Gen Wise Perspective

Gen Y's perspective (pun intended) on our journey through work, life, and everything in between.

What do I look for in job applicants?

I usually speak in PR/communications classes at my alma mater Loyola Chicago at least once a semester, and I ALWAYS get asked about what I look for in candidates that apply for a job. As someone who was on the other side of the interviewer-interviewee relationship not that long ago, I’d like to provide some perspective to those who wonder about what makes a candidate stand out.

I’d like to preface this post by saying that this is entirely my opinion on what I value/look for when I want to hire someone. I’ve had this conversation with coworkers and I know they have different points of view. All I can tell you is what I seek when hiring for my own team.

The Cover Letter

I’m going to be bluntly honest here: Keep it on the shorter side. I want you to be able to tell me why you’re the right person for this job in a concise way. Chances are I’ll stop reading if it goes on to the second page.

You also don’t need to reiterate what’s already on your resume. Use an anecdote—tell me some kind of story about yourself that puts who you are into context. Everyone’s resume starts to look the same after a while. Your cover letter is how you stand out.

Most importantly, do NOT just use a template and fill in the blanks. It’s extremely obvious. Yes, I know you’re looking for more than one job and it takes a long time to tailor your cover letter to each position you apply for. But that’s how you show you really want this job and not just a job. It also shows me that you’re capable of tailoring your pitches to the media, which is going to be a large part of your job if you were to get hired.

The Resume

Make it clean and as easy to scan as possible. Avoid being too wordy, but be specific about what you did at previous jobs. I’d prefer to see an actual example of a campaign you worked on instead of a list of the generic tasks you completed.

Emphasize your experience that’s most relevant to the job you’re applying for. It might not have been your most recent job, but it should be the most detailed section. Keep in mind that we need to assess whether you can do this job. While your marketing research experience is great, I’m hiring you for a PR (heavily media relations focused) position. Another example would be to include any agency experience you have—this is a PR agency so you’ll work on multiple clients. If you’ve done that before (even in advertising or marketing), please make sure we know.

One thing for the recent grads (or those about to graduate): don’t include coursework on your resume. Your major speaks for itself. If you emphasize coursework it tells me that you haven’t done anything outside of school. At the same time, if you worked on an actual “client” in class then you should include that on your resume. I recommend including it as “special projects” or in another category where you can show that you were able to execute a campaign on behalf of a client. That is a valuable skill to have.

The Interview

This might scare you (and I don’t mean for it to), but I can tell if I want to hire you within the first five minutes of an interview. There’s just something that screams “yes, this person is a fit!”

But even beyond those first five minutes, these are usually the qualities that make me want to hire someone:

  • You’re personable
  • You look professional
  • You can converse with me as an equal (even if we’re just introducing ourselves and talking about the weather)
  • You’re confident
  • You’re ready to talk about your experience without staring down at your resume in front of you
  • You clearly did your homework on the company beyond just scanning the website
  • You have stories and/or anecdotes about past jobs with specific examples. For instance, a candidate we just hired gave specific examples about how he was tasked with coming up with a story idea for a very dry B2B client. He told us the situation, how he solved it, and what the outcome was
  • Anyone who can cite specific successes (i.e. I worked on X account and we did Y, Z with them, which resulted in ____)
  • You can tell us about various news outlets and blogs that you read on a regular basis (it’s not helpful when someone says “oh, I read whatever comes up on my homepage” because we expect you to be a news junkie)
  • You ask lots of questions about the agency, as well as the specific job/team you’re going to be hired to work on
  • The “Q&A” part of the interview turns into a conversation vs. you asking random questions and not giving any feedback once you get an answer from us

The Follow Up

This one is simple. Always send a follow-up email within a day. It doesn’t have to be lengthy, but it just shows you’re capable of following up (a very important skill in PR) and that you care about this job.

