It starts like this:
My heart pounds and I can feel the veins in my neck pulsating. The necktie gets tighter and I start to feel like I’m suffocating. I get butterflies in my stomach like I’m having a first date with a girl I really like. The fight-or-flight kicks in and I feel like a speed-freak from the rush of adrenaline, and without being able to spend all of this newfound energy I start getting jittery and talking faster and faster and it feels like a million eyes and ears are all fixed on my every word and what if I screw up and what if I say the wrong thing and what if everyone laughs at the wrong moment? I just want it to be over.
But then it’s done, and everything goes well, and the adrenaline surge turns into a calm buzz and relief washes over me. I feel electric and accomplished. Another presentation is through.
I hated public speaking. I still do, to an extent, but it’s getting easier to do and the dread declines each time I step up to the stage. Since I have to do it quite a bit for my job, I’ve learned a few tips and tricks that make speaking in public easier. Here are five of my favorites:
You don’t have to be confident to appear confident. Even if you think you’re shaking like a tree in a hurricane and speaking a mile a minute, you’re probably not. You can trick your audience into thinking you’re confident by looking confident. Dress well. Smile a lot. Tell (non-awkward) jokes. Project confidence and eventually you will feel confident, as if it happened by accident.
It’s your time. You’re the expert, and for the next 10, 20, 30, or more minutes, your audience is obligated to be there and listen to you. That’s powerful. For the next X minutes, you are the most important person in the room. Keith Richards said it best (I’m paraphrasing): “It’s your time to let the tiger out of the cage.”
The terror goes away if you let it. The more you speak in public, the better you get at it. There’s no other way to gain the experience without feeling really uncomfortable at first. You have to take the leap and hope you can learn on-the-fly if you’re going to grow as a public speaker. It may be terrifying at first, but eventually the feeling subsides and you’re be able to relax a little.
Relax. Find a way to calm yourself. Take deep breaths between sentences. Tell yourself that it’ll be over before you know it. Find a way to zen-out. Your audience will be able to feel the relaxation flow through you and straight into them. Psyching up before a presentation is as easy as practicing in the mirror (it actually works) and having a ritual during your presentation. Some good advice I was given is to always start out with an introduction and agenda of things you’re going to talk about. If you start out with the same ritual each time, you’ll find yourself much calmer once you get into your rhythm.
There’s always an exit. The most liberating advice I’ve heard on the topic of public speaking came from a very wise person at work. She said that she just tells herself that there’s always an exit, and you always have the option to leave. You’re not physically bound to the podium. If things head south, you can always get out of Dodge and reap the repercussions later.
You may still feel the butterflies rising up and you make still feel like you’re doing a bad job, but you’re not. Every word you say and every minute you spend in front of other people is making you a better public speaker. Remembering these tips has made it easier for me to speak in public, and I hope they help you out too.
Well, hey 2011.
It’s not just the start of a new year for me. It’s the start of an entirely new life. 2010 was the year I graduated college. It was the year I moved back in with my parents after leaving one of my favorite cities in the world. I got a “real person job” and moved back to that city. Quite a year.
So, let’s get this year started off right. Things to remember:
-Get distracted by shiny things. Kids go through their lives being curious, being open to new experiences, and being amazed by all the tiny intricacies of the world. Never let that childlike wonder die out.
-Stop talking, start doing. I’m not really the type of person that makes it a goal to change everything around on January 1st, because I know that there’s a difference between saying I’m going to lose weight, drink less, and exercise more and actually putting in the effort and doing it. This is true for almost everything. People love talking about doing stuff but never actually follow through with it, and ideas get lost that way. It’s easy to talk about change; it’s harder to actually change things.
-Do scary things. Starting a new job was scary. It was a completely new experience and my head was crammed full of new information. I had to meet a ton of new people. I get nervous about so much “new” happening at once. I also have to give quite a few presentations as a part of this job, which is something that still freaks me out. But I’m learning and just by doing more of it, I’m getting a little more comfortable with the spotlight on me. I’m glad that I’m doing these scary things. Try to do as many scary things as you can; it makes life more interesting, and it keeps you on your toes.
