It's Everywhere

Branding is an inescapable part of our lives.

A Critical Skill

Professional presentation is important to master regardless of one's profession.

Joy

It begins with a sense of inner joy at recognizing and sharing who we are.

Connection

It's important to recognize what others see and value in us.

Alignment

When we successfully match our inner selves with the realities and demands of the outside world, the result is both profitable and joyful.

The Job Interview Mating Dance

There are few things in life more painful than a job interview. Except, perhaps, dating.
There are also few things more shameful. Right? It's not something you want to talk about. The screw-ups, the flubs, the asinine mistakes that everyone makes but which feel totally unique to your sorry ass.
In a nod to the generous holiday spirit, I will attempt to lessen the collective shame of job interviewees everywhere by sharing some actual outtakes from various interviews I've suffered through over time.
I would also like to reassure the group that with each of these horrendous meetings, your self-esteem will drop by 3 percentage points. Which you can later drown in a gigantic iced coffee at any high-end coffee shop of your choosing.
Also on the positive side, you will likely never see these people ever again.
And now without any further ado: Lights, camera, ACTION.
* * *
"Here, Dannielle, have a seat. Sit right here."
Clearly this isn't a choice thing. "Sure. Thank you."
"There are a few of us, so please bear with us as we gather in."
"No problem."
"Oh, there's one more...is Katie on the phone?"
Then, to me, as if I will in any way, shape or form remember this.
"That's Katie, our Director of Field Coordination."
"Super."
"Are we all ready now?"
The group nods. Waves of nods appear. Mmhmm. We. Are. Ready.
"Well, welcome, Dannielle, it's such a pleasure to met you."
"For me as well."
This is not a pleasure for anyone. I need a job, and for you it's 3:00 on a Friday.
"We've heard so much about you. We love your blog."
"You do? I appreciate that."
Because it's the only thanks I'll ever get. It doesn't make me a damn dime.
"We're on a tight schedule here, so if you don't mind let's get to Question 1."
Back to Planet Earth.
"Great."
By the way, I have gleaned from many years of experience that the less you say in an interview, the better.
"OK, Question 1."
Shuffles papers.
"Tell us a little about yourself, if you would."
"Sure. Well, I started out as a writer from a very young age...."
  • One of them is checking his smartphone. I can see you!
  • The other is drooling.
  • The third is busy "taking notes," a.k.a. doodling.
"Thanks. Now on to Question 2."
Laboriously he reads. This one's gonna be a doozy, I can tell.
"Tell us about a time when you had to handle a difficult communication situation. What was the problem, who were your key stakeholders, what are some of the challenges you faced, and what was the outcome?"
NO! THE DREADED ESSAY QUESTION!
"Um, could you repeat the question please?"
"Question 3. What's your biggest weakness?"
"I am an obsessive perfectionist."
Wait. That didn't sound right.
The guy's expression says: freaking 3:25 p.mmmmmm.
"I get to do Question 4," Katie chimes in. From the phone, all chirpy. I hate her already.
"Why do you want to work HERE, specifically?"
Because you have a job available, idiot.
"I, uh, mm, I, well..." stuttering, stammering.
"...I just love the very important critical aspects of the esoteric specific highly confusing and impossible to understand work that you do."
There. Now it's perfectly clear.
"Last one. Do you have any questions for us?"
Oh good. That one was in the article about interviewing skills. Which I read on the train.
"Tell me what is the absolute worst thing I could do in this job if you hired me. Like the one thing that would make me fail, out the wazoo."
The doodler looks at me as if to say, OMG.
"It's been a pleasure, Dannielle."
"Thank you. I thought that went well."
"That being said - we'll call you."
Dannielle Blumenthal is a seasoned communications professional with nearly two decades of progressive, varied experience in the public sector, private sector, and academia. Currently she is a public servant, as well as an independent freelance writer. This blog, like all of her public content, is written in her personal capacity unless otherwise noted. It does not reflect the views of the U.S. government, in whole or in part. Photo credit: Gerard Stolk via Flickr

