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The Eternal Cheerleader - Why Being the Most Positive Person in the Office Pays off

With a calendar packed to the brim with requests for proposals and qualifications to be updated, how does a marketing pro remain positive and sane with deadlines constantly looming over us? The answer to this question looks different for everyone, but I think there’s common ground we all stand on: a positive approach to work leads to a balanced and productive work life. An uplifted attitude has many benefits, some may not show themselves in daily, tangible ways but the lasting effects of a team player attitude are impactful.

The alternative is an attitude that defaults to panic in the face of a heavy workload. This pattern can quickly breed uncertainty and discomfort in a team. We may have ten deadlines and five days to do them but responding as a victim to our circumstances will only complicate the process of tackling the task at hand. When your workload seems insurmountable, take a moment to check yourself and assess where your priorities need to fall in that situation. Below are some helpful tips to dialing into situations at work that have us reaching for a piping hot cup of negativity.

Is this task a huge problem or several, manageable problems? By breaking your mountains into hills, you afford yourself a greater number of success opportunities. The productivity experts at Trello write, “When we experience even small amounts of success, our brains release dopamine, which is connected to feelings of pleasure, learning and motivation.” Therefore, by boiling our problems into smaller, strategic items we increase our levels of dopamine thus improving our mood, attitude, and ultimately our environment.

Everyone deserves a win - Comradery in the workplace is an honorable goal, but when achieved and continued through bonding over common gripes and dislikes, comradery can become a feeding ground for poor attitudes. Be the change! Become the catalyst of change for negative groupthink and establish yourself as the flagpole to which your teammates can stand under and know they’ll feel encouraged and uplifted in times of shaky circumstances. Everyone deserves a win; be the beacon of light, be the spokesperson of positivity, be the cheerleader.

Dude, it’s ALL about Perspective - It takes everyone from the c-suite executive to the big idea designer to the copy writer to land a job. When we step back from the unnerving intricacies of what our roles as marketers are and embrace the truth that we are an integral part of the pie, no matter what size, we gain the pride of being a part of the team. Perspective breeds positivity.

Ask for help - Set an internal threshold meter of how much work you can comfortably manage that allows you ample time for creativity but also challenges your limits. Then, express that to your manager. A manager or boss who truly advocates for you will appreciate your honesty and go to bat for you and your abilities. Waiting until you are in panic mode to raise the white flag opens the door for mistakes heightened by stress, unclear thinking, and resentment. A clear set of expectations opens the door for positive motives to fuel you.

The goal to generate a more positive approach to work is achieved in slow progression, it is built upon tiny tweaks in the way we think, communicate, process, and interact. Take your time, check in with yourself and your superiors throughout the process, and you will slowly reveal to those around you the life-changing true of a positive attitude.

 
Michelle Harrison
Senior Marketing Coordinator, SmithGroupJJR

Michelle has been in the industry for the past four years as a Senior Marketing Coordinator at SmithGroupJJR. Although not currently a SMPS member, this is Michelle’s second guest blog post for our chapter! In her free time she enjoys road tripping and camping with her adventure cat, Mango.

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The Importance of Risk Taking

Think of what our world would be like if we didn’t have Microsoft, there was no U.S. flag on the moon, or if we didn’t have the ability to fly around the world. Furthermore, imagine the 90’s without Seinfeld, no importance of a yellow submarine, and bridal fashion not being as impactful as it is today. If it wasn’t for adventurous risk takers, our world would be completely different. Bill Gates dropped out of college in order to help create Microsoft. Neil Armstrong signed up to be the first person on the moon. The Wright brothers invented and successfully flew the first airplane. Moreover, Jerry Seinfeld was booed off the stage at his first comedy club show. When the Beatles were first starting out, a recording company told them no because they didn’t like their sound. Finally, Vera Wang has changed the bridal fashion industry as a result of her not winning an Olympic medal as a figure skater. What do all of these people have in common? They are risk takers! Risks make us feel alive; we are built to take risks.

Taking risks has always played a crucial role in both my professional and person life. After graduating college in three years, I packed up my car and drove west for 28 hours straight. I had never been to Arizona, nor did I know anyone in the area. However, I knew this would require me to step outside of my comfort zone and challenge my abilities to truly be on my own in a foreign place. Some people thought I was brave, some thought I was crazy for giving up Tennessee weather for the desert. However, Iwas just doing something that came natural to me – taking a risk. It has been almost two years since I’ve taken the jump, and I have learned so much about myself that I know I wouldn’t have learned if I stayed within my comfort zone. When you move to a town where you don’t know anyone, it allows you to realize how independent you are, and opens your eyes to a whole new world you never knew existed. Of course, being away from my friends and family can be tough at times, but my Tennessee crew is always visiting me, I take frequent trips back home, and at the end of the day, I’m still just as close to the ones I love as I was on the day I took this adventure. Danny Wallace once said, “Maybe sometimes it’s riskier not to take a risk. Sometimes all you’re guaranteeing is that things will stay the same.” I find that this quote is an exact reflection and mindset on my move out west and the importance of taking risks.

