The breakdown of communication between hopeful graduates and future employers

Hey Communication Minded friends! To help us say goodbye to July, we have guest blogger Timothy Holland. Timothy is a 2015 graduate from the University of North Carolina Wilmington with degrees in creative writing and theatre. Currently in the job-hunt himself, he writes today’s post in order to offer some fresh insight into the job application process, as well as to give some tips to help you stand out in the digital and real world. Timothy looks forward to finding a fulfilling position where he can let his creativity take flight. He has previously worked as a lifeguard and performed an internship at the Durham Performing Arts Center.

The breakdown of communication between hopeful graduates and future employers

Statistically, if you are a recent graduate you haven’t found a job. Not even talking about a career where you want to spend the next 30 some years, but just a place to find some source of income. One reason that you might have problems with finding a vocation is because employers now have software tools to help them check resumes.

When my parents applied for jobs after graduating college they would go to the store, fill out an application right there and hear back from an employer within the next few weeks. They would always hear back. They would know if they didn’t get the job and not have to wonder for months on end.

Nowadays people are familiar with turning in applications and resumes online. You go to the website, fill out some questions, upload your resume, and they get back to you in four to six weeks. While you’re waiting, your resume goes through a program that will read it for the employer. It looks for a select few words, and only if you pass its guidelines will your resume then be given to your employer to read.

It is easy to understand why employers use this software in the modern age. With all the hopeful employees out there, the amount of applications coming in daily must be frightening to any one manager.

I recently had the pleasure to speak with a manager at a wholesale company. When I asked about the programs and software, they attested to receiving so many applicants that it would take days just to go through them, and within those days more would come flooding in.

I asked how a potential employee could meet with managers if they are supposed to turn in an application online and had to wait for a response. The manager recommended walking into the store about once a week and inquiring about your application, even going so far as to ask to speak with the manager. The manager commented that due to applicants never knowing when or even if they will hear back from the perspective employer, they have a right to go into the store and check on the process – unless otherwise stated by the job ad. By repeatedly seeing you (hopefully to the point you’re not a bother) the likelihood of employment goes up. You may also call them if you’re uncomfortable with being in the building or if you can’t make it to the site often. An email is okay as well; I personally consider it more convenient and polite, however emails can be easily lost where as a phone call goes directly to someone.

To battle a few of the digital resume obstacles, here are a couple of tips I learned in a few of my undergraduate classes. Carefully read the job ad and use the words that you see in the ad. Specific words like “managed,” “created,” “improved,” “trained,” and etc. Look for what they are looking for and spin yourself to fit their needs.

I wish everyone good luck in the job hunt!

Timothy Holland

TimothyH

Brands take a stand

July is great! For the younger generations school is out. For those of working age, we get to start the month with an extended 3-day weekend filled with barbecues and fireworks. July is a time when most Americans reflect on the progress of our country and give thanks for the many freedoms we are provided. However, when the 2016 primary elections are less than a year away, the unknown future of our country is also in our minds.

Many running candidates have announced their decision in the past few months, including businessman Donald Trump. His announcement speech was most memorable to the media and political commentators because of his brazen comments on immigration.

I am officially running for President of the United States. #MakeAmericaGreatAgain

A photo posted by Donald J. Trump (@realdonaldtrump) on Jun 16, 2015 at 8:57am PDT

Whether you agree or disagree, love or hate Trump, or simply just know him as the man who told everyone “you’re fired” on that television show for too many years, you have to admit he knows how to fire up controversy. Out of all the republican candidacy announcements his is the one you will remember.

His stance on immigration and remarks to convey such strong beliefs has caused uproar in the political arena, as well as in his business endeavors. One of the first companies to respond was the American Spanish TV network Univision; announcing they will no longer air the Miss USA and Miss Universe pageants, they stated, “Today, the entertainment division of Univision Communications Inc. announced that it is ending the Company’s business relationship with the Miss Universe Organization, which is part-owned by Donald J. Trump, based on his recent, insulting remarks about Mexican immigrants.”

NBC was soon to follow suit with the decision to not air the pageants. The Professional Golf Association, ESPN, NASCAR, Macy’s, and Serta have pulled/ended/discontinued business with Trump. Even New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced the city is reviewing dealings with him. “Trump’s comments do not represent the values of inclusion and openness that define us as New Yorkers,” says de Blasio. “Our Mexican brothers and sisters make up an essential part of this city’s vibrant and diverse community, and we will continue to celebrate and support New Yorkers of every background.”

In recent years many companies have opened up and taken a stance on highly controversial issues. A few that come to mind are Hobby Lobby (contraception), Chick-fil-A (same-sex marriage), and Starbucks (racial equality and gun control) – just to name a few.

