Gratitude: the quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness.
We’ve all heard the saying, “Be grateful for what you have.” In this day and age, where quite a few of us have more than we need, you would think more people would wake up and appreciate the great splendor of the world. But, unfortunately, we don’t.
Many times when something good happens we say, “I am so lucky and grateful for this blessing in my life.” But, if one small bad thing happens 20 minutes later a lot of us quickly forget about that blessing. Humans tend to gravitate towards the negative.
That’s where gratitude comes in. Gratitude is an extremely powerful feeling that leaves a lasting impact on not only your life, but the lives of others as well. But, as much as gratitude is a feeling, it is also a practice. You really do have to practice feeling grateful for things. You woke up this morning in a comfortable bed? Incredible! You have gas in your car? Miraculous!
It’s also important to remember that negative things do happen and we should feel grateful towards those things as well, even if at the time they seem awful. It’s all about perspective.
When we practice gratitude it shines through in every aspect of our lives, especially work. Considering we spend most of our days at work, expressing gratitude on the job is extremely important. Let’s take a look at some ways gratitude can boost your morale at work.
1. Practicing gratitude helps you focus on the positive.
I wake up every morning and write in my Five Minute Journal. The journal is a constant reminder for me to focus on things for which I’m grateful, as well as a few things that would make my day really great. Some days, I’m so tired that I simply write I’m grateful for my comfortable bed. Other days, when I don’t really feel like doing anything, I remind myself how grateful I am to work at a place that I love and don’t dread going to every day.
This simple practice sets my tone for the day and allows me to appreciate the small things in my life just a little bit more. Remaining positive is absolutely key in the workplace. Stressful things are bound to happen, but if you focus on things you’re grateful for instead of stress, negativity and worry, I promise your job will be a whole lot easier.
2. Feeling grateful helps improve your relationships.
Have you ever met someone who just seems like a light in your life? Someone who radiates positivity and exudes gratitude in every aspect of their life. Think about the way you feel when you’re around them—joyful, content, happy. You just can’t get enough of them. You probably find yourself feeling grateful for their existence because they bring you so much joy.
Now think about someone who focuses solely on the negative. Someone who complains about every small thing in their life. You probably have a totally different feeling about them.
Positivity is contagious and truly makes the workplace an enjoyable place to be. Practicing gratitude makes life seem a bit brighter. Once you start focusing on expressing thankfulness and appreciation, it will affect other people as well and lift the whole office up with you.
3. Gratitude does wonders for your self-esteem.
Taking the time to focus on things you are thankful for and all of the positives in your life leads to higher self-esteem. And self-esteem has been linked to improved career success. Who doesn’t want that?
Once your self-esteem builds, so will your confidence. And confidence in the workplace is key. Have you been dying to start a new project or shoot out some fresh ideas that have been brewing? Start practicing gratitude and the confidence to go for something new will come with it.
I can drone on and on about the benefits of being grateful, but the one thing I want you to hold on to is that it just feels good. Gratitude brings so much joy into your life as well as the lives of others. Who doesn’t want to feel as much joy as possible?
When you sit down to write, what is your first thought? Is it the topic you’re writing about? Your audience? How often do you think about your level of writing?
PR practitioners are writers. As with many other authors, much of our focus is writing for our audience. So what reading level is optimal when writing?
How to assess your writing level
A variety of components go into measuring readability, including syllables, sentence length, and other proxies for vocabulary and concept complexity.
The Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level formula is one readability test that calculates a grade level based on sentence length and the amount of three-syllable words within a given text. Also, sites like Readability-Score.com are an easy tool you can use to measure the readability of your writing.
Readability or complexity?
Research says writing somewhere between a 4th to 8th grade level will allow you to reach the largest audience.
“Copy that’s 4th to 6th grade level is barrier-free and can be read quickly and comprehended well by all adult readers,” according to blogger Jeff Brooks.
For blogs, you can get away with writing at an 8th grade level.
Contently explains that by keeping your writing simple you have the opportunity for a larger reach. “The other lesson from this study is that we should aim to reduce complexity in our writing as much as possible. We won’t lose credibility by doing so. Our readers will comprehend and retain our ideas more reliably.”
Writing for your audience
In addition to making sure you simplify your writing, it’s also important to consider your audience. If your goal is to reach a large, diverse audience, you should aim for a lower level. If you’re developing a newsletter that will be distributed to a highly-educated audience, your writing can be more sophisticated.
