Tuesday, April 29, 2008

I love writing!

I'm writing a speech this week, and it's both immensely stressful and incredibly wonderful all at once.

Most communicators like me write speeches from time to time, but most communicators hate doing it, and/or are not very good at it. But not me. I LOVE writing speeches. And frankly, I'm pretty good at it. I wish I could write speeches all the time.

Why don't I give up the rest of my freelance work and concentrate on just speechwriting, you ask? Good question. A few years ago I thought I'd try that. I hung out my shingle as a speechwriter. I told all my contacts I was looking for speech work. I networked specifically for that end. I answered RFPs and RFIs and all those other acronyms looking for speech writing services. And I got some speech work, but not enough. The reality is, I live in a city without a lot of head offices and not a lot of government -- not a capital city of either a province/state or federal capital. And those are the places where speeches get written.

I guess if I'd wanted it badly enough, I'd have networked more and better and gotten into those places -- after all, I can write a speech from anywhere -- but after six months of trying, I decided that while I still love speech writing, it couldn't be the focus of my business.

Why do I love speeches? I think I've always had an inclination for the spoken word. I'm the girl who went on vacation to New York and came back with the accent. I'm the girl who can speak four languages but not write well in the other three at all. And of course, I do like writing. I love writing sometimes. With much of my other work, there are lots of details to deal with -- emails, media lists, calls, client discussions, etc. My day can tick by without feeling like I've really finished much of anything. But when I'm writing like this, I clear my day and concentrate on just writing. My brain clicks into creative gear, my fingers fly on the keyboard, and it feels almost luxurious to just be writing.

I only have four more days to finish a keynote speech, with a lot of weighty content, so this is a big job. But I'm really enjoying it.

I know, I know, this is something I'm passionate about so should pursue it more. Hey, how do you think I got this assignment in the first place?! ;-)

Friday, April 25, 2008

Gen Y job hunting mistakes

I have a website for my public relations 'company' -- I put company in quotes because it's just me -- and I'm listed with professional organizations in my field, so from time to time I get people contacting me who are job hunting. Needless to say, I'm not hiring, but I find this amusing anyhow.

This week I got an email, obviously sent out to a group, from a young girl in Toronto (the other side of the country!), who is looking for a job. I wouldn't for a minute consider her, and here are the main reasons why:

1. She's in Toronto, but nowhere in her email does she say she'd like to relocate to Vancouver.

2. She gave me too much information about why her internship in journalism didn't work out and why she's better suited for PR. For example:

"The idea of organizing product launches excites me and this is not
something I can do in a newsroom. I can, however, talk about the toothpaste I used in the morning before coming to work, but there's no excitement there."

3. She sent me an attached resume. Bad enough her email landed in my junk folder, but if I were on a PC (which I'm not -- MAC rules!), I'd never open her attachment it for fear of viruses.

And worst of all,

4. She invites me to check out her Facebook profile, but it's not public. In fact, she says:

" I also welcome you to check out my Facebook profile..., as it is a good indication of how unique and creative my writing style is. Most importantly, it expresses the essence of ME."

I went so far as to look her up, but all I got was a name, city and photo. I guess maybe that's the essence of HER.

My conclusion is that new media options may have opened up new techniques for Gen Y job hunters, but classic mistakes never get old.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Which generation are you?

Via GenerationXpert, I found this http://www.blogger.com/img/gl.link.gifthat claims to figure out what generation you belong to based on a few quick answers.

I'm Gen X, baby, all the way!

Of course, the quiz seems to have been designed by baby boomers, since Gen Xers wouldn't have used questions like:

How do you feel about work and money?

* Work should be meaningful, and money should be spent on something you love.
* Work should be short, so you can get on to your true interests. Money isn't all that important.
* Work should be as fun as possible. Life is short, so enjoy your money.
* Work hard to be financially secure, and don't waste your money.