Personally, I don’t care whether you send a cute card in the mail or just send an email. I’m a believer in “it’s the thought that counts” with the follow-up. Why do I say that? Because if I really want you for this job, I’m not going to give it to someone else because they sent me a handwritten card and you wrote an email. Just sayin’.

So, I hope that helps provide some perspective on applying for a job. Please feel free to leave additional questions in the comments section. I promise I’ll answer them as honestly as possible.

Can you ever stop learning?

Image copyright JESS3 (they make sweet infographics)

No. The minute you start thinking that you have nothing left to learn is the minute you become a quitter. It’s not possible to know it all. If you think so, you’re never going to improve yourself. Your journey on the road to become an invaluable employee, friend, partner, family member, etc. has just ended. Boo.

But the truth of the matter is that sometimes it’s really hard to learn because we don’t want to check our egos at the door.

I recently read this post by Mark Suster called “Why You Should Embrace Opposing Views at Your Startup” on my new favorite entrepreneur-turned-VC blog, Both Sides of the Table.

The post starts off by making some solid points:

  • What could you learn from looking at your competitors or other tech startups in a different way?
  • Are you cynical about their chances in the market just because they seem to be hot in the press and that bugs you?
  • Or you think their startup is a passing fad and yours is the real deal?

The part of his post that really struck a chord with me: “Even if you’re right – there’s something you may be missing.”

So true. As Mark’s post pointed out, it’s easy for us to get jealous in a situation like this. But that jealousy will only cloud your reasoning and cause you to miss an opportunity to learn something.

For instance: I work with tech startups. On top of that, I’m supposed to be the one making them seem like the shiny new object to everyone else. So it’s VERY hard to watch a competitor kill it in the press. There is one in particular that drives. Me. Crazy. Talk about hype. I’m still not convinced that anyone actually uses this product.

And I know there have been some “shady” and potentially unethical guerilla tactics behind their marketing strategy. Maybe the decision-makers and higher-ups at this company aren’t aware. I’m not saying this was condoned, but nonetheless it turns me into that little kid whining about how it’s “not fair.”

Well, you know what? If I adopt that mindset then I’m just as immature as the little kid. And at the end of the day, everyone heard about this company. So as much as it pained me to admit this, they had to be doing something right. What was it?

I sat down and really analyzed their strategy. As Mark Suster put it, you have to “be dissecting.”

Here’s what I saw:

  • They defined the benefit instead of listing the attribute: I didn’t have to connect the dots to imagine what was so revolutionary or game-changing because they did it for me. It’s not that the product can do X, Y, Z….it’s that X, Y, Z can help improve my life and shift society as a whole. Does that make sense?
  • They targeted early adopters of tech products (always a “must” with tech PR)
  • They clearly broke down the key points of differentiation
  • They had consistent messaging and strong positioning: they chose a space to live and then owned it
  • They assembled brand advocates in different cities (ones that they carefully calculated out)
  • They shared different parts of the company’s story with different news outlets, so everyone was able to have an exclusive and refreshing point of view on the story

These might seem like obvious points that should be a part of any company’s strategy, but there are SO many times when the marketing/PR team doesn’t sit down and think this through. Tech startups, in particular, can run into this problem because they often do something very innovative and get too caught up in the “tech” aspect of it without ever answering the simple “so what problem does this solve?”

I think I learned a PR lesson AND a life lesson from this situation.

I forced myself to learn from a company that I loved to hate.

And the next time around I was able to do it right for one of my new clients. I took what I learned and used it…and the results were extremely successful.

So please take this advice and do with it what you will: There’s always something or someone to learn from if you’re willing to swallow your pride. 

How has Steve Jobs changed your life?

Three hundred and seventeen.

That’s the amount of patents that Steven Jobs has been listed on as an inventor for Apple products. As everyone knows, the man who truly changed the way we live our lives lost his battle with cancer on Tuesday.

