Sunday, April 6, 2014

LinkedIn Etiquette: Woo Before You Pop the Question

It's again time for college seniors to send out résumés as part of the great job search. My most recent Marist PR class focused on branding oneself on social media. A student in the Marist PRSSA chapter, Tatiana Miranda, attended a talk I gave to the college's Emerging Leaders program a couple of months ago and asked me to expand on one of the areas I covered -- LinkedIn etiquette -- for the Marist PRSSA chapter's newsletter, "esPResso." Since I provided Tatiana more than she could include in her Real Advice column, I will share my thoughts on that topic here.

Think of LinkedIn as Facebook for professionals. That starts with your photo. It should be a head shot of you, professionally dressed. It should not be you at a party with your arm around a boyfriend or girlfriend, or worse, holding a beer. Your profile is your first impression upon a prospective employer. Think of yourself as a brand. What image do you want to project? Your name is your brand name. Your appearance, not just physical, but also written and photo representations, are your packaging. Always remain a professional.

You are transitioning from your current brand as a Marist student to what you want it to be: an account coordinator for a NYC PR firm, a cyber criminologist, or a media relations professional representing a nonprofit organization. Use your summary for that. That summary doesn't have to be in great detail, but it should create that bridge from your studies and internship experiences to the job or career you want after your graduate.Stay away from jargon and buzzwords. Be yourself. Again, remain professional.

Don't treat your LinkedIn updates like Facebook updates. Share information that is valuable and informative, not that you went to a great party or ate a bagel for breakfast. Have you read a blog post about job searches that you found was very helpful? Share it. Was there an article in the NY Times online that is in your field of interest? Share it. Are you attending an event that allows you to network with others in your field, or are you speaking at a workshop? Share that info. Don't just mention things, share links. People look at posts that include links more than they do when you just write a short statement.

Follow companies, agencies or organizations that are of interest to you. There are many, many groups of interest to public relations students and professionals. Connect to them. There is a PRSSA group, a Marist PR alumni and student group, and groups that discuss areas of personal interest. There are "influencers" you can follow. They often post great tips for students and people working in their fields of interest. For your first post in any group, start with a very brief introduction so others get to know you.

Link to classmates and friends outside of Marist. Link to alumni in your field. Link to people at companies or agencies or organizations at which you'd like to work. For some of these, you can connect because you share a common connection. For others, explain who you are and why you'd like to link to someone. People like to be flattered, but don't go overboard. Explain to your prospective connection that you are about to graduate from Marist and would like to expand your network of professionals to learn from practitioners who have become successful in their careers. If you have no connection to a person but are friends with someone who does, ask that friend to offer an introduction on your behalf.

Once you follow someone or some group, don't jump in right away. Observe before you participate. Get a flavor for the conversation before you join it. Share and be helpful before you ask for something. I'm pretty liberal about accepting requests for connections. However, if after accepting you start pitching me business or asking me for a job, I will delete you immediately. You don't introduce yourself to someone by asking him or her to marry you. You have to get to know someone first before you take the relationship to the next level.

Your profile will be viewed. With each passing day, LinkedIn becomes an increasingly valuable form of networking and job searches, not just for individuals, but for companies that look to hire people. Remember that your digital footprint is forever, so think before you post. Make sure there are no typos or grammatical errors. Ask yourself, would my boss -- or my grandmother -- be OK with what I wrote? One bad tweet, Facebook post, or LinkedIn update can undo years of image building and personal branding or destroy a career. Don't believe me? Google Justine Sacco.

One last thing...My husband Pete and I thank all who made donations to the Alzheimer's Association in memory of his mother, who passed away Christmas Eve. The national organization and local chapters, particularly the one in the Hudson Valley, report receiving thousands of dollars to support their work. We also received many letters and emails from friends who told us how their families have been touched by Alzheimer's. Together, we carry on and support those who will one day find a better way to treat, or better yet, prevent this dreaded affliction. Again, a deeply heart-felt thank you!

