College Sweethearts

hearts  #HeartsOnTheHill hearts

We’re in the midst of the #HeartsOnTheHill social media campaign, and I enjoy reading everyone else’s stories, so seems like an appropriate time to get a little “mushy.”

Craig and I were college sweethearts at WKU, but we had actually started dating even before we were students on The Hill. I’ve known him since elementary school (although I always thought he was quite the snob, which I still love to tease him about). He was a year ahead of me in school, and his senior year he was actually dating one of my very best friends, while I, too, had a steady boyfriend. Once we were both out of those respective relationships, we became very good friends, and eventually started dating. He went to Lindsey Wilson College right after high school, and I finished my senior year. Of course, when I decided to go to WKU, he transferred, because he just had to follow me (I love to tease him about that, too).

We got engaged in the spring of my sophomore year at WKU and married a few months later at the ripe ol’ ages of 20 and 21. I still wonder what our parents were thinking letting us get married when we were practically babies! And, in case you were wondering, the friend he had dated in high school was one of my bridesmaids.

We both graduated and landed jobs here in Bowling Green. A few years later, “Biggs, party of two” became a party of three when Alex came along. And four years after that, we became “Biggs, party of four” when Mason made his grand entrance into the world.

Now…24+ years after we married, we both work at WKU, our boys are Hilltoppers right alongside us, and I guess you could say that we’ve “matured” from college sweethearts to middle-age sweethearts. And that’s just fine with me.

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Taking on a new challenge

It seemed like such a good idea when they asked…

What was I thinking?…

I can totally do this…

What if I can’t do this?…

This is going to be fun!…

Am I really ready because it’s almost time to get started…

These are just a few of the thoughts that have plagued my brain over the past few weeks as I prepare to teach a Marketing course this spring for the Gordon Ford College of Business. If I’m being perfectly honest, I must admit that perhaps I was slightly overzealous in taking on a class in addition to my regular duties as CMO (which seem to be anything but “regular” in 2017), my volunteer work, the upcoming high school baseball season, and generally trying to keep my sanity.

Ready or not, starting on Tuesday, January 24, there will be 30 students in my Marketing 331 class who will be looking to ME with the expectation that I know something about Social Media Marketing (SMM). Being in the trenches of SMM every day versus teaching it to others are two very different things. My goal is to present information in a way that provides a new perspective, that makes sense from a professional standpoint, and that gives students the opportunity to gain some real world experience.

As I’ve been working to build the content for the course (with a ton of help from Dr. Corie Martin and others), I realize that this is a great opportunity for me to evaluate the things we do in the Marketing & Communications Office, to read the latest research on the topics we’ll cover, and to really appreciate the value of an area that has become so vital to what we do every day. At a minimum, we rely on social media for WKU branding, for customer service, for engagement with current and prospective students, for communication of major news and events, and the list goes on. Other businesses and organizations use social media for their specific purposes, and – heads up to my students – those are all things that we will cover in class.

Even though this new endeavor is taking up a big chunk of what little free time I had, I’m convinced it will be worth it, and I’m looking forward to the challenge!

Shortcut thank-you notes…no thanks.

I’m all for doing things efficiently, but there is a fine line between being efficient and just cutting corners for the sake of taking the easy way out.

While searching for new “productivity” apps tonight I came across an app called “Thank You Job Interview Note Email Generator.” My apologies to the developer, but I would never recommend such an app to anyone who is job hunting. Worse yet, the app instructed users to run the most recent upgrade which “Corrected numerous grammatical and spelling errors.” Really? I can’t believe a developer would launch an app of this nature with those kinds of errors in the first place!

If, after interviewing someone, I happened to get a so-called thank-you note that was obviously “generated” via a shortcut app, that job candidate would no longer be a candidate. Write a short note or send a quick email, but make it a genuine acknowledgement – not a canned response. Anything less will reek of laziness and may be just as bad as sending no thank-you note at all.

Would love to hear from others on this topic. Is a thank-you note after an interview important to help a job candidate stand out? Does it matter what kind of note it is, or is the fact that they sent anything at all good enough?