As I sat on my morning train today, I glanced around to see that over half the passengers had ipods in. One guy was reading an article on his iPad. Numerous Mac Books were on and in use. It made me think about life. About how precious it truly is. And how one man pioneered a company to greatness and every single person on my train was affected by his work.

There are plenty of people out there who inspire me, make me think, challenge me, and keep me questioning things for the better. He is one of them.

Steve Jobs makes me want to do better. To try harder. To not give up because I think something is a dumb idea. To constantly be curious.  He defined innovation for me. He taught me that you can do anything you set your mind to.

The reason I am writing this post is to remind you of that. It’s really easy to get wrapped up in your work. To just keep going through the days doing the same routine. Same process, same results. I urge you to be a little bit more like Steve Jobs. Don’t just do your job to do it. Do work that makes you want to change the world.

Three hundred and seventeen patents. What will you invent?

image via unmarketing

Are you constantly building your skill set?

A couple of weeks ago, I started writing down things that I wanted to achieve in the next coming years. As part of my job at Walker Sands, I work pretty closely with our development team. They know HTML like it’s their first language, and it’s something I have always wanted to know how to do on my own. After some hunting down, I found a class for Basic HTML/CSS taught by Chicago Women Developers. The class is great and I am so glad I took it. I’m now looking into taking advanced classes.

In your career, professional growth and development is essential. The continuous quest to learn more and keep pushing yourself farther than you have in the past will help you to stand out from the crowd. Having the desire to strive to learn more and do better every day has taught me that I’m definitely in the right career for me.

It’s hard to tell what specifically each person needs to do to build their own skill set – you are on your own with that one, friends. But what I can do is tell you what I do to keep learning and growing daily in my professional career:

  • Read what people who inspire you are writing. I am a firm believer in the fact that you learn best when surrounded by people who push you to do better. Jackie and I compiled a list earlier this year of sites we love that teach us and help us in our professional careers. It’s still a go to source for us. Check out the full list here.
  • Take breaks when you need to. Just like Jackie and I did on here, sometimes you need to take breaks to refresh and learn what you really want. It’s okay not study/work on something related to your field every single day. Sometimes you learn more by building a skill outside of your industry. You’ll be surprised by what learning guitar can teach you about patience (this is very true for me right now).
  • Try it yourself before you ask for help. The best way to learn something new is to try it on your own. With the HTML classes I am in, I have visited sites like w3schools and Online HTML Editor to find answers to my questions before asking someone who knows. You’ll learn it much faster if you are the one hunting for the answers.

Is the client always right?

Anyone who works in a services industry has probably heard the saying “the client [customer] is always right.” I understand why that saying exists—at the end of the day, they’re the ones paying you to do what they ask.

But aren’t they also paying for your service because you’re the “expert” on the subject matter? Sure, some would argue that they pay because they don’t have the time/resources to handle the job on their own. But then they could’ve hired their buddy Joe Schmoe to take the job off their hands instead of hiring a trained professional who specializes in the particular area of need.

That being said, when you think your client is flat-out wrong…how do you go about pushing back?

There are times when I receive instructions from a client that I absolutely disagree with. Sometimes they question something we’ve done and aren’t so nice about the way they word it, which immediately fires me up. That’s obviously not a good thing.

I of course start to take it personally, which my mom says is something I will learn to curb with age. I know I need to practice that now. I’m sure I’m not the only one, so I’m being bluntly honest about myself in the hope that others might learn from my flaws. Another lesson I learned from my mom is that (hopefully) as I get older I will learn to let things go and develop a tougher skin. I would love to expedite that.

But I haven’t mastered it yet. And I hate being wrong. All of this is a bad combination for pushing back on a client, yet I have enough common sense to know that there’s a delicate way about addressing the situation.

So before doing anything I wanted to get a third-party opinion. I tweeted to my followers, asking what their stance is on pushing back on clients.