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Remembering My Mother-In-Law

On this day after Christmas, my husband Pete and I laid to rest an incredible woman, whose accomplishments as a wife, mother and early pioneer for women in law were overshadowed the past 13 years by a long struggle with Alzheimer’s. Pete’s mom, Marjorie Clark, died Christmas Eve at age 96. For those 13 years, particularly the past four, Pete devoted his life to the care of his mom in selfless service that exemplifies a love that I doubt many others would endure.

Marj was born in the Chelsea section of Manhattan. Her father ran a feed store that served the horses in New York before automobiles and mass transit overtook the streets and subterranean tunnels of the City. She graduated from Hunter College, where she was the center on the women’s basketball team, then studied law at NYU. She wanted to become an attorney. The passing of her parents halted those plans, but not her love of the law. She was hired by the former Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court, Charles Evans Hughes, as a legal assistant at his law firm, Hughes Hubbard, and became the chief assistant to his son-in-law, William Gossett, general counsel at Bendix Aviation, then general counsel and executive vice president at Ford Motor Company. 

In the 1940s, Marj was often mistaken for Katharine Hepburn. Her beauty led to her being asked out on dates by well-known figures in the New York of that day. She enjoyed riding horses in Central Park and adored dogs of all types. She loved the color red, swimming in the cold waters off Cape Cod in September, and an occasional gimlet. Her smile lit up the room and it was easy to make her laugh. She married Joseph Clark, whose first wife was killed by a drunk driver, leaving him to care for five children. Pete was the only child from their marriage, but his step-brothers and sisters always considered him to be a "full sibling" and his mom as their own. Pete's father died in 1972, leaving Pete the "man of the house," a role he took on for the next 41 years.

Marj continued to work at law firms in Manhattan and in later years, New Jersey, retiring after a fall that broke her hip at age 84. Even then, she bounced back quickly, befitting a woman who worked out daily in the gym, lifting weights, swimming and running around the track.

We noticed Marj was starting to get a little forgetful, nothing serious at first, but we believed it was time for her to move in with us. For decades, Pete would travel to New Jersey to help his mom. Having her move in with us simplified that travel schedule, but the long decline in Marj’s physical health and cognitive abilities had already begun, each stage bringing its own fears and concerns.

Four years ago, Pete got laid off by his employer, Clear Channel, ending a 35-year full-time career in radio (he is still on air part-time at another station). While he is now a licensed real estate agent, his real job was being the 24-7 caregiver for his mother. I will spare you the details, but the physical and emotional toll was tremendous. He carried Marj from room to room, cut and styled her hair when she could no longer go to the salon, cleaned her, brushed her teeth, fed her and more. He constantly hugged and kissed his mom, telling her, “I love you,” dozens of times a day.

We both learned a lot about caring for someone with dementia. For example, winters were rough because of decreasing sunlight, so we put bright lights in fixtures that could accommodate them. When she became depressed, we’d sing to her, simple songs like, “You are my sunshine, my only sunshine.”

A woman who worked with the powerful in courts and commerce eventually became a dependent, confined to a wheelchair and a hospital bed at home. Her interactions became limited to the point of just looking at us longingly but blankly, until the warmest of smiles creased her lips and she said, “I love you.” She’d reach out for Pete or me and we would melt in her arms, smothering her in hugs and kisses. We didn’t want to let go of one another, knowing the day would come when we would no longer be afforded the privilege of being Marj’s caregivers and comforters. That day came the morning of Christmas Eve, after a very difficult last couple of weeks. Marj’s passing that day was her way of giving us a gift – the knowledge that she was no longer suffering and was finally at peace.

Seeing Pete turn his life over to the care of his mother confirmed something I’ve known for 33 years. I am married to the most loving, wonderful human being in the world. We’re not done with our caregiving, as my mother has lived with us for six years, too. At 94, she is in relatively good shape, physically and mentally, but Pete and I know the time will come when we will go through something like this again with my mom. We were fortunate “the Moms,” as they became known to our friends, were as close as sisters. My mother is in mourning, too, but already, Pete’s inner caregiver has come to the fore, showing my mother the same love and compassion he did with the woman who gave birth to and raised him.

