From Coincidence to Community: How Career Smart brought its own “brand” of magic for job seekers and hiring managers

By James Warda

Disney World may be “the most magical place on Earth.” But I found a close second.

As a former hiring manager for over 15 years who is now looking for my next role, when I received an email about Career Smart being held by AMA Chicago, I knew it would be interesting.

The thing I didn’t know was how well the event would apply to me, since in my career, I have focused more on executive, internal, external, crisis and mergers & acquisitions communications − though I have integrated closely with marketing throughout. After all, we always need to make sure our messaging is consistent for all our audiences.

But I needn’t have been concerned.

You see, in an email exchange the day of the event with Lynn Hazan, owner of Lynn Hazan & Associates, one of the sponsors of the event and someone I knew previously, I explained that I was considering attending but didn’t know how much of a fit there’d be between my background and that night’s agenda. She immediately emailed me back with a balanced reply saying it might not fit exactly, but that “magic often happens at these kinds of events.”

Being a strong believer in that kind of magic, I decided to attend.

And I’m glad I did.

Taking the Kennedy to the ranch

Of course, if you’d asked me how glad I was to attend while I was racing (at the speed limit, of course) on the Kennedy Expressway in the rain to get downtown in time for the event, with a 30-minute traffic slowdown plopped in the middle, I probably would have used a word slightly more forceful than “magic.”

But, once I got to Catalyst Ranch, the venue for the evening, everything came nicely into focus.

First of all, I knew the venue well and how effective it was at encouraging an innovative mindset, because I’d been there before for an offsite leader meeting. They have a great staff and, just as important, great candy! Plus, they have a collection of fun and eclectic furnishings, accessories and toys. All the better to help us be ourselves (or slightly younger and more mischievous versions of ourselves), connect in a real way, and actually look at the world through the eyes of a child again.

Why is it important to do that? Well, to really get at the power of seeing the world that way, think of Tom Hanks in the movie “Big.” Why was he so successful so quickly? Because he didn’t have the inhibitions of an adult yet. Instead, he simply said it how he saw and felt it. In seeing and touching the world that way – seeing opportunities instead of problems – there is… magic.

Content is king, but food is a close second

As one of the hosts gave me instructions (easy to understand, thanks!) about who was sitting at the different tables, what would be happening next, and so on, I noticed the food. Or should I say: I smelled it. Now, as anyone who has attended a similar event knows, the food is always critical to the meeting’s success. And in this case, it was not your typical conference fare, but Costa Rican-inspired food (by Irazu)!

So, as you can see, I was in exactly the right frame of mind (and stomach) for what was to come.

Finding the right balance

As the evening was about to begin, in addition to wondering about the fit with my background, I also was wondering how the agenda would balance the needs of job seekers and hiring managers and leave both feeling that it had been well worth attending.

Fortunately, AMA Chicago was more than up to the task. They’d created a nicely-balanced program and offered presenters who were knowledgeable and effective in sharing that knowledge.

And, in the process, they helped create a sense of community, not only with the content, but with how the room was set up, where job seekers, hiring managers, coaches and others were encouraged to see their commonalities and common purpose: finding the right people for the right roles.

The program begins

The evening started with an introduction by Bonnie Massa, President of AMA Chicago, and was emceed by Joseph Patton, Executive Coach and Associate Director of Career Advising and Education at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management. Bonnie and Joseph struck a nice balance in tone between formality and fun to open the evening, and they gave participants a roadmap of what was to come.

First up were speakers Dave Healing, Group Director of Client Services from Brandtrust, a research and strategy firm, and Allie Pace, Director of Client Experience at ADP. They focused on helping job seekers apply organizational brand positioning principles to themselves in their search for a fulfilling position. This approach, as they explained, also encouraged hiring managers to consider the personal brand that would best fit with their teams.

Healing began by sharing his own story of transitioning into a new career several years ago, while remaining true to his own personal brand. He helped the event participants, including myself, understand how we could explore our personal brand by first defining our own “why,” or purpose, referencing Simon Sinek’s “Start with Why,” and then identifying the “how” and “what” behind that – and finding our stories that illustrate them.

As someone who has written for years about the importance of sharing our stories to connect with ourselves and each other, this part of the agenda deeply resonated with. And it gave me that first inkling that what Hazan had promised would come true.


That magic continued as Pace shared her own story of making a career transition to create a more fulfilling life. She then shared ADP’s model for helping clients understand the core needs that all employees and candidates alike have for creating a fulfilling life, too.

As she spoke, Pace also explained how understanding these core needs helps hiring managers define the kind of environment they should build and sustain to attract and retain employees. Of course, this also helped the job seekers in the audience know what we should be looking for in our next roles, too.