Survival of the fittest

Campus will be buzzing Monday as another new semester begins at WKU. Based on the chatter I’m seeing on Facebook and Twitter, some students are ready to come back and some are perfectly content to enjoy the extended break.

The transition to college life is tough. It’s one of those major and memorable events that changes a person forever. It’s a time of life that is fun, scary, exciting and sometimes even a little sad (I remember the day I got my acceptance letter, because my mom locked herself in the bathroom and cried). These transitioning students are young adults, but at the same time, they are also big kids. The transition to adulthood isn’t yet complete.

Unfortunately many kids come to college who are unprepared for both the sudden new-found freedom and the rigors of college coursework. Even though I don’t typically work directly with students, I still see it all the time. They get downright giddy when they realize no one is hovering over them or telling them when to come home. They can hang out with whomever they want, whenever they want…and they do. They can choose not to go to class, and while it might affect their grade, no one is going to call their parents to see why they are absent. They are not only allowed to think for themselves, but they are encouraged to do so.

The popular kids and the smart kids who were once the top dogs in their high schools are suddenly small fish in a big pond, and not being in the spotlight can be a big adjustment. Students are suddenly surrounded by an increasingly diverse group of classmates after possibly having spent the previous 13 years surrounded by basically the same group of kids. Hopefully they’ll figure out quickly that just because everyone doesn’t look or sound or think like them, that that makes them even more interesting!

<Soapbox Alert!>

As parents we have to begin prepping our kids to survive this major life change early on. We can’t wait until their senior year of high school to decide that they need to know how to make good decisions. And they need to know how to solve problems without having to rely on mom and dad for things they could easily handle on their own.

Frequently I see students who have an issue with a class or financial aid or housing or any number of other things. Typically they know WHO they should talk to, but they often don’t know HOW to approach the situation diplomatically. In many cases momma has always taken care of everything for them – they’ve never had to work something out on their own, and therefore they don’t know what to do. College students are young adults – they are old enough to try to find solutions to their problems (without having to get momma involved), but they need to be allowed to practice problem solving before they leave home. It’s all part of spreading their wings and becoming independent and self-sufficient adults.

My hope is that my boys have enough confidence and discipline to be successful when they get to college. I want them to be able to make good decisions and to solve inevitable problems that will arise. Of course I’ll help them when they need it – I’m not going to just throw them into the world and wish them good luck. But at the same time, I’m not always going to taking care of my baby birds. I want them to be prepared to survive and thrive when they leave the nest!

In social media, words can hurt more than sticks and stones

Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.  We’ve all heard that phrase since childhood, but what I’m talking about here is how a person’s own words can come back to hurt them.  There is a short section about Social Media from the WKU Communication & Branding Manual that bears repeating, specifically to those who are now or might soon be in the job market: “Be prepared to take responsibility for comments made on social media sites. Social media is public and highly visible, and discretion should be used…” That common sense statement is good advice for everyone.

Recently someone said to me, “It won’t be long until, when you go to apply for a job, they’ll look you up on Facebook.”  I think that’s absolutely correct – except for the “it won’t be long” part.  I’ve been doing this for a few years, and I’ve heard many other folks say they have as well.  I know that college students in particular are advised to think about what they post, but in many cases, they are not taking it to heart.  Perhaps they think us “old” professionals aren’t savvy enough to find them on Facebook or Twitter?  Or maybe they don’t believe that it would ever dawn on us to look them up.  Whatever the case, I wish I could shout from the rooftops for all to hear…the status updates (and pictures and videos and Tweets) that they post today could most definitely have serious consequences in the future.

The main point here is to carefully consider how you’re using social media, especially if you’re in the job market, because you never know who will see what you post!

