2020, blog, blog post, blogpost, disney, disneyworld, myblog, Uncategorized

5 Lessons I Learned from Watching Disney's “The Imagineering Story”

Recently I watched “The Imagineering Story,” a new docuseries on Disney+ about the history of the Disney theme parks. I grew up going to Disney World every year with my mom and when I wasn’t at the park, I was reading about all things Disney and watching TV specials about the Behind the Scenes of the park. Even to this day, I watch YouTube videos of Disney cast members talking about their experiences. So, “The Imagineering Story” was right up my alley.

As I was watching it, a lot of the senior executives and Imagineers started to say familiar advice that I’ve seen in my career. I was surprised that Disney employees faced similar issues at work. I wanted to take a moment to highlight some of the takeaways and lessons from “The Imagineering Story.”  

Encourage Failure and Bad Ideas

The Disney Imagineers, or WED Enterprises as they were formally referred to, were encouraged to take risks. I should stop to clarify that Imagineering is a term unique to Disney and is the combination of creative imagination and technical knowledge.  

In Episode 4, called “Hit Or Miss,” Imagineers recalled how in the 1990s there were dedicated teams focused on exploring new technologies, different attraction layouts, and new ride vehicles. 

“Succuss is about many many failures,” said Jon Snoddy, an Imagineer with Advanced Development. He goes on to talk about how they created a culture that doesn’t judge if things fail. In fact, they intend to fail! If over half of the projects succeed, then they aren’t trying hard enough. This experimentation helped them when it came time to create Tokyo Disney Sea. I love how much Disney prioritizes and values experimentation and risk. And moreover, how their team leaders support that innovation. That’s where the magic happens.   

But, Imagineers aren’t naive. One senior Imagineer, Joe Rohde (the guy with the incredible left ear piercing) acknowledges that Imagineering is very frustrating for business-minded people. There is a permanent tension between Imagineering and the business department. “Core components of creativity do not reconcile with efficiency-based business theory,” he said. How do you balance these two? 

This tension is not new. According to Disney folklore, Walt Disney was always asking his brother Roy for more money so he could do more creative ventures and Roy was skeptical and nervous. Roy was business-minded and Walt was creative and risk-taking. 

Design for the final level of the marketing funnel

In episode 3 “The Midas Touch” the Imagineers go into detail of how Euro Disneyland, later called Disneyland Paris, was built. They wanted to create the most beautiful Disney theme park and spared no expense. 

They returned to their history when building this new park, using tried and true principles. Walt Disney had four levels of detail that he preached to Imagineers. Design Imagineer Coulter Winn describes these principles as:

  • Detail Level One: You’re in the country, you see over the trees some tall buildings, maybe a church steeple 
  • Detail Level Two: You’ve walked into town, now you’re on Main Street
  • Detail Level Three: You’re looking closely at the colors and texture of the buildings  
  • Detail Level Four: You’ve gone up to the front door and you’re grabbing the handle, feeling the texture and temperature of the material 

All of these detail levels need to work together. Coulter says that at Disney they have to get to Detail Level Four to immerse guests in their story. This is where people fully buy-in and believe what you’re selling. 

These different levels of details reminded me of the Buyer’s Journey or Customer Funnel. First, you have the awareness stage when the buyer starts to hear of your brand in the distance, then they become interested and learn more about your brand, thirdly they are intent on buying your product and last they purchase what you’re selling. Just like with Disney’s design levels, your customer journey has to lead them to that purchase or Design Level Four.   

You don’t need to re-invent the wheel

With budgets as large as Disney’s it’s hard to think of them scrimping, saving and repurposing things. But, they are first and foremost a corporation focused on pleasing shareholders. I was surprised to learn in Episode 3 “The Midas Touch” that Disney Imagineers reused animatronics and set designs from an old 1974-1988 Disneyland attraction called “American Sings.” The happy singing birds, frogs, turtles, alligators, and rabbits found a new home at a more exciting ride called Splash Mountain. They fit right in next to the other Song of the South characters. Disney probably saved millions in time and money not having to design and build new characters for Splash Mountain. 

Take a look back at work you’ve previously made, whether it’s a template built that wasn’t used or a draft of a design. Could you repurpose that work? 

Don’t get siloed and stuck in your department 

When Imagineers were building Michael Eisner’s Disney’s California Adventures, they worked on a tighter budget than they had on Euro Disneyland. They were also divided between two projects. One team worked on California Adventures while the other worked on the new Tokyo’s Disney Sea, which had a much larger and looser budget. 

One Imagineer, Bruce, recalled the short-lived, much hated, ride Superstar Limo and how it was built by Imagineers who were in these tight pods, not consulting with anyone else. They had adopted the mindset of, “This is my attraction.” They stopped checking in with their peers to ask if this was good enough. They lost touch. Whereas, in previous Disney theme parks, rides were built more collaboratively. Superstar Limo only lasted one year and was later remodeled into a Monster’s Inc themed ride.

Take time to chat with or eat lunch with people in other departments at work so you can share what you’re working on and collaborate. 

Your work needs to make an impact 

One of the head Imagineers for Animal Kingdom, Joe Rhode, stated that he’s most proud of the projects that have a non-entertainment payback within them. He’s proud of the conservation station, a working research lab and a conservation fund that resulted from Animal Kingdom. 