To sum it up, write simply and keep your target audience in mind while writing in order to communicate most effectively.
What’s at the heart of fulfillment, the key to managing your time and secret of owning your life? Purpose. With purpose, life feels more meaningful, time is more focused and life proceeds in the direction of your dreams. And while much can and has been said about purpose, here’s a very personal account of how I found mine, and a few exercises to help you find – and get fueled – by yours.
Step 1: Find your purpose.
Remember the story of the professor who illustrates the importance of priorities using a jar and some rocks? Let me refresh your memory.
A professor stood in front of his class and said “Time for a quiz.” He had everyone’s attention.
He pulled out a mason jar and set it on the table in front of him. Next he took about a dozen rocks and, one by one, added them to the jar. When no more rocks would fit inside, he asked the class, “Is this jar full?” Everyone answered “Yes.”
Next, the professor reached under the table and pulled out a container of pebbles. He added the pebbles to the jar of rocks, shaking the jar and causing the pebbles to fill in the spaces between the rocks. Then he asked his class again, “Is this jar full?” Now the students weren’t so sure. Again, the professor reached under the table and, this time, brought out a container of sand. He poured the sand in, shaking the jar so that the sand filled the spaces left by the pebbles. Once more the professor asked, “Is this jar full?”
By this time the class was on to him. The professor lifted a pitcher of water and began to pour the water into the jar until the jar was filled to the brim. Then he looked up at the class and explained that the jar represents life. The rocks are the truly important things, like family, health and relationships. If all else was lost, life would still be meaningful. The pebbles are other things that matter, like work and school. The sand represents the small stuff and the water is symbolic of the things that get in our way. The professor said, “In life, remember to put the rocks in first or you won’t have room for them.”
I first heard this story at a time when I was questioning my goals in life. Some I had achieved, but others were less measurable. I wanted a successful career, but I had not found fulfillment from positions that ‘looked’ successful. I wanted to make a difference, but donating and volunteering didn’t feel like ‘enough.’
And so I created my own interpretation of the rocks story. I began to think of the jar not as my life, but as my life’s purpose. I asked myself the following four questions:
- What was I passionate about?
- What did I feel I was really good at?
- What does the world ‘need’ that I can give?
- What are the skills I have that I can use to make a living?
It was at the intersection of these four answers that I found my purpose: to have a positive impact through the field of communications. I stopped looking for the organization that would fuel my purpose and decided to build that organization instead. In January 2013, I founded my company, Prosper for Purpose, on the concept of doing well by – and for – doing good.
With my jar as my purpose, and my company as the real life representation of that purpose, I carefully selected my rocks. First in the jar were my values, because when we don’t put our values in first, we may find there is no room for them later. This can lead to compromises we’d rather (and should not) make. You can read about Prosper for Purpose’s values here. Next came my goals, because goals provide direction.
My pebbles are the people and organizations I choose to work with. If an opportunity presents itself that doesn’t fit in with my values, it doesn’t go in the jar. This has translated into people I have chosen not to work with and paid opportunities I have chosen not to accept. Sometimes a pebble has made its way into my jar, but over time I see that it really doesn’t fit. That pebble goes.
It is not easy to say no to revenue-generating opportunities. It’s even more difficult to part ways with a colleague. But it’s my jar. And I can only fill it with the rocks and pebbles that fit my purpose.
The pebbles currently filling my jar are gems. They are the people and the organizations with whom I work. They shine and enhance my values. The sand is the work that we do together, and the things we do to keep us charged and focused. Some of these pebbles will leave the jar; employees may move on, client projects will end. These pebbles will carefully be replaced by other pebbles. And the water, when it gets in at all, finds that there’s not much opportunity to move me from my purpose.
So, now it’s your turn. Ask yourself the following questions:
- What are YOU passionate about?
- What do you know you are really good at?
- What does the world need that you can give?
- What are the skills you can use to earn a living?
Step 2: Manage your time.
Annie Dillard, in her book The Writing Life, says, “How we spend our days is of course how we spend our lives.” When we focus on time in terms of days, we manage ourselves hour by hour to see how efficient we can be. We judge ourselves by how much we accomplish in a day. This is tragic. Hours, days, even years can be spent doing things that don’t further our purpose.