Next up in the agenda was James Hornick, Partner, Digital Experience and Marketing Recruiting, of Hirewell, a recruiting and staffing firm. Hornick talked about the digital effects on marketing recruiting and the impact of these effects for hiring managers and job seekers. He also gave tips on how job seekers can best search for jobs, and how hiring managers can best identify candidates in this brave new (tech-driven) world. Near the end of his presentation, Hornick brought the conversation back to the importance of story-telling on both sides of the recruiting aisle.

Following Hornick, Amy Patti, Communications Director for the Museum of Science and Industry Chicago, discussed her role with one of the largest science museums in the world. She also talked about the personal approach she takes to recruiting and how she’ll often look at every application that comes in for the jobs they post. (Now, that’s a commitment to keeping it human.) In her hiring process, Patti uses both a qualitative and quantitative approach to finding someone to help ensure they bring not only the right skills and experience, but will also be a strong fit with the culture of their team and the museum.

New “Experts in the Crowd” segment helps create community

After the presentations, we were all introduced to a new and innovative approach to learning and networking. Participants were invited to sit at different tables in the venue based on their roles and interests, and each table discussion was facilitated by experts who helped guide the conversations on how the speakers’ topics could be incorporated into participants’ lives. This was a great part of the evening; it gave participants more ownership of how they experienced the event, like being given a “Choose Your Own Adventure” book.

During the “Experts in the Crowd” segment, I met some great people, many of whom would also likely be strong networking resources. During the entire event, I sent many LinkedIn invitations to keep the conversations going.

Wrapping it up

To close the evening, the speakers took part in an interactive panel discussion moderated by Patton. The panel illustrated once again that the event owners had found the right mix of speaker backgrounds and personalities.

Shout out to the sponsors

I’d be remiss if I didn’t give a “shout out” to the evening’s sponsors, including Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business, and Artisan Talent, Brand Your Career, GLE Creative Talent, Terry McDougal Coaching and Associadirect. And, of course, again, Lynn Hazan of Lynn Hazan & Associates, to whom I owe a special thanks – if it weren’t for her, I may not have been there.

James Warda is a communications leader with broad expertise in executing communication strategies for Fortune 500 companies across multiple industries − to build brand and reputation, drive growth and cost reduction, improve customer and employee engagement, and create an emotional connection with audiences. He’s also a conference speaker, author of Where are we going so fast?, and has written for the Chicago Tribune. In addition, he teaches for the School of Communications at Loyola University Chicago and sits on their Dean’s Communication Advisory Board. You can contact James at

Free events! Your membership just got better.

By: Bonnie Massa, AMA Chicago President

Earlier this year, we promised changes to your AMA Chicago benefits to ensure that your membership is the best ticket to your career success. Since July, you’ve enjoyed free registration for Connex, our bi-monthly networking events, as well as each of our Shared Interest Groups (SIGs).

It’s always been the Board’s top priority to gain ongoing feedback for how we are providing value to the Chicago marketing community. We do our best to connect with you at our events, and you may have noticed that we occasionally reach out over the phone, via email and even through traditional mail to find out how we’re doing. We make adjustments and improvements so that your membership continues to make a positive, significant difference for your career.

In case you haven’t heard it already, today’s message is: We hear you.

It is my pleasure to announce that, as an AMA Chicago member, you now receive FREE access to all of our monthly events! Your registration fees are waived for our Sunrise Executive Series and our Evening with an Expert. (By the way, our next Evening with and Expert event is on May 3, and the next Sunrise is on June 7.)

By making these events free, your AMA Chicago membership comes with an added value of more than $600 each year. This change is made possible through our growing network of amazing sponsors. (OK, and maybe a little help from unicorns and rainbows.) Our sponsorship team, board of directors and members like you have made lasting connections across our community to underwrite our events. It’s with pride that we can pass along the value directly to you.

Now more than ever before, your AMA membership is an all-inclusive ticket to the cutting-edge programming, resources and networking with the largest community of marketers in Chicagoland. In fact, are you aware that in addition to Chicago events, your AMA membership gives you access to 100 webcasts and podcasts, a job board, discounts, and member-only tools, templates and forms that help you do your job? We’re working on developing even more ways to engage, so make sure you subscribe to our newsletter to stay tuned to what’s on the horizon.

So if it’s been a while since you mingled with your peers or rubbed shoulders with senior leaders in the industry, check out our events at a glance. I can speak for the Board with confidence that we would love for you to find one of us at our next event and let us know how we are doing!

Our ability to make these events free is another step toward making it crystal clear how much we value your membership.

Bonnie Massa is Founder and President of Chicago-based Massa & Company, Inc. She works with companies and nonprofit organizations to help attract new customers, find the best ways to segment and reach out to existing customers, analyze customer behavior to predict future behavior, and increase the value of their customer base. Bonnie has a BA degree from Lambuth University in Jackson, TN. She is a Market Motive Certified Practitioner in Web Analytics, Conversion Optimization and Social Media. She has achieved a Google Analytics Individual Qualification. Bonnie also volunteers her time as President of American Marketing Association Chicago.