I mean, really, that one is obvious designed to flush out the Gen Yers who, in the minds of boomers, don't care about working.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Part time job options

There seem to be a lot of jobs advertised in my market lately looking for someone in my field with 5-7 years experience. This is recruiter code for an intermediate level employee. You know, not the kid fresh from university with no experience, but someone who has worked a few years, learned a bit, but not so much that they'd want to be paid well.

I am of course over-qualified for these jobs, and don't bother even considering them. But there are lots and lots of them in the past months, and some I see advertised more than once -- as if they didn't find anyone and are trying again to find someone. I don't know where are the people with 5-7 years experience are, but they don't seem to be job hunting very much.

Last week, two different senior women in my profession, each of whom I met for lunch as part of my questioning, said the same thing to me in regards to these jobs. They suggested that if the company can't find an intermediate to work full time, why wouldn't they hire a senior person to do the same job part time. Or even as a consultant. And why didn't I think about going after a job posted as full time for an intermediate and try to write my own ticket doing the job part time or through consulting.

It's an interesting proposition. I'd get a steady wage, albeit not a huge one, but if they had XX dollars for a full timer, it might not be so minimal for part time work. I'd have stability, which if you're reading my blog you know I crave. And I'd still be able to consult on other projects, keeping a variety of work going. I'd also likely keep a good deal of flexibility, which I really want given my two young kids.

Is it that simple, just call up the person advertising a job and suggest they rethink their entire proposition in favour of hiring me on my terms? I can easily picture the negotiations part and how I'd do that, but the cold contact part seems like a bigger leap.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Triathlon update for April

Yikes, it's been six days since I posted anything to this blog. Shame on me! How dare I get busy with paid work, looking for paid work, throwing my kid's birthday party and preparing to have 14 people over for Passover dinner this weekend?! No excuses, back to the blogging!

Because I'm still pretty swamped, I've decided it's time for a triathlon update, since this requires less thinking on my part. I do have some thinking-related things to write up and post, but I should have more time in the next few days for those. For now, I'm sure the curiousity about my training is just killing you.

It's April now, and I've made a decision about the triathlon. No, I haven't given up, I'm still going to do it. I have decided to do it in the early summer, before the end of July. There are several races in my area that I can do, so as soon as I feel I'm ready, I'll pick one. The big question is, am I up for a full Sprint Triathlon, with 700 metres swimming, 20 km biking and 5 km running, or do I need to do a baby triathlon, usually called Try-A-Tri, where the distances are shorter, usually 300m Swim, 14km Bike, 4km Run. I do know that whichever I choose, I want to swim in a pool, not a lake or an ocean, if at all possible.

My first choice so far is a women's only race, where the swim is in a pool. The only problem is that it takes place in a community known for its mountains. I'd like to see the bike route first to know how much of it will be uphill.

I have kept up my training, even springing right back after a foot injury in late February. I'm doing about five workouts a week, trying to run twice, bike twice and swim twice, which means combining two of the above in one workout. My trainer suggested a great site to help me plan my training, so I've tried to keep it all up.

But despite all of this, I still don't think I can do it. Two hours of hard on cardio seems so far beyond my abilities. No matter how long I've been training, I still find an hour hard biking or 45 minutes hard running difficult, and I can't imagine combining them. But a goal is a goal, so scared or not, I'll do it. I just might be walking my bike up a lot of hills and walking more than I run in the run part. On the bright side, the swimming doesn't scare me a bit.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

More musing on Gen X

Via the Tyee, I read a terrific article and review of a book about Gen X. It's fun to find that at long last, my much-ignored generation is getting attention from the masses.

Naturally I was pulled in to read the article after the intro:
...the cultural powers that be forgot to take note of a major milestone: generation X began to turn 40. Molly Ringwald, of the quintessential Gen X film The Breakfast Club, celebrated her 40th birthday earlier this year.
I loved Molly Ringwald, didn't you? What ever happened to her?

The article interviews Jeff Gordinier, American author of the just released X Saves the World: How Generation X Got the Shaft but Can Still Keep Everything From Sucking.

