Archive for February, 2008

Why we love to criticize

Teachers know they have to come up with a variety of different ways to keep us students interested and engaged in the material they are teaching.  They use case studies, in-class application assignments, videos and readings to get our attention.  But nothing seems to work better than “critiquing” the work of professionals.

I don’t know why this exercise works, but nothing seems to capture the attention of my fellow classmates more than discussing the reasons we don’t like a particular piece of writing and what we would do to make it better. 

Most recently we were given pieces of direct mail to critique.  It started out much the same with people bringing up points they liked about the pieces, but then one negative comment was made and that was it.  The negative comments just kept coming.  Mind you, they were all valid points and I think we all learned what we want our direct mail pieces to look like by discussing what we definitely don’t want them to look like.

There could be many reasons why this exercise of critiquing always works to get us engaged in the topic, but I think the reason we all get so into it is simple: it makes us feel better.  By seeing that those in the professional world can make mistakes and produce pieces that aren’t that great, we feel better about our skills since we are able to point out these mistakes.  By recognizing them we will likely be able to create better pieces when we are employed.

Also, I think it assures us that we will not be fired for writing pieces that aren’t quite up to top standard; that if professionals in the business make mistakes, so can we.  Maybe we shouldn’t be so hard on ourselves for our grades.  When we get constructive criticism from our teachers, we should be thankful for the opportunity to improve in the safety of the classroom.  That way, when we are working full-time, we can produce work that would make classrooms full of students jealous 🙂

To my fellow students, do you agree with my interpretation or do you feel there is some other reason we love to critique the works of professionals?

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Judgment day

My fellow classmates and I were provided with a rare opportunity today during our career management class – to have Martin Waxman, APR – Co-founder and President of Palette Public Relations Inc., in to speak. He wasn’t in to talk to us about agency life or starting your own firm; he was, in fact, discussing our resumes.

A couple of weeks ago, we were given a job description for an account coordinator position at Palette PR and were asked to come up with a cover letter and resume tailored to that job description. We then handed in two copies, one for our instructor to mark, and one for Martin to mark.

To me, this was just as intimidating as starting this blog. Yet again, my writing and personality were being put out there for people to see; my professional reputation on the line.

The results came in today. Martin said he was generally impressed and gave us great feedback. But with all of the advice he gave us today about cover letters and resumes, one thing in particular stuck out in my mind. He said that “judgment” is one of the most important things he looks for in a potential employee.

This really got me thinking. While judgment is an important skill, it is generally not one that people think to highlight in cover letters, resumes and during interviews. But being able to use your own judgment demonstrates to an employer that you are confident in yourself and the skills you can bring as an employee. Most employers know they will have to answer questions for you in the beginning. But by demonstrating that you have strong judgment, you are letting your employer know that you are independent and will try to problem solve on your own first. This is a big help for busy professionals.

This is not something we should wait to demonstrate. This is a skill that we need to practice now, as students. We need to show our teachers that we are capable of making decisions about assignments on our own without having every detail. It is hard because we all care about our grades and by not asking questions and using our own judgment, we are taking risks, which can be scary. But in the end, we will be learning valuable lessons that we can apply during our upcoming internship interviews and in our many upcoming years as successful PR professionals.