Monday, December 14, 2009

How to Ensure that Your Company’s Creative Talent is Helping to Build Your Business

Pollock Spark provides 5 tips for getting the best out of creative staff
Pollock Spark, an executive consulting firm that specializes in working with creative professionals, has put together a list of helpful tips for companies to maximize the business-building potential of their creative staff in the New Year.

“Creative professionals are found working in many fields including: PR, advertising, film, television, design, architecture, fashion, music, journalism and digital communications,” says Michael Pollock, Founder of Pollock Spark. “They’re also producing ideas and designs in almost every level of organizations from retail to manufacturing."

“You know the work that your creative brains do is critical to your business’s success. But experience has shown that they often don’t respond well to many of the traditional training and professional advancement programs meant to increase their business-building capabilities.”

To help companies find ways to maximize their creatives’ potential, Pollock Spark has compiled these five tips for companies to consider in 2010.

1. Ensure that managers give creative staff constant positive feedback. For creatives, deep down, this is usually more important than the financial rewards. Sometimes just noticing their work and considering it makes a difference. Rejecting an idea out of hand is the single most destructive act to a creative mind.

2. Enter their work in industry competitions and encourage them to win – they are all competitive spirits and awards are tangible recognition of their value – this in turn will foster better work which in turn will attract more business. Working for a firm that can help creatives win awards is a key driver for retention and recruitment of the best talent.

3. Communicating progress and selling ideas does not come naturally to many creatives and often conflicts can arise between business and creative teams. Design specially crafted workshops to help them communicate more effectively to colleagues and clients.

4. Be sure that they have the right physical environment to work in – visual stimulation can be very important – but don’t just put them in a big lively “bull pen.” Provide them the opportunity to hide in a “bubble” where they can have privacy, while still feeling like part of the larger group.

5. Some creative department managers are promoted to their position because they are good at what they do, but they lack managerial experience. Give these individuals solid support – such as carefully selected mentors or coaches – to help ensure that they transition smoothly into their new role.

Keeping your idea people happy will not only get you stronger business results, it will greatly help with retention, and attract the best candidates when you’re hiring. Highly motivated creative staff will produce better work that will make it easier to grow existing business and win new clients.

About Pollock Spark

Pollock Spark is an Executive Coaching and Consulting firm that specializes in working with Creative and Media professionals. Led by Michael Pollock, they provide coaching services and experiential workshops for companies who want to strengthen the performance of their creative personnel and to foster the recruitment and retention of their most talented creative staff. Pollock Spark also works with individuals in film, TV, advertising, design, marketing, music and the Internet, bringing them the experience, techniques and inspiration to take their businesses and careers to new levels of success.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

How Susan got a new job in media in just two weeks – a true story

In just two weeks after she was laid off from a NY magazine this fall, Susan Waits found herself a new job - and now her updated LinkedIn profile says “Love my job!!!

What can we learn from her story?

The first job
2 suitcases, a degree in journalism, no apartment and no job. That was Susan Waits arriving in New York from Arkansas three years ago. “The biggest mistake people make is to try and find a job in New York before they come – the first step is to just move here. I was waitressing to pay the rent,” she told me.

She landed a job as an unpaid intern at fashion magazine Gotham – part of Niche Media. "I had responded to a job posting on which is particularly good for finding internships. I worked usually 9am – 9pm and many weekends. I think that I wanted to do a good job for myself, and I stayed late because I wasn’t done yet: as long as you are happy, then the extra work is not an issue."

"When a Fashion Assistant opportunity opened up after 2 months, I got it. But I not only did the job, making their fashion closet my own, I offered more: I wanted to write, so I wrote the price credits – the boring bits that no-one else wanted to do – I made the job unique to myself."

The layoff
After a year and a half as a Fashion Assistant, Susan had impressed the Niche Media management enough that they created a position for her on the editorial side where she worked for both Gotham and Hamptons Magazines.

A year after she had been promoted to Assistant Editor, the dismal media economy of 2009 hit her: her position was cut. “I was escorted out of the building – no talking to anyone, no touching anything – with colleagues sitting and watching my departure – it was mortifying.

The search
“The day after, I was shocked and p-ssed. But then I looked at it positively. I hit the ground running. I bombed everyone I knew. I had good working relationships and people jumped into action. I told them 'I’ve been laid off and I need your help.'"

"It’s a hard business – in a tough city. Everyone is type A. You have to put yourself out there. I contacted all the channels I could come up with – even a girl I met just once at a Cosmopolitan party.”

Even if her friends and colleagues didn’t have direct leads to a job, they connected her to HR staffers so she was able to set up informational interviews at all the big media companies. "Every day I had coffee or lunch with people. And you have to think a bit broader – if you are a good food writer, you might think can I parlay that into entertainment?”

She answered ads on and and she got job alerts from Time Warner and Conde Nast and Hearst.

"The thing that helped me find work was positivity,” says Susan. “I had practiced my pitch with my friends and at the informational HR interviews. I was putting in pretty much a full time work schedule on the search.”

The resume
Susan told me that she used a few versions of her resume to highlight different bullet points of her skill sets. It’s a one-page resume that she attaches as a PDF so it will appear as a preview.

“For the cover letter I believe in erring on the casual side. I write it like I speak to a person,” she said. “I want to be on first name basis. Its all about brevity, people are looking at them very quickly: 2 paragraphs max. The first paragraph asks to speak to them; the second says, "Here’s why I‘m awesome."

When she was running the intern program at Niche Media, she sometimes got 300 resumes sent in for one posting. She saw so many mistakes - one was the attached cover letter, "I never opened an attached cover letter – it has to be within the email.

"I recommend harassing people – you have nothing to lose – don’t call them, but email several times about a week apart – it refreshes the contact. And if you have connections use them – have them write in to support you saying: 'I understand that you are looking at Susan for the post – here is why you should hire her.' The more someone hears your name the more likely your resume is to be opened.”

A step backward to move forwards
"You have to be willing to be humble when you are looking for a new job: the job I took was at an assistant level.  I had no qualms taking a step down – I figured it is better to be working and getting the experience – it can only help you – you are learning more, rather than sitting at home for 8 months.”

Susan hadn’t been at the top of the chain at Gotham, but she was at an editor level, editing Oscar De La Renta and Vera Wang, making decisions and producing photo shoots. But she was open to taking a step backward in order to move forwards.

The new job
Answering a posting on, Susan found herself in a series of six interviews at The Knot, an online magazine all about weddings. The Co-founder and Editor-in-Chief Carla Roney needed an Executive Assistant and Susan had just the right combination of editorial experience and admin skills. She got the job – after being out of work for just two weeks. “I am excited that I have a job and I work for a company that people like and respect.”

The promotion
But that is not where it ends. Within a couple of weeks of starting at The Knot, she had already earned added responsibilities, becoming the Editor of NYC Metro coverage and serving as a Staff Writer for both The Knot and its sister publication The Nest.

But what about us?
So what can we learn from this? Stay positive. Work at it when you do have a job. Work at it when you are looking for a job. Be open to making lateral moves to develop the skills and experience that you are interested in. Don’t just do the job you are offered, do more and make yourself valuable. When you are out of work, be open to expanding your horizons and to taking a step back to get back on the track.

Susan’s story is an inspiration. I am sure you will find something in it that you can use as you grow your own career.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Your resume, your age

Questions from our Readers
Answered by Michael Pollock

Q: At what age should I change my resume to NOT reflect my age?

A: Your age should never be a key part of your resume - your story should do the work of pitching the position whether you are 24 or 59. But you will never really be able to hide your age from an efficient hirer.

So at any age you should lead with your experience and attitude and passion and value expressed in your resume intro or bio. This should make the case and give the impression that you are everything the hirer wants before they even think about your numerical age.

Then when they do discover your actual age - as they eventually will - you want them say to themselves, "Goodness he's only 24 and he has done all that," or "Wow she sure didn't sound like a 55 year old, but she certainly has what we need and seems to be really on top of what is happening today. We have to talk to her."