Profits, entertainment, metrics aren’t enough to make a long-term meaningful impact. Richer rewards are needed. Who are you helping? How can your work give back to the community?  

As a kid at Disney, you don’t think much about how the theme park rides are built. They just kind of appear one day. As you get older, you realize that the project of building a theme park attraction isn’t all that different from working on a project at your work. Everyone has to collaborate, think creatively, first you build a mockup, you try to repurpose things, and you need to have a sense of purpose behind it all. 

I thought “The Imagineering Story” would be similar to the “One Day at Disney” movie that blatantly and blindly praised Disney CEO Bob Iger. But no, in “The Imagineering Story,” mistakes are acknowledged. A key takeaway from the docuseries is that when theme parks like Euro Disneyland, California Adventures and Hong Kong Disneyland were built for half the price, to please shareholders, the quality suffered, attendance shrank and guests were not happy. This modern cost-cutting mindset becomes more frustrating knowing it violates Walt Disney’s wishes. Walt is quoted as having said “Disneyland is a work of love. We didn’t go into Disneyland just with the idea of making money.” I hope that in the future, Disney can continue to balance creativity with profitability, in order to continue its legacy and because many other businesses look up to Disney. 


This blog post was also published on my LinkedIn.

2020, blog, blog post, blogpost, myblog

Make a lasting impact in your role by going beyond your job description

Often the impact you make in a role goes beyond what you did as part of your everyday job duties.

I went thrift shopping at Volunteers of America today because I love thrifting. I needed to donate some old coffee mugs and I wanted to see if there were any cute sweaters or dresses. I love to check-in and hunt for unique clothes at the thrift store so when someone compliments me on it I can brag that I found it at a thrift store. The joys of thrifting!

I found some dresses I liked and as I was checking out, the cashier recognized me. “Oh, you’re the girl who put that TV up!” She pointed to the TV on the wall above her where a slideshow was playing.

When I worked at Volunteers of America Ohio & Indiana, in an effort to educate thrifters and distinguish VOA from other for-profit thrift stores, I designed a simple slideshow to inform shoppers that VOA is a non-profit and show photos of clients who have been helped by the proceeds of the store. I took this project upon myself and volunteered to do it. After I made the PowerPoint, I came into the thrift store with a flash drive, stood up on a ladder, plugged the flash drive into the TV, fiddled with the remote and taught the store employees how to turn on the slideshow each day. I did this multiple times in our different stores, To be honest, in the moment, the slideshow felt like an annoyance to me. I had to interrupt my day, drive to the thrift store, mess with a TV when I know very little about TVs or remotes or Input buttons. Sometimes, the TV wouldn’t turn on, the remote wouldn’t work or the TV wouldn’t play my PowerPoint in the format I had saved it in. It was frustrating. I would think, “This isn’t what I signed up for. This is not my job. Someone else should be doing this!”

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Older Debbie now knows that likely no one else would’ve made the slideshow and taken the time to install it. I’m now able to take a step back and see how the slideshow has endured after I left VOA. It made me happy to see that the slideshow still plays in the VOA thrift store every day.

The cashier handed my stuff to me and I looked down to see a plastic bag that I recognized. I helped design the bag, hell I even worked with the plastic supplier to get it made. I learned more than I wanted to know about how plastic bags are made and shipped!

The idea for this started as part of an innovation brainstorming session we’d had with different team members in different departments. We needed to find a way to increase thrift store donations. Someone suggested we redesign our bags. The bags could become a tool for future donations if they had our logo, phone number, tagline, website, etc. It sounded like an easy solution to change the bags at first but ended up taking about four months to complete. It was tough to juggle this bag project on top of my other duties especially when I was doing something I’d never done before. It took a lot of persistence but eventually, the thrift stores switched from generic red and white Thank You bags to branded bags, with a meaningful tagline on one side and useful information about how to donate items back to a VOA thrift store.

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The impact of my time at VOA can be found not just on the website and social media. In fact, I’m not too sad if no one remembers the social media posts I made. I know I made a lasting impact by working on things outside of my stated job description. I went to meetings, listened to problems that existed, volunteered to raise my hand, thought of creative solutions, tried new ideas and worked with others to make the change happen. I was thinking about this on my drive home and I’m not one to brag but I do need to acknowledge that I did some awesome things for a non-profit that’s dedicated to helping everyone reach their full potential and achieve well being.

Every time I walk into a VOA thrift store, I’m reminded of the impact I made during my time there and I feel so proud. 

I also published this article on LinkedIn.

2019, blog, blog post, blogpost, marketing, myblog, Uncategorized

Digital Marketing Tips for Wedding Vendors, from a Future Bride

So, I’m recently engaged and have been researching reception venues and attending wedding shows to get ideas. With my digital marketing knowledge, I can’t help but think that some of the vendors I’ve interacted with aren’t doing the best marketing they could. I want to take a moment to reflect on what I observe wedding vendors doing and what I think, from a digital marketing perspective, they ought to be doing.