Please, Save Us From Your TMI


"I used to live near the Gowanus Expressway, do you know where that is?"
"No."
"It's pronounced GO-WAH-NUS."
"No kidding."
"I was going through a really tough time back then. I was poor."
"I'm sorry. I..."
"Now I'm successful. REALLY successful."
"Yeah? Hey listen, I've got to go check on that - "
"I mean BIG. But my kids aren't talking to me."
"Oh. Oh no. Well I guess I can sit down for a minute more."
"Yeah. And my husband walked RIGHT OUTI was working too much he said."
"Mmmmmm."
"He took the kids with him. That's why they hate me."
"Um, I'm sorry I just have to - "
"Yeah, they really do."
"Oh. Yeah."
"Hey - I see you shifting around over there. I didn't mean to keep you. You go ahead and take your bio break, yeah. You need that."
"Thank you, I mean thank you. Thanks."
"You take care now. Give me a call."
"I will."
As I am thinking, that would be never.
It took me a while to put myself in the other person's shoes. But I used to be a blabbermouth myself, and once I cottoned onto that, catching others in the act became a little easier for me.
So now I'm telling you.
When you're talking to a stranger, and you feel really comfortable, enough to chat away and tell them all about yourself...consider this: Do they seem to want to hear it?
If they're squirming, or looking away as if for an exit sign, consider it a warning. You're probably sharing a bit too much.
Dannielle Blumenthal is a seasoned communications professional with nearly two decades of progressive, varied experience in the public sector, private sector, and academia. Currently she is a public servant, as well as an independent freelance writer. This blog, like all of her public content, is written in her personal capacity unless otherwise noted. It does not reflect the views of the U.S. government, in whole or in part. Photo credit: sari_dennise / Flickr

You Have No Choice - You Must Run Your Marathon


"People are as individual as snowflakes, they kinda look alike but no two are the exactly the same, and all classification is the root of prejudice." ― Craig Ferguson, host, "The Late Late Show"
I've been a creative as long as I can remember. Writing, photography, slideshows, web, social media, fashion design, PR, writing for magazines, newspapers, and books. You name it I have tried it, and a hungry consumer of all of these.
The stage has always pulled me in as well. Tap dancing, piano, gymnastics, public speaking, modeling (well, I tried), theater. I absolutely love to be on TV.
In short, I am a performer. I like to study it, to do it, and to help others find their way to self-expression.
Being who I am makes me feel alive. If that is selfish, then I am selfish. If I'm making excuses and rationalizations for underlying unconscious drives, for narcissism, for a shitty upbringing - I don't think so, but even if so, so be it.
This is my race, and I'm running it. You have one, too. Some of you refuse to see it, or to get on the track. Maybe someone told you that you "should" be just like them, that you're "crazy" and that "it's time to grow up and cut it out."
Wrong! Stop!
You not only can be yourself, you must be.
Paraphrasing Joel Osteen: You have a special, soulful, solely-your-own mission in life. And your talent represents the tools you need.
I'll take it a step further. You are spiritually forbidden to try and be what you are not - to turn away from the unique kind of snowflake that you are.
Do you feel like being reincarnated because you didn't carry out your job in this life?
Look. You don't have to try very hard here. Just unlearn. Unburden yourself from the weight of convention, what "they" told you, the finger-shakers and naysayers, the insecure, the bullies.
When it's right, it feels right, and you know it.
You are not hurting other people by being yourself. Whoever tells you that, they're the one that's crazy, or more likely they selfishly want to take something from you.
That isn't to say that you can just run over people, hurt your family, fail to fulfill your responsibilities. Artists unfortunately are notorious for that.
But for the most part, good people tend to bury themselves under a mountain of unimportant nonsense in the mistaken belief that these actions make them "righteous." They somehow think it's "wrong" to discover, release and unleash the natural-born talent they were given. To give their gifts to the world.
So now it is time - get up.
Get other people out of your way. Get out of your own way. Give yourself permission.
Still procrastinating? I can hear you over there.
Stop making excuses.
Make the time.
Take one little tiny step forward.
Just do it.
Dannielle Blumenthal is a seasoned communications professional with nearly two decades of progressive, varied experience in the public sector, private sector, and academia as well as her own independent, freelance sole proprietorship. This blog is written in her personal capacity and does not reflect the views of her employer or the U.S. government as a whole. Photo credit: Peter Mooney / Flickr. 

