Gen Wise Perspective

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

Author Archive

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. 

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!

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?

When will we realize social media marketing is about being social?

Many of us in the PR industry already read this advertising clown’s article about how we’re ruining social media. This might have even been credible if he backed it with some stats and examples, or if he didn’t throw in a shameless self-promotion in at the end.

Way to plug yourself….that’s really going to make me believe you understand how social media marketing works.

The whole time he discussed the problem with pushing content at people, and then at the end he shoves a bunch of examples of his agency’s work at us? Yes, clearly this guy is the mastermind of all things social media marketing.

(Note: my sarcasm does not reflect my views on his agency’s work. I respect it and think it’s very creative. This is just my opinion about this particular article)

Although the article overall was full of generalizations and assumptions, there are some points we agree on:

1)      “No one wants to listen to an endless, aimless stream of dialog about a brand or a company, which is what you get from a strategy that focuses on news, offers and the occasional contest”

2)      “Effective social media marketing is about putting something directly into the hands of your audience”

3)      “People are engaged by great content”

4)      “People gravitate to brands they like and respect. You aren’t going to win friends by boring them to death with conversation about yourself.”

The problem I have is that he’s assuming two things that aren’t always true: That PR agencies always develop and implement a brand’s social media strategy, and that a PR agency’s strategy in terms of social media for a brand is always focused on distributing content.

False and false.

PR agencies do NOT always handle social media for brands. Sometimes they have a separate social media agency, other times ad agencies are in charge of a brand’s social media presence, or it’s handled in-house.

And, just because we’re in PR does NOT mean that we’re applying old-school, traditional PR distribution practices to social media.

Really, this article didn’t need to call out the PR industry. It could’ve just discussed poor social media marketing strategies in general. Some people are great at it, others are terrible. What this article says isn’t always wrong, but it’s definitely pointing the finger in one direction when in reality it applies to many people (that aren’t always PR pros).

It does raise the bigger issue: When are we going to realize that social media marketing is about the SOCIAL aspect?

There are all these “best practices” or things you should(n’t) do (like the four points I mentioned above), but when you stop and think about it…they’re all about being human.

People naturally connect with other people, so the questions for marketers become: How can I humanize my brand? How do I give it a personality that consumers can connect to?

After all, we gravitate towards different people based on our own personalities. The same goes for our behavior towards a brand.

Social media provides the perfect opportunity for brands to not only have a means for connecting with their audience and building a community of like-minded individuals (AKA being social), but also to understand who those people are and what they care about.

It starts off on a broader level: what type of person do I want to target? Who purchases my product and/or service?

Ok, so once that’s nailed down….

Where do they spend their time online?

Then: What are they saying? What do they talk about/respond to the most? What sparks a negative reaction in them? Positive? What do they share the most?

Those are the types of questions that make the most sense to ask first. Yes, there are more, but the point is that it’s about getting a well-rounded view of who these people are. That way you can figure out how to be human and best relate to them.

I mean, isn’t that how we act in a social setting if we want to actually build a relationship?

You wouldn’t just spout a bunch of crap about yourself without asking anything about other people. You would talk to them, listen to what they have to say, ask questions, share interesting information, laugh together, bounce ideas off one another, and so on.

Well, doesn’t that apply to social media marketing as well?

And, to the first part of the post, do you really need to be in advertising, PR, or marketing to understand that?


Where do you go for a refreshing, unique point of view?

I asked this question to the Twittersphere yesterday after I realized that I’m extremely sick of reading the same opinions over and over. I understand that’s part of what happens when you stick to reading about a certain industry, which is why I’m thrilled that Kim borrowed me a copy of her new favorite play: Spring Awakening. It’s nice to mix it up every now and then.

I also enjoy reading sci-fi/fantasy novels for the same reason. Sometimes I just need a break from hearing about how to do _[fill in the blank]_ best with social media. I’m grateful that most of my friends are not in this industry and keep me from talking about this day and night.

Sometimes I just want to hear from someone who’s not spouting a bunch of bs. This week I was happy to encounter Joey Strawn. Joey’s blog posts always provide humor and get to the point. They’re not a bunch of fluff. It’s very refreshing.

I know I’m not the only one who feels this way. Here are some of the responses to my question “Where do you go for a refreshing, unique point of view?”

@IsaacSalazar my family and cab drivers

@ryanstephens Nobody in particular for me. I like checking out TEDx talks. Other than that I’ll look at a few people’s delicious bookmarks.

@willias1 normally id go straight to you, but if you’re asking everyone for new ideas, I’m not sure where that leaves me. #Scratchinghead

@jasonarican Depends on what sort of insight, but I like to go places that I know have opinions different from mine for a fresh perspective

@JasMollica I usually find something new in my Twitter feed that gives me refreshing insight. You just have to look!

@justicewordlaw I check out various youtube videos and then check out some of the top blogs I go to daily

@Jennilynn4 I get up from my desk and take a walk outside. It helps me clear my head/think.

@biggreenpen a kid (for refreshing/unique) or someone of a different gender/generation/nationality/ethnicity

@ryanknapp I tend to pop around on other people’s twitter accts or follow hashtags, see if anyone new stands out.

@jordankelley23 Sometimes it’s nice to go to an outsider thats not involved w/ the situation. Their advice is fresh & their opinion isn’t biased

@Kimberly_Lucio Jill Felska (@felska) because she takes each experience she has and shares it on her blog in a way that everyone can learn from it

What about you? Where do you go to get a different perspective and/or insight?

(thank you to Google images and for the pic) 

Are business leaders accountable for their actions?

In my mind, one of the defining characteristics of Gen Y is that we don’t like anything that is overly corporate or structured. Maybe we’re all just striving to be unique individuals, but overall we love the idea of going against The Man.