 

  • Adjust your CTA for your audience

What they do: At wedding shows, most vendors seem to all have the call-to-action of “Buy Now!” For example, photo booth vendors told me how they were offering a discounted price, but only if I booked today. I was at the bridal show just to browse and to get ideas. I even told the photo booth vendor that I didn’t have a date yet, no venue, but he still gave me his brochure advertising his today-only-deal and wanted me to book him right then. No way, dude!

What they should do: Meet your customers where they are at. At wedding shows especially, switch your CTA to match brides who are in the awareness stage. Make your CTA “Subscribe to my email newsletter for wedding planning tips” or “follow me on Instagram to enter for a chance to win something” so you’re adding value to the bride, and you’re staying top of mind for when she’s ready to book. Maybe some brides are ready to book the photo booth that day, but you need to talk to her first and assume that every bride is in the awareness, not the decision-making stage of the marketing funnel. Measure the success of a bridal show by new website visitors, Instagram followers, and email subscribers, not by the amount of revenue made that day.

  • Meet in person as soon as possible

What they do: A lot of wedding vendors have a Contact Us page on their website and when someone fills that out, they email the bride back with more information and it becomes this back and forth email chain until eventually, someone stops responding.

What they should do: Immediately offer to meet the bride for coffee. Try to schedule an in-person meeting as soon as your schedules will allow. Vendors who I met in person, I felt a strong connection to and was extremely more likely to book with them. I felt loyal to them, I knew them, I trusted them and wanted to work with them.

For example, When I was looking for a wedding planner, I sent out several emails asking different planners for more information about their services.  One of the planners emailed me back the next day asking to meet up for coffee, another planner asked to schedule a phone call, and the third asked me to fill out an online questionnaire. Guess which planner I ended up booking? The one I met in-person. You can’t underestimate the power of a face to face real conversation. I’m reading Sherry Turkle’s “Reclaiming Conversation” right now and her thesis is that young people are losing the ability to hold a conversation and that no amount of technology can replace the power of a face-to-face conversation. I may be young but hell no, I’m not going to sign on a contract with someone I haven’t met face-to-face. I need to meet you in person and feel a connection if I’m going to work with you on my wedding day.

  • No response from her means don’t send her any more emails

What they do: A bride requests information so the vendor emails the info to the bride. She asks a question, they respond over email. She doesn’t respond again. The vendor then sends her emails with additional pictures of the venue, additional information, additional dates, etc. These emails continue, once a week, if not more. Eventually, the bride marks the emails as spam, hurting the vendor’s email domain reputation.

What they should do: Listen to your customer. Respect their wishes if they don’t want to hear from you. If they don’t ask you any follow-up questions or request a tour, assume this means they are thinking about it. They’ll let you know if they have questions! You risk damaging your reputation and coming off as difficult to work with if you badger brides with continuous emails. It’s a delicate balance between one follow up email a week or two after your first email and then no follow up. I’d lean toward no follow-up, because from my perspective, no follow up will change my mind.

  • Don’t use scare tactics

What they do: At bridal shows, I hear vendors ask questions designed to spark fear and insecurity. “Do you know what you’re going to do for your first dance?” “When’s the big day?” “Where are you getting married?” “How will your guests remember your big day?” “Have you booked this yet? Time’s running out!” “Have you thought of what you’ll do with your wedding dress after your big day?” “Did you know fall is the busiest wedding season?” “Good luck choosing 10.10.2020!”  Ack!

What they should do: Ask questions to get to know the bride, not scary questions that will only stress her out even more. Build a relationship with her. Don’t just talk to her like she’s a clueless pile of cash. I wanted to hear more vendors ask general simple questions like “Where are you with your wedding planning?” “How’s the wedding planning going?” This question allows me to volunteer the information I feel comfortable sharing and my answer doesn’t make me feel bad.

  • Acknowledge how you got my email address

What they do: After I attended my first wedding show, I suddenly got all these emails from vendors I had never heard of. No introduction, no explanation of how they got my email, just a cold hard sales pitch.

What they should do: Acknowledge that you got my email from the wedding show and tell me you’re adding me to your email newsletter. Give me the option to unsubscribe, front and center. In this age of increased data privacy and customers trusting brands and businesses less and less, be transparent with your customers about how you obtain your marketing data.

Capture
A good example of how you should first email your leads. This DJ emailed me and acknowledged how he got my contact information.

 

wendys bridal
I got this email from Wendy’s Bridal and appreciated how they explicitly said how they got my email and gave me the option to unsubscribe. Way to respect your brides!

 

  • Follow up by email or phone

What they do: I talk to a vendor in person, we connect, I ask for a follow-up, they say they will, and then I never hear from them.

What they should do: Stay true to your word. Follow-up with a bride you connected with by email the next day. Remind her what you talked about, give her additional details, and thank her for her time. Do what you told her you were going to do and follow up by email when you say you will.

If you really want to knock it out of the park, try answering her email with a phone call. Depending on the bride, she could be impressed by your dedication and appreciate the ease of a phone call rather than a long email. I experienced this where I emailed a vendor with questions, he called me 15 minutes later to answer my questions and we ended up talking for 30 minutes and of course, I booked a tour.

