Are You Standing Still, Or Are You Growing?

What have you done outside of work to make yourself better over the last two or three years?

That’s a question that Seth Besmertnik asks of interview candidates. Besmertnik, who was being interviewed by Adam Bryant for his New York Times column, “Corner Office,” said, “How people spend the time when they’re not working and when they’re not sleeping is the biggest indication in my mind of what they want in life.”

It’s a question I ask myself frequently. One thing that has helped me for the past two decades is my involvement with the National Federation of Press Women. Through that organization, I’ve developed my event planning skills, my networking skills and my leadership skills. The next conference is in Utah, and if you are a communicator, it’s a great time to get involved. If you already are a member and have not been to a conference, why not make this the year you do something to help your career? As a first-timer, you can apply for a grant to have the registration fee covered.

You can also learn new skills by taking online courses. One of my favorite places to learn is, which allows you to participate in tutorials on thousands of software subjects for a small fee. A one-month membership is $25 or you can sign up for several months or a year and access close to 1,000 courses 24/7. I’ve found the courses helpful for improving my skills in PowerPoint and Excel and for learning the basics of new technology.

Another way to improve your skills is to volunteer. One of my colleagues is a graphic artist and she volunteers those skills to help an animal rescue organization. I’ve been learning more about the world of publishing by volunteering at my local library to coordinate a writers’ series.

You could also pick up a book. I try to read four to six books related to my profession each year. I’m doing better now that I participate in a book club at work that is focused on leadership. Once a quarter we read a book and discuss it. We just read The Leadership Challenge by Kouzes and Posner.

The adage “If you aren’t changing, you’re standing still” is more true than ever. I ask again, what have you done outside of work to make yourself better?

Questions to Ask at a Job Interview

When I went to my first interview, I only had one question: When do I start?

As I’ve continued my career, when the employer asks me if I have any questions, I take advantage and ask questions to determine if I’ll be a good fit with the organization.

I don’t ask questions about benefits. For one thing, I don’t want it to seem that is all that interests me. For another reason, it’s almost always best to talk with someone in the HR department about benefits.

That doesn’t mean I don’t have questions. They fall within a few key areas.

Professional Growth. What is the employee review process? How is progress measured? Do you support involvement in professional organizations?

Supervision. How many employees report to me? What are their backgrounds? How long have they worked for the company?

Culture. Is telecommuting an option? What is the average length of tenure? What equipment is available to me and what support? Will I be expected to be available after hours?

Travel. Will the job require travel? Will I have a company credit card? What are the travel policies?

First Day. If possible, find out in advance your email address and phone number so you can share it with your contacts before you leave your current job. I usually ask this once I’ve accepted the offer and necessary paperwork is signed.

Answers to these questions will provide a better understanding of the environment and whether you would be a good fit.

How Do You Measure PR Success?

In my career, I follow the adage, “If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it.”

Early on in planning a PR campaign, I meet with my team and we define what success will look like. A successful campaign does not mean that we wrote and distributed a press release. The press release is my channel. However, if the press release is picked up and leads to three story placements, and my goal was four story placements, I’ve achieved a 75 percent success rate. I may need to make follow-up calls with other media outlets if I want to reach 100 percent of the goal.

A good PR campaign has four components:

  1. Goals: What do you want to achieve?
  2. Audience: Who do you need to reach?
  3. Strategy: What are the best ways to reach them?
  4. Channels or Tactics: How will you deliver?

If you begin with the goal or end result in mind, you are much more likely to succeed.