I am grateful for the best Christmas present I could ever receive – a loving husband and partner, talented in so many fields, universally loved and admired by friends and clients, a model of patience and devotion, someone with whom I long to grow old and, in the paraphrased words of “our song,” I love more today than yesterday, but not as much as tomorrow. Thank you, Marj, for the most wonderful gift of your son. We will always love and remember you. Rest in Peace.

One last thing...If you're looking for a cause to support, especially a last minute, end-of-year financial gift, please consider your local chapter of the Alzheimer's Association. With advancements in healthcare and medicine, longer lives now bring the prospect of millions more people like Marj suffering this affliction. The Alzheimer's Association supports research and families who endure this long goodbye. 

Addendum: To read Pete's wonderful reflection on his mom, please visit his new blog.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

A Catholic Cardinal's Lesson on Chutzpah

Here's a definition of chutzpah: during an interview on Meet The Press, New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan claimed the Catholic Church has been“outmarketed” on marriage equality and the Church has been “caricatured as being anti-gay.” Cardinal Dolan, as he often does, tries to have the Church portrayed as “the martyr,” attacked by the evil forces of Hollywood, politicians and “some opinion-molders.” Dolan claims, “We’re pro-marriage, we’re pro-traditional marriage, we’re not anti-anybody.”

Dolan's attempt at spin is easily shot down with examples of anti-gay animus too numerous to mention in one blog post, though I will list a few.

Let's start with 1986 and the paternal-sounding “Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons.” It written by Cardinal Josef Ratzinger, then Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, who 19 years later became Pope Benedict XVI. That document reaffirmed another from 1975 that called homosexual acts “intrinsically disorderd.” The 1986 Letter did not stop at sexual acts in and of themselves. “Although the particular inclination of the homosexual person is not a sin, it is a more or less strong tendency ordered toward an intrinsic moral evil; and thus the inclination itself must be seen as an objective disorder.” Ratzinger further declared that when “they engage in homosexual activity they confirm within them a disorderd sexual inclination which is essentially self-indulgent.” (emphases mine)

Ratzinger and the Church equation of LGBT people as being objectively disordered is an assertion as ancient and not based in fact as the Church's once-held belief that the sun revolved around the earth. His belief, and thus the Church's, is that the only purpose of marriage is procreation. The Ratzinger proclamation shockingly declared, “when homosexual activity is consequently condoned, or when civil legislation is introduced to protect behavior to which no one has any inconceivable right, neither the Church nor society at large should be surprised when other distorted notions and practices gain ground, and irrational and violent reactions increase.”

In other words, LGBT people who seek to achieve any form of dignity, human rights or equality should not be surprised by violence toward them because they bring it on themselves. Such an assertion is despicable and encourages attacks, including physical ones, against LGBT people.

By opposing marriage equality, the Catholic Church seeks to impose its narrow definition of such unions on all human beings, regardless of one's belief or no belief at all. Yet, not all religions share that narrow definition of marriage. In the United States and many other countries, marriage is a civil institution, a legal contract providing protections for and placing responsibilities on two people committing to one another with absolutely no requirement or promise of bearing children.

The hierarchy of the Catholic Church has spent millions of dollars and exerted significant pressure on political bodies in state capitals, Washington, DC and the United Nations to halt any advance in LGBT rights, believing any LGBT right relates back to marriage.

Five years ago, the Vatican vehemently opposed a UN resolution endorsing a universal declaration to decriminalize homosexuality. The Church, through its UN envoy, claimed discrimination – not against LGBT people, but toward the Church and countries that do not allow same-sex marriage. The Vatican was particularly opposed to any mention of “gender identity.” To the Catholic Church, punishment for being gay in 76 countries, five of which include the death penalty, is preferable to any attempt to decriminalize homosexuality because such decriminalization could be used to push for marriage equality and threatens "religious freedom," which has become code for the ability to discriminate on the basis of personal religious belief. The UN eventually adopted its first resolution in support of LGBT rights in 2011, but without Vatican support.