 

One more note is that I’m always impressed by businesses in the wedding industry who treat their customers like human beings. I think the venue, The Henry Manor, did this best with their plain-text follow-up email to attendees of a bridal show. Note how in the second paragraph they state how they want to earn my business. That was so refreshing to read because it contrasted all the other wedding emails I’d received. I appreciated this down to earth email:

Screen Shot 2019-11-18 at 9.12.45 PM
Down to earth follow up email to brides who attended a bridal show. Notice the casual tone of voice and how it’s just plain text, like a friend would write to you. 

 

I hope you found this informative and hey, if you know of any wedding vendors in Columbus, I’m in the market!

2019, About Me, blog, blog post, blogpost, myblog, personal

An unforgettable Valentine’s Day

Nate surprised me with an unforgettable Valentine’s Day. I feel so loved.

He picked me up after work and we drove to campus. The whole drive, I was trying to guess what we were doing and where we were going. We parked at Chadwick Arboretum, where we had a picnic on our second date. Nate told me he had an evening planned walking down memory lane. I started to tear up; it was just so thoughtful. We strolled around the pond at Chadwick, talking about who we were back then and how we were both so nervous and unsure where the relationship would go.

I remember that after the picnic, almost three years ago, we went to the Chocolate Café. So, on our walk down memory lane, that’s where we went next! Okay, we weren’t the only ones with the idea to go to the Chocolate Café on Valentine’s Day but the wait wasn’t that bad. I ordered the lobster bisque soup and a Dirty Girl Scout martini. Nate ordered a dirty martini, the special sandwich which was pulled pork, mango and habanero with a side of cream of mushroom soup. I never get tired of talking to Nate. We always find new things to learn about each other. We talked about our babysitters when we were little. I liked babysitters because they’d ask me what I wanted to do and Nate said he’d just walk over to a friend’s house and didn’t really have babysitters.

Nate warned me that the last thing on our itinerary had a set start time but it was okay if we were late. What could it be? He told me we’d been there before, there’d be food available, and it would probably end around 10pm. I had no clue. We drove back home and parked. That’s when I connected the dots that we were going to a Blue Jackets game. I’d get to see my other Valentine, Cam Atkinson! It was so sweet of Nate to surprise me with hockey tickets. We got there at the end of first period. The guy next to us had a thick British accent and kept yelling very British things like “rough ‘em up, lads!” and “Come on, lads.” I got a tub of popcorn at the end of the second period and ate about half of it. The Blue Jackets weren’t playing their best and lost 0-3 to the New York Islanders. Oh well.

I still had a memorable and romantic evening. We came home and watched some old Pixar shorts that I had on DVD.       

2019, blog, blog post, blogpost, Uncategorized, work, work sample

Blog Post I wrote for Volunteers of America Ohio & Indiana

For Volunteers of America Ohio & Indiana, I wrote a blog post essentially about how to be the best at donating to a thrift store. I was inspired by my own personal experience of donating to a thrift store. When I would gather up the clothes in my closet to donate, I wondered things like “Should I wash them first?” “Should I tie shoelaces of shoes together so they stay together?” “Should I keep jewelry untangled?”  I wanted to answer these questions for our donors and I knew that answering these questions would help our SEO too. With people asking more and more long-form questions in search, your content needs to answer what people are asking.

I had learned a lot of these answers from responding to questions on social media and by speaking with our thrift store managers. I double-checked these tips with the managers to make sure I wasn’t giving false or misleading information.

 

11 Tips to Maximize Your Thrift Store Donation

11 Tips to Maximize Your Thrift Store Donation
I made the graphic in Canva

Is your New Year’s Resolution to get your life organized? Perhaps you’re tidying up your home, inspired by Marie Kondo and her life-changing KonMari method. When you get organized and declutter your home that creates piles of unwanted stuff that needs to be donated to the thrift store.

With every donation that you make to Volunteers of America thrift stores, you are giving hope to families, veterans and individuals in need. Your stuff is sold in our thrift stores and the revenue is used to fund our community programs across Ohio and Indiana. Thank you for donating your items to Volunteers of America, a 100% non-profit thrift store.

CHECK OUT THESE TIPS TO MAKE YOUR NEXT THRIFT STORE DONATION QUICK AND EASY:

Capri donating her stuff to Volunteers of America

Wash clothes before donating

Toss them in the laundry one last time before donating them. This will ensure the clothes are clean, fresh smelling and ready to be sold in our thrift store.

Check your pockets

Double-check that you’ve removed any coins, business cards, receipts, keys, notes or important items from your clothing. Once donations start going through our sorting process, it becomes hard to track them down again. So, as much as we would love to find a $20 cash donation in one of your pants pockets, make sure you check your pockets.

Tie your shoes together

Keep shoes as a pair by tying shoelaces together or putting a rubber band around the shoes. We need both shoes in order to sell them in our thrift store. Have you ever seen just one shoe for sale in any of our thrift stores? Now, that would just be sad.

Tape the controller to your device

If you’re donating a TV with a remote, be sure to tape the remote to the TV so it stays together. The same goes for video game systems or other electronics. Keep all pieces together. Pay it forward to the shopper who will buy your TV and give them the remote.

