Tag Archive: Mentoring


Couldn’t believe my ears.

Did my post-graduate classmate in “Teaching and Professional Life” just state ex-cathedra that (being) “mean is awesome” when it comes to teaching impressionable undergraduate college students?larrysumners

For some reason, the author of Almost DailyBrett can’t just simply vanquish these words, uttered by a Ph.D candidate in communications, from his personal DRAM.

Sure wouldn’t want to be in her classroom.

The question for today is whether this brand of arrogance, callousness and potential cruelty is reaching epidemic proportions on college and university campuses?

What blew me away is that some were actually nodding their heads in affirmation.

I couldn’t agree less.

Who Are Our Customers?

Almost DailyBrett is not universally loved by privileged graduate teaching fellow (GTF) types, so these next thoughts may not be especially well-received either.

When it comes to colleges and universities, who is paying the bills (e.g., salaries, benefits, stipends)? Besides donors and grants, the main answer lies with parents/guardians of students, the students themselves waiting tables, taking out loans or the combination of all the above.

The Economist reported this week that average annual fees at private universities are $31,000 and approximately $10,000 at public universities. The typical college student, who may spend up to six years on campus, will be saddled with $40,000 in debt whether or not she or he graduates.studentloans

And you want to be mean to these students and by natural extension, their families?

And wouldn’t one think that since these students are indeed a prime source of college/university largesse, the service providers (e.g., professors, instructors, GTFs) would actually be nice to their “customers?”

What’s that?

Some believe strongly that colleges and universities should not be run like businesses? They are mostly non-profit. Right? So they should be oriented toward searching for the truth rather than preparing students to find a job? Maybe that attitude und Weltanschauung is at least partially the source of the meanness.

Mentoring/Not Meanness

Academic politics are so vicious precisely because the stakes are so small.” – Former Secretary of State and Harvard Professor Henry Kissinger

Let’s face the truth.

College and university faculty meetings are generally not happy gatherings. Hours are spent in academic debate, but little if anything changes with the exception of tuition, fees and administrative hirings going up.

Some faculty members have a difficult time impacting their own worlds, so they are not usually in a good mood entering the classroom. This is where meanness and ruthlessness is carried out, just make sure every rule and regulation is included in the syllabus. Maybe, these particular faculty types are more suited to being bureaucrats in Washington, D.C.

Don’t get me wrong, faculty members (e.g., professors, instructors, GTFs) cannot be friends with students, but that doesn’t mean we should be enemies. We should care about our students, and the best teachers do just that.

This is where another “M-word” comes into play: Mentoring. We should not be teaching exclusively out of a book, but instead we should be providing real-time knowledge about how the professional world really works.

Our students should venture out into the work-place with their eyes wide open. They should be trained to speak not the words of students, but the language of the workplace. They should know the difference between the top-line and the bottom-line, between revenues and net income or loss.

They should embrace buy low, sell high. They should prove their own return on investment (ROI), not just their degree, but a record of solid experience articulated in cover letters, resumes and LinkedIn profiles.people1

If a student demonstrates and proves her/his preparedness for competition for publicly traded/privately held/for profit/non-profit positions, then we as educators should be willing to provide a graduating student with a reference and all the help that we can.

Will the mean professor do that?

Almost DailyBrett has found that very few things in life are more uplifting than reading/hearing about one of your former students being hired and embarking on what very well could be, a rewarding career.

Instead of being mean, let’s mentor with a little tough love, if necessary. Let’s encourage our students to seek out and attain the best anti-poverty, wealth-creation program ever invented: a well-paying private sector position with full benefits and maybe a stock option or two.

All it requires is a little TLC and some mentoring too.

http://www.economist.com/news/united-states/21646219-college-america-ruinously-expensive-some-digital-cures-are-emerging-log

https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2014/12/03/are-striking-uo-graduate-teaching-fellows-certifiable/

https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2014/12/27/dealing-with-online-hecklers/

http://quoteinvestigator.com/2013/08/18/acad-politics/

 

 

 

 

 

The shattered pieces of the glass ceiling may lie on the floor, but no one is partying.