A very special thanks to AMA Chicago sponsors:

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What Chicago Marketers Think™ Poll Results

What skills do today’s marketers need?

Chicago-area marketers shared their key hard skills for success and what areas to focus soft skills. December’s poll results also include the business skills most desired to develop. Take a look and see what skills reign in 2017!

Poll Resuls


Three Social Media Tips for Building Your Network

By Wendy Lalli

Building a strong professional network is essential for every career. There are, of course, many ways to develop this essential career tool. Joining and actively participating in organizations like the Chicago AMA is one thing you can do. You can also go to business events and socialize with colleagues, vendors and even competitors out of the office.  Of course, you should do all of the above but social media provides you with another way to deepen the contacts you make face-to-face and connect with people you may never meet in person.

LinkedIn is the gold standard for professional networking.

Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc. are all useful networking venues but none of these channels has the reach or the power of LinkedIn. The fact is, having a fully functioning LinkedIn profile is as important as having an up-to-date resume. Moreover, when you meet new people at networking events, asking them to link in with you is the easiest and most effective way to connect with them immediately and in the future.

To take full advantage of LinkedIn, fill in all the sections of your profile and include a professional looking photo. Then make your profile as public as possible. Add updates to your profile several times a week including networking events, educational events, blogs posted, etc. Join appropriate LinkedIn groups and comment on discussions within these groups. Even better, initiate discussions of your own. Blog for Pulse on topics of general interest or personal insights and experiences that can help others with their careers. Post links to articles on your update section that will reflect your expertise in your industry and your willingness to share your knowledge.  LinkedIn isn’t about connecting with old school chums and family members but adding weight to your professional presence online.

Here are three tips to keep in mind to help achieve that goal:

  1. Networking is a numbers game. Play it to win. The more people you can connect with who are in your industry or in industries related to yours – the better. However, this is NOT the same as just adding more names to your LinkedIn contact list. For example, if you’re a copywriter, adding plumbers, waiters and insurance reps to your professional network probably won’t help you find a new job or learn more about the latest trends in your industry. On the other hand, connecting with art directors, media specialists, account executives and other writers will help you do all of the above.
  1. Help others to help yourself. The real secret to building a business network is proactively helping others whether or not you immediately get something back in return.  This assistance can take many forms. Telling someone about a job, passing on the contact information of an appropriate hiring manager, advising someone on their resume, writing a blog to share what you know or just giving moral support to a job hunter when they didn’t get the job.  If you have a solid social media presence, these interactions can take place even with people you’ve never met who live thousands of miles away!  Here are two examples of how to network via social media:

Example 1: One night about six years ago, I opened up my LinkedIn account to find an invitation from Henry B. I had never met Henry – he lives in Los Angeles and I’m in Chicago. When I looked at his LinkedIn profile, I discovered that, like me, he blogged frequently for Pulse. (In fact, I think that’s how he found me.) It turned out that Henry had held senior leadership positions at some of the biggest ad agencies in the country and now was a consultant to major corporations on new business development. I was extremely flattered that someone at his level of experience would be interested in connecting with me and accepted his invitation as soon as I could. A few months later Henry sent me a message via LinkedIn that Sally, his college-age daughter was coming to Chicago to start a career in marketing. Knowing from my profile that I taught copywriting at Columbia College and had previously been a recruiter, he asked if I would be willing to advise her about her resume and then pass it on to my contacts in the city.

After an email exchange with Sally, I suggested some changes to her resume and then gave her the names and contact information of about 15 recruiters in town. I also alerted these recruiters that she would be in touch with them shortly. A few weeks later I was pleasantly surprised to receive a check for $100 from one of these agencies as a finder’s fee. It seems that Henry’s daughter was a dynamite candidate and the recruiter had been able to place her immediately in a full time job.

Since then, Henry has coached me at various times via email on creating new business proposals and he also sent me a DVD of one of his speeches. (He’s a well-known motivational speaker on business presentations and networking for corporations and universities.) Although we’ve still never met or even talked on the phone, I am very proud to be connected to Henry and I think he feels the same way about me.

Example 2: A year and a half ago I posted a blog on Pulse offering advice on networking and Victor D., a project manager at Dell, wrote a nice comment about it. Checking out his LinkedIn profile before I responded to his comment, I saw that he worked in Austin, Texas. At that time, I was considering relocating to Austin if I found a suitable position. In thanking him for his kind remarks, I mentioned that I was considering relocating to Austin myself.

Within a few days, Victor sent me several job descriptions from his company’s internal job board along with the names and direct phone numbers of the department managers responsible for filling these positions. Of course, I thanked him for his efforts on my behalf but since the jobs were above my level of experience, I was reluctant to send off a resume. Victor responded to my reluctance by sending me two more job descriptions a little lower on the food chain that had not yet been posted publicly. As it turned out, due to family considerations I decided that relocation was just not an option. But if it had been, I’m sure Victor would have helped make it happen! It goes without saying that if Victor wants my help in the future, he’s got it!

