You’re more than a business card or a Twitter handle

Angela Minicuci

The ability to network online is more prevalent now than ever and we should all be taking advantage of the many opportunities provided by the countless free services available. Your chances for connecting with colleagues online — past, present and future — are growing and expanding.

In my “spare” time, I’m an adjunct instructor at Michigan State University. Last semester, I had a former intern come in to talk to my class. She’s a great example of what a go-getter can accomplish at a young age. Angela Minicuci talked to my students about her college and professional career path. She delivered a fantastic message to the students about the importance of networking. It’s a message we all need to learn and then relearn from time to time.

Here are Angela’s tips, with some added thoughts from me:

  • Internships can give you experience that you can put in your portfolio and on your resume. (I would add that this goes both ways, because professionals who are supervising interns can learn a lot, too.)
  • Networking isn’t just shaking hands and exchanging business cards. Go to events, put yourself in uncomfortable situations and show people you can handle it. Establish a personal and professional relationship with them. (“It’s not personal, it’s just business” can be true, but being a person is important.)
  • You’re a real person, not just an email address. (I would urge all of you to forget that LinkedIn provides an auto-populated message when you try to connect with someone. Please personalize those notes!)
  • You’re always going to be a student. You always have to allow yourself to grow. (That’s part of why I made this blog post. If you stop learning, you stop growing and just become stagnant, both personally and professionally.)
  • Work hard, give to the community, network and be humble. (We all know people who work hard at their day jobs and then spend countless hours giving back to their profession and communities through volunteer work or donation of professional services. When you see these people going above and beyond the call of duty, give them a shout-out on a social network or take the time to stop and thank them personally. Volunteers don’t do their volunteering for recognition, but that doesn’t mean they don’t like receiving it!)

All of Angela’s tips are great ones, whether you’re a student, a young professional or a seasoned pro. Learn, grow, share, rinse, repeat…you get the idea. Online or offline, with a personal notecard, a friendly e-mail or a shout-out on a social media site – get busy networking. The rewards are well worth the effort.

This is why we teach

I’ve been an adjunct instructor at Michigan State University for 10 years this December. Looking back, I had no idea how many lives I would be touching in positive ways when I walked into my first classroom and wrote my name on the chalkboard. (For the record, I think I’ve used a chalkboard once in the past five years.)

Being a teacher isn’t easy. In this era of whirlwind technological developments, every week adds another handful of things to the stack of information to share with your students so they can be as well-educated as possible when they leave your classroom. Of course, just because something new has come along, that doesn’t necessarily mean something older can now be ignored. Sure, some stuff can drop off, but it’s rare to find things that don’t retain some relevancy in a lesson plan due to historic impact or context.

The pay isn’t great for adjunct instructors, but then, school teachers in general are not at the top of the pay scale in most cities. There are plenty of issues to deal with when it comes to keeping up with lesson plans, student homework assignments, grading, testing, attendance, excuses, requests for extra help and basic politics that occur in any job. So, one might wonder, what keeps teachers coming back into that classroom day after day, week after week? Why do we teach?

It’s about the students. It’s about seeing those lightbulbs go off over their heads when they figure something out. It’s about watching them grow and mature, finding the courage to finally speak up during a class discussion to offer an answer to a teacher’s question or an opposing viewpoint for other students to consider.

At the college level I have the joy of watching young adults move from student to intern, from entry-level worker to experienced employee. I have kept up with a number of students over the years and am thrilled to see them succeed and prosper. I always like to think I have played some role in their achievements. Maybe those current events quizzes that I forced on them every week to a never-ending stream of groans and whines actually made a difference! Maybe being harsh on them with my red pen — “bleeding all over their work,” as one student once told me — helped them become better writers and editors. Or maybe just being a sounding board by responding to their requests for advice on classes, classwork, internship options and networking opportunities helped make that one big choice that led them down the right path.

I received an e-mail yesterday from a student who recently graduated. She started out with, “Just wanted to let you know that I’ve landed my dream job.” And she ended with, “I wanted to thank you for everything you’ve done for me over the years. I wouldn’t have been prepared for an opportunity like this without your help, advice and wisdom!”

Thank you Michelle — this is why we teach.

Terry Denbow – 30 years later

Terry Denbow, vice president of University Relations at Michigan State University, is retiring after nearly 30 years as the official spokesman for the Spartans of East Lansing. He was the guest of honor at a Central Michigan Public Relations Society of America luncheon on Sept. 30.

Russ White from MSU’s University Relations Department hosted the “fireside chat sans fireplace.” Russ did a great job getting Terry to talk about several big-picture issues facing the public relations profession and higher education today.

I decided to record the chat both for posterity and to show others who couldn’t make it to the luncheon. Unfortunately, I left my tripod behind so you’ll have to deal with a few more camera movements than I prefer. Nevertheless, I don’t think any of them are distracting enough to detract from Terry’s messages.

I have known Terry since the late 1980s when I came to campus as a wide-eyed freshman who was lucky enough to land a job working in the President’s Office. At the time, I saw Terry as a larger-than-life figure who knew his craft incredibly well. I was a journalism major with my eyes set on being a newspaper reporter. I accomplished my goal but later, when I shifted to a career in media relations, I often thought about how Terry did his job at MSU.

Terry’s abilities, experience, professionalism and willingness to help others succeed will be missed at MSU. I feel bad for the next person to step into Terry’s big shoes. Maybe watching this video will help them understand how a master public relations craftsman operates.

With topics including how PR has evolved, how technology has impacted public relations and what PR practitioners need to master, I present to you an eight-and-a-half minute perspective titled, “Terry Denbow- 30 Years Later.”