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) is opposed to any immigration reform that includes legally-married gay couples. For the Catholic Church, the inhumanity of keeping a binational gay or lesbian couple separated or living outside the United States is morally acceptable.

Millions have been spent by the Catholic Church and Catholic organizations like the Knights of Columbus in attempts to halt civil legislation in every state that has had a ballot measure on marriage equality. In 2009, the Diocese of Portland, Maine took up a second collection that raised $80,000 in what was then a successful attempt to overturn the state's marriage equality law. In 2012, another collection was taken up by parishes and congregations across Maine – on Father's Day no less – to oppose a ballot measure legalizing same-sex marriage. That attempt failed and Maine was one of three states to approve marriage equality last year.

Providence Bishop Thomas Tobin forbade Catholic family and friends from attending any same-sex marriage ceremony. “Catholics should examine their consciences very carefully before deciding whether or not to endorse same-sex relationships or attend same-sex ceremonies, realizing that to do so might harm their relationship with God and cause significant scandal to others.” In other words, going to your son's or daughter's or classmate's wedding will bring you a step closer to hell.

Minneapolis Archbishop John Nienstedt mailed 400,000 anti-gay DVDs to Minnesota Catholics in 2010 and went so far as to tell a mother that she had to reject her gay son or risk going to hell. “I urge you to reconsider the position that you expressed in your letter. Your eternal salvation may well depend upon a conversation (sic) of heart on this topic.”

Bishop Thomas Paprocki of Springfield, IL, conducted an exorcism at his cathedral, not far from the state capitol, “in reparation” for the legislature passing a marriage equality law. He also went the eternal fire and damnation route, telling a reporter, “If you're voting for someone because you have the intention of trying to promote something that is gravely sinful then you are putting your salvation in jeopardy.”

Dolan's list of anti-gay actions and rhetoric could fill a book. He was co-host of an anti-gay, anti-same-sex-marriage forum in my city of Poughkeepsie in September 2011, shortly New York State's marriage equality law took effect. This past September, Dolan emceed a conference at Columbia University on The Manhattan Declaration, which calls upon “people of faith” to oppose all laws that offer marriage equality, likening same-sex marriage to “polyamorous partnerships, polygamous households, even adult brothers, sisters, or brothers and sisters living in incestuous relationships.” (pages 4-7 of link)

Dolan refused to speak up during last summer's LGBT bashings in his city and the death of Mark Carson, murdered solely because he was gay. Rather, as violence was being perpetrated against gay residents, Dolan, in his role as president of USCCB, was instrumental is providing anti-gay-marriage prayers and bulletin inserts to every Catholic parish in the country in advance of the U.S. Supreme Court rulings on the Defense of Marriage Act and California's Proposition 8.


I have said it before, but it bears repeating. Cardinal's Dolan's claim of religious liberty does not trump an LGBT individual's or family's claim to civil rights and common human decency, including the protections offered by civil marriage. To say you are against my marriage and the protections it offers, solely on the basis of my sexual orientation, IS anti-gay, despite any spin by the Cardinal that denies it. Fortunately, the people in the pews ignore his protestations, as a majority of Catholics support marriage equality.

One last thing...While Pope Francis told his hierarchy a few months ago to stop obsessing on gays, abortion and contraception, last week he came out with his “Apostolic Exhortation” “Evangelii Gaudium.” While much of the media focus has been on Francis' call for greater social and economic equality, the document also reiterated the Church's stance that marriage's chief purpose is procreation. Those hoping for change in this area are in for a tremendous disappointment. The fight for LGBT rights must continue, without – and often against – the leadership of the Catholic Church. Dolan's assertion that the battle is not over, comparing the ongoing fight against the Supreme Court's Roe vs. Wade decision, shows that the Cardinal and others in the Catholic hierarchy are in this for the long haul. So are we, the people on the right side of history.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Well There's No Place Like Rome for the Holidays

Twenty-eight years ago, I departed for studies at the Gregorian University in Rome, Italy, living in an American compound, the North American College in Vatican City. I was 27 years old, but had never been away from home for more than a month, and that was five years before when I studied in China. It would be two years before I could come back to the United States and unfortunately, I started out counting down the days until then, rather then throwing myself into the opportunity of a lifetime -- living abroad on someone else's dime, as I was there on the equivalent of a full scholarship, including room and board.