I received some great advice, but what resonated most was this comment by Paul Kluding: “Ok to do it, but go in w/motto: think 1st to understand, then be understood. They don’t just want “yes” men/women”

I swear it was one of those “lightbulb” moments. I get hung up on the small things such as the slightly unprofessional tone in emails when a client is questioning me, or the finer points of what they’re asking me to do that don’t make sense to me.

But why didn’t I ever just stop and think about why? What is driving the client to write this email? What is at stake for them?

In reality, their reasoning could be about an issue larger than the one at hand.

So instead of firing back an email that completely defended and justified my position (even if I could do this with ample facts and support), I sought to find the real pain point. Taking Paul’s advice, I wanted to first understand then clarify my point to be understood.

I simply asked why the client felt the way they did. Then I offered my advice on how I would like to handle the situation, while also pointing out that I realize there might be a side of the coin I just wasn’t seeing at this time.

I wanted to address the root of the problem. I wanted us to truly get on the same page. And you know what? We did. And I bet this issue won’t come up again, but it might have if I approached this differently.

I also believe this approach helped to further earn the client’s respect and builds trust in my judgment moving forward.

What do you think? What are your experiences with pushing back on clients? I’d love the perspective of others who have been at this a lot longer than me.

Where have we been all summer?

If you look at the archives of this blog, you’ll notice that we’ve been quiet since June. Ooooh we broke a cardinal rule of blogging!

I’m kidding. But there’s an actual reason behind this hiatus: We had nothing to blog about.

Kim and I were heavy on blogging about social media, but after a while it seemed like we were saying the same thing over and over. And you know what? That’s what it seemed like everyone else was doing too. Guaranteed if you go look at blog of a social media “guru,” you will find a post written in 2011 that is almost the same thing they said in 2009.

That’s not really our purpose here. We’re not blogging for business or to make money, so we don’t have to adhere to a frequency of posts. We also don’t have an audience who relies on us for our advice. That is the end goal, of course, but in order to get there we need to change it up.

Welcome to the new Gen Wise Perspective. It’s still our voice and our Gen Y point of view, but we’re going to focus on the things we live and breathe every day: challenges in the workplace, new obstacles we must overcome with clients, things we learned the hard way, controversies, differences in opinion based on age, major shifts in society, people/actions that inspire use…basically anything that significantly impacts us in some way.

We hope you’ll find value in what we have to say. That “value” is completely up to you…we just hope you don’t leave wondering why you wasted a few minutes reading anything we had to say.

Stay tuned for more posts to come. We’re back!

Can You Help Us Change the Laws on Stalking?

When Jackie and I read Gini Dietrich’s blog post sharing her personal story about stalking, we were both shocked and sickened by the terrifying situations that stalking victims endure. The worst (and probably scariest) part is that, in almost every instance, the police told these victims there is nothing they can do until an attack happens.

The other hard truth we learned is how often stalking occurs. As Gini’s post states, “In the U.S. alone, 14 in every 1,000 women of 18 and older are victims of stalking.”

Jackie and I both knew instantly we wanted to get involved and help change the laws on stalking.

This month, Danny Brown’s 12for12K highlights Jodi’s Voice, an organization started in honor of Jodi Sanderholm, a victim of stalking.

Watch this video to learn more about the issue.

Here are a few other ways you can get involved with the cause:

A very special thank you to Gini Dietrich for sharing her story and her post.

What are common misconceptions about Gen Y employees? (Pt. 2)

A few days ago I shared a Q&A on the misconceptions of Gen Y employees from someone who manages them. In my attempt to prove a point, I asked a few people the same list of questions.

We now have part two of the series. This Q&A was answered by Angelica Colantuoni. Angelica is currently the VP of Digital at Weber Shandwick in Chicago, and allegedly a reader of Gen Wise Perspective (I’m still not convinced anyone but my mom and Kim read this blog).

So what did Angelica have to say?

1. Does age affect your decision when hiring employees?

Not at all.