Another feature of being a risk taker is that it shows you have confidence. Whether you are interviewing for a job, or walking into a bar – confidence is always key. Stepping outside of your comfort zone is an easy way to set you apart from your peers and often leads to promotions, opportunities and new relationships. Lastly, taking risks helps overcome the fear of failure. I could’ve easily taking a job with the company I interned with, or with agencies and companies that knew me in my college town. There were certain points leading up to my departure out west when the thought of failing crossed my mind. But I kept my focus and thought to myself: what’s the worst thing that  could happen? If it didn’t work out in Arizona, I knew I could easily pick another place on the map to try out. The point is, if we all lived in fear of failing, we would never live at all. And if we shut down after failing at something, then we will never make our mark on this world. 

If taking a huge risk, like moving across the country, is too much for you to bare, than start small! Taking a risk for one person, might not be risky at all for the next person. At the same time, what might be risky for someone, might seem too extreme for someone else. It’s all about finding balance and what works for you. However, if you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always gotten.

When’s the last time you took a risk?

 
Ashley Codispoti
Business Development Coordinator, Holder Construction Company

Ashley has worked at Holder Construction Company and has been a SMPS Arizona Member for the past two years. In her free time she loves to go backpacking. She has found that being between trees, on top of a mountain or sleeping in a hammock is when she can truly find herself! 

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Learning the Why

Starting a new career can be intimidating, especially coming from outside the industry. Moving into a marketing position was a brand new exciting step. I was entering this fast-paced, quick-thinking, creative position that not only required me to master new computer programs, but to learn different areas of the marketing as well. I caught myself asking the same types of questions: What is required of the job? What are the company standards? What services does the firm offer? The list went on and on. In the beginning, I simply just jumped in and got the job done. However, I was missing the age-old question of WHY. Why did we as a firm decide to go after this pursuit? Why are we not attending every conference?

 Learn More about the Industry

When I joined my firm as a Marketing Coordinator a year and a half ago, I was privileged to join SMPS. This was the best move my company urged me to make because, again, I did not  know everything marketing encompassed or the industry itself. I never asked why I was joining this organization, and after my first event, that answer was crystal clear to me.

Through this organization I am constantly learning necessary tools that help inspire me to be better, both professionally and personally. SMPS has helped explain not only the why of certain aspects in this career/industry, but the who, what and where as well. Why social media is important in this industry, why branding is important, why a marketing plan is essential to the firm’s long-term goals and to the team, why fonts matter in marketing, and more. These are all crucial questions that I might not have even began to think about and that I am being challenged to learn and ask. Asking why has helped me learn more about this industry as a whole and helped me be more successful.

Learn More about Your Company

Asking why we do certain things helped me understand my firm better. It allowed me to see the behind- the-scenes view of the proposals, conferences, newsletters and marketing campaigns. I learned that each firm has a certain number of pursuits they plan out years ahead of time to win. I learned more about my firm’s five-year plan. By asking why, I have developed a deeper understanding of my role, my company’s goals are clearer and I am more invested in my work.    
                                         

Learn What Truly Inspires You
When I first began my career in this industry, I didn’t ask why. I simply went through the motions, just like a robot, and there were times I felt uninspired. I wasn’t in tune with the bigger picture of how my work was playing a role, other than meeting a deadline. I needed to find my purpose and figure out what about my work inspired me. Showing my desire to learn more about the company helped me find my inspiration. From the answers to my many “why” questions I left like I was shown a secret passage door to the inside workings of the firm. Ultimately, it showed me that my work does matter to the firm. It made me more emotionally vested and helped me regain inspiration when sometimes it is easy to lose.  

I urge everyone to step back and remember the reason why we do things. Remember, don’t just think of your why for your company, but think of your why personally. Learn, grow, get involved and ask essential and sometimes uncomfortable questions, because the results are worth it. To me, digging deep to find the “why” has made me a better person and marketer.  

When is the last time you’ve reflected on YOUR why? What makes you invested? What gives you motivation?