  1. Stay in touch to get ahead. Networking, like any activity involving personal interaction, takes work and constant attention. To stay connected to your contacts you need to know where they are and what they’re doing, and then let them know the same about you. Fortunately, LinkedIn makes this relatively easy even if your contact list, like mine, is over 700 people. If someone is having an anniversary, congratulate them on it. If they’ve been promoted, send them a little LinkedIn message acknowledging their achievement. If someone endorses you, thank them for their recognition of your skill sets. Keep these messages short, cheerful and to the point, but send them as often as you can.

Is there someone you haven’t connected with for a while who you’d like to be closer to? Post a recommendation for them on LinkedIn based on your previous experience with them. Hopefully, they’ll return the favor and write a recommendation for you. But even if they don’t, you’ll have reminded them of your work together and why you’re worth staying in touch with.

I hope you find these suggestions helpful. Remember, networking is always about giving whatever and wherever and to whomever you can. Concern for others allows you to build bridges – making the world a smaller and much friendlier place.

What to Look for in an Internship

By Wendy Lalli

As a creative director and ex-recruiter I regard summer internships as invaluable experience for entry-level employees. When I’m considering hiring someone who is just out of school, knowing that they’ve been an intern while still attending classes tells me they have several positive qualities.  Here’s a rundown of those qualities in order of their importance: (1) They take themselves and their careers seriously, (2) They’re ambitious, (3) They’re energetic and (4) They understand that real life experience can teach you things you’ll never learn in a classroom.

But not all internships are equal.

Some internships, even if they’re at major agencies or prestigious corporations, may offer very little in terms of personal development. Others with smaller firms can provide you with unique opportunities to learn by “doing” that you’d never get in a larger company. Knowing this, how can you find the right internship for you?

Make it all about you.

Consider what you’d like to learn and how you’d like to learn it.  What skills do you want to have when you graduate that you currently don’t have or need more experience in?  Presumably, these are skills you know will be in demand now and for several years to come. This isn’t a minor point. While universities try to offer curricula based on the latest industry practices, change happens so rapidly that ensuring courses continue to be relevant can be very challenging. Plus, a professor may be teaching communications today the same way he or she taught it before the advent of mobile marketing, social media and other industry-wide developments.

Create your own internship program.

Internships can help you fill in the gaps between your academic knowledge and how marketing is currently being practiced. But you may have to use a little initiative to get what you need and want.

For example, if part of your internship duties is to proofread blogs written by product managers and marketing writers, ask if you can try writing one of your own. Even if you’ve never researched or written a blog before, your proofreading duties should give you an idea of how it’s done.  Offer to write on your own time if necessary. If your supervisor agrees to your request, ask them or the product managers or other writers you’re working with if they can suggest topics that would be most useful for the company.  You have nothing to lose from this effort and a lot to gain. If your blog is published on the company web site, it’ll be a great addition to your portfolio. And asking for help from product managers is a great way to deepen the relationships you have with other professionals. If the blog is well-received, you may be asked to do more – on company time!

Turn your boss into your mentor.

After you’ve been on the job long enough to have an idea of who does what, ask to have a short conference with your supervisor. Tell your him or her that you want to do as much as you can to help the department so you’re volunteering to work on your own time if there are projects that would be suitable for your skill sets. Make it clear that you want to get the most you possibly can get out of your internship experience by learning on the job, and add that you’re willing to make this effort in addition to the work you’re already doing.  Perhaps you could help with internal communications, social media postings, pro bono projects for charities, and so on.  This will enhance your book and, again, give you an opportunity to develop a closer rapport with your boss and other team members.

Be a big fish in a smaller pond.

If you intern at a smaller agency or firm you usually have more opportunities to do real assignments like blogging, posting, preparing ad campaigns, brainstorming on projects and more.  The fewer people available to do the work, the more work each one of them will probably get to do.  Whether you’re being paid or not, treat this position as if it was your first paid job. Because Internships, especially with smaller firms, are often auditions for future hires. If you do well as an intern, you may be offered a full time position on staff after graduation.

Socialize up and down the food chain.

As an intern, you’re considered part of the company team even if you’re only there for a few months. Take advantage of your insider status and try to get to know ALL your coworkers, not just your fellow interns. If some of the group meets after work on Friday nights for an end of the week drink, ask if you can join them. They’ll probably be delighted to include you but if, for some reason, it turns out to be a private party, take it in stride. Wish everyone a happy weekend and try to connect with people who are more welcoming.

Bring in some cookies or doughnut holes from Dunkin’ Doughnuts for the group one morning and send an internal email telling folks where they are. Remember, making friends out of professional contacts is the most productive form of networking, and feeding people is a great ice-breaker.

Take your contacts with you when you leave.