-Get a girlfriend. I’m pretty good at making friends. I like to think that I’m a genuinely interesting person to be around, and I’m pretty loyal. Good things to have, right? So I never worry that much about making those kinds of connections. Making a romantic connection is a little more foreign to me, and I’ve always been a bit closed off in the emotions department. I should probably change that this yearI’m learning to be more open about how I feel, though (writing helps immensely). It would make my mother quite happy if I found myself a ladyfriend.
-Stay in touch. I’m worried about staying in touch will all of the awesome friends I made during school. Of course, Facebook does make that process a little easier, but I know myself well, and I know that if I don’t put in some effort I’ll drift away from those awesome friends. I don’t want that to happen. I want long-lasting friendships with the people that helped shape who I am.
-Document. For Christmas, I got my Dad a VHS-to-Digital conversion kit so he could transfer all of the embarrassing VHS tapes of my childhood to DVD’s. Memories are important. All of these seemingly-insignificant moments in life are actually the most important things in the world. Time to take more pictures, write things down, and finally make friends with nostalgia. Like Borges said, “don’t lose the now“.
-Embrace silence. It’s one of the hardest things to do in an age of constant noise. Being comfortable with silence is really tough, but it’s important to unplug from society every now and then and jump into a book. Take long, meandering walks with nothing in mind. Hang out in the woods around a campfire. Or, zen-out and sit in silence. Whatever it takes.
-Just try. Just care. Just because you can coast through life doesn’t mean you should. It’s time to wake up.
-And smile more, you magnificent bastard. Life is just too damn interesting to be cynical and bitter all the time. Just smile more. It’ll change your life.
And just like that Counting Crows song says, maybe this year will be better than the last. I have some faith. Here’s to a brand new year and a brand new chapter in the Book of Tom.
Have any resolutions you want to write down? Do it in the comments.
Things are changing in my little neighborhood of blog-town. This is as much an explanation for what to expect out of me in the future as it is a reminder to Future Tom about the person I was. Bear with me, all 14 of you.
I’ve spent the last six or so months entrenched in a tiny bubble of the internet known as “ad-land.” I have learned a ton about advertising, social media, and marketing during this period because it’s my current passion. I like that in advertising you’re (theoretically) judged based on the quality of your ideas and your ability to make stuff. I like that good advertising can help shape pop culture. I want to be a part of that, so the last six months have been spent looking for a way to get my foot in the door of the advertising industry. It’s not an easy door to get into unless you have agency experience or a connection opens it for you.
Instead of zigging along on that path and waiting for the right ad job to pop up, I’m zagging. In a few days, I’m headed back to Madison, Wisconsin to be a Project Manager for a healthcare software company called Epic (cool name, right?).
It’s a huge change from what I’m used to. Since graduating, I’ve telecommuted to a PR firm in Houston. Working remotely is a strange experience, and it’s much different than working at an office (I wrote about it for The Next Great Generation. Check it out). I’ve never worked in a “real office” for a “real job” before, so it’ll be an interesting world to jump into.
Starting the new job creates a whirlwind of contradictory feelings. It’s exciting. It’s scary. It’s an overwhelming relief that I was finally able to get a great full-time job. It’s unexpected. It’s an amazing chance to learn new things, gain some new skills, and grow as a person. It’s also a little sad, because I’m going to have to give up a certain amount of writing, reading blogs, and tweeting.
But that doesn’t mean I have to (or am willing to) quit cold turkey. I’m still going to be that person who will be all-too eager to tell you which agency created that ad campaign and what I think of it. I’m still going to write whenever I get the chance, and a lot of it will still be about advertising and social media. Hell, maybe even some of my posts will be about non-advertising topics, like working with teams and all the new things I’m learning. I’m still going to read as many ad blogs as I can, and I’m still going to tweet about stupid things, interesting things, fun things, and funny things.