It’s part of the process when reviewing information about potential job candidates: narrow down the selections to just a few, then find them online. It’s not difficult – a quick search on Facebook or Google will nearly always result in a successful search.  Is this considered “creeping?”  Maybe, but you can learn a lot about a person based on their status updates and pictures, and even their Twitter handle or profile picture.  And yes I will admit it – right or wrong, I have chosen NOT to interview people because of what I see on their sites.  A few of the common reasons that I would skip over someone are:  frequent misspellings (though shortcuts don’t bother me if they are obviously done on purpose), poor grammar, offensive language, inappropriate remarks, indecent photos or constant personal drama. That list can all be summed up in one word: Unprofessional.  I realize that a person’s social media page is akin to their personal space, but even so, it’s out there for the world to see. In my experience, a person’s true colors really tend to shine when they’re hiding behind a keyboard…and sometimes that tells me all I need to know.

Of course it’s not all negative.  Social media use can result in positive consequences as well!  There are many great tools to showcase your experience and skills, to network, and to find job openings.  The key is to become familiar with those tools and to use them wisely.  More on that later.

Finals Week Tips

It’s finals week at WKU – the last week of the semester when there is a lot of excitement for the impending Christmas break, but the student stress level is so high you can feel it in the air. I remember those days – thinking that the week would never end and that the tests would be the death of me, but somehow I always made it through unscathed.

Here are a few simple tips to help students survive:

Take care of yourself. Yes, you have to spend most of your time studying, but you also have to sleep and eat. Taking care of yourself physically will make the time spent studying more effective.

Study at a steady pace rather than frantically cramming for a few hours just before a final exam. If/when you feel your mind drifting to the point that you have no idea what you just read, it’s time to put down the material, take a quick break, and refresh your brain.  This is a good time for a brisk, five-minute walk.

Find your ideal study place. Maybe it’s in your room, maybe in the study room at your residence hall or maybe it’s at The Learning Center on campus (they have extended lab and tutoring hours during finals week!).  The library is a great place to study, but it will probably be busier than usual, so be sure to have a backup plan. A [quiet] coffee shop may be a good choice, and the caffeine is easily accessible.

Re-write your class notes. Go old-school with the notes and actually write them with a pen on a piece of paper to help you remember the info.

Friends can help each other out. They say you know something the best when you have to teach it to someone else, so teach what you are studying to a friend or roomie (or even just pretend to), and see if that helps you understand rather than just memorize the material.

Minimize distractions. Turn the TV off, put the phone down and focus on the task at hand. You can always text your friends later to brag about how great you did on the test.

Before a test begins take a few long deep breaths and let them out slowly to help you relax and clear your head.

I’m sure there are lots of websites with other more “scientific” tips, but these are the ones that I always found helpful.  Good luck to all WKU students on a successful finals week…finish strong!

9 ways that marketing and parenting are a lot alike.

As a working mom, I have two full-time jobs.  The job that pays the bills is overseeing Marketing & Communications at WKU, and the job that I go home to every evening is parenting a teen and a tween and running a household with my hubby.  I’ve been a ‘practitioner’ in both fields for 15+ years, so, while I don’t claim to be an expert at either, I feel sufficiently qualified to talk about them both and to point out the similarities that have been swirling around in my head.  I realize it seems like a bit of a stretch, but read on, and I think it will make sense.

Marketing and Parenting are a lot alike in that:

  • Most of my efforts go smoother with Planning and preparation, but even the best plans have to be flexible.
  • In both jobs I am trying to reach a specific Audience and hoping like heck that they listen.
  • I often have an important Message to get across to the intended audiences, usually hoping for some specific action in return, but they don’t always do what I want them to do. Sometimes I have to ask several times before anyone seems to react as I had hoped.
  • Social Media plays a big part in the communication with my audience (I can get my son’s immediate attention if I hack his facebook!)
  • There is all kinds of Competition vying for the audience’s attention. I can’t ignore those competitors or pretend that they don’t exist lest they lure my audience away.
  • Every situation requires a careful Situational Analysis to figure out how to handle it. Knee jerk reactions aren’t usually productive.
  • I can learn more about the audience by Listening to and Communicating with them, rather than by constantly talking AT them.
  • The Results of my efforts over time can be extremely rewarding, but there are bound to be frustrations along the way. The key is to not give up.
  • There is constant Change, and I have to accept it and adapt to it or risk getting left behind.

Both of my jobs come with good days and bad days, fun days and crazy days.  But I am thankful for the rewards I get from both roles – and that is true every day.