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: Advice From Your Jobs Thread
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Nov 29th 2012
An idea I've been thinking of putting up here for a bit to sort of get to know you folks a bit better.
What bits of advice would you give someone who plans to or is just starting to work in your field (day job, night job, creative job, any job you do)? If we have to plant a scenario on it, let's say an intern has been assigned to you and in between the corruption and coffee runs, you have to teach this kid something that no schooling, only your experience can teach them.
Might help to tell us what you do before giving the advice as well.
To clarify: I don't mean the "How do you make it in the _______ business?" type of advice, but more of the handy little tools that have helped you over time. A way of dealing with clients, or avoiding an easily made mistake, say.
Nov 29th 2012
Working nights? As in Graveyard Shift? GET LOTS OF SLEEP. Try to maintain a regular schedule. Reversing your circadian rhythm is not for the faint of heart. Eat at the same time (or try to) as much as possible. Sleep in a dark room with no electronics on (DON'T EVER SLEEP IN FRONT OF A TV SET). The Russians used to drive people insane by switching their understanding of night and day and back again.
Nov 29th 2012
Nice idea, oldhat.
Nov 29th 2012
Being patient and level-headed are both excellent skills to have, but the ability to recognize when you're being taken advantage of is just as valuable.
Nov 29th 2012
Will pop up now and then with advice from a few of my jobs, but here's the first one.
Don't feel like you have to write a good review just because you were given it for free to review. Honesty, especially if it's tactful, pays off.
Perfect example I recently reviewed a beer where I said it missed the mark that it was going for. I got an e-mail from the brewery's rep thanking me for my honesty and essentially "we were thinking the same thing". If it's shit, say so.
Nov 29th 2012
IT consulting/Network Administration/Tech support
Rule #1: Clients lie.
They lie by commission, by omission, out of ignorance, and from not wanting to bother you.
"So, you rebooted your computer when it told you to?" "Oh yeah yeah yeah, I did."
"So how long as the antivirus been popping up and telling you it is out of date?" "Oh, uh, I don't know, I just noticed it."
"Did you happen to click on that link in the spam email?" "Noooo, no no I would never do that."
LIES. Trust, but verify. Use your own tools to check out the client's system and never actually trust that what they said is true or accurate.
Nov 29th 2012
@Finagle I suddenly want to watch
Lie to Me
again after reading that.
Nov 29th 2012
People will almost always get away with whatever you will let them. In management, there is a tricky balance at times between when to let something slide, and when to crack down. A high level of accountability is not the same as being an asshole, rules stickler (unless you are in a field - Quality Assurance, Medical, Regulation -where it is absolutely necessary). People respect you more when you shoot straight, and hold a high standard, but don't break their balls on something you all know is stupid.
Nov 29th 2012
How to Survive a Tour Working in HR
1. Develop a poker face. Then refine it. Polish it more. Refine it further. Get it to the point where trained psychologists who actively work with the most criminally insane envy you, where poker all-stars wish to study your skills. Get it to the point where you could listen to the most horrible shit without showing any emotion because, I guarantee you, in the course of your career in HR you will hear some of the most pathetic, lame, passive aggressive, whinging, entitled bull shit imaginable and, if you do not possess such a weapon's grade poker face, you will break down and laugh at the person who is talking to you.
And, unfortunately, that is a bad thing in HR.
2. Learn to divorce yourself from your job. Just like a writer needs to not take rejection personally, you can't take the sometimes unfortunate stuff that needs to happen personally. People being let go, like them being hired and not being the right fit for the job or being laid off, sucks. It really, really sucks and you can sympathize with the person but what is happening to them is not because they were bad, or did something personally wrong; it is, as the damned saying goes, unfortunately just business. It does suck but that's what happens sometimes and, eventually, it'll happen to you too (and happened to me).
That being said, if you are the sort, enjoy your slice of schadenfreude pie when someone who deserves it gets what's coming to them. Just do it quietly and to yourself.
3. Learn to keep secrets and learn to not give anything away. HR, at least US-based HR, deals with a lot of sensitive, personal information. If you are a busy body who can't keep their mouth shut then you need to find another area to work in.