Kristy Lopez 
Marketing and Project Coordinator, Dibble CM

Kristy has been in the A/E/C industry for three years and was immersed in the marketing position within the field one and a half years ago. As she became a Marketing and Project Coordinator for Dibble CM, she also joined SMPS. As an active member of SMPS, Kristy participated in the 2016-2017 Mentorship program. In her free time, she loves spending time with her husband and son. She also enjoys reading murder mystery novels and watching movies! 

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How Trying (and Failing) to be a Fiction Writer Prepared Me for Marketing

August 10, 2017 marked the end of my first year in A/E/C marketing and business development. It also marked the end of the first year in ten that I have not written a short story. This is a less disturbing thought to me now than it would have been to my 18-year-old self who daydreamed of being the next Ernest Hemingway or Eudora Welty. I think this is in large part because as a marketer, I still use many of the skills I developed while writing fiction on a day-to-day basis.

Skill 1: Rejection aka Patience

“After careful review by our editors and readers, we have decided not to publish your short story. While we liked it and found it to be well-written, it is not a good fit for our journal.”

I have an archived folder of over 100 emails along these lines. Number of acceptance letters? Three. I tried to be strategic about writing. Tried to figure out which stories were most likely to be accepted based on what else the magazine published, who their audience was, how long their typical selections were, whether or not the issue was themed, and on and on. For two of my three published pieces that strategy paid off. The third was an 800-word story I jotted off in 45 minutes and sent out to a few magazines because I was exhausted by overthinking and I just wanted to see what would happen.

The above experiences have taught me to shake off failure, learn what I can from it, and start plugging away on the next project.  Also, overthinking every little detail can do as much harm as good –sometimes you just have to go with your gut, especially when deadlines are looming.

Skill 2: Editing aka Precision

Each one of my rejection letters resulted in a frenzied few days of revising, rewriting, restructuring, and time spent on thesauraus.com. I would read my stories aloud and listen to how the words sounded together, identifying clunky areas of writing. If a sentence got revised too many times and I couldn’t get it right, it got cut. Sometimes entire stories went the way of the recycle bin icon, which felt a little like cutting out a piece of my heart, but they were necessary abandonments.

All this to say I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about words. Now, when I’m drafting a cover letter or pulling together a qualifications packet I can revise to be precise and succinct. As with my fiction writing, I keep the reader in mind. What do they want to read? What will resonate with this audience/client? This process, along with working with an amazing team, has my marketing hit rate well above that of my fiction writing.

Skill 3: Research aka Curiosity

Fiction Research: What was Arizona like in the early 1900s when tuberculosis patients made up most of the population? What would it be like to deep sea dive? What equipment do you need to do it? What vegetables grow best in South Carolina? How many beads would it take to embroider an 18th century ball gown?

Marketing Research: How many projects have we worked on with Client X? Where do they have locations? Which employees are we connected with on LinkedIn? How many parcels have they purchased in AZ in the last five years? Which of our engineers in the Dallas office specializes in master planned residential communities? Have we done any aviation projects in Idaho?

You get the picture. Knowledge is power in any genre.

Skill 4: Problem Solving aka Getting Creative

In the creative writing world people like to say every story that is going to be told has already been told. The basics – man v. man, man v. nature, man v. self, man v. society – are at the heart of every tale. (I’m using “man” as a word for human but obviously, ladies rock and are crucial to literary history and life in general.) If these are the only narratives that exist, our job is not to try to invent something completely new, but to make them resonate in a new way, to create our own style.

This idea of taking what is already there and making it unique feels the most applicable to marketing and is also the most challenging. I work for an engineering firm. There are thousands of other choices for our clients. The narratives have already been told (local experience, years of experience, national clients, multidiscipline, etc.). So how do we make ourselves stand out? The only way is to get creative about messaging, to solve the same old problems in new ways, and grab the client’s attention with a new approach.

Failure is not permanent. My goal for the next year, while at Kimley-Horn, is to get a short story published again. In the meantime, I’ll keep right on marketing.


Chelsea Hickok 
Marketing and Business Development, Kimley Horn

Chelsea has been in the A/E/C industry and at Kimley Horn for just over a year. She's been an active member of SMPS for eight months and participated in the 2016-2017 Mentorship program. In her free time, Chelsea loves backpacking, wine-tasting and reading lots and lots of fiction! 

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What I Learned from the F Word: From Failure to Fortune

“Successful people are not people who never fail. They’re people who know how to fail really, really well” (Karen Salmansohn).

Failure is part of life, but I never explicitly learned how to handle failure in productive ways. I was originally reading Option B by Sheryl Sandberg and The Bounce Back Book by Karen Salmansohn to learn about personal grieving and loss. The books are about so much more, and I found something I didn’t know I was looking for. I found that resilience was one of the keys to strong marketing professionals. These techniques aren’t just helpful in my personal struggles; they are tools for my career in marketing professional services. These tools help the marketing professional with personalization, feedback, perfection, loss, rejection, and more.

