Facebook password: can an employer ask for yours?

How far would you go to secure your dream job? Or in this economy, any job? What if your potential employer asked for your Facebook password in order for you to advance in the interview process? It seems ridiculous, but unfortunately an alarming number of cases like this are surfacing.

Facebook seems to have finally caught wind of the situation, and has threatened to sue employers who ask job applicants for passwords to their accounts. On Friday, March 23, Facebook’s chief privacy officer released a statement saying, “We’ll take action to protect the privacy and security of our users, whether by engaging policymakers or, where appropriate, by initiating legal action. Sharing a Facebook password or asking for someone else’s password violates Facebook’s user agreement. An employer who requests such information may face unanticipated legal liability.”

Facebook warned that if personal information gathered from a Facebook page negatively affects an employer’s decision, the company might be liable for discrimination. Facebook didn’t, however, state any specific legal actions it would take.

And that’s probably because asking for a job applicant’s Facebook password is not actually illegal. Typically, interviewers are only prohibited from asking questions that are discriminatory in nature.

So what can and can’t employers ask in interviews? And what are you supposed to do if you are caught being pressured to answer an illegal question? Weidert’s PR team did its own investigation into Wisconsin’s Fair Hiring laws—for all of you who are just entering or re-entering the job market.

Arrest Records

It is illegal for an employer in Wisconsin to inquire about past arrest records, but it allows for consideration of a current arrest. This basically means that employers can ask about any arrest that is unresolved, but if it is in the past, they should leave it there.

Children

It is unlawful for an employer to ask about the number of children you have, their ages, your childcare situation or your pregnancy status. These questions are considered to be discriminatory against women and are usually only asked to gauge potential tardiness and absenteeism.

Credit Records

It is illegal for an employer to seek credit reports or a history of credit. Inquiries of this nature are irrelevant to job performance and are considered to be discriminatory to minorities.

Family Members at the Company

It is illegal for an employer to ask if you have friends or family working for their company. Although they may have policies against it that are legal, they can not make these inquiries during the interview, as they usually have a negative impact on women more than men.

Honesty Tests

It is never legal to require an applicant to take a polygraph test as a condition of employment. Any test taken must be voluntary and have no impact on the hiring decision.

Salary

While it’s lawful to ask a person what their lowest acceptable salary is, it is illegal to pay a woman less than a man performing the same job functions.

So, although it may be legal as of right now for an employer to ask for your Facebook password, remember that they can’t base their decision on what they see. Either way, remember that you have the right to say no.

How Soon is Too Soon to Apply?

As first semester is winding down, all that seems to be on my mind lately is when to start applying for REAL jobs. The thought beginning the application process seems quite daunting.

We are all in the same boat. We all want to be ahead of the game and I’m sure we would all like to secure a job before graduation. So that got me thinking… When IS the right time to apply for jobs? Should you start a whole semester early, or wait until a month before your graduation date?

I’ve asked many professionals about this and the responses are always mixed. Some say that you should apply as soon as possible, while some say that you should begin to apply after you graduate. Through the foggy opinions, a few sound words of advice stuck out to me. I hope they help you if you are graduating soon!

If you are planning on graduating in May…

Make a target list of companies.  Look and see what jobs are open around you and start keeping your eye on those companies. If a job happens to be open now, apply for it! Sometimes the hiring process can takes months to complete and there’s no sense missing out on a dream opportunity.

Start attending networking events in your field. If you are a PR major, locate your closest Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) chapter and get to know professionals. The more relationships you have, the better your chances will be of being referred to for a job. If you are in marketing, look for a Sales and Marketing Professionals (SMP) group in your area. For journalism, consider contacting someone at your nearest Society for Professional Journalists (SPJ).

Define your dream job. If you have your heart set on a certain company and they don’t have any jobs open currently, start perusing them. They may have something open in time for when you graduate. The best thing to do first is to email someone from the department you are interested and introduce yourself. Always send a resume, too! Once they respond, see if you could set up a job shadow or an informational interview. This helps get your foot in the door, even if you aren’t interviewing for a job there. After the job shadow, they will have a more personal relationship with you and, chances are, you will be at the top of their list when a job opens up.