One of the biggest benefits you’ll enjoy as an intern is the opportunity to build your network. But this only applies if you know the names, phone numbers and email addresses of your colleagues. A day or two before your last day, stop by the desk of everyone you’ve met to say good-bye in person. Ask for their personal email address as well as that with the company and their cell phone number. Also ask permission to LinkIn with them. That way, you’ll still be able to reach them even if they leave the company for another job. On your last day, send a short, sincere email thanking everyone on staff and giving them your contact information.

Hope you find these suggestions helpful.

Social Media Rules! How Can Higher Ed Marketers Reach Prospective Students?

When trying to reach Generation Z or Millennials, SnapChat, Instagram and Twitter are the “it” social media platforms. Print still serves a purpose — mainly driving the recipient to your digital presence – but social media is the place where engagement and conversion happens. That was the message Michael Mullarkey, chief executive officer of Chicago-based Brickfish, delivered at the Higher Ed SIG gathering that took place April 6.

The SIG meeting, which was held at Troquet North, was a discussion about how to optimize social media for colleges and universities. In keeping with our new format for these gatherings, the meeting was more of a moderated conversation as opposed to a presentation.  It was a huge success!

Brickfish, whose slogan is “Engagement is Everything,” manages the content and social media of large brands like Neiman Marcus and Hertz.  Relevant, fresh content along with a quick response to visitors’ queries is essential to the success of any enterprise. Generation Z and Millennials expect instance responses. Mullarkey believes Facebook is still important, but these cohorts spend most of their time exchanging rapid-fire communiqués with their friends on SnapChat and WhatsApp. Marketers need to become a relevant part of these exchanges.

Mullarkey also spoke about the shrinking reach of Facebook and Instagram. Once brands established their presence on these platforms, these firms monetized their sites.  You now have to boost your post to expand your reach and that requires paying for it. He offered some advice about how to get around having to pay, which includes unique, relevant content, engagement and short video.

Bottom line: For us higher education communicators, it’s new a world. We just need to fasten our seat belts and enjoy the ride.

Betsy Butterworth Dean Petrulakis

Betsy Butterworth and Dean Petrulakis

Co-Chairs, Chicago AMA Higher Education Special Interest Group

Six Guidelines for Successful Cover Letters

By Wendy Lalli

Career counselors often use advertising terminology when talking about the activities of a job search. For example, they’ll refer to your resume as “your ad” and encourage you to develop a brief oral presentation about your experience referred to as your “elevator speech” or “commercial.”  This is completely understandable because a job search does involve successfully “selling” your skills and experience to employers.

Cover letters are part of that process and by applying six principles of direct marketing, you can significantly increase they success rate of this important job search tool. Consider these guidelines for creating cover letters that will help “sell” your skill sets more successfully throughout your career

Personalize the Salutation

Cover letters, like the best direct response communications, should always be personalized. Using a salutation such as “Sir or Madam” is nothing short of rude.  So how do you find a person you can write to about a particular job? Here are some suggestions that should help:

If you know the name of the company, address the letter to one of these people:

  • the head of the marketing department


  • the head of the HR department

You should be able to find this information through a little research on LinkedIn and Google.

Or try calling the company and asking the names of these people from whoever answers the phone.

If it’s a smaller company with no marketing head or HR department:

  • write to the company owner who should be listed on the web site.

If the job description has been placed by a recruiter and you can’t tell who the company is:

  • Address it to “Dear Hiring Manager.” (Sometimes a generic saluation is the only option.)

TIP 1:  Use Mr. or Ms. and the person’s last name. Yes, it’s a little formal but it also avoids coming across as presumptious and adds a touch of class to your communication.

TIP 2: Check your spelling. Look at the Web site or the person’s LinkedIn profile to make sure you’ve spelled it right. (Nothing is more annoying than someone asking for an interview who can’t even spell your name.)

TIP 3:  If you’re sending out more than one letter or email at a time, double check that your salutation is correct. Sending a letter to the Creative Director of ABC company that bears the name of the Creative Director from DEF company will probably end in the waste paper basket as soon as its opened.

Make sure to mention the product in the first paragraph.

In this case, the product isn’t you per se, but your suitability to fill the job that’s been posted. Mention the job title (or code number), the posting date and where you saw the posting in the first paragraph.

Remember, companies and recruiters may post different jobs at the same time. Make it as easy as possible for the poster to see which job you’re applying for so they read the your letter in the right context from the beginning.

State the product benefits quickly, simply and clearly.

Summarize just how your experience relates directly to the job you’re applying for.

This is assuming that your resume closely fits the job description. But even if it doesn’t do so,

briefly explain why you feel your knowledge, talents and abilities make you a good candidate for the position.

Close with a call to action.

Ask for a face-to-face interview. This indicates the depth of your interest and encourages the poster to act on your application as soon as possible.

Make it easy for the target market to respond.

Include your email address and phone number. Again, make it as easy as possible for the poster to complete this process by calling you in for an interview.