But when we look at our time in terms of our lifetime, we are better able to invest in activities that fuel our purpose. With purpose, goals are easier to set and measure. With purpose comes direction. Purpose helps us set goals and priorities and, in turn, manage our time.
Once you’ve identified your purpose and your values, set your goals and only ‘pick up’ pebbles that will help you fuel your purpose. This means there will be many pebbles you don’t pick up. Just as I learned to say no to people and opportunities that didn’t fit my purpose, so can you. Time is precious. Make it count.
A great thing about the purpose exercise is that it can also be used at work. If you are fortunate enough to work for an organization that is true to its mission and values, the jar is the mission (purpose) and the rocks are the values and goals. The pebbles can be the people and tasks you do to further that mission. Choose them wisely.
Step 3: Own your life.
I started my company nearly four years ago. My life is busier than it has ever been, yet I feel more excited and engaged than ever. Purpose provides me with energy and inspiration.
You don’t have to start your own company to live your purpose. Most people don’t. Instead they have jobs that enable them to find purpose through their work.
Occasionally, very purposeful people work jobs that don’t fuel their purpose directly, but instead enable their purpose. Some of these people are coaches, others volunteer walking dogs or feeding the homeless. Some earn a stipend, others nothing at all. Many retired adults attest to finding more purpose in their volunteer efforts than in their former jobs.
In the end, what is important is that you find and follow your purpose. Honor your purpose by choosing the rocks, pebbles and sand that belong in your jar.
How Agency Life Helped Define My Career Path
Public relations is one of the few majors that can provide you with endless career paths upon graduation. Nearly every industry imaginable has a need for public relations services, allowing students and professionals almost limitless options when it comes to choosing a career.
This summer during my internship at Prosper for Purpose, I had the chance to experience social media management, client research, PR writing and blogging, and media pitching. I even populated an entire website with content. Working at an agency gave me an idea of just how broad the field of public relations really is! For some clients, I strictly focused on social media, while other clients needed assistance with compiling media lists or identifying industry influencers.
Some days were more overwhelming than others and my project list always seemed to vary, but overall working at an agency proved to be a beneficial experience to really show me what PR is all about. Team Prosper has a combination of nonprofit and business clients, allowing me to touch accounts from different sectors and learn more about the various facets of public relations.
If you are a student struggling with where to go in the field of public relations, an agency internship may help you define your career path. I was able to add PR writing pieces to my portfolio, I published blogs (like this one!) on Prosper’s website, I conducted research for clients, and worked with PR software to build media lists – all new experiences for me! I also had the chance to sit in on team and client meetings, allowing me to see the business side of agency life in real-time. I attended client photo shoots, media preview days, and listened to weekly phone updates with clients. I learned about retainers and billing, project management, and the roles of account managers.
I still may not know exactly where my career path will take me after graduation, but working at an agency has allowed me to see that there are more job options than I even thought possible.
As a college student, one of the things I hear most about is gaining professional experience during my four years of undergraduate education. Internships, co-ops and part-time jobs are always strongly encouraged, but can be difficult to manage during a full-time course schedule.
How do you gain professional skills in college (or as a recent graduate) if you aren’t necessarily working a job in your industry, but rather a job that works with your student schedule and pays the bills? Easy! All jobs require specific skills – you just have to know how to transfer them into any career.
Follow the guide below to impress any employer with your skill set.
1) Customer service is key (and kindness never killed anybody!)
Did you spend your summers waitressing, working retail or lifeguarding? If so, chances are you had a run-in or two with an upset customer or someone who needed your assistance. In such roles, you learn the value of customer service, how to diffuse tense situations and how to best represent your employer in tough times. Sure, dealing with someone who is mad that their meal is cold may not seem like a professional skill at the time, but employers are always looking for someone who is well-spoken and knows how to positively represent their brand.
2) Work smarter, not harder – it’s all about strategy.
Those nights of taking inventory, cleaning the pool house or trying to figure out how to get the kids you babysit to fall asleep will pay off. Those situations will teach you the skills needed to finish a job effectively and efficiently – helping you build strategies. Did you create a new inventory system that made stocking a store easier? Great! You just assisted the company in building a strategy to streamline inventory.
3) There’s no ‘I’ in team and teamwork is inevitable.