Q+A: Enough with networking events already!

Questions from our Readers
Answered by Michael Pollock

Q: Other than industry gatherings and get togethers especially meant for networking, are there other places I should be going to network?

A: Certainly there are other places than pure networking events, though interestingly almost everywhere that two or three business people are gathered together, networking is also on the agenda.

Here are a couple of suggestions to stimulate your thinking. This week I attended Web2.0 Expo, a trade conference in New York. The principal goal for attendees was to learn what is going on in the industry, attending presentations from industry leaders and picking the brains of the people in the booths about the newest techniques and opportunities. It was a wonderful environment for talking substantively about the business - and incidentally making connections in a group that is deeply interested in the future of the industry. So seek out this kind of thing  even if it's not advertised as a networking event.

For the longer haul, there can be benefit in volunteering at a nonprofit or joining a nonprofit board. Here there is an opportunity to meet people while the attention is focused on the work of the organization. You can get to know someone really well and find common cause  these connections can prove invaluable additions to your network. One of the prime reasons why any C-level executive joins a nonprofit board is for the networking. They may look at several nonprofits and see which ones attract the kind of board members they want to get to know.

The community of your place of worship can be excellent for meeting and bonding with people. I have made good contacts in the PTA of my kids schools. And you should check in with your alum organization and see what they have on offer.

Resumes, Cover notes and Keywords

By Michael Pollock

Resumes and cover notes are the first line of attack for job hunting. Here's how Sonia Jairath, Founder and President of Metierlink, a niche recruiting firm, sees it.

"Your cover note gives you the opportunity to highlight why you're the most relevant person for the job. And it provides the way to structure and focus any further conversation." From Jairath's point of view "A good cover note usually indicates that the resume following it will be a good one. It gives me a sense of their writing and communication skills and shows whether they are passionate about what they do."

"Many people may look at your resume," says Jairath. "Some of them may not have the experience to understand what they are looking at  so your introductory paragraph is really important: it should say who you are and what is your pitch. This is most important in connecting the dots for your reader."

"Definitely get advice on your resume," she advises. "Have another pair of eyes look at it, whether it's a friend, or a coach or a resume writer.'

"If you are going after a C-level position, your presentation has to shift to another level. The selected candidate will be representing the company to the outside  so it needs to not only make a clear statement of accomplishments along with a biography, but your writing and communication skills become even more critical."

Keywords are important in a resume  so Jairath suggests that you be specific. Just saying you are a marketer is too general. Searches are made on terms like Search Specialist, Business Development, Web Analytics, and Social Media. If you are after a strategic position then emphasize your strategic insights over your tactical experience. Some roles do require both production management and strategy, so then you do need to show both, to show that you can roll up your sleeves as well as do the thinking.

Candidates need to be covering all their bases: emailing, being part of social networks and working with a recruiter or hiring person. Join networks where you see there are recruiters and hirers and you will be able to get their announcements when they are looking  go to events and make good connections.

Her final words of advice: Be Proactive.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Job searches are hard

I received this response to the Q+A piece about the value of mass mailing a resume.  I post it here, along with my response, and welcome your thoughts.

I read your response to a woman today on Cynopsis who asked about mass mailing since she's not had much luck trying all things suggested in a job search. Your response was not to and then suggested maybe she wasn't doing x y or z. I got so angry when I read that. Naturally, you assume it must be something she isn't doing. Well, take it from someone else who has exhausted her network, done all that is suggested and is constantly reevaluating what else she can do? Well, after 8 months of hard work and no returns, I'm all out of ideas too. She should send the damn mass mailing and maybe, just maybe something will stick. Keep in mind people are holding onto their jobs with both hands, and companies aren't creating jobs. And for every job are tons qualified applicants. It's not been this bad since the 1930's I believe. For those with jobs, you really don't know how hard it is out here. WE ARE DOING EVERYTHING. So don't assume we aren't.

Here is my response:

Thanks so much for your heartfelt email - I am so sorry my response made you angry.

There is no question that this is a tough environment, but I have seen wonderful things happen when people tweak or focus the way they present themselves.   I had a note from a client last week that said that as a result of our work together  "I was able to see that I have way more interesting skills/experience than what is outlined on my resume."  My intent is to help people who ask for advice, and others who are interested, to think of some alternative ways to tackle this difficult situation.  After all if what they have done so far is not working, perhaps either the problem or the solution can be reframed to lead to a different result.

This alone may not be enough, but this fresh thinking may open up a whole new set of opportunities and perhaps even suggest a different list for that mass mailing.  

I wish you all the very best in your search

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Seven Pointers to an effective elevator speech and cover letter

As you go about your job search is critically important that you understand and internalize the value that you provide to an employee or client.

You must understand deep inside yourself what makes you so special at the job you are pursuing. You must have a good sense from your connections and research what a potential employer is looking for. You should know, or be able to intuit, what kind of problems they are likely to have and what problems they are looking to have someone  you hopefully  take care of for them.

You should have moved way past such generic, price-of-entry claims as "on time, on budget" or "I manage teams" or other boilerplate descriptions of what a job entails. These are merely support points, they do not differentiate you in any way. (Except perhaps from the people who write " I am a sloppy worker, my team hates me and my projects are always late.)

You should look into your own career triumphs, large and small and pick three or four that you can describe briefly and vividly. These must be stories that no-one else could tell, that encapsulate the value and passion that you and you alone provide.

Once you have all this deep inside you, you will be able to pull out all the appropriate bits when the occasion arises. You will use those bits in your "elevator speeches" to people you meet. You will use them in your cover letter and in the wonderful opening of your resume document. And of course you will use them in your LinkedIn and other social media profiles.

Here is a list of seven key points to keep in mind as you develop this pitch:

1.      You are pitching that you want to solve the hirer' s problem
2.      Be very, very clear on what specific value you offer them that is different from anyone else
3.      Be very, very passionate about doing it
4.      Tell a brief anecdote about a career triumph that proves you have the qualities demanded
5.      You are not asking for them to give you a job  you are offering them a uniquely perfect solution to their problem
6.      You need to understand their needs and challenges  imagine yourself in their place.
7.      You need to present yourself as the solution they are looking for  even if they weren't looking


Q+A: Should I do a resume mass mailing?

Questions from our Readers
Answered by Michael Pollock

Q: Other than a poor return, are there any drawbacks to sending out mass resumes to all appropriate companies? I have tried all the things people have suggested, worked a couple hours a day on networking, on Facebook and LinkedIn, and still nothing. So I thought I would try a mass mailing but wanted to check with you first.

A: If it will make you feel better, then go ahead. But bear in mind how you feel when you get a communication that is clearly written "to whom it may concern." Your suggestion that there will be a poor return to this is probably more optimistic than mine.

Here is how I might suggest you spend your effort instead. If you have been networking, and to no effect, then perhaps you are not presenting your true and unique value to the appropriate people who will jump at the chance to have you on their team.       Perhaps the way you are framing your skills is not quite right. Perhaps it is not clear and succinct enough. Perhaps your target companies or executive selections are not fine-tuned enough.

I would much rather suggest you spend time working on these aspects than doing a mass mailing.

Q+A: How do I treat an interviewer's secretary

Questions from our readers
Answered by Michael Pollock

Q:  I treat all people with respect, but is there anything to be gained by treating the interviewer's secretary especially well? Will he/she have any influence?   

A: If you always treat people with respect, then simply continue to do so when you meet the secretary.    

Some secretaries may indeed have some influence with the interviewer, but normal politeness should be fine. Don't be condescending, don't bring him flowers, just treat him like an intelligent human being who is doing a good and valuable job.

It's true that a secretary who likes you can help you over any rough scheduling issues and show you where the coffee pot is  but they see many interviewees so they'll know when they are being "worked."