The first big test of homesickness would be Thanksgiving. In Italy, it was just another Thursday. In our five-story, walled-in hectares of America, it was a time of celebration. The fact that we had no classes on Thursdays (but did have them on Saturdays) helped start the day with that holiday feeling. While we were blessed to have an incredible house chef, Giovanni, we longed for the comfort foods with which we had grown up. It's amazing what you can whip up on a hot plate. Guys in a particular hallway would chip in. My parents once sent over bagels. The following year, I had access to the PX at the American Embassy because I had enlisted in the U.S. Air Force Reserves and served that summer as an officer with the 36th Tactical Fighter Wing in Bitburg, Germany. So, that meant buying Pop Tarts, "real" bacon (pancetta just didn't go well with eggs), American coffee (though nothing will compare to cappuccino from Tazza d'Oro), and tea (which you could then only get at Babbington's Tea Room in the Piazza di Spagna).

We'd gather for lunch in the refectory, properly dressed in suits and ties or high-end clerical garb, for a feast of roast turkey with all the trimmings and pumpkin pies baked over a 24-hour period by one of my classmates, Chuck, from Pittsburgh, who had graduated from the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, NY, about a ten minute drive from where I live now in Poughkeepsie. We had other American guests join us, from ambassadors to students, and always started with three toasts: to the president, the pope, and the college. We would gather a couple of hours after the big meal for the annual "Spaghetti Bowl," a football game pitting the "new men," or first year students, against the "old men," or the rest of the house. The game featured live play-by-play. After I returned to the States, I recorded some radio commercials, including jingles,  for the college store -- KNAC -- and sent them over. I'm told they used them for years.

At night, after a VERY light dinner, we gathered in the magnificent auditorium, designed by MGM, to watch the original print of the film Ben Hur. Arrangements for much of the Rome-based filming were smoothed by the then-long-term-rector of the NAC, Archbishop Martin O'Connor from Scranton, PA. The viewing experience was a mix of Rocky Horror and Mystery Science Theater 3000. Some guys came dressed up in period garb, and we all shouted out commentary -- from the comedic to the sacrilegious. Then it was time for expensive calls home. We paid by the "click" -- a counter on the switchboard that went in intervals of ten seconds, which meant bills that could range from $25 to $150. I smartened up after getting some huge initial bills and would call my parents or Pete and ask them to call me right back, since it was much less expensive to call from the States. Even that brief call would be about $1. Remember, this was well before cell phones and global service and payment plans.

It was an opportunity to bond, to shorten the distance from home, and for some, to keep them from leaving because they couldn't deal with being away from family and friends. There would be other holidays that posed homesickness difficulties, most notably Christmas, but there was at least a festive air for those celebrations. Thanksgiving is a uniquely American (U.S. in November, Canada in October) holiday, and when you live in community with 150 countrymen, that shared experience bolstered morale and helped us march on toward exams, work, and travel.

I wonder if the students I've known from my 19 years at Marist (I still teach there) or other colleges and universities felt that same homesickness and how they dealt with is. Perhaps some will let me know in the comments section at the end of this post.

One last thing...I know I haven't posted in awhile, but I hope to be back tomorrow with another entry to reflect on Pope "Frankness" -- a man who is breaking the papal mold and is not afraid to challenge leadership in the church, in nations, and in corporate culture.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

So, You Want to Do Good?

No, that’s not a grammatical error in the title of this post. This is about breaking into a field that allows you to do good things on behalf of others, the field of corporate social responsibility, or CSR. 