Keep like items together

If you’re donating a set of dishes or like items, pack them in the same bag or box so they arrive at our donation center together. Y’know what they say, dishes of a feather, flock together.

Sort your donations into two categories

You can help us out by sorting your donations into two easy categories: Clothing and Household Items. Place all your jeans, shirts, socks, dresses, linens, and anything that has fabric into one bag. In the other bag, place the kitchen, household and miscellaneous items. Bonus points for labeling your boxes or bags! This will help us when we sort your donations.

Keep jewelry untangled in small bags

Place jewelry like necklaces and bracelets in individual bags so they don’t get tangled up together. Nothing is worse than a big ball of tangled up jewelry, right?

Label your fragile donations

Mark on the box if items inside are fragile. We don’t want any of your stuff to be broken!

Double-check your donations before you drop off

Before you load up your car or contact us to schedule a free home pickup, check our list of items that we do pickup and our list of items that we do not accept.

Note that we’re not able to accept donations of certain items like mattresses, pianos, beds, chemicals, or large appliances.

We also can’t accept broken, hazardous, toxic or recalled items for safety reasons. Examples of these items include old paint, cribs, car seats, or fire extinguishers.

When we receive donations of items that we don’t accept, we have to spend money properly disposing of those items. This means, less money to help veterans in our community.

If you’d like to donate something that we do not accept, you can reach out to another non-profit thrift store or your local trash company, and they might be able to take it away. Often you can contact their customer service center to schedule bulk item pickups. In Columbus, Ohio you can contact the City of Columbus Customer Service Center by calling 311 or 645-3111, or online at www.311.columbus.gov

Marie Kondo and her life-changing KonMari method of tidying
One of my favorite Instagram posts from @voathrift

Schedule a hassle-free pick up

Scheduling a home pickup is the best way to avoid driving around for weeks with your old stuff in trash bags in your trunk. We’ll pick up your donations, no problem. Schedule your free pick-up by calling us at 1-800-873-4505 or emailing us at askthrift@voago.org.

Be sure to leave your items out in a spot that’s visible to our truck drivers. You can leave your stuff on the curb, on your porch or any spot that a driver would easily be able to see.

We can pick up anything on our list of accepted items that one man can lift.

Get a tax-deductible donation receipt

When you drop off your donations at one of our thrift store locations, be sure to ask an employee for a donation receipt. This will come in handy if you choose to itemize your taxes and would like to deduct your donations.

Tip: Take a picture of your items before you donate them. Show your tax professional the picture for help in determining the value of your items.

The value of your donations depends on the specific items and their condition. Be sure to use the current fair market value to determine their value. The IRS has a handy guidebook to help you determine the value of your donated stuff.

If you forget to grab a receipt, that’s not a problem. We are happy to send you one. Give us a call at 1-800-873-4505 or email askthrift@voago.org

When you donate your stuff to a non-profit organization like Volunteers of America, you can easily help your community thrive. So clear out your closet, find a Volunteers of America thrift store near you, and do your part to make your community a brighter place.

SCHEDULE YOUR FREE DONATION PICK UP TODAY

2018, blog, blog post, blogpost, myblog, Uncategorized

How to Answer Top 10 Interview Questions

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Interviewing for a job can be tough. You want to be honest but still show yourself in the best light. It’s a nerve-wracking process!  Learn about the best strategies to approach 10 common interview questions.

  1. Tell me about yourself.

This is where you can give your elevator speech. Make sure what you say aligns with how your qualifications match the job description. No need to give your life story from birth or go into personal matters. Focus on the meaningful job experience you’ve had. Bonus point if you throw in a fun fact that highlights your personality. I like to mention I was President of my college Quidditch team because that shows my leadership experience and shows I like Harry Potter. It usually causes the interviewer to ask what Quidditch is or gawk that it’s  real sport.

2. Why are you leaving your current role?

Never bad mouth a former employer. Don’t talk smack about co-workers, the company, the role, anything. Keep it positive. If currently employed, you can say that you’re looking for career growth. No one can fault you for wanting to grow your career. I like to say I’m looking for a new challenge or a place where I can use my strengths.

3. Why should I hire you?

I’m always tempted to smart-ass this question and answer “Because.” Something tells me that answer would be frowned upon. When answering this interview question, mention your relevant skills. You should be prepared for this question because it’s honestly what the whole interview is about and everyone knows you should prepare before the interview. You can’t stammer or hesitate on this one. Think about what the company and the interviewer needs and show them YOU are the solution.

4. Why do you want to work at our company?

This question translates to “Do you know who we are? Have you done your research?” Try to invest an hour or so researching the company’s website and their LinkedIn profile. Try to read their annual report or latest news release. Every hour of an interview = 2 hours of research.  Bonus points for researching who will be interviewing you. Do you have anything in common with them? Subtly bring that up in the interview. “You went to Denison? I also went to Denison!”  or   “I couldn’t help but notice you used to work at Disney World. My family has gone there every year since I was born. What a magical place!”

5. Why have you been out of work for so long?

Ick, this question just plain sucks and feels rude to me but you gotta answer it.  Try and mention any volunteer experience you’ve done, any freelancing you done and frame caring for your family as the full-time demanding job that it is. Admit that you’re taking time to reflect on who you are and what job would be best for you. Talk about how you read the book What Color is Your Parachute or did some personality tests to better understand how you can best serve a company.