The interviewer is going to be evaluating your experience and work skills and knows best what will fit into the team, so as long as the secretary is not going to say of you, "that person was a real jerk," then you should be okay.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Carve out the time. Just do it.

We all have major issues of our careers - business planning or portfolio development or what have you - that has to get done but we put it off because the day-to-day stuff just won't let us do it.

I am working with a wonderful and dynamic client who needs to spend time writing. Trying to set part of every day aside for it did not work. There were too many other stimuli and phone calls and emails and so on to be dealt with. The time never materialized.

So we have decided that she will carve out - set aside - an entire day every week. And not a weekend day either. A weekday when no calls will be taken and no emails returned. For her the writing is part of moving her career forward. This is not a hobby to be done at night or weekends - it is important. And clients and colleagues will have to understand - and they will. Just this week I had a communication from a senior TV executive who said that she would not be available on one day as she would be traveling. That was easy for me to understand and work around - no problem. Happens all the time. Similarly she might be on a shoot or at a client - also out of reach.

So we have instituted a one day a week for writing - she will be unavailable and the world will not have a problem with that.

I recommend this technique. It could be a day a week or every two weeks - whatever you need. But make it real. Carve it out. Put it on the calendar and stick to it.

Change is energizing and productive. Well duh!

As you may know we have moved. I have been through all my stuff and my methodologies. Why do I have this? Why do I do it that way? What could be done better?

This has been a wonderful opportunity for cleaning out the stables. It gave me the chance to examine and improve and streamline. I am not recommending moving as a fun occupation - but I am recommending finding some excuse now and then for stripping down and seeing what is working and what is not and fixing things up.

Take your technology. You know at the very least that since you last made a technology investment, everything has changed. You may not need to make that change right now - but you should spend a little time figuring out what it means because otherwise when the next upgrade comes you could find yourself way behind - it gets harder to catch up the further behind you get.

And your marketing! Well you know where that could lead.

The other effect of all this is that it takes you out of your comfort zone - your formed habits. This has the effect of making you think and rethink - it is very energizing - nothing can slow your brain down like unthinkingly following the same routes and methods day after day.

Jester = Common Sense and Honesty = Consultant

In days of olde the king had a court jester. This was the only person who was permitted to ask the difficult questions. Jesters were free to challenge the monarch and provide a balance for the sycophants who surrounded them.

The court jester could speak frankly on controversial issues and monarchs knew why; they understood the value of having such a person at their side.

Where are the court jesters of today? It is tough to find this character in any modern corporation. Who is asking the CEO if they really know what they are doing?

According to the Royal Shakespeare Company the jester served not just for entertainment, but to criticize their master or mistress and their guests. Queen Elizabeth I apparently rebuked one of her fools for not being hard enough on her.

In literature, the jester symbolizes common sense and honesty. In King Lear, the King uses his jester for insight and advice. He lets him take advantage of his license to mock and speak freely, to dish out frank observations and point out folly.

Lear's fool is one of only three people in the play who consistently tell him what's what; the other two, Cordelia and the Earl of Kent - employees as it were - are punished severely.

As a management consultant who comes in from outside - I can play that role. I can ask why something is being done a particular way. Or why this person still has their job. And so on. My clients seem to find that valuable. I have no axe to grind other than to see smart decisions being made. I am not a shareholder or an employee with other vested interests. So that could be a key part of the value I bring. To be the court jester.

Bogusky on the Advantages of Being Lost

I commend to you this smart article by Alex Bogusky.  It ran in MediaPost's Media Magazine - if you prefer to read it there, here is the link.

The only thing you know for certain is that you don't
Let me start out by saying that I know nothing about media. That's probably not a surprise to people who know me because I am thought of as a "creative" guy. But you might be surprised to learn that I know nothing about creativity. Furthermore, I know nothing about advertising.

Of course, there are little details I know. Like I do know a little about typography but remain ignorant about design. I know a bunch of chords and songs on the guitar but I remain ignorant about music. I know the process to create a 30-second commercial but I'm still ignorant about marketing. The big stuff remains a mystery to me. In fact, one of my very favorite clients recently said to me, "You don't even know what you don't know," in reference to her business. I liked that thought so much I printed it up on a T-shirt so it read, "I don't even know what I don't know," and I wore it to our next meeting. I gave my son one, too, and he wears it proudly to school. We Boguskys are proud of our ignorance. I love that T-shirt and that thought, but I could probably flip it around to make it a bit more accurate and say, "The only thing I know with complete certainty is that I don't know."

bogusky w glassesNot knowing has been a powerful ally and I have come to rely heavily on the power of ignorance. As a young ad dude, I wasn't comfortable with the lack of knowing that made up who I was. So like most young ad dudes I set out to become an expert at my chosen field. I had, like others before me, begun to confuse knowledge and intelligence. This great quest for advertising knowledge led me to climb up various mountains to meet and hear from as many industry gurus as I could. It was time well spent and I learned a great deal. But eventually I was lucky enough to come to the conclusion that nobody really "knew" anything. The best and the brightest were all just finding their way. And the most successful people seemed to be the most prodigious at making it up as they went along. So not knowing has become a formidable ally. An ally that is threatened as you gain years and years of experience. It's an ally that needs to be protected from dangerous threats like "expertise."

As part of this edition of Media, a blog was created and I had the chance to post some questions. Oddly enough, the one that created the most interest was around this idea of "an expert" and more specifically where did all these social media experts come from so quickly? What makes somebody a social media expert, anyway? And finally, why on earth would anyone want to be an expert? Expertise seems to require experience and the ability to use that expertise seems to require that the future closely resemble the past. As I stated earlier, I'm no expert and I don't know anything, but I highly doubt the media future is going to closely resemble media's past. Not even its most recent past.

Not long ago, I read a book called, Deep Survival: Who Lives, Who Dies, and Why. Great book and I suspect it's as much a business book as a wilderness-survival book; the parallels are astounding. So after a lifetime of interviews with people who lived when those around them died, the author, Laurence Gonzalez, found some fundamental differences in survivors. The first being that survivors more quickly recognized and accepted that they were lost. It seems that people who continued to think they "knew" where they were and stuck with the "plan" died more often than the folks who recognized the rules had changed and that their old beliefs were useless.

Well, let me be the first to tell you that you are lost in the new frontiers of media. And the sooner you accept that, the sooner you will get to surviving and even thriving. The sooner you let go of old rules, the sooner you will be able to put all your faculties of perception to work in taking in your new environment. I won't go into the laundry list of new landmarks in your new environment because that's like trying to understand the forest by counting the trees. There is a video that has been floating out on the Internet for a while and it's a test. The test is to watch and count how many times some basketball players pass a ball to each other. As you focus on counting, the video finally ends and you feel like you nailed it. I did. And then a question comes up. "Did you see a gorilla walk through the room?" I was like, "no freaking way." But as I watched it again a gorilla pretty much dances across the screen. This is an example of a pre-set plan blocking out the environment.

Another quality of survivors is that they don't look for safety in the emotional security of where they found safety in the past. The example they cite in the book is related to aircraft carrier pilots. With these folks pretty much every landing is an exercise in survival. So if a pilot is coming in at the wrong angle or speed there are a number of warning signs designed to get the pilot to abort the landing. First, his own instruments sound the warning and the lights on the deck of the carrier turn from green to red. And soon the flight controller begins yelling over the radio to abort. Yet with all this information, it isn't uncommon for a pilot to still attempt to land even though logically they know they can't survive the impact. The reason is that the deck represents safety and there is a strong emotional response as the deck gets closer that actually blocks out all the screams in the headset and the lights and the alarms. In the stress of the situation they literally don't hear it all as they reach for the deck that has always meant safety.