End with a “thank you” for considering your offer.

It’s the polite thing to do and shows that you’re considerate of others.

Six Tips on How to Negotiate a Higher Salary in 2016, by Wendi Lalli

For job hunters – whether they are still currently employed or in transition between jobs – this time of year often seems to energize a job search and prompt hopes of earning more in a new position. Yet even those who are successful in getting a job offer can still fall short when it comes to negotiating salary. Why? There are many reasons. Perhaps applicants aren’t sure what the going rate is for the job and assume salaries are set in stone. On the other hand, maybe they feel they’re not as well educated or as experienced as they might be and, even though they’ve been hired, are reluctant to demand more money. Whatever their reason for not negotiating their starting salary, they’re putting themselves at risk.

Your starting salary influences what you’ll be paid for the rest of your life.

Think about it. Your past salary is used by employers to determine how much they should offer you to take a new position. If you tell a hiring manager your last job paid less than the one you’re interviewing for, they’ll probably offer you less than they would another applicant. What’s more, the fact that your previous employer paid you so little, might knock you out of consideration all together. It isn’t just about money. It’s about how much your work is valued.

Your bonuses, raises, future salary with other companies, social security, pension payments – even unemployment – are all dependent on how much your paycheck is right now. It isn’t just about money. It’s about your income for the rest of your life.

When it comes to salaries, here are six things you should know.

  1. There are salary standards for every job and you should learn what they are before you apply.

Of course, some companies pay more than others do for the same position, but there is still a generally accepted salary range for each job in every industry. You should learn what this range is BEFORE you even submit your application. Check out salaries on sites like to get an idea of what the job you’re applying for should pay.

  1. Asking about salary before you’re offered the job is a very BAD idea.

Until a hiring manager has said, “we’d like you to come work here,” the company has more power than you do. But once an offer is made, you’re at least on an even playing field. Trying to discuss salary before then not only won’t help you it will definitely hurt you. It implies that you are more interested in your own compensation, than the job itself or the contribution you can make to the company’s success. At that point, if you haven’t completely knocked yourself out of the running, you’ve definitely put yourself behind.

  1. Salaries are almost always negotiable.

Companies develop a salary range for every job based on what the employee does and how much other employers are willing to pay for that work. Obviously, well-run companies try to keep salaries toward the bottom of that range. But they are almost always prepared to go higher – and will do so if the candidate asks for it.

  1. Compensation can be given in other forms than a paycheck.

Your salary is usually only part of what it costs a company to hire you. If they absolutely cannot budge on your paycheck, but you think you should be paid more, try asking for another week in paid vacation time or help with tuition or student loan payments. If you want the job and they want you, accommodations can be made.

  1. You could get a raise within six months.

If the company gives raises based on annual reviews, ask to have a salary review in six months instead of 12. Keep a paper/digital record of all your accomplishments and how much you’ve helped the company earn and save in costs, time and labor during that period. Also list any extra benefits you’ve provided your employer during that time – such as training other people, giving them business leads, joining a professional association, etc. Be specific. Use accurate numbers and, whenever possible, include documentation from a third party such as a memo congratulating you on contributing to the company’s growth or thank you note from a satisfied client.

  1. You should never accept a job offer immediately

What every job candidate should say upon getting an offer is, “I’d like to think about this and get back to you.” Then take at least 24 hours to consider all their options and research the salary for that job in the current market. At that point, you’re ready to contact the hiring manager and say, “I’m very grateful for your offer, but given my experience and the market, I think my salary should be higher. What can you do for me?” This is actually what hiring managers expect candidates to do. Taking this step during the interview process is just meeting the company’s expectations of how a professional behaves. When candidates don’t negotiate, hiring managers may start wondering if they made the best choice after all. Negotiating salary isn’t just about money; it’s about being a professional in every aspect of your career.

lalli_croppedWendy Lalli is CD of Crux Creative, a marketing agency with offices in Chicago and Wisconsin. She also mentors other marketing professionals in transition and wrote on job search for the Chicago Tribune and 25 newspapers in the Chicago Sun Times network. Wendy has been the Communications Coordinator of the Equal Pay Day Chicago events since 2012.

Ten Tips on How to Win Awards

Marketing is a creative enterprise and, when all is said and done,a highly competitive business internally as well as externally. To measure creativity, various organizations hold competitive award shows for the different projects marketing people do. For instance, web design, print ads and of course,  TV show commercials.

By the time most marketers have five years experience or more they’ve participated in, and maybe even won an award or two, from such an event. Of course, if you’ve entered and didn’t win you may be feeling a little discouraged about the whole experience. Perhaps you think you lost because the judges work for a rival company or because they knew the winner personally.

As someone who has judged a number of shows for organizations such as the Business Marketing Association and Direct Marketing Association, I can tell you that while both of these suppositions may be possible, they are highly unlikely. Almost all shows are set up to avoid any kind of favoritism. First, judges are asked to excuse themselves from judging work produced by their own company or by anyone they know well. And in most competitions individual entries are judged on their own merits not in comparison to others.