Throughout high school I worked as a lifeguard and swim lesson instructor. While these may seem like pretty independent tasks, a lot of teamwork is involved to effectively run a pool. Learning to communicate in a team setting is essential – even if it just means telling the next shift about the crazy boys that wouldn’t stop doing flips off the diving board. In a professional setting, teamwork is inevitable and employers want to know that you can work well in a team setting. Look at those late-night closing shifts and waitressing rotations as being part of a professional team and use those moments to highlight your communication skills.
4) Being a full-time student really is a full-time job.
Being a full-time student is hard; give yourself some credit for it! Balancing courses, extracurriculars, job(s) and a social life really is a job within itself. Prior to working at Prosper for Purpose, I had never worked in an agency setting – but I used the skills I honed from balancing 17 credit hours to explain in my interview that I always met deadlines for various “clients” or professors during the academic year. Along with being a full-time student, I held two on-campus jobs that added to my hectic schedule. In comparison to my school schedule (and that of many of my peers), a 9-5 schedule isn’t half bad!
Not every job will be your dream job, but the skills you take away from each position can get you there. By using every opportunity as a chance to build your presentation, time-management and planning skills, public speaking abilities and work ethic in a team setting, an employer will care more about the skills you bring to the table instead of the company names on your resume.
Emily Kovach (left) and Maggie Burke (right) discuss the value of good internships.
MB: Emily Kovach is ending a year-long internship with Prosper for Purpose and heading to Kent State University to complete her degree. So today we’re talking internships. And as Emily and I can attest, while incorporating one into your already busy college schedule can seem stressful, the RIGHT internship can be a vital piece of professional growth.
EK: I agree. When you’re lucky enough to find a business that hires interns within your field that is looking to expand your knowledge, go for it!
MB: Not only does it add to your growing resume during your years at a university, but I feel it’s an essential piece of the puzzle to validate that what you’re studying is something you’ll enjoy beyond the textbooks.
EK: When I joined on for Prosper for Purpose, I wasn’t sure exactly what I wanted to do when I “grew up.” I think anyone hiring an intern should keep in mind that many students aren’t 100% sure where they’d like to end up afterwards. My top take away from the internship this far with Prosper is how important it is to make business contacts. I’m still in a limbo of whether I’d like to go into business for myself or not and I really appreciate Lorraine (Lorraine Schuchart, Prosper founder and CEO) showing me how rewarding it is if you’re willing to put in the hard work.
MB: That is one thing that really irritates me when some of my peers were taking internships to simply go on coffee runs and grab things from the printer.
If I can give any advice to businesses thinking about hiring interns, make sure you’re really honing in on their fresh ideas and young perspective on projects. If you’re wanting an intern to come into the office to do meaningless work, then just hire someone to do that and let that student find growth elsewhere. Sure the title may look good to potential employers in the future, but if they don’t have the skills and abilities that they need to succeed in the business, they’ll not only feel defeated, but then question whether or not they’re actually good at what they set out to do.
EK: Yes. It is important to take someone under your wing and build upon their strengths but also work on their areas of growth as well. I feel I’ve grown a lot with this internship. I’ve taken on projects that I wouldn’t have had a chance to do elsewhere and I’ve been able to think outside the box to actually add my own flavor to some of the work. It’s very rewarding.
MB: In my first internship with Rebecca Adele PR & Events, she didn’t hold back. She wanted us to learn and she thought we would learn best by first trying it ourselves and then going over the errors with her side-by-side to actually see what processes work best, especially with social media.
Now, I’m not saying hire someone on to do your social media just because they’re young. I think that’s one mistake that many employers are making. There is so much more that goes into a strategic social media plan than simply posting about how great your company or product is and leaving the audience to decide for themselves. It’s important to have social media as a dialogue, not a monologue. I’m very much interested in the social media marketing aspect of PR and I’m glad Lorraine has trusted me with our clients, but it didn’t come easy. I had to work at it and find sources outside of the classroom and internship to perfect my strategy.
EK: You’ve hit on a very good point for students to realize when looking for internships. Knowledge doesn’t stop there. Look to other things in your area to expand your excitement for what you’re studying. Webinars, networking events, listening in on panels of experts in your field.
MB: It takes a lot to bring on a young professional for an intern, but it is one of the best experiences I’ve had in my early twenties and I wouldn’t trade any of them. They all varied based on what was asked of me and I thank everyone who believed in me as a young college student to come in and help.
EK: I couldn’t have said it any better. Internships are so important for young professionals today and I encourage everyone to take part in a few before they start applying for jobs.