What I'm suggesting here is that with all that is happening in media today, this is no time to be in a rush to get down on the deck. I've probably "survived" several changes in the media landscape and I plan to float to safety on another raft of ignorance. So this issue on the future of media isn't about becoming an expert. It's about eschewing the emotional safety of knowledge and expertise, and instead sitting back in ignorance and wonder. It's about taking the time to carefully observe the gorilla as it dances through the room.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Evolution - mine and yours

Excerpted from October Sparkings

Our careers and businesses must constantly evolve to keep ahead. In Pollock Spark's latest evolution, we have moved to Williamsburg in Brooklyn, New York. Wikipedia describes the area as "both a haven for established immigrant families and an area of artists and hipsters." So here we are. Our updated contact information is found here. The photo is taken from the terrace outside my new office.

We continue as always working with Creative Professionals, both as individuals and at their companies, to help them build businesses and careers. October has seen another Careers in Transition Workshop at MediaBistro in New York, with a similar workshop online later in the month, for people who can't make it in person to our New York session.

I am seeing more people in creative businesses evaluating their business models and wondering what they should do next. The atmosphere seems to have changed over the course of the year, with an acceptance of the "new normal" for now. Professionals are starting to put everything on the table - from selling up, to building alliances and strategic partnerships to restructuring their workforce and focusing their offering.

Many "traditional" creative jobs are getting hard to come by, but I have heard, for example, that there is a shortage of artists in the TV sector who are trained in the latest technologies and the competition is fierce to hire those who are up to date. So consider upgrading the skills you offer in a smart way and you could be golden. This goes for businesses as well as individuals.

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Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Social Media for Job Searchers = Just like a Cocktail Party



By Michael Pollock

In the old days employers and headhunters looking for candidates made phone calls or sent emails. Now they are actively using LinkedIn and other social media sites to find candidates. This is a main source for professional resumes. Friends mention to their social media friends in tweets and updates they are looking for someone. Employers like referrals as "social proof" for a candidate.

So says Social Media Content Strategist Catherine Ventura who told me "in the back of every job seeker's mind should be the idea that nothing you do online is purely social." "If you are looking for work in the TV industry, look at the updates and tweets of people who work in the field. See what topics they are interested in. Just like you do at a cocktail party, don't barge in, spend time listening and then use language that's appropriate to the conversations you are joining."

"Google yourself and see which social media sites come up," says Ventura. "Look at your last 20 tweets and your last 20 Facebook and LinkedIn updates and whatever else comes up (your Amazon reviews for example).

See what you're saying and how you're saying it; what does your social media voice convey to people who don't know you? Do you want to sound like a seasoned pro? A thought leader? A pragmatist? An innovator? An enthusiast? A team player? If you don't sound the way you want, approach it like a screenwriter and start projecting the personality and level of professionalism you DO want to project."

Ventura tells me that she sees the different sites as different sections of a resume. LinkedIn is the most important with professional history and recommendations. She suggests joining groups on LinkedIn, not so much for the postings as for the collage of badges that gives a picture of your interests at a glance.

"Facebook," she says, "is used to best effect as indicating your outside interests, special skills, hobbies and who you are as a person." You know that people do like to peek, especially if they are looking to hire you. So be sure that you have not said anything disrespectful about your employer!

Because social media is public, you should be conscious that people are meeting you this way, and the voice you use - even down to the adjectives - is the first impression you make. Just like a cocktail party.

Michael Pollock is President of Pollock Spark ( ). He is an Executive Coach and Consultant to Creative and Media professionals. He works with people in film, TV, advertising, design, marketing, music and the Internet, bringing them the experience, techniques and inspiration to take their businesses and careers to new levels of success.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Productive networking



Getting "the inside information"
By Michael Pollock

I always have productive encounters and learn something new at local media industry meet-ups.

For example there is Digital Wednesdays in New York's trendy Gansevoort Hotel. It happens every Wednesday evening and is free of charge. Sign up for information at

I've met content providers, ad agency principals, publishers, dot com entrepreneurs, filmmakers, photographers, designers, marketing and HR people - all working in the online world. I have met people who came looking for opportunities and people who came specifically to recruit. Everyone is there to meet and share ideas, opportunities and experiences. It's a no-pressure environment: just buy a drink and introduce yourself.

Max Ramirez, who founded Digital Wednesdays, told me that it is becoming popular with radio and TV people looking for connections in the online world. "I see a smoother natural fit for people going from TV programming or ad sales into online programming or video ad sales. Video is one of the hottest topics right now."

According to Ramirez his guests include upper management from Google, Yahoo and MSN. This is a place "where you hit it off with the senior HR manager of Conde Nast and you have built a relationship that you would normally have no chance of doing. Only so much information is available publically - here you can get the inside information about what is really going on."

There are industry meetups all over the US. I did a Google search for "marketing meetups Phoenix" (try it for your town) and found that, among many others, the American Marketing Association has regular monthly events - open to non-members for a nominal fee. So use your search tools - you will find like-minded souls and, more to the point, hiring-minded souls. You can meet them in the flesh and practice your elevator speech on them. Ramirez tells me that CEOs from across the country visit Digital Wednesdays when they are in New York. Now he is broadening it to include the fashion business and he tells me that he is in talks to start up Digital Wednesdays in Paris - I'll see you there!

Of the current economy Ramirez says, "2009 is testing the best. The digital media ecosystem of 2010 will reward the tenacious." So get out there and get meeting - let's see some tenacity!

Michael Pollock is President of Pollock Spark ( He is an Executive Coach and Consultant to Creative and Media professionals. He works with people in film, TV, advertising, design, marketing, music and the Internet, bringing them the experience, techniques and inspiration to take their businesses and careers to new levels of success.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Keywords and other resume tips


Key words and other resume tips

By Michael Pollock

When you polish up your resume make sure that it includes the keywords that search engine users are looking for.

Allison Hemmings of The Hired Guns says that when she is recruiting, she searches resumes on three main areas: the names of companies you have worked for, common job titles and clients you have worked with. This specific detail is what sorts people out. The names of TV shows you've worked on, or brands you've been involved with can easily get left as you sort through the thickets of corporate titles and teams, but these can be very important search criteria - make sure the good ones are included.

When a recruiter searches on their select set of terms and say 5 people meet those requirements, then they are probably not going to look further. I was struck by this methodology, which seems very absolute and may not include those "quality" words that can be so effective when someone is then reading the resume. But it can be the specific company names, brands and titles that get the resume read, only then giving you the opportunity to flesh your story out with the innovations and business growth and awards which set you apart and make you unique.

And you shouldn't drop off the things you did 10 or more years ago if they are relevant to your case. But do take care to frame them in a contemporary context, says Hemmings. Technology and jargon has evolved, but there could still be a core that is utterly relevant to the needs of today's employers.

The question of resume boards has arisen in this space. Hemmings says there are "some awesome resume boards." She mentioned The Ladders and ResumeDeli. But she notes, "Just because you have had it professionally written doesn't mean you can't change it and keep it up to date."

Ultimately your resume should do what Hemmings calls "nuggetizing" parts of your background." It should frame each specific job in your history and tell the reader why she should care what the value is to them. She says, "I recommend three bullet points about why you are the best person in the world who can do this job."

Michael Pollock is President of Pollock Spark

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Q+A: Negotiating Salary

Questions from our Readers
Answered by Michael Pollock

"What should I do when offered a salary? If its within my range do I immediately accept or should I negotiate and if so, how?"

I would first say thank you, and tell them that you are excited and honored that they are considering hiring you. I am assuming that you are a good match for the position and they are really interested in you, so then it is not unreasonable to ask politely if they can go to a somewhat higher number. Name the number: say 10% or 15% higher than their offer. If they say okay, then okay. If they say "No this is all we have," you can ask them if there are perks available instead: gym membership, or education allowance or whatever interests you, and see if they can do something which might come out of a different budget. You don' t even have to give them a reason. They are not interested in your personal situation or your housing costs or your need to buy your spouse a new car. The only thing they are considering is their need to fill the spot with the best person that they can afford with their budget.