In case you haven’t noticed it, women dominate the profession of public relations.

When I was a senior vice president at A&R Edelman in San Mateo, CA, there were 134 on our staff, 110 were women.

There was no line for the men’s room; physiology had nothing to do with it.

Teaching and lecturing upper-division public relations courses at the University of Oregon School of Journalism and Communication, more than once I entered a classroom and there was not a male face to be found.

Who invited me?

The ratio of women-to-men students majoring in Public Relations at UO is north of 7-to-3. Similar women-to-men out of balance ratios can be found at other university PR departments.

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Women may be dominating in numbers, but compensation is sadly a very different story.

San Diego State School of Journalism & Media Studies Professors David M. Dozier, Bey-Ling Sha and Hongmei Shen reported the pay differentials between men and women in public relations in their Why Women Earn Less Than Men: The Cost of Gender Discrimination in U.S. Public Relations.

The quantitative study of Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) members, published in Public Relations Journal, revealed that male public relations practitioners earn on the average $84,368, compared to women at $76,063. That amounts to an $8,305 difference in annual salary between the two genders. At first glance, that figure sounds relatively close.

However, the magnitude of the different pay for equal work comes into play when you multiply the $8,305 over the course of a 40-year career, bringing the total to a staggering $332,200 loss of earning power for women practitioners, their children and their families.

That’s serious money.

You could outright buy a very comfortable house in Eugene, Oregon with that amount or maybe make a down payment for a home in Silicon Valley. More than $300,000 is the difference between a comfortable retirement, and being forced to flip hamburgers in your Golden Years.

Dozier, Sha and Shen offered several potential explanations for this inequity including differences in experience, career-interruptions (e.g., babies and family) and simply because of gender.

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One area that was studied by these San Diego State profs that still needs more attention are choices of specific jobs made by the two genders. The academics noted that corporate PR shops ($88,823 average salary) had more men, while non-profits ($62,275 average salary) were composed of more women. There is a major difference in pay and yet more women gravitate to non-profits than men. America is a free country, but are non-profits the right choice?

Community relations pays on the average $63,437 annually. In contrast, financial relations provides the highest rate of compensation in the industry, an average of $117,233 per year. Are enough women focusing on investor relations and corporate public relations? IMHO, they should. Not only do these categories pay extremely well, they also require one to be talented both qualitatively (e.g., developing relationships with buy-and-sell-side analysts) and quantitatively (e.g., reading income statements and balance sheets).

There is also the question of the technician vs. manager divide as the former will most likely always be compensated in five figures, while the latter potentially leads to the six-figure salaries. Every profession needs worker bees, but there is no justification for one gender making up the majority of subordinates.

What can college and university instructors do to help rectify this inequity? The word “mentoring” comes immediately to mind. What if…

● We encourage women public relations majors to take Strategic Business/Financial Communications and other business communications classes to have a better understanding of businesses. Every organization – for profit or non-profit – operates on the basis of an income statement and a balance sheet. Remember GAAP (Generally Accepted Accounting Principles) is your friend.

● In group settings, more times than not, it is the male of the species that is clamoring to be the group leader. Why don’t we quietly encourage more women students to lead these groups? If this experience is positive, it could spur more women to pursue the road-to-six-figure managerial jobs. Yes, industry always needs its technicians, but skilled managers as well.

● Another huge positive that comes from group leadership is the management of people. Keep in mind, not everyone is cut out to supervise and encourage employees. Having said that, organization management is a skill that will always be in demand, and it cannot be effectively outsourced.

● We present the full gambit of positions that are available in public relations, not just community relations, internal communications and non-profit communications, but corporate public relations, investor relations, reputation/brand management and crisis communications.

Guess which ones pay the most?

● The same also applies to chosen end market. There is more to life than just non-profits and PR agencies (I served in both), but also corporate and government (I toiled here and there as well). Where is the compensation the greatest? The answer usually revolves around where the supply is the smallest; the demand and challenges are the greatest.