6. Tell me a situation when your work was criticized.

Tell a story. Paint them a picture that they will remember after the interview. Admit that you were at fault or failed somehow but give it a positive spin. Show the resolution and emphasize that you welcome criticism and how it helps you grow. (Pro tip: Avoid mentioning your tendency to cry every time you’re criticized).

7. Could you have done better in your last job?

Always. Point out hindsight is 20/20 and very carefully give an instance or tell a story of something you would’ve done differently or would’ve liked to have done. Mention you’re a lifelong learner and always improving yourself. This question could quickly turn south, so approach with caution.

8. What are your goals?

Mention 1-2 specific work-related or professional goals. Don’t say you have no goals or list vague goals. State a SMART goal that relates to your professional career. Or, you can talk about a personal goal.

9. How much money do you want?

Oh geez, I think people have written entire books about how to answer this question. There’s a lot of conflicting advice out there about this question too. I vote to ask “Do you have a budget or pay range in mind?” but then again I’ve heard that the first person to throw out a number wins. I don’t like to say my current salary because I’m not applying for my current role, I’m applying for a new role, so it should have a new salary.  Do you research and know what you’re worth and state your range from X to Y. Keep in mind the company’s benefits and what those are worth to you. If it’s an hourly job you’re looking at, take the hourly rate and multiply by 2080 to find your annual salary.

10. How old are you?

This is an illegal question that I’ve been asked before and answered. You certainly don’t have to answer illegal questions about how many kids you have, religion, sexual orientation, birth control use, citizenship and marriage. You can reply with “How is this relevant to the position?”

 

Interviewing is hard! It can be tough to brag about yourself or show that you are the best candidate for the role. With experience, you’ll get better and it will hopefully start to feel more like a friendly conversation than an interrogation.

2017, blog, debbie gillum, debbiegillum

A Day in the Life: Q + A with Debbie Gillum

Recently, I had the honor of being featured on Portfolio Creative’s blog. They do really great “Day in the Life” features on creative professionals living in Columbus. I wanted to share the post here on my website:

Hey, I’m Debbie and I’m the Marketing and Digital Communications Specialist at Volunteers of America of Greater Ohio. I currently live in downtown Cbus across the street from the North Market (above Barley’s and Brewcadia). I’m originally from Indianapolis but moved to Hilliard in middle school and have been in the Buckeye state ever since. I went to Denison University, a small private liberal-arts college and studied English and Communication. I was President of the Quidditch team and editor of the student newspaper. Now, I’m a Founding member of Women in Digital, a national group devoted to empowering women in digital careers.  

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Morning
I’m utterly addicted to coffee so I always consume an enormous amount of black coffee in the morning. I listen to the radio as I get ready because it helps me stay informed about what’s going on in the world. I’m a fan of making smoothies for breakfast. It’s a yummy way to sneak in a lot of healthy foods. On Fridays, I’ll treat myself and swing by Upper Cup Coffee for a muffin and an amazing large cup of Joe.


Afternoon
At work, I live and breathe social media. My favorite part of my job is interacting with fans who shop at Volunteers of America thrift stores. I love writing blog posts sharing the best thrifting tips and tricks. As a kid, I always enjoyed creative writing and as I got older, I liked strategic problem solving so it’s exciting to be in a career where I can do both for a living. I keep an on-going to-do list at work that helps me stay organized and gives me a rush of satisfaction when I can cross off a task. Seems like there’s always a future fundraising or open house event to plan for, so I’m often crafting email invitations, postcards, signs and event programs. I keep my beloved radio on in my office all day and it’s usually tuned to either NPR (big fan of All Sides with Ann Fisher), CD102.5 (love the variety and local music) or WNCI (Dave and Jimmy’s Morning Zoo).
My favorite place for an afternoon pick-me-up coffee is Cherbourg Bakery in downtown Bexley. They take such pride in their coffee and artfully craft each pourover.

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Evening
In the evening, I take horseback riding lessons out in Canal Winchester. I grew up riding my own horse and have adored horses all my life. I love the thrill of jumping and the comforting nuzzle of horses. For dinner, I go to Houndogs in Clintonville with my boyfriend and friends for Wednesday PB&J (a pizza, pitcher of beer and shot of Jameson).  I have two side hustles helping a trivia company and mobile low-cost veterinarian with their social media and blog posts. I love keeping busy!