Do it respectfully. I do not encourage you to play hardball in this market, unless you are absolutely convinced that you have a better rock solid offer elsewhere, or else you are the only person in the world who could fill that spot, and they absolutely have to have you.

And here is a response from a Cynopsis reader:
"I'm in the midst of re-negotiating my salary/position with my company, as I've come up on a yearly review, so I found your entry today from Cynopsis about salary negotiations extremely helpful! I'm having a big meeting tomorrow"

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

How to grow professionally while you're job hunting

Job seeking doesn’t mean a halt to your professional growth; it may be the best time to develop skills of leadership, software, language or networking.

Michael Pollock is quoted in article by Jenn Danko for @YourLibrary, the Campaign for American Libraries

Read it here

Q+A: How to make the move from radio to TV

Questions from our Readers
Answered by Michael Pollock

"I am a top radio Producer, comedy script writer, editor and researcher for a top national radio show. However I feel like I've reached the glass ceiling, not only in my company, but also in the industry. I'm fairly young, early 30's and I would love to move to a career in television. Here's the catch, I also have experience in news reporting and I'm pretty camera friendly. I love both sides of the camera. I'm basically stuck at which avenue would be the best for me to pursue in the television industry, behind the scenes or go straight for the reporting work. I have a pretty lucrative job and I don't want to lose pay, but I'm afraid that i'll have to start on the gopher level to move into television. Any advice?"

So I see that among your many skills you are a researcher: I recommend that you research, research, research. Seek out people who work in television - people on both sides of the camera - and ask them what their job is like. Ask your friends to brainstorm who they can introduce you to who is doing a job you might be interested in. Then get these contacts talking over a cup of coffee or a cocktail. Ask them how they got their jobs and what is their growth path. Tell them about your skills and ask them how these skills apply in their business and if they can see opportunities for you to parlay your skills into a lateral move, avoiding the gopher hole. And surely one of the things that they will suggest if you want to be on camera is to make yourself a presentation reel. Do some reporting that will wow people.

But all this is not just about research. You will also be building a valuable network of professionals to contact when you have homed in on the route you eventually decide to take. They will know you and hopefully like you and even feel vested in helping you to succeed. At the research stage it is fine to be curious about the best way for you to go, but by that time you had better have decided on what you passionately want to do.

Michael Pollock is President of Pollock Spark ( ).

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Your pitch, your resume, your story

More on the power of stories.

What is a resume but the story of who you are and how you got to be that person, told in a way that will move the hirer to want you on her team? What is a business pitch if it isn't the story of how your business can help the client - as they evolve their own story?

McKee talks of the value of originality. He says that it is the confluence of content and form: not only what you have to say but how you say it. "If the content is cliché, then the telling will be cliché. If the telling is conventional and predictable it demands stereotypical roles to act out well-worn
behaviors." He then reminds us sternly not to mistake eccentricity for originality. Difference for the sake of difference is as empty as slavishly following commercial imperatives, he says.

We are creative professionals: surely what we offer must be originality: isn't this what you want to be hired for? Isn't this what will separate you from the pack?

Think hard and deep about story as you craft your own pitch. In the meantime you can get your own copy of his book - click on the image. He lays out provocative ideas for writing screenplays that can provide you with a powerful framework and challenge for your own thinking as you write your pitch or resume.

It's not just about you!

Any communication - or at least any persuasive communication - has to be about the needs of the person you are trying to persuade. Not about your needs. Here is something that a recent client told me about our work together:

"The first really cool thing that I was enabled to understand is how to think of it (whatever "it" may be - an interview, a phone call, a party) from "their" point of view. Always asking and trying to figure out what "their" process is? Where are they coming from? What do they want and how can I fit into answering that for them?

That's always a cool, interesting exercise and I loved to hear MP go through that drill time and again .. it was awesome and Insightful"

Writing pitches and resumes

Robert McKee's thoughts about writing screenplays have much say to us as we write our pitches and our resumes. A great story, he says, is something worth telling that the world wants to hear. This must be true of any successful pitch - though your "world' may be just a handful of carefully identified clients and employers.

You must have the creative power to put things together in a way that no one has ever dreamed. You must be driven by your passion courage and creative gifts, - but even this is not enough - your story must be well told.

I have adapted his words here - you should read the book.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Q+A: Should I take a job at a company that is going bankrupt?

Questions from our Readers
Answered by Michael Pollock

Q. I am a recent college graduate gearing up for an interview at a company that recently announced that it was going bankrupt. If I receive the position, should I be hesitant to take it over something else because of possible layoffs to come? Should I address the company's bankruptcy during my interview in regards to knowing if the "job will be around for a while"?

A. I don't believe that pretending everything is ok looks so smart. It makes perfect sense to ask what the future holds: "I've heard the company is having some difficulty. Can you tell me how this position might be affected by what is coming?"

I would certainly think carefully before choosing this company over a more healthy one. Cost cuts, even without layoffs, can affect your ability to do your job properly if you cannot get the resources you need. If it is a spectacular opportunity and you will gain invaluable experience and boost your resume then you should consider whether the job is in the core business of the company: the piece that's likely to make it through reorganization and perhaps even gain in importance in a new structure.

Q+A: Do I admit to interviewing with other companies?

Questions from our Readers
Answered by Michael Pollock

Q: What is the best way to respond when asked "Are you interviewing with other companies?" Part of me feels like politely saying that is between me and that particular company and the other part doesn't want to shoot myself in the foot by NOT answering the question.

A. It is perfectly reasonable to respond that you are meeting with other companies in your search for the opportunity that make best use your unique skills and experience. You should not name the other companies though; after all, your interviewer would not want his competitors to hear about his search.

You can certainly tell him that you see the opening at his company as the one where you can do your best work and make the biggest difference. An intelligent interviewer should respect the fact that you are leaving no stone unturned - as long as he feels that he is your favorite.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Q+A: Do I put objectives on my resume?

Questions from our Readers
Answered by Michael Pollock

"I see some resume's with objectives, what is your take on including them or not in a resume? thank you so much for your help."

A brief opening statement on your resume is most important but please do not frame it in terms of your objectives. The hirer is not interested in your objectives nearly as much as he is interested in his own. Your resume must persuade him that you are the perfect solution to his problem, not so much that he is the solution to yours.

Express in two or three sentences how you are exactly the right person to fill his position, and let him know of the unique value you will bring to his company. If your opening salvo hits the nail on the head, he will be enticed to read on to the supporting evidence.

But remember, he is not approaching your resume with an interest in meeting your objectives he is completely focused on his own.

Q+A: Do I put advancement or interests in my resume?

Questions from our Readers
Answered by Michael Pollock

"Is it really important to put professional advancement or interests on your resume? If so, should it be detailed or brief so you can talk to it in the interview?"

The purpose of your resume is to get you the interview, so if your professional advancement activities are of good quality and relevant to the position, then you should absolutely include them. The knowledge that you are keen enough to improve your skills is a plus to a discriminating hirer and can set you apart. It demonstrates that you are engaged with your own development and the development of her industry.

As for your interests insofar as they add breadth and color to the picture you are painting of yourself these can be helpful in separating you from the pack of similarly qualified candidates. But your interests must be consistent with the image of yourself that you want to convey. If you are positioned as an effective team leader for example you will not want to mention your macrame or your stamp collection! On the other hand if you are the captain of a racing yacht that could add a very strong credential.

Detailed or brief, you ask. "Brevity is the soul of wit," they say. Don't bog it down in too much detail; it's not your autobiography. It's the trailer that you are carefully designing to get you the interview.

Why Employers Are Hiring And What You Should Do About It


There are three significant factors driving companies to hire in this market.

1. They are choosing now to innovate, expanding their capabilities and resources.

2. They are in turnaround and are looking for people to effect change.

3. They are taking the opportunity to upgrade their talent pool, snapping up better people who have become available.

These ideas were expressed to me by Allison Hemmings, founder of The Hired Guns, an agency that represents marketing, creative, media and technology people.