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Almost DailyBrett wishes for a magic wand to wave away the last vestiges of ugly and flat-out wrong sexism and racism from global societies.

Absent supernatural powers, we can instead take positive mentoring steps to help close and eliminate the pay inequity between men and women in public relations. Today is a great day to start.

http://www.prsa.org/Intelligence/PRJournal/Documents/2013DozierShaShen.pdf

http://womeninbusiness.about.com/od/sexual-discrimination/a/Corporations-Sued-For-Gender-Discrimination-Against-Women-And-Men.htm

https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2011/05/01/pr%E2%80%99s-endangered-species/

https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2013/07/31/where-are-the-guys/

 

 

 

“Giving Back” Thru Mentoring?

Undoubtedly, one of the most hyped phrases in our language is the concept of “giving back.” This notion has been used so many times in so many places that it has become almost cliché.

Even after acknowledging this point we still need to ask: Does the present generation of senior communicators owe it to our profession and society to pass along our knowledge and insights to the next generation of communicators?

Writing checks is nice, but is it even more valuable to impart as mentors hands-on knowledge based upon our years of experience in strategic communications?

As I contemplate this question of “giving back,” I reflect back to one of the responsibilities that did not fit into the position description of a gubernatorial press secretary: Meeting and answering questions from visiting university, community college, high school, middle school and even elementary school students.

During my three years as the Press Secretary to California Governor George Deukmejian in Sacramento http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_Deukmejian, I was repeatedly asked to serve as the face of the administration to delegations of visiting students. I would encourage these students to pursue public service or at least to harbor a profound interest in government and politics. Sometimes the questions were tough, many were unfair or completely off-base, but the students nonetheless demonstrated their desire to learn and even to challenge authority.

As I moved from the public sector into roles with two major industry trade associations, a publicly traded high technology company and to a senior position in an international public relations firm, I was periodically asked to lecture classes on effective communications. Some of these schools included: UC Berkeley, Oregon State, San Francisco State and just recently Santa Clara University.

At Santa Clara, I lectured both MBA and undergraduate students about how to communicate to Wall Street and investors. I realized in making these presentations and seeing the enthusiasm that they generated that these students were clearly appreciating that the world of financial communications was changing at a breakneck pace.

This rate of change is not just limited to the financial sphere as digital technology, the ubiquitous ones and zeroes, are making instantaneous communication and lightning-fast responses a never-changing fact of life. We now have the ability to self publish and to share with the world our deepest thoughts.

Social media or conversational marketing via digital key strokes is something that Johannes Guttenberg http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Johannes_Gutenberg could not even fathom when he invented the printing press in Mainz, Germany. But one thing has been constant since then; technology has made communication faster, more efficient and global.

Many cannot stop talking about and tweeting on Twitter, amassing their connections on LinkedIn.com, watching videos on YouTube or counting friends on Facebook. They are commenting on breaking global events via their blogs or reading, listening and viewing what others are saying via cyberspace, bypassing the “traditional media,” particularly the dying pencil “press.”

The hot social media tools of today most likely will not be the hot social media tools of tomorrow. New techniques are being written today (e.g. Google’s “Buzz” http://www.google.com/buzz) not on parchment paper, but rather in the form of software code.

Will students and society as a whole be prepared for these new techniques and their implications? What are the responsibilities of self publishing in the wake of fewer and fewer conventional media outlets? Will bloggers become the reporters of the 21st century, thus setting new standards for journalism?

Most importantly, what can we do to help these students in facing these brand new challenges? We all have our unique stories and experiences. Is it our duty to serve as mentors and to pass this knowledge on to those who can use it for their respective careers?

Looking back, I have been extremely fortunate to have many different experiences in my career. But I still keeping going back in mind replaying the scene in the Governor’s bill signing room filled with students and their teachers with a particular gleam in their eyes and engaging questions flowing off their tongues.

They wanted to learn.

They wanted to explore.

They wanted to challenge convention.

I was more than happy to help them in their quests.

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