But there are real reasons an entry can lose even with a great concept and super execution. If truth be told, all too many losing entries are handicapped from the start because they were entered incorrectly. Below is a list of ten guidelines to help you make the most of every competition you enter and seriously increase your chances of winning.

  1. Enter the right show
    Most award shows are geared toward a particular niche in the marketing industry such as highly innovative design or business-to-business marketing that has produced measurable results. So before you consider competing with your peers make sure the piece you’re entering is suitable for that particular competition. No matter how funny that radio spot for a leading toothpaste is, it does NOT belong in a business-to-business marketing show. On the other hand, if you designed a killer trade show display for widgets, make sure the show you’re entering has a category not only for trade show displays, but trade show displays with budgets similar to yours. Furthermore, entering the wrong show is a waste of time, effort and money because your entry may be disqualified before any of the judges even see it. And even if it remains in the competition, the judges will be expecting it to be something that it’s not. However you slice it, this is a lose-lose situation for everyone.
  2. Enter the right category
    Every show has different criteria for each category, and if you don’t pay close attention to these specifications you may find yourself competing on an uneven playing field. For example, it would probably be a mistake to enter a multi-dimensional promotional piece in a competition for direct mail packages. Even if a note or response device has been included with the promotional piece, it still may be an inappropriate entry for a category designed for letter packages. When a piece is entered incorrectly it confuses the judges and this alone will cost you points.
  3. Make your entry statements brief, clear, and memorable
    As in almost all other aspects of marketing, when it comes to award show entries, less is more. Don’t try to impress the judges with your knowledge of industry jargon and acronyms. Just give them as much information as they ask for on the entry form in clear, succinct prose. If you must use acronyms, define them the first time you use them. (Keep in mind that different companies and industries may use the same acronym for two totally different things.) Tip: Include factual data about the positive results the entry has made to your client’s bottom line. It’s amazing how demonstrable profitability can add a patina of beauty to even the ugliest design.
  4. Answer all the questions
    In shows where results are highly valued, answering questions regarding sales outcomes can make or break your chances of winning. Of course, you may not always have results to submit either because they are not yet known or because the client never shared them with you. In the former case, include this explanation in your application. In the latter case, call the client and ask if they have any insights they can share. By the way, it is not enough to say “the client was pleased.” Or that “the piece met their expectations.” Remember, the point of the question is to give the judges an objective measurement of what your work accomplished. So share as much information as you can to help the judges understand why you’ve submitted this particular piece in the first place.
  5. Include all the pieces
    If you’re submitting an entry with several parts to it make sure ALL of them are included in your presentation. Otherwise it’s almost impossible to properly judge the entry fairly and your score will reflect it.
  6. Show the real thing, not photos of it
    Pictures may be worth a thousand words but a two-dimensional presentation is never as effective as one in 3-D. Unless your submission is a trade show booth, all parts of the ACTUAL piece should be included in your entry.
  7. Show “before” and “after” when appropriate
    If your assignment was to update a look, re-brand a product, freshen a logo, etc. show the  project“before” as well as the “after” you worked your magic. It’s much more impressive, especially if the piece you’re submitting isn’t all that creative. You can still impress the judges by showing how much of an improvement your work is over what had been done before.
  8. Take your entries seriously
    Award shows can help you cement current client relationships and develop new ones. After all, leaving a show with an award in hand not only confirms your expertise among your peers, it confirms your client’s good judgment in choosing you as their agency. (Not to mention that clients been known to switch their business from one agency to another based on which Creative Director took home an award!)
    Take some time and effort with your entries. Use the entry form to explain why your piece is better than all others. (Yes, it is extra work but so is a new business pitch.)  Have the folks who actually worked on the project fill out the forms. They know the full story of how and why a piece was created. Inside tip: Telling a good story about the development of your piece can help you win as much as the piece itself. Second inside tip: Brevity is not only the soul of wit, it’s the key to producing winning entries. Third inside tip: Writers are generally better at this sort of thing than art directors/designers. If you’re a design shop and a copywriter wasn’t involved in creating the entry, you might want to consider hiring a wordsmith to help your designers tell their story.
  9. Neatness counts
    Type your entry form if at all possible. Remember the entry form is a marketing tool – use it well.
  10. Don’t hurt your own brand by entering junk
    Every piece you enter in a show is a reflection on the brand and reputation of your business. It’s better not to enter anything at all then to submit less than excellent work. Enough said.

Hope this helps make your next foray into the world of awards a successful one. Good Luck!

Wendy Lalli consults on marketing projects through her own agency, Wendy Lalli Ltd. and is CD of Crux Creative, a marketing agency in Wisconsin.  She also mentors other marketing professionals in transition and wrote on job search for the Chicago Tribune and 25 newspapers in the Chicago Sun Times network.