Asked which job seekers are finding success in this tough environment, Hemmings Google kids to the C-suite," and says, "if you have a strong digital portfolio, then people are definitely hiring."

So what does this mean for you? First you should look at the company you are applying to and figure out: do they want to turn things around, or do they want to innovate, or do they want better people than they currently have?

Then look at your own experience, capabilities and track record and see how you can best position yourself to meet their needs. This is a time when simple replacement hiring is rarely happening - there is almost always some forward-looking, larger agenda attached to each new salary budgeted. (A senior manager, complaining to me about some of her staff who are under-performing, said, "I would fire them like a shot, but I won't be allowed to replace them. So I keep them anyway.")

You must view yourself as the best in the world at your specific thing and tell your story in such a way as to convince an employer that you - and you alone - will fulfill their requirements, brilliantly able to do the job they need done and meeting their larger agenda as well.

Hemmings reminded me that about 80% of jobs are found through networking. That does leave some room for headhunters, and Hemmings recommends interviewing several recruiting firms to find a good match and someone who will be your partner in the search. She suggests using one of the big firms and supplementing it with one or two boutique headhunters who specialize in just the niche and company type you are interested in.

Michael Pollock is President of Pollock Spark ( He is an Executive Coach and Consultant to Creative and Media professionals. He works with people in film, TV, advertising, design, marketing, music and the Internet, bringing them the experience, techniques and inspiration to take their businesses and careers to new levels of success. © 2009 Pollock Spark

Monday, August 10, 2009

Career Evolution Workshop - reactions

Comments from participants after the Career in Transition Workshop given by Michael Pollock at MediaBistro. His next Workshop at MediaBistro is scheduled for October 19th.

"I've been looking for a career coach who has an expertise in media, and Michael is definitely it. He has terrific knowledge and offers so much information during this 4 hour session, I feel like I got as much out of it as several hours of private coaching... at considerably less expense."

"Michael was just great. He had good information, kept the evening moving forward, and was terrific and getting us all to a place where we could communicate comfortably with one another. I really enjoyed the content, and felt that I learned a lot. More than I expected."

"Michael Pollock, was a perfect match for tackling the subject of "Careers in Transition" for creative professionals . His techniques for engaging the group were stimulating and effective. The supportiveness of the participants made this workshop a pleasure."

"(Pollock) had good insights and information"

"... the information was great--and the way it was presented made you view things differently--things you thought you already how to present yourself.... wish it had been longer--everyone wanted to talk!"

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Q and A - interview hell

This came to me via Cynopsis

Q. I was recently granted an interview with a well known company within the television industry. I really want this job. My question is this...

My interview was at 10a. I arrived at 9:45a, and waited for three hours before I talked to the HR specialist. How long is okay? I felt I wasn't my best because I was frustrated, anxious and very hungry. What is the protocol here?

A. Two questions for you: Did you get the job? How would you feel about working at a company where it is considered okay to keep someone waiting for three hours?

Anyhow, here’s what I would do in that situation. Give them an hour – that is generous, and shows your willingness to play. Then say politely to the receptionist that you could certainly wait another half hour if that would help them out, but after that you have to go to another meeting, or perhaps it would be more convenient for them to reschedule to some other mutually acceptable time.

This shows respect for them and, more importantly, for yourself. You do need to be at your best when you get in there. And besides, if they’re running 3 hours behind, surely they would be grateful for the opportunity to reschedule. It’s their lunchtime too.

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Wednesday, July 29, 2009

How to find the media biz action


How often have you read a report of a media conference or party and you think to yourself, “Rats! I should have been there, if only I’d known about it.” You look at the photos of the attendees – they’re people you would like to get to know, who work at firms that could so benefit from your skills and experience. But you didn’t know it was happening - so you were left to read the reports, look at the pictures and update your LinkedIn page hoping that someone would find you.

You don’t have to get left out again. There are several sites that can clue you in to what is happening where you are. Start out at Mashable for Social Media events across the country. For film biz get-togethers check out The San Diego Media Communications Association.

“Online sites are great at easily keeping in touch and updating a ton of contacts,” says Gary Sharma, the man behind business events calendar GarysGuide. “However meeting and networking in person is absolutely critical, as that is where some of the best relationships get formed, deals get done, partnerships get forged, hires get made, alliances get built.”

Sharma’s list lists “conferences, un-conferences, forums, workshops, seminars, meetups, tweetups, mixers, parties and more.” A quick look reveals a panel in New York entitled Media In Crisis - Is There a Way Out?, a free Internet Marketing meet-up in Minneapolis and an interactive games conference in Cologne, Germany.

When I asked him why people typically attend these events, Sharma responded, “The program content is typically always very useful. But it is the brainstorming-style discussions around the content and networking with your peers in the industry that can be particularly invaluable.”

Sharma told me that GarysGuide is used by “an astonishingly wide gamut of people in business: C level execs, Managers, VCs, Investors, Entrepreneurs, Marketing/PR folks, technologists, analysts, bloggers etc. Everyone uses it in different ways. Some are looking for conferences, while others for social events/parties/mixers, while yet others are more interested in workshops and seminars.”

So now there’s no need for you to be left out. Wherever you are in the world you too can have the inside track on what is happening and where and when - and next time it’ll be you in those photos!

Michael Pollock is President of Pollock Spark ( He is an Executive Coach and Consultant to Creative and Media professionals. He works with people in film, TV, advertising, design, marketing, music and the Internet, bringing them the experience, techniques and inspiration to take their businesses and careers to new levels of success.

© 2009 Pollock Spark

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Monday, July 20, 2009

Coaching creative pros - I talk to mediabistro

I spoke recently to mediabistro about career transitions and coaching - here is a taste of that interview. More to follow over the next weeks. I was speaking with the excellent Gretchen Van Esselstyn.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Please be happy in your work

Talking to an accomplished creative leader recently it was clear that he is not happy in his work. He admitted as much. I feared a downward spiral would begin.

I encouraged him, as I encourage you, to find whatever in your work that is fun and rewarding - make an effort to find it and develop it. Find the flow. If you can't find it, then it is time to move on.

I once stayed too long in a miserable job - for the income. I was depressed. I got physically sick. It hurt me and it hurt my family. And clearly I cannot have been doing a good job. Moving on was absolutely the best outcome. Absolutely. It was a revelation.

If you can't find it in you to enjoy it - get out. At once. And do something you like.

Okay. End of rant. We can talk about it if you like.

Productive tweeting

Despite Mr Demi Moore, Twitter has become a hugely valuable networking and researching tool. Media and creative people are all over it.

Think of it as one big cocktail party, but at this one you can sort out who you are interested in talking to - or just eavesdropping on - before you go in.

The important thing is to be pro-active and have an idea of what or who you are looking for - don't just watch the tweets go by. And of course be open to stumbling on people and stuff you never thought of.
I recommend using Twellow ("the twitter yellow pages") to search for people in the industry niche you're interested in. Search on job descriptions: TV executive, or designer, or ad director. Search on "creative director jobs" and see what you get. Search on marketing director or search the name of a firm you think is interesting. Get narrower and search on "design, Cincinnati". You can search tweets and on people's profiles. Decide whether to follow them. Then interact with them. Cross reference them on LinkedIn. The most important thing is to be there and see where you fit in.

Once you've got your follows in shape - get with Mr Tweet and have him pick more people you should know. And get in there.

There is a good guide for how to tweet so that people can find you. You can find it here. But you are in the creative biz - you will find your own way to use the tools and tweak the results.

And remember if you start your twittering day with a goal you have a better chance of it being productive.

What are you working on?

It's hard for many creative people to talk about their own work. But if you know what you are good at - and you truly are excited by it - you can usually make a compelling case to someone else that it is worthy of their attention.

But to talk about what you are good at in the abstract can be really tough. I suggest that you always have an answer to the question: "What are you working on right now?" You should always have a project on the go - if only because you are pushing your limits, or trying something new or just plain driven. It can be a commissioned project or it can be something you are doing for yourself - just have something going on at all times that moves you.