10 Timeless Tips From Women At The Top

This week, The New York Times published a "corner office" interview with four successful female executives. What follows is just a sampling of their wisdom.
  • Dress with intent. "Presentation matters."
  • Make your boundaries clear. "There is a line that people need to understand."
  • Give yourself a break. "You're expected to be everything to everybody....and all the while, you’re not given support."
- Dara Richardson-Heron, Chief Executive of the Y.W.C.A. USA
  • Be articulate about your accomplishments. "Humility is a really good trait, but I also think that owning who you are and owning it big are important.”
  • Talk positive, not negative. "What I realized with a group of men is that they always stated things very positively....a sort of we-can-do-this attitude."
- Sharon Napier, Chief Executive, Partners + Napier
  • Focusing on gender is largely a waste of time. "Let’s stipulate that women are apples and men are pears. You still have to find a way to succeed in the world."
  • The higher you go, the more vicious the competition. "The air is thin at the top....People will use whatever tools they have to try to prevail over you."
  • Focus on your abilities not just your credentials. "Women are much less likely to view themselves, and to be viewed by others, as being capable of a stretch job." (This point was echoed by Jenny Ming, Chief Executive, Charlotte Russe.)
- Jody Greenstone Miller, Chief Executive, the Business Talent Group
  • Women's ability to make business decisions is often underestimated. "I think most people underestimate that women can do that....I actually find a lot of men have a hard time making tough decisions. They’ll say to someone else, 'You do it.'"
  • Success in a meeting does not necessarily mean talking. "You have to balance listening and speaking." (Dara Richardson-Heron made a similar point, that your value as a speaker comes from your track record of accomplishment.)
- Jenny Ming, Chief Executive, Charlotte Russe
Dannielle Blumenthal is a seasoned communications professional with nearly two decades of progressive, varied experience in the public sector, private sector, and academia as well as her own independent, freelance sole proprietorship. This blog is written in her personal capacity and does not reflect the views of her employer or the U.S. government as a whole. Photo credit: Wendy Longo via Flickr

The Open Letter Your Employees Won't Write

I don't know if I can trust you.
I'm not listening to your speeches or reading your blogs.
And I skipped the town hall as well. It's true.
Your official emails are very long. But they don't say too much.
Did you know that your eyes dart back and forth in conversation?
Most of the time you're hard to get, if at all.
What is it you're hiding? Where are you when something is going wrong?
I'm the one who's out there all day, busting my butt to get the work done.
I literally have an impossible job.
Would you throw me under the bus?
Sometimes I feel like I'll never know.
Until I feel like you've got my back, I'll be keeping my options open.
Dannielle Blumenthal is a seasoned communications professional with nearly two decades of progressive, varied experience in the public sector, private sector, and academia as well as her own independent, freelance sole proprietorship. This blog is written in her personal capacity and does not reflect the views of her employer or the U.S. government as a whole. Photo by Oli Young via Flickr.

Never Again Is Happening Again

We interrupt this blog for a short public service announcement. Please share if you care about stopping the rise of antisemitism in America and worldwide.

 

The One Emotion To Avoid At All Costs

They tell you to "feel your feelings" and it's true, you have no choice.
But some of them are really unpleasant:
  • Fear
  • Jealousy
  • Grief
  • Shame
  • Anger
  • Hate
Like many people I try to bypass all this crap and medicate with food. Ice cream and french fries work well. Or, I just get dizzy. 
One day I looked in the mirror and saw rivers of early gray.
Other people have less of a problem with negativity. They can admit: "I'm afraid," or sad, or jealous or even self-hating. They can talk about it with friends. All of that is good.
But there are some people who like the dark side a bit too much. They are haters, and almost any pretext will set them off. 
Sometimes it seems like hatred has a justification. But when you indulge in this feeling, the only person you're really hurting is yourself. Because you're binding yourself to the target of it, forever.
And the reason you feel hatred, if the truth be told, is more personal than external.
  • I've hated others, and learned that the emotion masked my own discomfort with a part of myself.
  • There have been people who have hated me because they didn't understand things. But you can't explain yourself to the entire world, and frankly people often don't give a shit about revising that judgment once it's done.
  • I used to feel justified in hating those who are antisemitic, until I realized that the real issue was feeling powerless on my part. The Nazis and the radical terrorists seem to have a strength I don't possess.
Hatred is always, always, always about you and never the target.
The spectrum of so-called negative emotions is good for us to feel. It lights the way forward. It's a signal that some important boundary has been disturbed, that right and wrong need fixing, that we have unresolved conflicts from the past.
Dwelling in hatred, however, is never a good idea. It throws your inner compass off. It stops your brain from working. Blocks you from learning. It binds you to the very object of your hatred, in ways you never want.
Hatred keeps you at the junior level of consciousness, when you want to be a spiritual CEO.
Dannielle Blumenthal is a seasoned communications professional with nearly two decades of progressive, varied experience in the public sector, private sector, and academia as well as her own independent, freelance sole proprietorship. This blog is written in her personal capacity. The opinions expressed here are the author's own and do not reflect the view of the National Archives and Records Administration, or the United States government. Photo credit: U.S. Army / Flickr