How to Network During the Holidays

Network for the Holidays!

The holidays are the perfect time to network for several reasons. First, people are more open to socializing with professional colleagues at all levels during this time of year. Second, on just about any given week from Thanksgiving to New Year’s, someone is throwing a party – including the Chicago AMA. (By the way, you can click here to register for the party now, if you haven’t already done so.) Third, the holidays are an ideal time to reconnect with past employers, colleagues, college friends, and peripheral people in your network via e-cards, traditional holiday cards and social media postings.

There are however, some cardinal rules to follow during all of these activities, whatever the season. Here they are:

  1. Make it Personal – the point of networking is to develop personal relationships with other professionals whether peers, vendors, educators, investors or potential clients. While you might want to avoid discussions on politics and religion, sharing views on just about everything else should be considered fair game. Family. Sports. Books. Food. Hobbies. Exchanging information about professional histories is fine as long as it doesn’t sound like your reciting your resume.
  1. Don’t Sell, Celebrate! – Making a sales pitch when networking is not only rude, its counter- productive. The idea is to make people who don’t know you well, want to know you better. Having someone try to sell you something in a social situation does not accomplish this.
  1. Give to Get – Make a point of going out of your way to help others in any way you can. If you ask someone what they do and find that they’re looking for work, ask them for a resume to see if you know someone who has an opening. If you do, you could help two people – the job seeker and the employer. If it turns out you’re unable to help them, let them know that you tried. The job seeker will appreciate that – and you.

There are two main venues to network during a holiday – parties and cards. Here are some ideas to help you get the most out of both.


Holiday Parties

  1. Drink very little and very slowly. Getting high during a business event is to invite disaster. So don’t do it. You might also try eating something before you go out. That way you can pick and choose what to nosh when you’re there and concentrate on getting to know people.
  2. Try to meet the company’s managers. If you’re new to the company or have never met its C-suite occupants before, look them up in the company directory and/or on LinkedIn before the party. When you meet, use their name, tell them yours and your connection to the company or group and make a positive comment. Here’s an example. “Hello, Mr. (name of CEO), I’m Jane Doe and I work in Marketing. Thank you for this wonderful party. It’s a lovely way to begin the holidays!” Be charming, positive about all things – especially the person you report to, your co-workers and your future with the company.
  3. If your co-workers are talking to people you don’t know, join them. Listen to the conversation attentively and, when it’s appropriate, introduce yourself. If you have something to add to the conversation, do so. If silence follows the introductions, ask the people you don’t know how they know the people you do Get them to talk about themselves, their history with the company, what they’ll be doing for the holidays, etc. Pretty soon you’ll be part of the gang and connected to a new group of friends.
  4. See someone standing alone? Smile and introduce yourself. Many of the world’s most interesting people also happen to be shy. If you approach them first you can make a friend incredibly quickly! Ask them about the food at the party (“Have you tried the Roast Beef yet? It looks delicious!”) Even better, ask them about themselves – “How long have you worked here, what department are you in, what do you like best about the company, and so on.” Then respond with information of your own. Asking people about themselves is the quickest way to convince them that you’re smart, interesting and someone they want to know.
  5. After the party send thank you emails to all the party planners and managers. If you’ve met them for the first time at the party, follow up with a snail mail card with your business card inside and a personal note about what part of the event you enjoyed most. If it’s appropriate, suggest that you meet them for lunch sometime in the cafeteria or for a drink after work to deepen the connection.


Holiday Cards

Sending a holiday greeting card is an easy way to reconnect with people whether you know them very well or barely at all. The great thing about cards is you can include a business card in them without seeming overly aggressive. You can also include a friendly invitation to connect in person for coffee, drinks or a meal after the holidays. Here are some options for you on how to use holiday cards to build, retain and deepen networking relationships.

  1.  Send digital nondenominational holiday cards to as many people as you can. There are several vendors who you can use. For example, Jacquie Lawson ( has an exceptional card selection for all types of occasions. For a low annual fee, you can send out as many cards as you like, as often as you like to an unlimited number of people, throughout the year. But try to send them to a personal email address since some business networks may not accept them.
  2. Design, create and send out your own holiday cards. If you’re a writer or designer this is a super way to remind all the people you’ve worked with, interviewed with and networked with throughout the year of how talented you are. Make sure to “hallmark” each card identifying it as your own work. Something as simple as “Card designed by (your name, 2015)” on the back should do it.

Whichever way you connect or reconnect with people during the holiday season, remember that the purpose of networking is to build long-term friendships that can help you in the future. The best way to start is to “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Only do it first.” Happy Holidays!

Wendy Lalli consults on marketing projects through her own agency, Wendy Lalli Ltd. and is CD of Crux Creative, a marketing agency in Wisconsin.  She also mentors other marketing professionals in transition and wrote on job search for the Chicago Tribune and 25 newspapers in the Chicago Sun Times network.