If your project is a work that you truly care about then you will enthrall me with your description of what it is - how it works - what it's going to look like - how you are going about it - whatever aspect of it is on your mind.

This will serve the dual purpose of keeping your creative juices flowing and giving me, and others, a way to understand you and your thinking and your point of view. I always get the best answers from people when I ask them "What are you working on right now?." A specific answer can speak so much more eloquently than a general philosophical answer. (Though you absolutely do need to understand the foundation of what drives you and what your work represents - get in touch and we can talk about that if you like)

If you don't have an answer right now to "What are you working on?" - well that must be because you are just starting something new - so in fact you do have an answer don't you! It's never too late to start.

I'm writing for Cynopsis

I talked recently with Gary Sharma and Max Ramirez - two stalwarts of the networking business - and learned from them how industry meetups and conferences can have a real impact on your career or business.

These stories are set to debut in the next few weeks, not here, but in Cynthia Turner's invaluable daily newsletter for the TV industry,

Look in Cynopsis: Classified Advantage and you will find more actionable advice and my answers to readers' questions. Cynopsis has more than 100,000 subscribers in over 25 countries; which, it may surprise you to learn, is larger even than Sparkings!

Monday, July 13, 2009

Ad Ages the average age of a general (advertising) agency creative person is 28. And nationally, less than 5% of agency personnel are over the age of 50.

No-one says it's easy

I spoke to a senior ad exec yesterday who told me about various clients of hers who have lost their jobs. She does what she can to help them find something else of course. She referred one to a long-time, trusted colleague.

His response was that if it was for herself, he would do anything that he could possibly do to help, but this market is so tight, he had to draw the line at helping the friends of friends. There just isn't enough to go around.

So how should we react to this? As Max Ramirez of Digital Wednesdays, the networking group, told me, "2010 will reward the tenacious."

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Inspiration and perspiration and the brothel

"Genius is one percent inspiration and 99 percent perspiration." So said Thomas Alva Edison.

And Picasso is a case in point. His amazing picture Les Demoiselles d'Avignon changed art for ever. He trumped Matisse, who was the king of the art world at the time, and according to W'pedia it is "a seminal work in the early development of both Cubism and modern art."

I had thought that he "just came up" with it - the old creative insight, who-can-explain-it, genius thing. But I have been put straight by a fascinating BBC documentary.

Now I know this was no quick revelation, Picasso had filled a notebook with over 700 sketches for this work. That's right: SEVEN HUNDRED sketches. Additional characters came and went (a sailor and a medical student both bit the dust), colors changed, lines and design were tried out. This was a very carefully considered piece.

Oh and Picasso didn't call it Les Demoiselles d'Avignon. He called it The Brothel. So what's in a name? Is the name part of the work? But that is another topic.

Okay guys - get perspiring, whip out those notebooks and let's see what your inspiration is made of!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Desperation? Enthusiasm? It's how you present yourself.

A couple of related client stories from yesterday. One had been awarded a job, but the new Creative Director at the client was now fretting about a scheduling thing and the job was hanging in the balance. So my client wrote him an email expressing – with a sense of humor – his point of view about how everything was going to be fine and what a great project it was. The CD was mollified and said, “Fine – it’s yours – I really like your enthusiasm.”

A second client, with a job in the offing, was mulling over whether to do some exploratory work to show the client that he really was the right guy for the gig. “But we don’t want to appear desperate – so we haven’t done anything.” “So why not do the work and appear enthusiastic” I suggested.

There is a fine line between being enthusiastic and seeming desperate – and it’s up to you to pick the right side. Clients often find they have several talented people who could execute their projects equally well – even if not interchangeably. So once they have narrowed it down, your enthusiasm, however you choose to demonstrate that, can be what swings the deal. So be keen, let them see you’re keen, but don’t let them see you sweat!

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Books to stimulate your career planning

I was just interviewed for an article on Creative Career Transitions - the piece will appear in American Librarian. I was asked for some books that might help stimulate the thinking juices of people deciding what they are going to do next. So here is some grist for the creative development process that is your own career.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Crisis, Misdemeanors and Special-NESS

Things that made me go hmm this week.

I heard from a self-proclaimed e-business guru that “if you haven’t p-ssed somebody off today you aren’t doing your job”! I heard from a just-graduated art student that if an artist wants to get attention it is all about “committing misdemeanors.” “Misdemeanors” she kept on saying. And I heard last night at the SHOOT New Directors Showcase that “crisis and creativity go hand in hand.”

So in the quest for what's new and next - and for the attention we crave - it sounds as if we should be making more noise, stirring more pots, causing more trouble and intelligently exploiting the air of crisis that is all around us in the media industry.

But we had better do it with a point. Be true to our own unique personality and skills – be bad “on brand” in fact, if we think that bad is what we need to be. There is no doubt that each of us has to distinguish ourselves from the pack. No-one wants “just another one of those”. Everyone is looking for something (or someone) special.

So we each have to be just as special as we can be and show it to the world - what David Byrne has called our "special-NESS." And we should probably rattle some cages along the way.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Is a blogger a journalist?

Should properly trained journalists be afraid of bloggers invading their turf? I was talking today to a journalist who’s at the top of her game. She writes cover stories about A-Plus list celebs for one of the best-known popular mags. She’s wonderful writer and reporter with all the training and the dream pedigree.

She told me that mainstream magazines are starting to hire bloggers with no training and no skills. But the in-depth stories that I like to read, take vast amounts of reporting and research. There are sources and teams of reporters who get the whole 360 degree picture of the story. The information comes in thick and fast and it all has to be pulled together into a readable and entertaining and informative whole.

This is a far cry from what bloggers do. As with this piece now, which I am writing essentially on the fly – it’s just a thing that is on my mind right now and may stimulate some thinking on your part. But the features in Vanity Fair or People or Us are researched and crafted and end up deep, wonderful, fascinating and entertaining. I love them.

I also the party blogs of people like Kelly Samardak, written with flair and wit – but those are very much of the moment and disposable. I am sure there is a place for both.

This issue applies to a lot of creative endeavors – the tools and channels are available – does that make everyone good at it? Did the introduction of the Brownie camera and the Polaroid make us all into Photographers? Did YouTube make us all into Moviemakers? Or is there a place for all?

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Creative insecurity and streamlining businesses

The talk this day is of companies merging divisions and streamlining operations with fewer offices. This leads to talk of identifying key creative talent and thinking about how to retain them. Of how to get merged teams to work together. Creative people are necessarily fragile and can be unproductive when they are uncertain about what is happening. I know I am! Though arguably a certain insecurity is a terrific driver for great creative product. Well it is - isn’t it?

Interesting discussion too about how non-creative people don’t recognize the cues of creative people and how they work. How it sometimes look as if nothing is going on, but that in fact is when the really good stuff is happening. That is hard for a non-creative to understand and very hard for them to manage. Good creative folk are very special – nurture them. Understand them.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Career Transition Workshop

I will be leading a Career Transition workshop specially for Creative people. It will be at Mediabistro/NY in July - here's where you can sign up.


Do join us - and please tell your friends. Here's the scoop:

A workshop for creative professionals figuring out what's next

Do you feel like your creative career is in a rut? Have you been downsized or outplaced? Or maybe you work in a shrinking creative industry? If you are having a hard time choosing which path is right for you and worry about what you could possibly do next, this workshop will give you a kick-start to advance you to the next level of your career.

During this workshop -- limited to 12 students -- we will explore four main areas to guide your choice. Carefully designed exercises and guided discussions will give you ideas and inspiration as well as a plan for moving forward. You will leave this class having made serious headway on an effective way of identifying a new direction for your creative career and you will have an understanding of the fundamentals of how to pitch yourself.