On the other hand, learn how to tell about the outrageous things you learn in such a way that you maintain that confidentiality because later that could be really great material for doing stand up or a book about the trials and tribulations of working in HR.
5. For fuck's sake, buck the stereotype that HR people are lazy shits who A) don't know what they are talking about, B) then talk about things they don't know anything about as if they knew what it was they were talking about, and C) when someone asks for something fucking do it. I'm tired of being judged by people's shitty experiences with other HR people.
6. Many managers will not like you. Period. Why? Because it is your job to tell them why they can't do the thing they want to because it violates some employment law or company policy. Learn how to navigate those managers and how you can eventually get them on your side (the word "but" is great here; "No, we can't do it that way but if we did it this otherway then it would be fine.")
7. No one will read your emails, learn to live with that. Last year I sent four emails to the entire company telling them when benefits enrollment would end and I still had a handful of people tell me they weren't aware, despite said emails and physical paperwork sent to their home with that date.
8. Learn to love parts of your job. For me I love hiring new people, getting them set up with benefits, and doing employee training, among others. HR is a lot of tedious bureaucracy and paper pushing mixed in with occasionally rushing about stamping out fires, stress, and sometimes having to do things you'd rather not. Combat this with actual, legitimate enjoyment for what you can enjoy, otherwise you will burn out.
9. Finally, come to understand that your role is to take care of your coworkers as best you're able. Sometimes they won't help you by not helping themselves, sometimes they won't appreciate the things you've done for them, and those times suck but other times they will appreciate it and that is awesome.
Nov 29th 2012
Web Design and Web Development
Important Thing to Know Number 1:
Graphic Designers don't know jack shit about designing for the web.
Of course there actually
vast numbers of Graphic designers who know exactly what they're doing designing for the web, but the odds of your client hiring one of them are miniscule. You're going to end up with designs prepared by someone who thinks about everything in terms of A4 pages and colour separation, and you're going to have to make them work!
Nov 30th 2012
When writing bios for people...
- If it's meant to go on a web site, keep it under a page and a half (one page is best unless they've had so much going on in their career). If you're adding the bio to a press release, make it half a page (with the other half going to the point of the release as well as a picture and header). Press or potential clients aren't planning on loading the bio in their e-reader, making themselves a cup of tea and reading through it at their leisure. In most cases they have several other bios to go through along with the rest of their workday. My general rule for people writing their own bios is "after a concert someone comes up to you and says 'I have five minutes, who the fuck are you?'". You have to sum up what you do in that time. That's what the bio should be. Don't use two paragraphs when one or two sentences will do.
- Choose your battles. If you're editing someone else's bio you will be cutting out a LOT of stuff to make it read better, flow smoothly and be less boring. The client will not like that. So figure out what you REALLY REALLY think should go and build a case for it and prepare to agree to keeping things in or compromising on an edit. For instance, I had a client who had some medical problems and went on for two (yes, TWO) pages about it, talking about her various illnesses and even naming the doctors that helped her. It was useless for the purpose, but what she went through gave her sort of a new lease on life and drove her to do what she loves. So I did talk about it, but I cut it down from two pages to about a paragraph.
- Take criticism as it comes. Correct on points that you agree with. While you're the one writing the bio, you're writing it for someone else and it is kind of a joint effort.
- Always ALWAYS write a 200 word version. You'll never know when the client has to apply for something and a 200-300 word bio is needed.
- It's okay if you suck at writing your own bio. I had to create a short blurb on myself to a publication and the best option was: "Robin LeBlanc lives in Toronto, has a cat and is probably an alcoholic. She wants to bring back the exclamation 'Boy Howdy!' and likes Face/Off". Thankfully I came up with something a bit more professional.
Nov 30th 2012
When they say 'You'll be finished by lunchtime' ask them which day
Trust no-one. Especially when they tell you you'll be finished by lunchtime.
Be nice to Traffic Wardens - it shocks them so much that sometimes they forget to give you a ticket
Sat Nav is an instrument of the devil, do not allow it into your cab. Learn to get yourself lost, do not rely on a machine to do it for you.
The roads are full of idiots. Remember sometimes one of them is you.