Basically, you’re still stuck with me. You just have to put up with less of me. Who knows, someday I’ll zag again and end up having a part in creating the ads I can’t stop rambling about. Only time will tell.
Wish me luck, folks. I might need it.
They say we hop jobs too often. We have no work ethic, expect too much, and want to be famous despite having no talent. We expect too many thank-you’s and pats-on-the-back, and we don’t take criticism well. Oh yeah, and we just don’t have enough respect for our elders.
At some point, hearing the same anti-millennial garbage over and over gets old.
Millennials get a bad rap. Look, I get it: Some of us are easy targets. Many people my age are poster-children for the Gen Y stereotype: They have helicopter parents, they received praise all of the time and thus expect a reward for everything they do, and they try to emulate Paris Hilton, Lindsay Lohan, and Snooki .
Unfortunately for us, this is a case of a few very rotten apples spoiling the bunch. For every Snooki-obsessed Gen Y stereotype, there are a ton of entrepreneurial, hopeful, caring, and hard-working millennials that go unnoticed.
Things are going to change for the Boomer generation, and they’re slowly catching on to this fact. Naturally, they’re terrified, so they’re lashing out and trying to discredit us. There have already been some quality posts in defense of Gen Y, but I think it’s time to throw my hat in the ring. It’s time to stick up for my generation by explaining or attacking some of the common misconceptions the best I can.
Those darn kids want everything RIGHT NOW!
Yeah, we’re a generation of impatient, ADD-addled people. We want “instant” everything, and waiting on anything is annoying. We want and need everything to be instant: Communication, customer service, information, feedback…everything. It’s not natural for us to wait on these things.
We grew up with the internet and instant messaging, so we had a world of answers at our fingertips and indirect contact to every single one of our friends at all hours. We grew up with mobile phones and text messaging (or at least came of age when they became popular), so we always have had instant access to our friends, family, and customer service, wherever we are. Our life is instant. The older generations are used to waiting for everything, but we aren’t. This is something the older generations are going to have to learn to deal with, because we are in a culture of “instant.”
Those darn kids are unrealistic and entitled
One of the often-used words to describe Gen Y is “entitled.” They say we believe we’re entitled to unrealistically big salaries. And you know what, they’re right. We DO feel like we deserve all of that. But who can blame us? We’re the ones who are paying an incredible amount of money to go to college, yet many of us still haven’t landed a job after graduation. We need a nice job with a big salary because the previous generation made student loans a HUGE hurdle in our twenty-something lives.
We believe in our own abilities to an “unrealistic” level (yes, it’s overconfident, but at least we actually believe in ourselves) because we’re the “good job for trying!” generation that “earned” a trophy for being in last place, just because we participated. There’s a quote attributed to Alex Bogusky, and it goes something like this:
“Being nice about someone’s mediocrity is the worst kind of mean”
We’re a generation that has been constantly rewarded for mediocrity, so of course we’ll feel entitled to unrealistic jobs, salaries, and lives.
Just remember: We’re praise-hungry, entitled monsters because you made us this way.
Those darn kids don’t know how to work
Yeah, we don’t want to work 9-to-5 desk jobs in traditional offices. Get over it, because that’s not going to be the norm in 10 or 15 years.
Who wants a desk job? We’ve seen how miserable our parents could get because of their crappy, thankless desk job. Of course we’re going to fight against having that, and we’re going to do anything we can to avoid it. For us, it IS avoidable….we’re the generation of dorm-room entrepreneurs. We have laptops, the internet, and smartphones; “work” isn’t bound by location or time.
Those darn kids whine on social media
Hell yeah we whine on social media. It works; smart brands understand our influence and want to make us happy (ALL brands should want to make their customers happy). We found a way to be heard, so we’ll send out our grievances in 140 characters or less and hope it reaches someone important.
