Return from the abyss???

It’s been a long time since I have written anything on this blog; over two years to be exact.

I won’t bother telling you why I haven’t paid more attention to this forum, given that I find these types of posts end up becoming me making another broken promise to write more often.

What I will say is that it has been a busy and tumultous two years. A lot has changed since I started this blog and in fact, since I wrote my last post.

When I wrote my last post, my son had just turned one and my wife and I were dealing with his sleep issues. For those of you wondering how he’s doing: he’s fine.

Three years old and sleeping through the night, for the most part. Now if we  could just get him fully potty trained, I would consider that a complete victory.

However, my wife and I now have a new daughter. She is four months old and probably the cutest thing I have ever seen. Of course, I am biased, but still, I’m willing to take odds. 😉 That said, now it is her sleep issues we are dealing with.

Other than that, I am also looking for a new job. I was laid off in February due to a restructuring of my organization’s PR department. The lay off came at a pretty bad time, as my wife is currently on mat leave. Fortunately, we did plan for this type of situation and I have some leeway as I search for a new job.

However, I am still in a bit of a panic, since the goal isn’t to blow through all of our savings, before I find work. So, I have been on the hunt for a new job.

Therefore, if you are reading this blog, you’ll probably hear a lot of complaints as I go through the process of securing employment. (After all, does anyone really like the stress of job hunting?)

If you have any advice for me, feel free to comment. If you know of any jobs that are open, feel free to send them to me through this forum. Better yet, if you have an open position in your organization and want to hire me, you’ve got my full attention (something my wife can’t even get! 😉 )

Wish me luck!

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Talk is Cheap … again

Talk is Cheap, the social media “unconference” first organized by former Centennial College CC&PR program director, Gary Schlee, is back. The unconference, which will be held on November 12 at Centennial’s Centre for Creative Communications will feature a variety of speakers, all talking about the latest trends in social media.

The first time Talk is Cheap was held back in 2007, I was a student in the CC&PR program. I, along with some of my fellow classmates, helped organize the event under Gary’s direction. Despite a limited budget, our relative inexperience with event management and a pretty short timeline, it turned out to be a bigger success than we expected.

More than 160 people came out to listen to over 20 presentations by other communicators and PR professionals about their experiences using social media in public relations.

Because I was helping out during the first conference, I didn’t get a chance to attend any of the seminars. This time around, however, I will make the most of this opportunity, listening to, and hopefully learning a lot about, how I can use social media to the advantage of my organization, Markham Stouffville Hospital.

I’ll also get a chance to see what the new CC&PR class is like and perhaps have the opportunity to hear what they have to say now that Gary has retired and no longer teaching.

So, for any of you looking to get some clear, sound and professional advice about how to use social media in your everyday work, I encourage you to attend Talk is Cheap 2.0. It will very likely be a fun, interesting and informative event as well as a great chance to meet other PR professionals in Toronto.

You can register for Talk is Cheap by heading to the wiki at this link and following the directions.

The missing link…

I finally finished–well almost finished–putting up my profile on Linked In, the networking website for professionals. I first created the profile in mid February as part of a school project.

Since then, it kind of fell off my things-to-do list, mainly due to a healthy amount of procrastination. The fact is, I was never sure what I wanted to put up on my profile. As a student, I couldn’t see the value of using the site to network, since I felt that most of my contacts would be other fellow students. As a communicator, I still felt like too much of a novice–even with all of the contacts I had developed through various projects–to start randomly adding everyone I knew.

What finally prompted me to complete my profile was realizing how important it is to maintain the ties I have developed in the field of communications, especially with my former classmates.

As I found out during a recent get-together with some of them, most of them are beginning to build their own career paths as communicators. By keeping in contact with them, I am able to learn from their experiences and improve my own knowledge, especially in social media and Web 2.0 which have become so vitally important to our industry.

So, six months, 10 days and 14 hours later (give or take a couple of weeks) Joe Chawla has finally made it onto Linked In. For those of you who have been waiting for me to accept your invitations to join and become your contact, my apologies. For those of you who I have recently sent invites to, hopefully it won’t take you six months to respond back to me.

But in case it does, don’t worry … my profile will still be waiting.

Welcome to the (PR) jungle…

Whoo hoo! I have found a job! Actually, in all honesty, I have had the job since about the start of August, but between my sister-in-law’s wedding and waiting for my contracts to come in the mail, I kind of held off writing about my newfound employment.