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2017, blog, blogpost, may

Career Growth Tips for Millennial PR Professionals

Being a young professional in the public relations industry is so exciting! And yet, kind of scary at the same time. There’s a lot to juggle and unfortunately, your Communications 102 course didn’t cover networking. Here’s some advice for millennials looking to grow their career in the PR industry.
Utilize all of LinkedIn
You probably made a LinkedIn when you were in college and it’s been collecting dust for a few years. Well, brush off that dust, look up your password and log back in.
  •         Add descriptions and job titles for previous work experience
    •    Include college and high school internships as well as volunteer work
    • List job duties, responsibilities, achievements, projects, and instances where you went above and beyond your job description. Include work samples and show off projects.
  •         Write articles on LinkedIn. This asserts your expertise on a topic, will be displayed at the top of your profile and shows you’re participating and adding content to the LinkedIn community.  
  •         Endorse skills and write recommendations for co-workers and people you’ve worked with in the past. What goes around comes around, as the great Justin Timberlake once said.
  •         Update your Headline and keep in mind LinkedIn’s algorithm uses these keywords.
  •         Write a summary that stands out from the crowd, avoids jargon and cliché’s and reflects who you are. Have some fun with it.
  •         Use a professional profile photo that is a nice headshot that doesn’t look like it came straight from Instagram. Sorry Mayfair filter, you don’t belong on LinkedIn.
  •         Participate in LinkedIn by Liking and Commenting on articles in your news feed. But, keep in mind, your entire network will be able to see what you like and comment on. With great power comes great responsibility.

Participate in Industry Groups
Connect with individuals who share your passion for PR in your community. Look at the websites of groups like American Marketing Association (AMA), American Advertising Federation (AAF), Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) or other related groups in your area. These groups are great for staying up to date on industry trends and networking.
  •         Sign up for their email newsletters
  •         Attend their events to learn more about what they do and who they are
  •         Consider investing in a yearly membership
  •         Get involved by joining a committee
  •         Stay up to date with PR industry trends by subscribing to relevant email newsletters and reading trade magazines.

Networking doesn’t have to be work
Sometimes the word networking can make introverts want to pull the covers over their heads. Re-frame the word by thinking about networking as making new friends and just keeping in touch with them.
·        You can meet people to network with anywhere, not just at specified networking events. A great place to meet new people is through volunteering at local events like fairs or festivals.
·        Most people will be happy to sit down with you and offer their perspective and advice. Everyone loves to talk about themselves and will be flattered you asked.
·        Offer to grab coffee with someone you’d like to get to know more. Come prepared by looking at their LinkedIn profile beforehand and jotting down some relevant questions. Pay for their coffee and respect their time by keeping it under an hour.
·        Take time to nurture relationships and make a commitment to go outside your comfort zone to get to know new people. It’s okay to talk about non-work related topics and this can even help you find things you have in common.
Keep it Professional or Private
Potential employers will likely search your online presence and don’t want to see your drunk tweets. Take time to clean up your online presence.
·        Google your name and see what links and photos come up. Clean up the less than flattering content.
·        Make your social media platforms private if you have any questionable content.
·        Be aware of how you carry yourself online and try to keep it professional as much as possible.
Be Proud of Your Work
Humility is an admirable trait, except when it comes to job interviews and portfolios.
·        Keep track of your successful projects, campaigns, and works by adding them to your LinkedIn or portfolio.
·        Maintain a personal website that showcases who you are as a PR Professional, your resume or skills, contact info and most importantly, your work samples or portfolio.
·        When chatting with others in the industry, it’s okay to give yourself some props and mention a successful campaign you managed. Mentioning an achievement once is not the same as bragging. Hogging the conversation and only talking about how great you are is bragging.
Have a Side Hustle
As a young professional, it can be hard to get the necessary experience. If you’re starting out, consider offering up your skills and expertise to small organizations or charities.
·        This is a great way to increase your portfolio, learn other skills, meet new people and increase your value to an employer
·        Reach out to local non-profits or small businesses and offer to write press releases, plan events, create graphics, help boost their social media presence, etc.
·        Be realistic about how much time you have to commit to a side hustle. Do you have the necessary time to help this organization on evenings and weekends?
·        Make sure it doesn’t interfere with your current position and your company allows it.
·        Just because you’re young doesn’t mean you have to work for free. Stand up for yourself and ask to be reasonably compensated.  

Wow, that was a lot. It’s okay not to do everything all at once and expect perfection. Don’t compare yourself to where other young professionals are in their career. Focus on improving yourself and learning new skills. Good luck on your journey and always be yourself!  
2017, april, blog, classpass, fitness, may, myblog, review

ClassPass

I wanted to start exercising this spring. When I was researching gyms to possibly join in Columbus, I stumbled upon ClassPass. I’d seen their Facebook Ads and wanted to learn more about them. The trial offer was a good deal and I was excited about the idea of trying new studios to consider joining. 
From April 17- May 17 I did ten various fitness classes in Columbus. At first I thought ten classes a month wouldn’t be enough but I later found it tough to squeeze in all ten classes into my busy schedule.
I enjoyed ClassPass and would recommend it to those who like variety, new adventures and can afford it. 
There were times in classes when I just had to take a deep breath and laugh at myself. There’s always going to be people in a class who have done that routine or those moves for years and are way better than you. That’s okay. I liked trying new classes that I otherwise wouldn’t have booked. I also met some other nice girls, some of them also “ClassPass” like me. 

Here’s the fitness classes in Columbus I did and how I reviewed them: 

Fit Jump

Tue, 05/16
6:00 – 7:00 pm
1645 Gateway Cir, Grove City, OH, 43123

Did not like this class. It was boring and repetitive.  The instructor was a high school freshmen who kept looking at a printed out sheet of notes. She never corrected anyone’s form or said anything motivational. I could hardly hear her. We’d bounce for a minute, do push ups for a minute, then repeat. I found myself zoning out and counting down the minutes til the class was over. The instructor seemed to be doing the same. At one point, we did exercises on the ground and I could’ve done those at home myself. I wanted to do exercises on the trampolines or in the ball pit. This class was disappointing.  