A couple of weeks ago, I noticed a discussion thread in the LinkedIn group “Corporate Community, Sustainability and Philanthropy” started by 25-year-old Erik Moss, who works for Catholic Charities in Dallas,Texas. Erik wrote, “I'm a nonprofit professional looking to get into the CSR field. Any tips on making that leap? Do most people start out in PR and then move over to CSR?It was a good question that elicited several responses, including a couple from me and, with Erik’s permission, I’m sharing my mine with you.

I told Erik I entered the CSR field as a paid professional after more than 30 years in journalism and public relations. What helped me was a long-term involvement with community and nonprofit organizations. My career also included high-profile PR positions, which led to me being asked to join some foundation boards.

All of these experiences developed a profile that led a pharmaceutical company, through a connection there, to reach out to me to start their corporate giving and global philanthropy program. That's the other important aspect of this, or any job search – networking and maintaining contacts.

To learn more about this field, visit Web sites like The Chronicle of Philanthropy and the Council on Foundations to learn about CSR, foundation work, and philanthropy. LinkedIn also provides job openings in the CSR field on a weekly basis to members of appropriate groups, including the one mentioned above.

I also recommend being involved as a volunteer or board member of a nonprofit organization. That will help you understand how they operate. That will assist you when, one day, you are in a CSR position as a donor, cause marketer, or provider of engaged employees to volunteer. Such participation in the nonprofit sector will also help connect you to like-minded individuals who will learn of your interest in this field and see what you have accomplished as a volunteer or board member.

Erik raised a question about his age, with a concern that he would be too young to be considered for nonprofit board positions. I told him at 25, he is a prime candidate to serve as a volunteer board member. From what I have come to learn about him, he has energy, insight into his age group (and others, judging by his current work with parents and children), and he can help breathe new life into an organization.

Daniel Torres, a student friend of mine who recently graduated from Marist College, where I still teach, was elected to his school board at 18 and he is running for the New Paltz Town Board this year at age 23. At 21, I was the chair of our city's transportation commission. Local chambers of commerce have young leaders groups that help develop skills and connect them to their communities.

A good writer is worth his or her weight in gold to a nonprofit organization. With extensive layoffs in newsrooms and a diminishing number of traditional news outlets, prospective newsmakers are fighting for a shrinking number of coverage opportunities. You can help an agency develop a blog, a Facebook presence, or a Twitter account if they don't already have those. You can help them with an online newsletter or enhance their Web site. You can lead them to understand how to pitch stories that will get picked up by media, or perhaps even bypass traditional channels by using your social media skills. I told Erik not to let his age or anyone’s perception of him being “too young” impede him from making a mark on the community in which he lives and works.

My advice: pick a cause about which you are passionate and find an agency that has that as part of its mission. Is there a disease that has impacted your family? What about literacy? Is there a set of social issues about which you have strong feelings? I provided links to groups with which I've been involved, but there are thousands more looking for volunteers.

Erik brings another major skill to the table. He’s bilingual. How many companies, agencies, foundations, or other groups lack the ability to offer services or assistance or information in Spanish as well as English? I have two students in my Marist class this semester who are fully bilingual. My advice to any young person – or anyone for that matter – play to your strengths. We all have much to offer.

Career development takes time and while we can plan for our future, there are twists and turns along life’s path that catch us by surprise. Three years ago, I had no idea I would be in the job I am today, nor did I plan my career to develop as it did. Opportunities arise and you have to be ready to accept and take advantage of them -- and I mean "take advantage" in a positive sense. I also believe in karma -- you do good for others and that good is returned to you. That should not be your expectation. One should do something that is good just because it is good. However, if that good is returned to you through an opportunity, accept it with gratitude and grow with that new experience.

One last thing…After less than two months as a program coordinator at Catholic Charities, Erik was promoted to program supervisor, overseeing a staff of eight. That’s a sign of both who he is and what he can do. Those two aspects of one’s professional and personal life are complementary, so I have no doubt that whenever he decides to make the job into corporate social responsibility of philanthropy, he will land on his own two feet.