Now that I have crossed the t’s and dotted the i’s on my contract, I can tell you that I am now one of the new Public Relations Coordinators, handling Media Relations, for Markham Stouffville Hospital. I went for an interview with the organization in mid-July, did a follow-up in late July and was offered the job near the end of the month.

I start on August 25th and will be working with two other people in handling PR for the Hospital. For me, its a great job for several reasons:

1). Markham Stouffville Hospital is a fantastic organization that serves more than 300 thousand people who reside in the communities of Markham, Stouffville and Uxbridge, as well as some residents from the Scarborough and Durham regions.

2.) As an organization MSH’s vision is to “care for its communities through partnerships and the pursuit of excellence”  and its mission is “to make every experience with them great!” These are great values because they signify the committment the organization has to its communities, not to itself. Its easy to do media relations for an organization you respect.

3). Third, in handling media relations I can make use of my broadcasting background, which I hope will give me an edge in delivering great stories about the Hospital.

4). As a PR job its a great opportunity because it’s a full-time, permanent position which means I don’t have to worry in a year or two about finding a new job.

5). Finally, it’s ten minutes away from my home, which means I don’t have to get up an hour and a half in advance to ensure I have time to get to work!

So, I am looking forward to getting started with MSH and helping to spread the word about the organization, its vision and mission, and its work within its surrounding communities.

(P.S. I will still keep writing about some of my job hunting experiences and my time at Newmarket, however, as I am sure they can still provide some value to people who are still looking for a job or internship or getting started on the job hunt.)

Quality over qualifications…

I’ve never been a big fan of job hunting.

The stress of having to write cover letter after cover letter, update your resume to include every single relevant credential and then edit the whole affair to ensure you have no potential mistakes that could leave your application in the trash bin gives me a headache.

But the other frustration I have with job hunting comes from being considered either not qualified enough for a position, or even more surprisingly, too qualified for it.

Now don’t get me wrong. In a way, its a bit flattering having someone tell me that I exceed the qualifications of the position they’re hiring for, especially considering my limited experience in PR. But, at the same time, if I applied for the job, doesn’t that mean I want it and, even more importantly, consider myself qualified for it?

Now I understand the position of the organization. They want to hire someone who will fit nicely into the role, not become easily bored with it, or use it as a stepping stone to move higher in the company leaving them with the task of finding another candidate a year down the road.

But, at the same time, I still feel that if I applied for the job, it’s because I felt I was qualified for it and wanted it.

Furthermore, chances are that I would likely stay in that position for at least a year or two so that I could learn more about the company and how it operates. Then when I finally did make the jump up in my career, all of that carefully cultivated experience and knowledge could be used for the company’s benefit (since I would probably stay with them out of loyalty for hiring me.)

In addition to this, isn’t the expectation of moving up in a company something that any job candidate would consider? After all, who goes into a job wanting to stay at the same position and pay rate for their entire career? Pretty much no one.

So what do you guys think? Is the perception that a potential job candidate is too qualified for a position a fair assessment to make? And if so, isn’t it worth retaining the skills and experience that person could bring the position and the company? If there are any HR people out there who may read this blog, what are your thoughts?

A new look and a new ‘tude…

As many of you may have noticed–that is if I still have any readers left–I’ve been away for a long time. There are plenty of reasons for my absence; none of them really substantial, but I’ll tell you about them in a little bit. The reason for my return, however, is thanks to my colleague, Megan Ramsay.

I was visiting her blog and noticed her new look … and then I proceeded to read about her new look. That got me thinking that perhaps I should begin writing on my blog again, rather than have it drop off as just another completed school project.

So here I am. And with my return comes a new look (like Megan’s) which I hope is a little cleaner, a little more classy and a lot more mature. I am sure that in due time, you readers who still are around will let me know what you think.

So that said, here are some of the main reasons why I haven’t spent much time posting the goings on in my life on this forum.

1. My son. I am sorry but its true. At the end of a hard day, I would much rather cuddle my five month old son than sit here writing about him. If you saw how cute he was, you would understand.

2. The job hunt. I just recently completed my contract at the Town of Newmarket. My internship with the Town became a temporary contract and that is now over. So, for the past few months–during my internship and the extension–I have spent tons of time trying to find a job. Let’s face it … this blog isn’t going to put food in the mouth of my family (or it might, if my writing happens to catch the eye of some PR agency bigwig … hint hint.)

3. The writing process. I tend to be a bit of a perfectionist, so I usually write my blogs in MS Word, edit them, re-edit them again and then edit them one final time before pasting them into wordpress. After that comes the formatting process, trying to get them to look the way I want in wordpress. It’s a long process and one that quite honestly was beginning to turn me off of blogging. Now, I am just going to write and let the grammatical errors fall where they may.