I’m all for that point of view, but recently I’ve started to see another side of the coin: The Man (aka the leader of a large corporation) cares more than you’d think.

Hear me out, please.

Gen Y employees tend to be lower down in companies (given our age), yet there are many of us who think we know best. Sometimes our ideas are very innovative. Sometimes they are extremely naïve and/or idealistic. Other times we are business-savvy but have superiors who refuse to listen or shift away from the “traditional” methods that have always worked in the past.

But the biggest misconception is that CEOs just sit in their corner office raking in the dough and not caring about the company.

You know why that’s not the case?

Because when shit hits the fan, the CEO is the one who gets canned. They are the face of the organization—the one with the biggest responsibility of all: Making sure the entire operation is running, and running successfully.

So, yes, the CEO gets that nice fat paycheck, but “uneasy lies the head that wears a crown.” (Yes I’m a nerd and quoted Shakespeare’s Henry IV)

When a company as a whole doesn’t live up to expectations, it’s not those of us at entry-mid level who gets blamed in the public eye…it’s the CEO.

I’ve actually seen this theory in action as I’ve begun to manage others. I’m lucky to work with some very talented individuals, but still if something goes wrong…it’s all on me. Both my clients and my boss are going to look to me because it’s my job to run these accounts, so it’s my job to make sure the other people on my team are doing things right.

Unfortunately, things go wrong that are out of our control. Guess what? I’ll be the one taking the lumps for it.

Yes, I know there are many business leaders who have outdated ideas and could benefit from learning a few lessons in their industry. There are others who might just be counting down the days until retirement. But for the most part, I really don’t think that’s the case. There are many CEOs out there who are truly passionate about the organizations they run.

So, let’s give business leaders a break. It’s really easy to pass judgment until you’re in a similar situation and realize why someone might have come to the decision they did.

Keep in mind that there’s a downside to everything. A CEO might be on top, but they’re also sitting on a pile of responsibilities that we don’t have to deal with.

(photo credit goes to

What are 10 things I learned from my first SxSW Interactive experience?

Throwing up the hashtag sign. Yeah, we're nerds.

This was my first year at SxSW Interactive, and I have to say that it was absolutely a blast. I am definitely going back next year, and now I have these 10 lessons to take with me:

1. Pack your hipster gear

Never in my life have I seen so many hipsters in one place. This one is merely a joke—please don’t take me literally and go buy skinny jeans, a plaid shirt and funky sunglasses just for SxSW. But be ready to do some great people watching. And if you’re a hipster, then you absolutely belong here.

2. You look like an outcast without a Mac

I was definitely one of the only people without a Mac or an iPad. Boo me. This point is just another fun one. You can rock your Dell with pride too.

3. Carry your chargers with you at all times

Everyone here was hoarding the outlets. Good thing they were so accommodating and had power strips everywhere. I mean, we have to be connected at ALL times, right? Trust me: you do not want to have your phone or laptop die on you. It’s your way to stay in touch with everyone. Keep your charger on you, even when you go out at night.

4. Use a location-based check-in service (even if just for this occasion)

So, I actually didn’t do this. I don’t use Foursquare or Gowalla and I made it through SxSW just fine. Part of the reason is because everyone also shared their location via Twitter and/or Facebook. But really check-in apps are ideal for a conference like this.

You’re trying to meet up with people you either just met or only know from social media and planned to meet in person. We’re all floating around one concentrated area, so it only makes sense to check in and see what’s happening around you.

5. Talk to people you don’t know

This might be the most important point. Talk to everyone because that is the most interesting part of SxSW. I learned more from the people I met than any panel I attended.

6. Attend sessions you know nothing about

I realized that the panels and speakers aren’t very beneficial if you already know about the topic. Don’t get me wrong—these are some very smart people with great insight, but if I blog about social media and talk about how it can be used from a marketing perspective, why would I attend a panel on it? I made that mistake. Then I found myself thinking: I’ve heard most of this before.

But, there are so many panels and speakers that covered subjects I don’t really know anything about. I should’ve gone to those, even if it wasn’t directly related to the industry I work in. I’d rather learn something new than hear the same ole shit I read/write about all the time.

7. Prepare to cope with a hangover for a few days in a row

Bring your aspirin, eye drops and whatever else you need to deal with your hangover and lack of sleep. It’s inevitable. You want to go to the events and parties at night, but you want to make it to those early sessions too. SxSW is one place you need to be a trooper.

8. The SxSW Go app is extremely useful for figuring out which sessions to go to

The official SxSW Go app was great for finding out about everything going on around you and planning ahead. You’re able to set up a schedule of events you want to attend and receive alerts beforehand, which is very helpful because time really gets away from you when you’re down there.

9. Wear comfortable shoes

You will end up walking all over the place all day and night long. Be prepared for it. You’ll regret it if you wear shoes that aren’t made for walking. I always wear flats and I’m still bandaging up my baby toe on both feet. Ha!

10. Unofficial parties and unplanned outings with new friends are WAY better than the official stuff

You’ve probably heard this before and it’s so true. The official stuff ends up being packed. You’ll probably wait in line and be super crowded in. Not very fun.

On that same note, skip a panel or session and go to lunch with new friends instead. I promise you it’ll be much more interesting and beneficial to you. If you stick to all the planned, official events you will be missing out on the best part of what SxSW has to offer: the people around you.

Above all, take a step back, think about why you’re there, and enjoy what’s happening around you. Take your nose out of your smartphone for a few minutes and take it all in. There is a lot of creativity and innovation happening all around you. You don’t want to miss it.

For those who have been to SxSW, are there any other vital lessons I should add to this list? Let me know about them in the comments.

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