Sunday, June 30, 2013

SCOTUS Provides Great End to Pride Month, but Equality Remains on the Agenda


My husband Pete and I joined with many LGBT folks and straight allies in celebrating the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling declaring Section 3 of the inappropriately-named Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional. We were also happy SCOTUS deferred to a lower court ruling on Prop 8 based on the standing of those who challenged Judge Vaughn Walker’s decision.

Pete and I will now be able to file all of our income tax forms together, no longer lying on our federal return by saying we are single. We’re covered by inheritance rights heterosexual couples have always enjoyed. If something happens to me, Pete will get my Social Security benefits. If I lose my job, Pete will be covered under whatever meager health benefits we get from COBRA. And we can exchange money between various checking and savings accounts without worrying about exceeding the “gift” amount of $13,000 a year. While we were both born in the U.S., it’s also heartening to see bi-national couples finally able to get a green card for the non-American spouse. Those and more than 1,100 other federal rights have been extended to us and all legally married gay and lesbian couples, catching up to the equal rights we enjoy under New York State law.
Aye, there’s the rub. We’re fine as long as we remain in New York. We can’t consider employment in Florida or a home in North Carolina. If we visit my brother in Texas and one of us were to end up in a hospital, the other half of our legally-sanctioned marriage has no right to determine treatment and can be barred from visiting the injured party. That’s because Section 2 of DOMA remains and we are only legally married if we remain contained in the pen of 13 states that recognize the validity of our union. That section of DOMA was not part of the Windsor case on which the Court made its ruling.

There are still 37 states where we are not equal. There are 29 states where we can be fired for even the suspicion of being gay – though I’m sure our wedding rings would give us away. That’s one state less that the two-thirds needed to pass a constitutional amendment that would effectively strip us of our marriage. So, Rep. Tim Huelskamp’s threat to introduce a “Federal Marriage Amendment” is nothing more than street theater, since it will never pass. I found it rather funny that his speech to propose the amendment, delivered in front of the Supreme Court building, was drowned out by the successful litigants of the Prop 8 case and their attorneys as the descended the steps behind him. God proves yet again S/He has a sense of justice.
Yet, it wasn’t a week of all wins in the fight for equality. The previous day, by the same 5-4 vote that awarded some semblance of equality to gay and lesbian couples, SCOTUS gutted the Voting Rights Act of 1965. States that attempted to put restrictions on voting, only to have them thrown out in court, rejoiced. Texas’ Attorney General said he would move quickly to institute a Voter ID law. Other states have limited voter registration periods, early balloting opportunities, or Election Day voting hours. Rather than encouraging a right that many Americans hold sacred and bemoan low turnout, some states in the north and south are doing their best to suppress access to the that right. I feel the need to point out these are being done in states with Republicans in power.

Growing up as a Caucasian family in a predominantly African-American neighborhood, we learned a lesson on race at a very early age. My father told me when I was five or six that if my friend Kenny and I got “boo-boos,” we’d both bleed the same color blood. I never forgot that. I also never heard either of my parents utter a discriminatory word, phrase or epithet. My mom and I attended the 15th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King’s March on Washington in 1978, going to D.C. with our neighbors; we were the only Caucasians on the bus. I went to public schools and a community college where my classmates ranged in age from 17 to 72 and there was a mixture of races, ethnicities and religions (or no religion at all). It’s why I feel comfortable in any group, except in those that espouse hatred in any form. Sadly, there are many such groups still around. Some of them even have representation in Congress. While I agree with one point made by the SCOTUS majority – areas under federal watch need to be expanded – I don’t expect Congress, the House in particular, to be up to the challenge.

As we end Pride Month, we still should celebrate the progress that has been made, while committing ourselves to the fight for equality and winning the struggles that remain.

One last thing…there are several websites that help LGBT couples navigate the confusing road to semi-equality. Lambda Legal has a good round-up. It’s time for Pete and me to have a will, health-care proxy and all of the other legal paperwork that protects us, even though there is a question as to whether other states would honor it.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Networking Redux

Commencement season is over for the Class of 2013. Time for grads to find a job.