Marketing professional services is a unique career. I continue to improve my marketing skills including document layout, writing, presentations and graphics. As I dive deeper into my career, resilience is another skill that takes a significant amount of awareness and practice.

Warning: description of a proposal loss ahead.

As marketing professionals, we take ownership of each pursuit. We customize each submission and leave it all on the page. We comply with everything requested – checking each box. We put hours into perfecting every detail until we feel confident with our submission.

We feel the joys of being asked to interview for the project. We practice and strategize with our teams. This is the moment for which we have trained. We’re perfect for this project.

You wait for days that feel like months or months that feel like years. You anxiously refresh your browser and inbox.

Then you receive the letter – your firm wasn’t selected. Your heart drops followed by your neck’s strength.

Several of my marketing role models have their own stories. The more time you have invested, the harder it hurts. Everyone’s loss is unique.

Rejection doesn’t go away and neither does the pain of rejection, but some of the strongest marketing professionals are those that bounce back quickly. Failure and resilience are part of the job.

The techniques below are helpful with adversity, loss, failure, rejection and more. They have also helped me to become a better support system for others who go through their own struggles. Here are some ways to turn failure into fortune.

Avoid the three Ps.

Martin Seligman found that the following 3 P’s can stunt recovery:

  1. Personalization — the belief that we are at fault
  2. Pervasiveness — the belief that an event will affect all areas of our life
  3. Permanence — the belief that the aftershocks of the event will last forever

“It’s not only the event itself, but the way we explain the event to ourselves that causes depression” (Salmansohn).

The book continues, “What beliefs has your adversity triggered? What type of person does it make you feel like?” Salmansohn urges us to be aware of our negative self-talk.

I’m not good enough. (personal)
I’ll never be able to do this. (permanence)
This always happens. (pervasive)

Talk about it.

Always debrief with your team and your client. Keep a couple of rules in mind. Salmansohn explains that if you ask the wrong questions, you’re going to get the wrong answers. Why didn’t I…? What if…? Or Why me? These questions slow our recovery time and personalize the situation. Instead, make sure your debrief questions and your self-talk are geared toward productive questions. What can I do to move forward? What’s within my control? How can I grow from this challenge? It’s very important to keep personalization out of a debrief conversation to avoid a defensive meeting.

Sandberg discusses the importance of acknowledging her situation with her team, which helped her feel less isolated. When we validate our team members on their experiences, we’re building a supportive team that encourages growth from rejection.

“Teams that focus on learning from failure outperform those that don't.” For Sandberg, failure is a learning opportunity.

Avoid iceberg beliefs.

“Iceberg beliefs are thoughts that float beneath the surface of your consciousness: powerful forces that can significantly undermine your resilience and cause you to overreact to a situation” (Salmansohn). These are like the three Ps. They sound like self-doubt and disguise themselves as actual truths. One way to overcome iceberg beliefs is to write a proof of inaccuracy next to each iceberg belief.

Finally, I’ll end with a poem, Autobiography In Five Short Chapters, written by Portia Nelson

Chapter I

I walk down the street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I fall in.
I am lost... I am hopeless.
It isn't my fault.
It takes forever to find a way out.

Chapter II

I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I pretend I don't see it.
I fall in again.
I can't believe I am in this same place.
But it isn't my fault.
It still takes a long time to get out.

Chapter III

I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I see it there.
I still fall in... it's a habit... but,
my eyes are open.
I know where I am.
It is my fault.
I get out immediately. 

Chapter IV

I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I walk around it. 

Chapter V

I walk down another street.

To me, this poem illustrates my journey of self-awareness. There are times where I am aware that I personalize a situation, I fall in a hole, and it takes me a while to get out. There are times of growth where I can catch myself ruminating, and I get out of the hole immediately. I sometimes bounce back faster than I have in the past. I’m still working on walking down another street, which means trying these productive habits when adversity crosses my path. Sometimes it’s helpful to be reminded that there are other roads and that you aren’t always walking alone.

Sources:
Option B by Sheryl Sandberg
The Bounce Back Book by Karen Salmansohn
Autobiography in Five Short Chapters by Portia Nelson

 
Jennifer Giralo 
Marketing Coordinator, Archer Western Construction

Jennifer has been in the A/E/C industry for the past five years and a SMPS member for four years. She was previously the SMPS website chair and will have an active role within the chapter in the upcoming 2017-2018 year. Jennifer is improviser, she creates stories and characters onstage. She also performs one-woman musicals in her car during her commutes. 

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