Gardiner apparently discusses our origins in punk rock and slacker culture, but comes up as an optimist, believing generation X is coming into its own as a true force for change. He says our generation will clean up the world. Yeah, X! And why us? Gardiner says:
We're equipped. We're wary enough to see through delusional "movements": we're old enough to feel a connection to the past (and yet we're unsentimental enough not to get all gooey about it); we're young enough to be wired; we're snotty enough not to settle for crap; we're resourceful enough to turn crap into gold; we're quiet enough to endure our labors on the margins. Beyond that, we're all we got. Nobody else is going to do it.
Oh, right, poor suffering us are stuck with the problems. Sounds familiar.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Partnerships the key to freelance survival?

I've been at a bit of a loss lately since the small agency with whom I had partnered on a lot of projects went out of business. Not only did they add value to the clients I had, but they also were a source of some referrals to me. And we often combined resources to bid on projects of bigger scope. Well, another partnership seems to be forming for me, and I'm kind of excited about it now.

I met another freelancer at a networking event and it turns out we had a lot in common. Our personal conversations are fun, interesting and stimulating. And her skills really compliment mine, without a whole tonne of overlap. And best of all, she's great at cold calling and sourcing new business, things I'm not good at nor do I enjoy. And her specialty is in an area I really want to work in -- sustainability. I've had some experience in that arena but not enough to be anywhere near the expert she is.

Anyhow, it's very early days, but we are seriously discussing formalizing some kind of work arrangement that combines our skills, making a list of target clients, then going out and knocking on doors or holding seminars or something. If it worked, this could be the kind of situation that would keep me freelancing for a while longer, before I had to give up the freedom and go 9-to-5-ing. And since my kids are still pretty young, another year or two of this would be lovely.

This is the first time in ages that I've felt invigorated about the possibilities of refreshing my freelance offering. Of course, that's today. Tomorrow could be a different mood swing. After all, I am 40 now. Doesn't that mean pre-menopausal mood swings are due to start?

Monday, April 7, 2008

Reinventing yourself is like a good marketing campaign

My nomination for best re-invention is the Diamond Shreddies campaign. They took something that worked just fine as it was, and found a way to reposition it so people could connect with the brand in a better way. They added excitement without changing the product.

How can I make that kind of re-invention work for my business life? I like the kind of work I do and how I do it, but I need to get myself better situated to bring in clients at a different level. I want to be perceived in a different way so that I can attract a more stable kind of client, or a stable job situation. I'd like potential clients and employers to see me as I see myself -- senior, strategic, great writer -- but in a package that attracts the big money.

Should I give my company a new name and brand? Rewrite my resume? Turn myself sideways and call myself a diamond?

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Everyone has a story

I was watching the news this morning with my kids, when my five year old asked me, "If there's nothing happening, do they just make up the news?" So I talked to him about how if nothing is happening anywhere in the world, the news people will just tell good stories. Everyone has a story to tell, I said.

Now my son, being five, said "What's my story?", and then I spent the next ten minutes making fake news reports about each member of my family: My five year old's story was about the trend of his daycare situation (he's in two different programs because as a January baby, he's too old for the 3-5 year-old program but too young for kindergarten); My seven year old's story is about his prowess at such a young age as an indoor rock climber; My husband about how obsessed he is with neat and orderly that he mowed the neighbor's lawn.

Later this morning I got to thinking about how true it is that everyone has a news story in them, even if it's just a profile or interesting angle about their lives. I had lunch yesterday with a journalist friend, and when the subject came around to my career questing, I asked her if she thinks about leaving journalism to join 'the dark side" and work in public relations, a move many, many of us PR types have made. Her answer was that she wasn't ready to give up reporting yet, because there are too many great stories out there to tell.

I've worked in PR for most of my career, but from time to time I do take journalism work, just to keep my hand in. And while it never pays well, and is never glamorous stuff (my last assignment was a profile of a machining shop, for example), it's fun to find the story in every person, company or situation.

I guess that's what I do in PR as well. I help clients find their stories, tell their stories, and get their stories told by the media and their customers. And I do it well, I think. It's one of my favourite parts about my work. I should remember that when the time comes to make any career changes.

What's your story?