We found a way to create communities that aren’t bound by geography. We found a way to band together and take the power back from the massive institutions that we can no longer trust. So yes, we’re going to keep writing tweets & blog posts to get your attention, and we will broadcast our negative experiences and expect them to be rectified (instantly, of course).
Those darn kids are…just like us?
There are a lot of things that separate our generation from the Boomers or Gen X. We’re very different because we grew up in different time periods, with different cultural norms and different situations. But, remember this: Just like your generation and the next generation after us will, our generation wants to laugh, love, and live. The definitions of what these things mean may be different, but we’re still driven by the same desires. Of course I’m going to complain about the next generation, and I hope the next generation feels free to challenge their elders like we do.
But for now, shut up and give us some respect for once, will ya?
What do you think about Gen Y?
Hunter S. Thompson was a comet. The Good Doctor was the type of person that you only come across every few decades, the type who burns the earth with originality, passion, and talent. Someone who listens to his heart and does only what he wants. A true one-of-a-kind, a perpetual black sheep. We should all try to be comets.
Anywho, I enjoy Hunter S. Thompson’s particular brand of in-your-face writing. I like seeing people break the rules and succeed. It was a delight to come across a cover letter he wrote to the Vancouver Sun in 1958 and see that he even wrote his job applications in this manner. I think we can learn a lot about careers, the job hunt, and life in general from Hunter S. Thompson.
Forget everything you know about writing cover letters
I’ll never understand why we’re taught to fit in when we’re in school. In college, I was required to take a class devoted to “professional writing,” and we were taught how to create a cookie-cutter cover letter. It’s like they were setting us up to fail. The whole point of a cover letter is to STAND OUT from the mess of equally-qualified people. Hunter S. Thompson understood that. As you can see from his cover letter, he hit all the necessary spots: Who he was, what he expected from the job, what they could expect from him, and that he would like to work for them. That’s it. The rest is up to you. Forget what they taught you and start trying to stand out….it’s the only way you’re going to get anywhere in this world.
Pioneer new career frontiers
If the world isn’t giving you a viable career option, make one up. Gonzo journalism, a subjective, first-person-narrative form of journalism, didn’t exist before Thompson. He immersed himself in the world of his subjects and walked a mile in their shoes (or rode, as was the case in Hell’s Angels) and ended up creating his career. It is a form of journalism rooted in the idea that the story is more important than getting all the facts right, that true objectivity is a myth. Many bloggers write in that style today, and it’s more entertaining, informative, and trustworthy than most of the so-called “objective news” out there.
The point is this:You don’t have to try to fit into an existing career path. If you have a vision of what you want to do, but it’s different from any career you’ve heard of, make it up. Have enough confidence in yourself to create your own career. Hunter S. Thompson was filled with millennial spirit; our generation has created a lot of jobs where none had previously existed. Mark Zuckerberg created his own frontier with Facebook, and there are many other examples of successful Gen Y entrepreneurs on and off the internet.
If there’s any lasting message I can take from Hunter S. Thompson’s life, it’s this: Listen to your inner voice and screw the rules. I can’t stress that enough. It’s true that you can follow the herd and survive, but to really live you have to figure out how to trust your own ideas. Like he said in his novel “The Rum Diary,”
“Like most of the others, I was a seeker, a mover, a malcontent, and at times a stupid hell-raiser. I was never idle long enough to do much thinking, but I felt somehow that my instincts were right.”
It’s not an easy road to take, and you’ll certainly have your enemies because of it, but it’s the only way to live.
Obviously, Hunter S. isn’t the best role model. He did a ton of drugs and was by all accounts an asshole, and in the end he took his own life. You could live for a hundred lifetimes and still not be as much of a badass as this guy was. But you can learn a lot from people who truly listen to their inner voice and have reckless disregard for social norms. Trust your instincts, follow your own path, and forget the rules. Be a comet like Hunter S. Thompson.
What do you think: Was Hunter S. Thompson a raving lunatic, visionary, or both?