William Joseph Dunn
Nov 30th 2012
When doing a design test to get a job in animation. Look at the samples that they provided. Mimic the style as close as possible. Do not try to "improve" it, you're not the art director and no one cares what YOU think looks better. The art director wants to see if not only you have the chops, but also if you can work within a team.
Nov 30th 2012
I wrote this a couple of years ago. It sums up my experience in public and media relations and why so many people get it wrong:
This is intended to be a candid article giving my thoughts on PR after a few years in the business. It's probably a bit cynical, but it may well end up either saving you money or helping you out, one way or another.
There’s an awful lot written about PR and how to get coverage in the media and a lot of people will try to tell you all about it. Most of it is nonsense designed to get you to pay an agency to do it for you and then misdirection and trickery to make the PR agent's art seem somehow magical, arcane and beyond the ken of ordinary mortals.
However, in the same manner that Penn and Teller reveal how their magic tricks are done (that is, they reveal the simple ones but keep the really good stuff well hidden), I’m giving away a few secrets, so that (like P&T) I can convince you that I know the game inside out, and unlike all those other guys that’ll bluff and bluster you, you can actually trust me to tell it to you straight.
So here we go.
The first harsh truth is; no one cares about your press release.
Sorry, but you need to get your head around this before you’ll have any sort of a clue about PR.
Don't bother sending out a press release to try to promote whatever it is you want to promote. No matter how pretty it is, or how informative, or how many times it’s rewritten and tweaked and made beautiful, your press release won't work.
At least, not to any hugely useful extent, anyway.
Press releases work best when there’s already some interest there. Which is why they will get some attention if you’re a government department (so long as you aren’t one of the really boring ones, but are one with bombs or spies or that produces legislation that people will get very upset about and riot over) or you’re Elton John. Then, sure, go right ahead. But if you’re not at that level, or you’re in one of the boring government depts, then no one cares.
Physical, printed, press releases sent through the post will almost always be classed as junk mail. Don’t bother with them. These are usually just a way for agencies to up their expenses claims, anyway, as printing, postage and stationery costs will be bumped up on the invoice. If you retain a PR or Marcomms agency that posts out press releases, it's ripping you off. If you run an agency that does this, shame on you.
So, email then.
Mass-emailed press releases sent to multiple addresses, even if you put these in the bcc field, will almost always go in the spam bin. However, that doesn’t mean don’t email. It’s definitely the best way to start. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
Oh, might as well mention one golden rule right now - never cold call journalists. It can kill any potential future working relationship you could have with them. If you catch them when they’re busy and try to tell them about something fairly banal, they won’t want to hear from you again. If you do it regularly, they’ll stop taking your calls completely.
However, that also doesn’t necessarily mean ‘don’t call journalists out of the blue’. If you’ve got something interesting and know that whoever you’re going to be talking to will be interested, that’s a different matter. But sitting and calling every journo on a list a media database has spewed out, to try and sell in a story on the off-chance that a tiny percentage of them might be interested is a stupid idea. It’s something PR agency bosses love getting lower minions to do, so they can bump up their contact sheets and say that such-and-such a journo said they were ‘interested’, just because they didn’t slam the phone down immediately, but it’s really just a demoralising, pointless waste of time for all involved and PR people really should stop it.
But, come on, let’s be positive! There are ways to get results!
Nov 30th 2012
The first thing to do is research your targets and make a hit list of places you’d like your PR to reach. Do this very carefully. Spend as much time thinking about it and checking titles and journalists and whether they're relevant as you might on your super-pretty press release. Use existing contacts. Don't bother with newswires, or anything like that. Time spent planning can be much, much more beneficial than the scattergun approach of spamming everyone that looks even slightly like a good target.
Now – this is one of the biggest secrets that I’m going to give away. Listen carefully:
A polite one line email, which should be in PLAIN TEXT ONLY summing up what you're offering, sent to a very small, carefully focused mailing list can get you far more coverage, and billable coverage at that, than the kind of thing that most boutique agencies offer, which is a whole set of beautiful press releases sent out to a massive mailing list.