Intro to Aerial Silks

Mon, 05/15
6:00 – 7:30 pm
1411 W 3rd Ave, Columbus, OH, 43212

I thought I wouldn’t enjoy this class but I actually did. It was easier than pole dancing but still required upper body strength. I was challenged and the instructor was willing to help. She was so patient and kind. That made all the difference. I was amazed at what I was able to do. I wouldn’t mind taking this class again. I was a bit sore the next day. 

Barre in the Village

Mon, 5/8
6:00 – 7:00 pm
503 City Park Ave, Columbus, OH, 43215
This wasn’t my favorite class. I felt very cramped and close to my neighbor. I couldn’t extend my legs or arms all the way without hitting her. Throughout class, I wasn’t sure if I was doing any of the moves right. The instructor was loud and friendly. She introduced herself by asking me if I had any injuries. Um, no. If I did, I’d let you know. My arms felt sore the next day so I guess it was a good workout.

SpinFlex60

Sun, 5/7
5:15 – 6:15 pm
6367 Sawmill Rd, Dublin, OH, 43017
This was a great workout and I liked the variety and loved the instructor. She was really down-to-earth, motivational and offered modifications and corrections. It’s a very nice studio, right by Trader Joes. I would go back and definitely take classes from Sarah again. She was fantastic.

Barre7

Thu, 5/4
6:00 – 7:00 pm
275 S 3rd St, Columbus, OH, 43215
Julie is the best instructor I’ve ever had. It was a great workout. I wish I could give it six stars! She’s so inspirational and filled with knowledge. It was a challenging yet achievable workout. Highly recommend this class to everyone.

Fit Jump

Mon, 5/1
7:00 – 8:00 pm
3967 Presidential Pkwy, Powell, OH, 43065
It was a tough but fun workout. I couldn’t help but smile when we were bouncing on the trampoline but then that smile faded when we started doing suicides, frog legs, push ups, etc. I worked up quite a sweat. The instructor is tough but fair. I wish she had explained how exactly to do some of the more tricky moves. The class was small with just me and 5 “regulars”

Zumba

Fri, 4/28
6:30 – 7:15 pm
640 Lakeview Plaza Blvd, Suite A, Columbus, OH, 43085
Not super intense, but a great way to blow off some steam. Had a good time 

Beginner Pole

Wed, 4/26
7:45 – 8:45 pm
3408 Indianola Ave, Columbus, OH, 43214
I left class feeling frustrated. The class was labeled Beginner but the majority of the class had been dancing for years/ had their own pole in their basement/ could do spinning pole dancing. Everyone else in the class got the hang of it instantly. The instructor, Devon, gave up on me after awkwardly trying to help me twice. It wasn’t much of a workout and the pole was crazy slippery. Only take this class if you can do a few pull ups and have great upper body strength. And wear shorts. You can’t do the class in yoga capri pants. You have to wear shorts. Even though their website says you can wear yoga pants. Don’t.

Hydro Power Jam

Mon, 4/24
7:00 – 8:00 pm
3111 Hayden Rd, Columbus, OH, 43235
Laura is a really nice instructor. The workout wasn’t the most intense. I wanted it to be more challenging. There were a lot of older women in the group and some of them seem more focused on gossiping than doing the moves. Sawmill has a nice pool, locker room, hot tub and sauna.

Dance Mixx

Fri, 4/21
6:00 – 7:00 pm
1145 Kenny Centre Mall, Columbus, OH, 43220
The staff is really friendly and welcoming. The instructor came over and introduced herself and explained how the class would go. I liked the music and the dance moves. The instructor was so upbeat and motivating. It was a good workout.

And that’s all I have to say about my experience with a one-month trial of ClassPass in Columbus. 
2017, Baking, blog, cookies, debbie, may, myblog, recipe

Cookie de Tacos

Happy Cinco de Mayo! 
I celebrated by creating these adorable cookie tacos for a surprise birthday party for one of Nate’s friends. 
Colorful Cookie Tacos
This type of plate helped the tacos stay upright 
Ingredients:
Golden Oreos
Sprinkles
Chocolate Frosting 
Food Coloring (green, yellow, red)
Coconut flakes (I used unsweetened) 
Instructions: 
  1. Using the food coloring, dye the coconut flakes a green (lettuce) or an orange-yellow color (cheese) I used shot glasses to stir the food coloring into the coconut flakes. 
  2. Remove the top part of the Oreo and remove the inner frosting (My frosting disappeared into my mouth…) 
  3. Carefully cut in half the Oreo cookie. Sometimes I just broke it apart and other times I used a knife in a sawing motion. 
  4. Put the two half pieces together in your hand and add a spoonful of chocolate frosting 
  5. Dip it into sprinkles and colored coconut toppings 
After the first couple, I had a nice assembly line going and it wasn’t too labor intensive. 
My work station 
I saw this on Pinterest and wanted to try to make it myself