[10/13 Update: Oh, they added Facebook into your Klout score now too. So, theoretically Facebook can affect your job search (beyond the random drunk pictures, etc)]
Alright, so you’ve done everything possible to look like an ideal job candidate. You created a top-notch resume filled with more volunteer work than Mother Teresa and more internship experience than Kenneth the Page. Never mind that it hasn’t been released yet, you’re ALREADY proficient in Microsoft Office 2015. There are no pictures of you doing kegstands on Facebook, and you have even taken some of my advice and learned how to use social media to get hired. You’re ready to enter the professional world. You’re pretty much a lock to land a job, right?
Well, let me ask you one more question: What’s your Klout score?
Whoa there cowboy, what’s a Klout score?
Klout bills itself as “The Standard for Influence” online. Basically, it’s a service that measures how “influential” you are online. You simply plug in your Twitter handle and it will generate a score between 0-100 for you. The more influential you are and the wider your reach is online, the higher your Klout score is. It is based on a number of different variables, like the size of your audience, if your content is being acted upon (retweeted, etc), and the influence your audience has. If you want a more detailed explanation, go here. This is all fine and dandy if you’re a little vain like me and just want to know what your score is (a few years from now, everyone might be “Klouting” themselves instead of using that old-timey Google).
It doesn’t mean anything, right?
Well, it might mean something. I had been aware of Klout for a few months now, but I wasn’t aware of its clout (see what I did there?) in the recruiting world until today. To me, it was shocking to see that some employers consider your Klout score as part of the application process. Said in a more alarmist way, you may be denied some job opportunities just because you aren’t popular enough on Twitter.
That’s right. 20 years ago, you could do anything you wanted in your personal time, and as long as your background check turned up clean, you could probably land a nice job. Fast forward to 2007, and you had to make sure that your MySpace and Facebook pages were “clean” to get a job. Our generation is now faced with another employment roadblock: “influence.” Now we have to worry about whether or not we’re being retweeted and if we have enough influential followers. It adds a whole new layer to the already-complicated job search.
But don’t quit and join the circus yet…
It’s not quite time to panic and give up. If you’re looking to be an accountant or electrical engineer, you’re probably never going to have to worry about how influential you are online. Influence is only an issue for in industries like social media marketing, advertising, and media. Even if you are in one of those industries, don’t jump ship yet. If any company uses only Klout scores to weed out the “bad” candidates, you probably don’t want to work for them anyways, because they don’t get it. As Edward Boches, a very influential person in the ad game on and offline (he has a Klout score of 52, OMG), notes:
[Klout] appears to emphasize the impact of one’s “push” content on Twitter and Facebook – reach, influence, re-tweeting. But it can’t identify the rest of the qualities – conversation strategy, flexibility, timeliness, and authenticity – that a smart agency or brand should look for in a social strategist.
Essentially, it’s not measuring the quality of your content, nor is it measuring other important qualities like how quickly you respond and how authentic you are. Just like a résumé can’t tell you everything about a candidate, Klout can’t measure your personality or your fit with the company’s culture. It’s not a complete picture.
I fear that social media illiterate employers are going to use Klout score as a shortcut, much like looking at the number of followers one has. Instead of actually READING someone’s tweets, they’re just going to check out Klout and get an incomplete view of that person. They’d use it like a pre-résumé to weed out the “unworthy ones.” That would not be good, and a lot of stellar employees would get passed over because of it.
Building influence and followers on Twitter is a time-intensive process. I hope that I’m not instantly disregarded because I only have a Klout score in the teens, because I’d like to think that my opinions are valuable and the content I spread is worthwhile. Because of technology and the economy, it’s harder than ever to find a job. I just hope that recruiters don’t put too much trust in “influencer” metrics, and if they do happen to use something like Klout, I hope they take the time to actually read my Twitter feed first.
One final question: Can you guess who has a score of 100 on Klout?
What do you think of Klout? Do you think it’s fair that some companies use it during the screening process?