After some research, I found two words to describe this risky business of associating one’s brand with a highly controversial topic: corporate social advocacy and pro-social brand. The first term, coined by Dr. Dustin Supa and Dr. Melissa D. Dodd, is defined as “the emergence of corporate stances on controversial social-political issues.” Jonah Sachs, an author and the CEO of Free Range Studios, describes the later term in his article, “2015 will be the year brands take a public stand on social issues,” as “the next step for companies looking to morally engage with consumers. Driven by marketers who are moving beyond claims of sustainability into strong stands on relevant social issues.”

Sachs describes this quite well, so I will start with his explanation. He categorizes two stages/types, those being traditional sustainable brands and pro-social brands. Traditional sustainable brands focus on charitable giving and green footprint — internal efforts. (Think of what Starbucks did in the early 2000’s with their Ethos Water and fair trade coffee beans.) Sachs defines this as a classic and safe approach. Fast-forward to today where you find brands “taking a stand on key moral issues.” (Think Starbuck’s “Race Together” campaign and their open letter asking customers to not bring guns into their stores.)

Sachs says these pro-social brands are more engaged with consumers when compared to traditional sustainable brands. Pro-social brands are “marking room for its customers to take on a heroic role by fighting for a more altruistic, tolerant, selfless world.” To sum it all up, in traditional sustainable brands the brand is the hero, while pro-social brands encourage their customers to become the hero.

But is taking such a risk worth it? Dr. Supa and Dr. Dodd conducted research to determine whether Americans’ purchase intent is affected by the sharing of similar values and moral stances. Their research identified that the American public is “8.1% more likely to purchase from a company that shares their opinions and are 8.4% less likely to purchase from a company that doesn’t.” This is especially true if you are targeting groups based on age.

  • Age groups of 18-25 and 26-35 years old had higher intention to purchase with a company that held common beliefs compared to other age groups.
  • Ages between 36-45 and 46-55 are less likely to factor in corporate social advocacy when making purchase decisions. However, they still show an increase in purchase intent when a company has similar beliefs and a decrease if different.
  • The 56 or older crowd were the most likely to engage in corporate hindering behavior when beliefs did not align.

Overall their study showed purchase intent is affected when companies take a stand with certain social-political issues. (Please read their research to find out what social-political issues are dicey.)

With all of this information, it is clear customers view brands as an extension of themselves, and if Sachs is right, more and more companies will take the risk of morally backing a social-political stance to further engage customers. As brand managers how do we maneuver that? Here are some things I would like to share, as I would consider them if I was advising a company or brand on whether or not to publically take a stance on a highly controversial issue.

When taking a stance make sure the idea you support aligns with brand values, not the CEO’s personal values. Paul Maccabee used the Barilla Pasta CEO as a case study in his article “Protecting your CEO’s Brand: 7 Lessons Barilla Pasta’s Crisis Teaches Communicators.” Besides pointing out that everything a CEO says and does can publicly affects customer loyalty and purchase intent, he showed that brands that align with customer values stand out.

As Stephanie Silver, Vice President of Envisions Creative Group puts it, “Every brand has its own voice and its own passions. For that reason, a brand should most certainly take a stand on issues that align with their brand promise and enhance the brand experience. But they must steer clear of all other hot button issues.”

Make sure the stance will “endear consumers to, rather than alienate” them. The previous idea is from Carrie Lennard, a Business Environment Manager. She uses the example of Chick-fil-A’s stance against same-sex marriage. She claims the adoption of such stance was an unwise choice considering generation Y and Z are their main target group and those age groups strongly support the right of same-sex marriage.

Don’t take a stance by attacking others. The recent Twitter exchange between CrossFit CEO and pop-star Nick Jonas is a great example of this. In an attempt to promote a healthy lifestyle the CEO tweeted a picture of a Coke bottle with the caption “open diabetes”. Jonas, who lives with the Type 1 diabetes, called out the CEO’s insensitivity and lack of education on the disease. The CEO then fired back a defense saying he was only referring to Type 2 and proceeded to accuse Nick Jonas of being bias because of past sponsorship deals with Coke. (Still unclear if the sponsorship part is true.) The whole thing is a mess and could have been avoided if the CEO had tweeted an informative statistic on sugar’s impact on the body instead of an aggressive and accusatory, it’s your own fault type deal that ignores many of the uncontrollable factors that contribute to the development of Type 2 diabeties.