2. Do you base an employee’s job role/position on their age?


3. Do you consider someone at a “junior level” less competent than those at a “senior level”?

Not at all. Everyone’s different and brings different strengths to the table regardless if you are junior or senior.

4. What is your overall opinion on age as it relates to an employee’s capabilities/performance?

My overall opinion is that age doesn’t necessarily equal maturity. Lately, I’ve seen more signs of immaturity in those with years and years of experience than I have with people who are just starting their careers.

5. Are there things you think younger generations excel at over others?

I still think that this is an individual thing rather than a sweeping generalization that millenials are more digitally savvy (for example.) We’re all individuals and we all excel in different areas….this isn’t based on age.

6. What is the biggest difference in managing Gen Y employees over others?

From my experience, it’s the desire to get promoted at lightning speed. We all want to get promoted and I suffered from that a bit too as I was starting out but it seems the time frame has gotten shorter as to when they want to get promoted to the next level.

7. is an advantage to assigning junior level employees to projects over senior level employees?

I don’t see an advantage one way or another. Whoever is going to have a smile on their face and make me laugh as we do the assignment together is who I would gravitate towards.

8. What is the number one thing you would say that junior level employees can learn from senior level execs?

Curiosity. I think the most successful execs out there have a natural sense of curiosity…for news, trends, business, etc…This makes your career and life much more satisfying.

9. What surprises you the most about your junior level employees?

I would have to agree with Gini on this one. I’m always surprised on their dependence/relationship with their parents for help with decisions. I’ve seen parents get involved in some reviews because they weren’t happy with the feedback that they received. That’s just crazy to me.

10. Anything else to add on this overall topic? A personal experience you’ve had?

I don’t have one personal experience to share but overall I think it’s all based on personalities and work ethics. I’ve found lately that I tend to have a better working relationship with those that can have fun at their job and not take themselves too seriously whether or not you are 23 or 63. And, honestly, there are very immature and self-absorbed senior level execs out there that take themselves way too seriously. They could take a lesson or two from some Gen Y employees…..


And yet again we see it’s about “personalities and work ethics,” rather than age itself. Yes, Gen Y clearly has some flaws (doesn’t everyone?) but they aren’t necessarily ones that make us incapable of performing a job well.

Stay tuned for parts 3 and 4 of this series. I’d love to hear anyone’s thoughts on the subject, so please feel free to share them in the comments.

Also, if you’re feeling ambitious about answering all of these and would like to get involved, just let me know and we’ll extend this into a longer series 🙂

What are common misconceptions about Gen Y employees? (Pt. 1)

Kim and I have posted before about work ethic as it relates to age. The topic is part of what inspired us to start this blog. I think there are many misconceptions about Gen Y as a whole, particularly when it comes to how we behave in the workforce.

Recently,  I’ve encountered this firsthand. Although we might be just as competent (if not more so) than employees that are older than us, we’re still judged immediately because we look like junior level employees. Often times there’s the complaint that a client is going to “get handed off to a junior level employee,” and because we look the part we’re immediately lumped into that category.

Instead of going off on a rant about this, I decided to send a few questions to some friends in the industry that I respect very much. I wanted to get an outside opinion because I don’t think I’m an objective source (seeing as I’m always going to defend my generation).

So, part one of the Misconceptions About Gen Y Employees blog series is my Q&A with the lovely Gini Dietrich. Gini is the founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich here in Chicago, and she writes one of my favorite PR industry blogs, Spin Sucks.

1. Does age affect your decision when hiring employees?


2. Do you base an employee’s job role/position on their age?


3. Do you consider someone at a “junior level” less competent than those at a “senior level”?

Definitely. HAHAHA. No, of course not.

4. What is your overall opinion on age as it relates to an employee’s capabilities/performance?

I think age and perspective are two different things. There are plenty of Baby Boomers who can’t do as well as young professionals and vice versa. It has nothing to do with age. Sometimes it has to do with experience but, more often than not, it’s perspective.