It was a good semester at Marist, with a number of guest speakers agreeing to come up for a visit:  Jake Tapper from CNN; Ryan Davis, then of Blue State Digital and now VP at Vocativ; Matt Soriano from the Council of PR Firms; Adrienne Sabilia of IBM, who brought a famed Big Blue researcher and a PR maven to discuss the results of a study of CEOs’ expectations of graduating college seniors and seniors’ expectations of the marketplace; Stu Shinske, executive editor of the Poughkeepsie Journal; and my husband, Pete Clark, a real estate agent now and formerly one of the top radio sales people anywhere.
As I do each semester, I also brought my class to Manhattan to visit two PR firms where my former students are doing great things. This year, it was Hill & Knowlton, home to David Barton, and Allison + Partners, to visit with Charles Leone.  David and Charles also had human resources execs and newly hired employees join our conversations.

In addition, my former student Andy Clinkman and his girlfriend Caroline Hughes came to hear Ryan Davis’s talk. Andy, at the time, had two entry-level job openings at Kel & Partners, the PR company at which he works in Boston.
These were all great networking opportunities for my students. 

If the concept is understood correctly, networking can provide great value when it comes to landing jobs, and ultimately help you take giant leaps forward in your career.

Networking is nothing more than building a relationship. Done well, networking benefits both parties. How can students network with guest speakers or during visits with alums? First, simply go up to the person, say hello, introduce yourself, thank the speaker or hosts for the taking time to meet with you, and ask for a business card. A thank you email the day after meeting someone reminds the person with whom you’re networking who you are. It also shows you are interested in maintaining contact.
Several speakers, including David and Charles and their co-workers, offered to review student resumes and cover letters. If someone offers to do this for you, take advantage of their generosity. It’s free career advice from professionals in your field. Just make sure what you send is perfect, no typos, grammatical errors, and in proper form.

Follow the person you just met on twitter and ask to connect on LinkedIn. Hold off on Facebook friending. That’s more of a personal social network. Stay professional. Let the relationship develop. You also may not want your new contact to see everything you post on Facebook.
Is there something you saw about your new contact’s company? Send a note to say you caught coverage of the firm in the news. Does your contact have a blog? Read it, Comment on posts.

All relationships require work to be maintained. What do you do with friends? You write, call, visit, go out for a meal or a drink. Networking is no different.
What should you NOT do? Don’t ask for something the first moment you meet, unless you’re invited to do so. When someone connects to me on LinkedIn and his or her first message tries to sell me something, I drop that link. Get to know me and what I do first before you go in for the sales pitch.

We all know the adage, “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.” That is particularly true in today’s competitive job market. You need an advocate within the company at which you would like to work, someone who will raise your resume to the top of the pile, remind someone in the hiring process of your personal and professional qualities, and fill you in on company culture before you go for the interview. You still need the talent and passion to succeed at the job, but when you’re competing with 50, 100, 200 applicants for a single position, you need more than what’s written on paper to advance through the process.
Someday, you will become the person with whom someone wants to network. You may know of a job opening that is not of interest to you but would be of interest to someone else. I tweet many openings like that. They come from friends who asked me to help identify prospective candidates for the job. In other words, there’s a contact there for you. If the opening isn’t of interest to you, perhaps you have a friend, colleague, or former associate who may be. Pass the info along. Give before your receive.

I am a strong believer in karma. You help someone today and that good deed will be repaid to you down the line.
One last thing…I titled this post Networking Redux because I gave an example a year ago of a Marist student who mastered this art and turned a series of internships into maintained relationships that led him to land his first job. That Marist grad, Bryan Terry, recently celebrated his first anniversary with his employer, YNN, Time Warner’s all-news channel, and has been promoted for the second time. He is now video producer for CapitalTonight, a great job for Bryan, who eats, sleeps and breathes news and politics. Remember, networking gets you to a certain point in the process. You then have to prove your value. Bryan understands this. He epitomizes the 12 Rules for New Grads. The results speak for themselves.