This is an exhilarating process. You should be fearless and open to anything. This workshop is a unique and safe way to challenge yourself and be stimulated to develop the next exciting chapter of your creative career.

In this workshop you will explore:

* Your own skills and successes
* Your passions and dreams
* Careers you never thought of
* How to find out what skills are in demand
* Whether you want to start your own business
* How to zero in on your next career
* The fundamentals of the story that will get you hired

Sign up here for the Career Transition Workshop

Thursday, May 14, 2009

The Greatest Mass Extinction of All Time

I went to a lecture this evening entitled the Greatest Mass Extinction of All Time. I thought it was going to be about publishing – but it wasn’t that awful. In this one only about 90% of the species on earth perished completely. Gone. It happened 250 million years ago.

The fascinating lecture was given by Professor Mike Benton a scientist from Bristol University in England (my alma mater). The catastrophic event is known as the Permo-Triassic Extinction and was vastly more destructive than the one a mere 65 million years ago that wiped out the dinosaurs.

Permo-Triassic was caused by a prolonged and intense period of volcanic activity in the Siberian Trap that caused – wait for it – acid rain that killed all the vegetation, and global warming that killed pretty much everything in the oceans. So let that be a warning to us as we make our own acid rain and global warming.

For those of you who are casting about for something else to do, I also learned of a new possible career: Professor Benton told us of one "Roderick Murchison, who was by nature a catastrophist." So there's a field that may be worth looking into!

Anyway the good news is that Benton wasn’t talking about the Extinction of Time Magazine or the rest of the media.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

However will we manage without..

Newspapers. Town criers. Carbon paper. Twitter. Car phones. Quill pens. Hypercard. Rolodexes. Telexes. Filofaxes. Zip drives. Cyclostyles. Faxes. Morse code. Steam trains. Floppy disks. Signal fires. VHS. Visiting cards. Facebook. Dial-up. 8-track. Geocities. Prodigy. Undersea cables. Telstar. Concorde. Pony Express. Polaroid. 3/4 inch videotape. Open reel tapes. 16 mm film. Syquest drives. Z-term. TV commercials. Banner ads. Email. Rich media. Land-line phones.

Are you good at everything?

Not everyone has to be good at everything. And that includes you. And me.

It is not a sign of weakness to admit that while there are things you are good at, there are also things that you are not so good at. In fact knowing your strengths and getting others to help you are basic requirements for building a successful career or business.

I meet a lot of people who want to be all things to all people and do it all themselves. When you meet someone like that don't you find yourself asking them "What is your core skill? What are you really good at?"

If you can be the best at something - be the best at it. Know what it is and be proud to be able to offer that to people who need it.

Be special. Be remarkable. That way happiness lies - and success.

It's like starting over

Do you sometimes feel that you are starting again? For many people and businesses that really is what is happening.

In the past couple of weeks I have been asked to prepare workshops on career transition for creative professionals, I have been asked to be part of a resume workshop for creative job seekers, and I have been asked about helping to integrate "traditional" and "new generation" creatives following mergers of departments and companies.

This is the time to apply our creativity very firmly to our careers and businesses. We need to spot fresh connections, use our imaginations, exercise our curiosity, think laterally, harness our uncertainty and be open to opportunities we never dreamed of. Say no to nothing. Explore, research, network. There are no rules.

Be open. Be persistent. Be fearless.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Creative Pros need coaches too

The suits get coaching. Why shouldn’t the creatives get a coach?

There used to be a stigma attached to having an executive coach. But this has changed. According the Harvard Business Review, coaching was once considered remedial – to help toxic managers to fit in better for example. But today most CEOs have an executive coach. And we know top athletes and singers have coaches.

So what about the Creative Professionals. They seem to be the last to be taken care of. But creatives: your time has come. The worldwide head of a global ad agency recently observed to me that they have been taking care of developing their suits, but neglecting the development of their creatives – and they need to fix this.

Watch out world. Great talent with great coaching is a powerful combination.

Look at Tiger Woods. Look at Steve Jobs. They have coaches.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Passion sells

Be passionate about what you are doing. Everyone around you will sense it and it will work wonders for you. Your staff and co-workers will thrive on your passion and try to meet it. Your clients will recognize it and it will inspire them with confidence in you and they will be stimulated by being around you. If you can't be passionate about what you do - I suggest you find something you can be passionate about. You will feel better and your business will thrive.

Are we too busy?

I just saw on my facebook feed that a friend had “drowned" her kindle and has to go back to real books. The first comment was “when the hell do you have time to read?”

This follows on a client this morning lamenting that he was exhausted. And that all his clients are exhausted. Everyone is working so hard and is so stressed and yet we just keep on going. And getting exhausted. We were talking about how much time and effort goes into our marketing and brand building and how corporations are hiring interns to twitter for them and staff time is taken up with facebook marketing - and it never stops. Everyone is pushed to the breaking point and there is always more to do and never an excuse to quit. I have a new client (well, a prospect actually) who spent a few days in the mountains of northern CA last week and was out of touch. We should all do this from time to time. (I hope he had a wonderful time and didn't feel guilty. Well I know he felt a bit guilty because twice he went out of their way to find a connection and get in touch with me about when he was going to get in touch with me. Ah well I hope he had a good time anyway.)

I was asked last week what “content” impresses me at the moment. I was delighted to realize that I am in fact reading a book right now. It’s a fascinating and challenging – and very long – book. It has been a while since I was immersed in a book and I am liking the feeling. It's a historical novel and on the face of it has nothing to do with my work. But it didn’t take long for me to find the work relevance and now I feel that this is no longer recreational reading. It’s work. Thank goodness I love my work. But I am reading it into the early hours of the morning so I am still exhausted.

So what are you going to do?! Tired but happy – that is the best I can offer you.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Looking for a job? Be specific, show passion

Here is the question I just received in my email from a young career seeker:

"I am actively pursuing a career in marketing and public relations and am looking to network as much as possible. I have attached my resume for that purpose and would welcome any ideas you may have for me i.e. places to look, people to pursue, etc. I'm trying to get myself out there as much as possible with the intent of hopefully getting a foot in the door."

Here is what I replied:

My first suggestion is that you get very clear and specific about what you want to do in marketing and PR and then add a para at the top of your resume that says what that is and make sure it is supported clearly by the experience you list below that.

The thing is there are many many jobs in the field – and many kinds of companies where you could work. You could work at a marketing company like Procter and Gamble or in an ad or PR firm. You could be a writer or a strategist or a researcher or an account manager. There are all manner of specialties and the most effective way to get hired is to be really really clear on what you want to do and where you want to do it.

This is a tough market and no-one but you (unless perhaps your dad or mother in law) is going to help you figure it out. People who are hiring are looking for particular skill-sets to solve particular problems. So I recommend you spend some time reading about companies – reading Advertising Age, Media Post, reading about CMOs and what they do, reading PR world or whatever it might be called – and form an opinion as to what you are good at and what you would like to do and where you’d like to do it.

Then armed with that clarity and with a passion for it that you can communicate, you will find it easy to get meetings and interviews and maybe even to get hired.

So that is my 2 cents worth.

Advertising: is the very name boxing us in?

All my working life my passport has said Advertising under profession. Every time I enter England they ask me what I do and recently I've begun to hesitate. It used to be so clear. We made commercials and we made print ads - we were in advertising.

But what is it now? Can we really call it advertising when we do SEO or make websites or post videos or send emails or build the biggest mobile phone in the world or write scripts for telemarketers or track you on your cellphone? Is this advertising - is it marketing?

Are we held back because of the box of the business we thought we were in? Is the word "Advertising" constricting our thinking? What about the people who make TV shows or movies with Minis in them or Johnny Walker or Miller beer - are they in advertising? Or marketing?

What is the box that we have to think outside of? What is inside it and what is outside it? At a NYMIEG panel recently someone was talking passionately about thinking outside the box and the very very smart moderator Juliet Powell said quietly, "I didn't think there was a box any more."