4. The writing process #2. I tend to be a big verbose, or in other words, I don’t know when to shut up. My last few blogs could all have been contenders for university papers and that much writing can get irritating (not just to read, but to write as well.) So, from now on, I plan to try and write less and get to the point faster. Short and sweet (this blog notwithstanding.)

5. GENERAL LAZINESS. That’s right. I am lazy when it comes blogging. The fact is, I see a ton of different stories and issues that I would love to write about, but it always seems to slip my mind when I get home, thanks to the many other activities that present themselves. I mean, let’s face it, would you rather sit at a computer writing about PR, or sit in front of the couch watching So You Think You Can Dance and secretly hoping that the hot brunette and blond don’t get voted off in today’s show. Ah, I see you share my values. Excellent!

(Update – 6. I forgot this reason, but its just as important. Writing about non-PR related stuff. Lets face it, my life doesn’t completely revolve around PR, so having a blog that focuses just on that limits my creative freedom. With my new look, I plan on writing about more than just PR. Hopefully, it will lead to some more interesting discussions and definitely some more interesting posts!)

Well, that’s it. Those are my reasons for not writing on War of the Words. But, like my new look, I hope my new ‘tude towards my blog won’t wane and that I can start making up for some lost time. So for those of you who have left me, COME BACK! COME BACK! And for those of you who just met me, DON’T GO! DON’T GO! Otherwise … enjoy, leave me your comments, and don’t be a hater! Peace!

P.S. Corporate Communications Class of 2007/2008 … I miss you guys!

Pouring water on the Flame

The 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics have become a joke. Despite the attempts of China and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to minimize the impact of the protests following the torch relay—or point to parallels with the 1980 and 1984 boycotts—the reality is that there has never been this much opposition to a particular country hosting the Olympic Games as there is with China.

The Olympic torch is extinguished during its travels through Paris. (Photo courtesy of the National Post)

So is it fair or not? Is it true, like China keeps asserting, that the Olympics is purely a sporting event and that politics should be kept out of it; or do the protesters have it right? Should China be subjected to widespread criticism and protest because of their horrid human rights record?

Personally, I believe the latter argument.

The fact is that ever since the 1989 Tianamen Square massacre, China has been on the losing end of a major public relations crisis. And for the most part, they have never cared. That’s because they have never needed to. With countries like Canada and the U.S. bending over backward just to keep the Asian giant a favored trading partner, China has held all the aces against its North American counterparts—despite the rhetoric we seem to constantly hear from Canadian and U.S. officials about having a “positive dialogue on human rights” with Chinese officials.

And that’s the problem. It’s been complete rhetoric from the start. The reality is that politics has always been a part of the Olympics. How else did Beijing—one of the world’s most polluted cities—win the coveted sporting event? There were other cities who wanted the Games and had never hosted them before. Those cities were also willing to build the needed infrastructure to win the Olympics; and like China, believed that hosting the Games would have a positive impact on form them and their residents.

It was only by playing the political card and promising the IOC that hosting the Olympics would be “a catalyst for social change” that China beat out its competitors. And we are beginning to see what a boldly successful lie that was.

Because now, as IOC president Jacques Rogge, politely encourages Chinese leaders to “fulfill their moral pledges”, he is being equally as kindly told to “mind his own business.” Ouch! Guess that must smart!

So, it’s pretty fair to say that the IOC has only itself to blame. Their carefully calculated decision to award China the Olympic Games (over more worthy recipients) and potentially spur some sort of social revolution has been ground into the dust; along with the support and goodwill the Games normally enjoy.

And though one should feel bad that the athletes who have trained for years to attend these Games must now compete under the glare from human rights protesters; similarly China should learn a strong lesson from this; that invariably they are not immune to world criticism and despite the carefully crafted message they force feed their populace, this 2008 Beijing Olympics will never represent what the real Olympic Games and spirit is truly about.

Of course, if none of that makes any difference to them, then perhaps this should–what are their future chances of scoring another world sporting event? Well, if the dramatically shortened and disastrous torch relay; the possible call to boycott the Games by world leaders, athletes and coaches; and the scorn and criticism from millions of people around the world is any indication; no international sporting body—in its right mind—will likely ever choose China as the host for another event.

So, enjoy the 2008 Summer Olympics while you can, China. I think you’ve done a marvelous job in taking one of the world’s most prestigious sporting events and making it into the biggest joke ever.

But then again it doesn’t seem like anyone is laughing.

(Photo courtesy of The National Post)