It is good to take a stance, but you have to be careful on what and how you do it. The Starbuck’s Race Together campaign proves this. Most of you know the campaign was a big blow up, not that the intention was bad, but a coffee shop full of strangers just is not the place to openly declare your feelings about race in society. Nevertheless, I now see Starbucks as a company that believes in promoting racial equality, and because of that campaign, I assume they attempt to uphold such standards in their business practices.

The move of Univision, NBC, Macy’s, Serta, ESPN, NASCAR, and the PGA to end deals with Trump is just one way the companies are showing they are a pro-social brand.

Have any thoughts on this topic? Jot them down in a comment below!

-Caroline Robinson

The man behind Burt’s Bees

Quick update: Today is our first bye week until Savannah returns in October. However, if I find something newsworthy and interesting I will write a quick post to share with you – this may include anything from an infographic to a book review to a movie recommendation.

This week I thought it would be appropriate to cover Burt’s Bees. If you have been keeping up with the news you know Burt Shavitz, the mountain man co-founder, who became the brand face of Burt’s Bees, passed away this week. It was his unique look, back-story, and personal values that propelled the business from a two-person operation to the corporate company we know of today.

BURT_HomepageTakeover_Hero_A

I highly recommend you check out the documentary Burt’s Buzz – available on Netflix. It focuses on Burt’s life (which is fascinating) and how it played a role in creating the brand’s story. It also gives insight into how the company used him as a brand mascot and how he continued playing a part in the company’s promotion even after he “officially” left.

-Caroline Robinson

Weathering through summer

While we love the glow of summer skin, I think we could all do without the sweat of summer heat. Even though we pack the weekends full of BBQs, beach days, and concerts, Monday through Friday require us to stay just as busy with meetings, reports, and presentation. So how do you keep from melting when you have to ditch your bathing suit for your tailored one? Or replace “tailored one” with “three piece one”. This week we talk about dressing in the heat of the season and keeping cool and comfortable in the office without sacrificing professionalism.

First let’s talk office wardrobe staples. There’s nothing more standard than a well fitting three-piece suit. And while you unfortunately can’t hang this away for the summer, you can swap out your everyday black for lighter fare. Colors hues such as blues and greys are great alternative choices that still remain neutral, acceptable, and professional.

Ralph Lauretta, co-owner of luxury men’s store Sal Lauretta in New Jersey, comments in the company’s blog that the linen suit is back for men and it is perfect for staying cool. (Cotton suits too – below linen on left, cotton on right.)

754 linen-7-of-11

Fortunately for ladies, one of the easiest swaps you can make for staying cool is trading in your pants for skirts and dresses. Skirts are a wardrobe essential and can easily be worn in both casual and professional environments. A-line and pencil skirts are great for jobs that require more traditional dress, and if you work in a more casual environment try a circle or paneled skirt.

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Lavender, pale pink, and shades of green are great hues that can be both fashionable but not too over powering for work wear. Check out the official Pantone Spring 2015 palette to see the season’s popular colors.

Dresses are also a personal favorite of mine as it only takes one article of clothing to make the outfit. Of course, just as with skirts, to remain appropriate they should hit the knee. Aim for dresses that have built in structure such as a sheath dress, or at least given the comfortable illusion of structure such as with a wrap dress.

 

The dresses above are from Mary Orton’s blog Memorandum. She offers great fashion forward advice for the workplace and even divides her blog into category types of office dress: conservative, creative, casual, interview attire. Although her looks are fresh, the prices of some outfits ($100 – $200 for one piece) are out of league for most young professionals. Another fashion blog I want to mention is J’s Everyday Fashion. The aim of her blog is to inspire fashion for everyday women, specifically with a focus on lower-budget shopping. J has great how-to guides and outfit albums showing how to get the looks you see on celebrities and in magazines in real life.

For men looking for ways to get out of the black suit and tie regime, or when khaki’s and Polo just won’t cut it, check out Articles of Style. As we are two women, we don’t often search for men’s fashion, but in my research for this post I found their website to have the most appropriate content and best tips for men’s professional attire.

We hope these tips will help you battle the extreme heat – as we in NC have already experienced 100-degree temperatures.

-Caroline Robinson and Savannah Valade

We also have an update on our blog. Savannah is starting her grand European adventure that she mentioned in our “A Year Into Post Grad Life” reflection. She officially embarked yesterday, and will be train hopping until October. (Just kidding on the train hopping part.) As she will be backpacking, she will not have regular access to Internet. Therefore, I (Caroline) will be handling the blog until October. We have decided the best thing to do to keep quality content, and not wear me out, is to pull back a little bit and post every other week until Savannah returns. I am extremely excited for her, and will try and keep you updated on her adventures. So, next post will be July 15th!

Bon voyage!