These beautiful press releases, with lots of pictures and flowery borders will get stuck in spam filters and lead to your email address being blocked and marked as a spam source, and even when they get through, they'll usually get ignored on time conservation grounds.
Don't put images into your initial email. In terms of html it's probably okay to include one link only, to relevant web content. That doesn't, however, mean you should say ‘hey, check out this website!’ and leave it at that. Make sure the web page it goes to is relevant and tailored towards your desired end result.
Once you've got some interest from journalists THEN you send out the press release, if they ask for it or want more info. But don't fill it full of hyperbolic and exaggerated crap and don’t ever, ever, ever use the words 'the world's leading', or anything similar even if you know you’re the world leader in your field. If you are, you won’t need to say so. If it’s vaguely debatable, then don’t say it. It’s a bit like d-list celebrities asking club doormen ‘do you know who I am?’ If you have to try and push the point, you’re trying too hard. Journalists are hard-bitten cynics as a breed and will mock you for it. That is, if you’ve even caught their attention in the first place. And there are a dozen ‘Bad PR’ blogs run by bored hacks that will love to post your hyperbolic press release to take the piss out of, and you probably shouldn’t try counting that as billable coverage in your client report (although, if you manage to pull that one off, do let me know, as it would be quite funny).
Anyway, back to the press release - add in INTERESTING AND RELEVANT quotes, if you have to. Not 'we're delighted to...' stuff, or crap like that. Informative quotes that are relevant to a human interest angle only are acceptable. Company MDs or CEOs love to be quoted in press releases, but they generally don't have anything useful to say, other than how delighted or proud they are about whatever it is you're promoting.
Which no one cares about.
Find an angle, then write something for them that actually comments on important issues, or a human-interest angle, in an useful way. If there isn't anything worth saying, leave out the quote and let the actual relevant information stand on its own.
DO NOT let them put their 'We're so proud... world's leading... dedicated team... delighted to...' crap in there. Journalists play quote bingo with press releases. Don't encourage this. Be harsh with your boss. Make sure the boss knows who’s really in charge when it comes to talking to the press. Boss type creatures are always ‘delighted’ or ‘taking this matter extremely seriously’. Which, most people these days are savvy enough to know is shorthand for ‘I’m too boring to say anything original, interesting or useful’ or ‘Yup, we were caught utterly by surprise and we’re trying to crisis manage this on the hoof.’
When writing quotes for senior staff, don't be cute or clever. Don't use puns, clichés or jokes. Unless you're a genius like me and can write outstandingly brilliant ones.
If it's the B2B or trade press that you've had the interest from, then you write the whole story for them, and put what you want in there, making sure you keep to their word limit and they’ll print it for you as they’re the laziest of the lot (love you really, guys!) but and here’s another golden rule - DON'T FORGET THE BLOODY SALES TEAM'S CONTACT INFO AT THE END! That's the whole point to B2B. Don't leave that out and you're halfway there.
If you’re aiming for the general media, or lifestyle/consumer press, then the give the journo the basic facts and an UTTERLY OUTSTANDINGLY HEARTBREAKINGLY BEAUTIFUL IMAGE, saved as a hi-res jpg. Then they'll write the review or feature themselves and it'll be a lot better than the copy in your press release, as there's a reason they're journalists and you're in PR.
(HINT: it's because they prefer to see their name in print and believe in the craft of writing, rather than having a desire to earn the actual proper money that PR types can make. Not that I'm earning anything decent at the moment. Sob. Weep.)
One thing that you should do, however, is to get a web address quoted - and for a retailer where someone can actually BUY the product from, or get directly in contact. A journalist will bung in a good picture over and above anything else, so have some good ones. They'll always slap in a decent picture in preference to words, if they can get away with it. DON'T photoshop them, other than for very basic corrections or to tidy them up. Sticking your product in the hands of a model shot from an image library is outstandingly naff too. Just don't do it. There are blogs that will post bad photoshop jobs to mock too. And again, this doesn’t count as billable coverage.
Nov 30th 2012
So there you go.
Sticking to the above tricks will get you coverage worth hundreds of thousands in terms of the amount you would have to spend on advertising, in order to get the same number of column inches. Or, you could pay me a few hundred quid to do it all for you.