5. Are there things you think younger generations excel at over others?

Sure! I think young professionals understand the digital space better than their older colleagues. Some of them have perspective that allows them to translate their personal social media experience to work and some don’t have it.

6. What is the biggest difference in managing Gen Y employees over others?

I don’t think it’s a Gen Y thing, as much as it is a patience thing. Some employees really want to be promoted so they can manage people. Some people think they deserve something that, as a supervisor, I don’t think they’re quite ready for. But that has nothing to do with age.

7. What is an advantage to assigning junior level employees to projects over senior level employees?

I’m not sure there is an advantage as it’s based on experience, perspective, motivation, and drive. Not on age.

8. What is the number one thing you would say that junior level employees can learn from senior level execs?


9. What surprises you the most about your junior level employees?

Their dependence on their parents.

10. Anything else to add to this overall topic? A personal experience you’ve had?

I’ve had lots of bad experiences – with young and experienced employees. The strangest things that have ever happened is a parent calling me to negotiate a new employee’s package and another employee’s parent calling because he’d been put on probation. Wonders never cease.

The main takeaway I get from this is that it’s not about age or “level” of an employee, but rather the individual person and their work ethic. What do you think?

Is “Social CRM” the Death of Social Media Marketing?

“Social CRM” is a hot topic these days, especially as there are quite a few companies trying to make it possible in a technological sense.

But if we create an actual Social CRM tool as a one-stop solution, is that really the end game we want for social media marketing?

Automating social media, both in terms of content and CRM, has the potential to ruin what a valuable resource social channels have become.

As marketers, we have this undeniable trait to try to maximize revenue through whatever means of communication is “working” at the time. Good marketers test and optimize their methods of communication to prospects and clients, but inevitably bad marketers overtake these channels and flood them with spam and blast content forcing consumers to block communication.

The same thing could potentially happen with social media. On the content side, marketers attempt to automate the process by pushing out content in the same fashion as traditional marketing. Tell me I am wrong, tell me I am over-exaggerating, but then wait a week and try to tell me some automated bot hasn’t spammed you on at least one social media site?  This is not human business and will not excel in any space.

Social media is inherently different from other channels that marketers use to reach their customer base, yet it’s not being treated as such.

Social media provides an opportunity for dialog. It’s a way to actually listen to what your customer has to say. It also provides much richer customer intelligence than you’d ever be able to obtain from other marketing channels. Instead of guessing that X TV Ad led to Y behavior, marketers can gauge interest by hearing what the consumer is actually saying. Your customers are literally telling you what you need to know in an unbiased fashion, all you have to do is listen (easier said than done for most I know).

Listening to the customer is part of the CRM process, which is why I understand the reason behind wanting to combine social and CRM. That being said, if “Social CRM” is applied as a strategy (rather than a tool) based around understanding your customers by listening first then responding, this can be very beneficial to marketers.

But when I hear about Social CRM tools, I think: this is not possible. In theory, applying the concept of CRM to social media would be an effective marketing technique because it’s crucial for marketers to manage customer relationships via social channels…but it’s not something that can be done through automated tools.

Automating Social CRM is equivalent to categorizing people by taking the dynamic information learned about them and attempting to slot it into a database. By doing so, marketers aren’t taking advantage of all that social media has to offer. In fact, they’re ruining the powerful marketing tool in front of them: real insight into the customer’s mind.

I think Jeff Esposito gets it right in this post where he makes a crucial point, “…its people mixed with technology.” If those of us in the marketing/PR industry can’t wrap our minds around this and continue to implement automated practices for our activities, people will inevitably be turned off.

Given our history as marketers I have a lack of faith we will be able to hold back and avoid spamming consumers until they find ways to block us (see email, do not call lists, unlisted addresses etc. and you will understand our undeniable greediness within our marketing efforts).

But maybe I’m wrong.

How do you see Social CRM evolving? Can automation help or hurt us in the long run?

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