are, you are in the wrong place.  You need to feel good about where you work, there is no point in being unhappy or negative.  You spend way too much time at your workplace, you should look forward to going to work each day.

2. Good Leadership Skills Are Not Easy To Come By.

If you have them, use them wisely.  Keys to being good leaders include the following:

  • Create Trust:  Title alone is not enough to influence behavior.  You influence people because they trust you and you have earned their respect.  Motivating employees with positive feedback, utilizing constructive criticism versus blame will go a long way in creating trust.
  • Clear Expectations and Alignment of Goals:  Make sure employees have a clear understanding of your expectations and how what they do each day ties into the overall goals of the company.  Employees function much more effectively when they understand exactly how their job impacts the success of the company.  Explain why and how.
  • Bring Out the Best in Your People:  Everyone has strengths and weaknesses.  Make sure your employees are in jobs that maximize their strengths and minimize their weaknesses.  Coach, mentor and always provide timely, responsive feedback.

3. It Is Okay To Fail.

The best lessons I have learned, I learned from failure.  If you are afraid to fail you are holding back your ability to be innovative and probably not taking enough risks to grow yourself and your company.  Never fail because you did not do your homework or were not prepared for the situation.  We do make the wrong decisions for the right reasons, just make sure you do not make the same mistake twice!  Failure builds character.

Tips to Ace a Performance Review

Ron Culp

Corporate executive turned agency guy.


Q.  I've been in my job for almost a year and am due for a performance review with my boss.  My co-workers warn me that they got mad after theirs, so I shouldn't expect it to be a good or helpful experience.  Our boss seems reasonable, so I want to try to make this a good session for both of us.  Any recommendations on how to make that possible?

A.   You're wise to think about your review in advance.  Too many employees enter performance review sessions with no preparation, so they're unprepared or surprised by the feedback.  You should spend a couple of hours thinking about your performance.  Jot down accomplishments and ask your mentor(s) for their impressions of your performance. 

Five tips from ehow.com provide a framework for employees preparing for their reviews:   

  1. Understand Your Past
  2. Be Proactive
  3. Be Prepared for Constructive Criticism
  4. Consider Your Review a Strategy Session
  5. Use Your Review as a Prime Communication Opportunity

Unfortunately, far too many managers do a lousy job of performing performance reviews.  A recent Wall Street Journal article confirms that most managers hate conducting performance reviews--even though constructive feedback is critical for employees. 

Employees who take a proactive role in helping their bosses get through the annual performance review ritual will feel better about the end result. 

Things I Wish I'd Known in College

Ron Culp

Corporate executive turned agency guy.

Cathleen Johnson contributes the third part of a series stemming from a panel discussion involving successful women graduates of Northern Illinois University who were assembled by Denise Schoenbachler, Dean of the Business School, on the topic of: Lessons from the Front:  If We'd Only Known this Back Then.

   Cathleen Johnson

Things I Wish I'd Known in College


In college, I fought hard to avoid math--I majored in journalism, and have had a very successful career as a result.  But I now have to admit that I regret my decision to avoid numbers and hide behind the writer's shield at all cost.  Even writer types need to brush up on their math skills in business.  After all, for a PR professional to be truly successful, you have to be just as facile with numbers as words in order to develop a budget, understand a P&L and all that comes with it--quantify one's value as a result of contribution to revenue and profit. 

My value to a firm lies not just in my ability to write a great program, but also in my skill in building a profitable group, manage expenses, manage my clients' budgets, and understand the financial structure of my business and my clients.  That takes a fundamental understanding of, and respect for the "Dreaded Math".  And don't forget that as your success increases, so does your personal portfolio, and you'd better know what's involved in your financial statement!


Another thing I avoided like the plague while in school was sports.  I tried tennis--and found I had no hand to eye coordination.  I tried volleyball and had serious issues with my long, red fingernails.  I tried fencing and loved it, but it was never one of those fun team sports everyone else was cheering for. 

I wish I'd known how the game of golf could have helped me make deals and alliances when I came as a stranger to work in Hawaii where so much real business is done on the course.  Or how the lessons of team sports would translate into lessons of team leadership in any business.  Had I kept up with volleyball or basketball, I would have known how valuable the lessons of a good coach could be in the corporate world.

3.  COLLEGE ISN'T REAL LIFE, BUT IT'S PRETTY DAMN CLOSE SO PAY ATTENTION.  Just don't believe everything they told you! 

When I went to J-school we were trained for the "big time," but no one mentioned that not everyone will be a reporter for The New York Times.  That was a cruel blow when I began looking for my reporter's job, but I quickly learned that working for the college paper was probably the best training I could have received for any writing-based career.  Perseverance, attention to detail, proof-reading and patience are all skills I learned, that I use to this day.

I also learned to be determined to succeed.  PR was a fledgling field at the time, and I had one class.  On my final I received a c- and a personal note: "You have potential, but too bad you'll never make it in this field."  I didn't believe that, and 30 years later, I'm still enjoying a very successful career in PR--and I'm glad I didn't listen to that advice!

Cathleen Johnson is an Executive Vice President at Edelman Worldwide where she is General Manager of the Tourism Practice and Global Director of Education & Training.

Interview Questions: Trip Down Memory Lane

Ron Culp

Corporate executive turned agency guy.

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A new 2010 graduate told me about a non-traditional job interview for which he feels he was unprepared.  The prospective employer spent the entire hour asking and following-up on questions about the candidate's hometown, summer jobs and extra curricular activities--not one question about his college curriculum or experience relevant to the job opening. 

Fortunately, the applicant launched into a discussion of his part-time jobs during high school and college and the variety of activities, including Boy Scouts.  He wonders if there's an omen in the fact the interviewer asked no job-specific questions.  I assured him that the novel interview approach is becoming increasingly popular since everyone can read a resume, but such questioning can elicit important insights regarding work ethic and personality. 

Today's New York Times Corner Office column confirms my point of view that bosses are increasingly asking non-job specific questions.  Steve Hannah, CEO of The Onion, asks non-traditional questions.  He says he wants to know where an applicant comes from, how many children are in his/her family.  "I want to know where you fit in and what your role was," Hannah says.  "I want to know what your mother and your dad did, what influence they had on you.  I find that, without overstepping my boundaries, most people like to talk about themselves."

Hannah said he wants to know if the applicant is "entitled" or whether they worked hard, excelled at school, held summer jobs, whether they got the jobs themselves, and if they got promoted. I want to know if you'll work hard. Hannah says, "I'm hopelessly old-fashioned. I want people who really want to work hard. And I absolutely loathe a sense of entitlement."

Before your next interview, take a few minutes to think about your childhood and how you might describe it in such a way to underscore its relevance to the job you're pursuing. 

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