Further to this: If you want to get your product, or story or whatever, all over the Internet, then here's the trick for doing so. I’ve giving away a really big secret here. Well, it was a big secret few years ago, but people are now catching on. Anyway, here you go:
Do your homework on blogs that cover the sector you're promoting. Pick one that's got fairly low traffic, but is quite niche. Contact the author. Offer him or her an exclusive first look. Give them a really nice picture. Send them a sample and tell them they can keep it. If they don't bite, try another, but if the blog's actually active, they always will. Make sure they include a web link, either to a retailer, or to your client's website (and remember, if you want people to buy something, and it's on sale already ALWAYS link to a retailer, not the manufacturer) Then when they've put their piece up, submit it as a link to digg, reddit, and also all of the other high traffic blogs which let their readers submit tips. Find a few current Top 100 Blogs lists and then get yourself a private email address and submit that sucker to other blogs and as many sources that take tips as you can. News begets news. And there’s no harm in helping it along. But you’ve got to pretend someone else started it, not you. Do be a bit subtle here, please.
You’ll get an existing blog story featured on bigger blogs and higher traffic websites far more easily by helping it along the way virally than you'd be likely to get a press release featured if you approached them directly. That's just how the web works. It's fairly simple to play the game, and you can get about fifty grand's worth of advertising equivalent spend, just by taking an afternoon to follow blog links and clicking about. It even looks and feels like slacking off by websurfing, so it's fun all round. Just don't get too sucked into the other content on these sites and spend too long on any one of them.
Oh - another tip - if you're going to do this, then it's also worth search engine optimising your links. Try to get the original piece to include a link that actually features the product or company name in the link text. Often if you send them an HTML link that's already set up they'll cut and paste it into their feature, and then you've essentially got someone googlebombing for you, as you ...encourage... the spread of the feature around the web. Acutally, ALWAYS think about how to SEO any and all links you're releasing into the wild. It pays off.
So, forget traditional PR and marketing tactics - the above is wisdom that will get your product, book, band, worthy cause, interview, or whatever, a whole load of coverage for very little outlay. And yes, I’ll do all that for you too, for a reasonable fee, if you’re too busy.
A couple of other points before I go:
- TV programme researchers will blag samples of anything and everything you're offering. Make sure you're talking to an actual production assistant and discussing schedules when something will be likely to actually appear before sending out samples for TV coverage. However, if you're not far away and can deliver stuff to the set yourself, do it anyway as it's always fun to see what's going on and actually to chat to people you usually only email. Making friends with the runners can sometimes be advantageous as they tend to go up in the industry and might be production assistants or even producers before long.
- If there's a big trade show that your company or client is attending, you'll get far more interest from journalists who DON'T go than from ones that do, unless you're Apple or Sony. That is, if you offer (via the magic, polite one line email) to send them a cut down PDF version of your press pack directly, instead of expecting the journos that actually do attend to visit your stand or pick up a press pack from the show's press office, which they will then ignore amongst all the other freebies and crap they've picked up. That way they can file a story and make it look as though they've been to the show, even when they haven't. They like that sort of thing.
That's it, really. There is more, but I’ve got to keep some stuff back. And in case you’ve missed the subtle hints I’ve been dropping throughout this piece, if you want someone to do PR for you, I’m available and cheap. Okay, maybe not that cheap, but I’ll get you better results than you’d get by paying a hundred times as much on advertising or to a big agency that pulls the kinds of sneaky, invoice bumping tricks I've warned about. Which, you have to admit, does make me pretty good value.
Of course, if you're one of those big agencies, and want to give me a few decent clients to handle for a decent salary, then I've got no problem whatsoever removing this piece from Her Majesty's Internet and pretending it never happened.
Nov 30th 2012
You forgot #10:
Make peace with the fact that you are basically the boss's spy. Develop a cunning and a ruthlessness worthy of "Dream Team"-level defense attorney, maybe more ruthless. Provide cover for when the boss fires qualified people to be replaced by patronage hires. Deny the company's actual reasons for doing anything at all times.
And above all make recommendations for hire for positions you have never held yourself based on five-minute telephone interviews. GLORIFIED SECRETARIES!
(Line up the urethral maggots, Si. Christ alive, that hurts. Fuck it though, it was worth it.)
Nov 30th 2012
If you have ANYTHING else that you would be as happy making your living off as acting... Do that.
If your primary reason for wanting to be an actor is to be famous... Quit now.
Work hard. Every time. If you don't, you waste everyone's time, including your own. No one wants to work with a time waster.
Be nice. Respect every single person on set/ in a stage production. Including and especially "low-ranking" people like stage hands, runners, secretaries, PAs, etc. If you don't give a shit about social concerns, give a shit about the fact that treating ANYONE badly could come back to bite you in the arse. The runner could spit in your gingernut latte, the secretary could not forward your calls, the stage hands could "forget" to set props. But generally: It's just good to be nice.
You most likely will not make any money for a long time. You most likely will not make much money at all for the rest of your life.
When you bag that cushy commercial gig that pays more money than you've seen in your entire career: Save it. Do NOT buy a car. Do NOT buy a Retina Macbook Pro. You will need that money when you don't get another gig for five months.
Nov 30th 2012
1) Nobody wakes up and decides "I'm an international assassin now" and puts an ad in the paper. Those who do are usually mopped up by the police. Your first jobs will probably be through friends--insurance jobs, minor political assassinations, things like that. After that things will escalate pretty quickly, especially if your friends happen to work in cartels.
2) The jargon you hear in movies is all wrong. Try to forget it all and just talk like a normal human being in meetings. We don't talk about 'wetwork', 'hits', and so on. We call it 'whacking'. You will be paid to 'whack off' various individuals in hotel rooms, the back seats of limos, alleyways, etc.
2.5) Similarly, don't waste your time coming up with a clever codename. You only need English, Spanish and Russian-sounding variants of your actual name.
3) Don't wear black, come on. Amateurs wear black. It's not about looking like a badass. Between the tropics I wear a white linen suit with a magenta polo neck. Further north I like a good fur coat. Blue overalls will get you in anywhere. Smile now and then.
4) Don't be afraid to talk about work on the phone, or online. Just keep conversation light. Nobody likes a paranoid assassin or a paranoid customer. The government isn't out to get you. (Later, half your jobs will be government jobs.)
5) There's a saying amongst whackers: "Nobody cares, and they especially don't care in Africa!"
6) You can assemble a rifle in marketplaces and public squares around the world as long as you have a big ugly camera pointed at yourself. There are multi-use tripods that will take a rifle mount as well. Again, remember to smile. Nobody likes a sullen whacker.
7) Have another job and work your hours. Pay taxes. If your other job is in international haulage, all the better.
8) Develop stashes of weapons within (at most) a 12 hour drive wherever you find yourself doing most of your work. Don't take guns on planes, they've totally cracked down on that. There are a number of EXCELLENT border towns and villages in Eastern Europe (for example) where you can rent houses for a couple of thousand euro a year. For another few hundred you can have a friendly policeman keep an eye on it for you. These are solid connections to make as they often lead to quick and easy local jobs.
Nov 30th 2012
Video Game QA:
1. Just because you're essentially getting paid to play video games does not mean it's acceptable to get shit on by your superiors. Don't take shit from anyone. If you're a lead/supervisor and the project manager is demanding endless overtime just for overtime's sake, push back. If the fix rate build to build is low and the build schedule is infrequent the only thing overtime is going to do is burn out your team and waste the company's money.
2. Your job is telling people when their shit is broken. More often than not, the people who you tell this to are not going to be happy about it, no matter how nice you are. Don't worry about them liking you, don't
tell them about issues because you're afraid of pissing them off, and under no circumstances become a yes man.
3. If you're at publisher level QA: establish a standard workflow for the bug database and apply it to all projects, regardless of developer (if you're in a position to do so).
4. Communicate by e-mail as much as possible, and
keep those e-mails
. Paper trails are important. Especially when you have to reconcile conflicting information from Production, Marketing, and the Developers.
5. If you're a lead/supervisor: buy your team snacks occasionally, and not just on pay day. Unexpected baked goods are good for team morale.
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