Consider your salary requirements. This is often something that companies want to know before they hire someone. Since you have a few months before you graduate, start researching average salaries in your area so that you know what you’re worth. Remember—it’s ok to negotiate! Just don’ t get too crazy.

In my opinion, it never hurts to apply for a job. Even if they decide that they don’t want to wait a few months for you, at least you made a new connection! To all of my readers, have you started applying for jobs yet?

My summer at EAA: What I learned after planning AirVenture 2011

When I was offered a public relations summer internship at the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) in Oshkosh, Wis., I never thought that two months later I would be shaking hands with the governor, welcoming over 80 veterans home from an Old Glory Honor Flight, helping Sully Sullenberger (think Miracle on the Hudson) with a book signing, watching a one-off car be auctioned off for $400,000, listening to the stories of Apollo astronauts, speaking Spanish to foreign reporters or, well, flying through the hot summer air in a door-less helicopter. To put it lightly, my summer at EAA has been incredible.

For the past 59 years, the EAA has hosted the world’s largest aviation event, AirVenture, which draws on average about 500,000 people to my small college town. It gets pretty crazy here, especially since the size of the city during July is 66,000—only 13% the size of EAA’s event. Below are some of the things that I took away from what was the busiest, craziest, and most valuable summer of my life.

Attend every meeting you are invited to. As an intern, it can be a little bit scary to walk into a meeting without knowing anyone and without knowing what everyone is talking about. However, I can tell you that if I didn’t sit in on all of the meetings I had the opportunity to, I would have been even more lost. Even if you don’t think the meeting has anything to do with your role or position, I can guarantee that you will meet someone who can help you at a later date.

Ask a lot of questions. This is especially important when you are thrown into an industry that you know nothing about (like aviation!). I spent countless hours with my boss, who is also a private pilot, learning about aviation. Do I need to know how a plane flies to do my job? Probably not, but it does make things easier when you have some idea what is going on.

Know where things are. If you ever have the opportunity to plan an event that takes place outside, make sure that you know how to get around. At AirVenture, employees have to ride in golf carts to get around because the grounds are spread out over 1,500 acres. That’s intimidating if you are a newbie. Not to mention, anyone wearing a staff T-shirt was fair game to receive questions from attendees. If you are asked, “Where’s the ‘Sikorsky Innovations’ tent?”, first– know what Sikorsky Innovations is, second– know where it is located.

Make peace with the fact that things will go wrong. Yes, even after your two solid months of planning and stressing that everything is all set before the event, things will still completely fall apart. It’s not your fault. The reality is that, at any large event, things come up that you don’t expect. Usually, they are things that need to be dealt with or solved in a small amount of time. Practice ‘thinking on your toes’, and never let that skill fade.

Network with people. This one is on here mostly because I think interns should always be doing this. And really—you are at a huge event! There’s a ton of opportunity to meet interesting people who may help your career in the future.

Have fun! Of course, this is the most important thing to remember and the easiest thing to forget. Try not to let the day-to-day stress of the event take you away from enjoying all of your hard work. You deserve to take an hour to walk around and look at everything that you accomplished. It will go by so fast, so don’t forget to have fun during it!

I sincerely hope that all of you have the chance to take part in any type of event planning or coordination. I promise that it will be more rewarding than stressful, and you will walk away from it with an awesome portfolio.

Pitching Tips Every New PR Should Know

Recently, PRSA invited two members of the local media, Amber Paluch, local news editor for the Green Bay Press-Gazette and Trish Ossmann, assistant news director for WBAY, to discuss their preferences when it comes to receiving pitches for story ideas. Below is a list of tips that they suggested to ensure that your story gets placed.

Send pitches via social media. Although the number one way that media professionals prefer to receive pitches is via email, Paluch sid that most reporters at the Press-Gazette and other area newspapers follow PR pros on Twitter in order to get story ideas. Often, it is a quicker way to connect with a reporter on a more personal level and get response.

Make subject lines interesting. Keep in mind that reporters receive a numerous amount of pitches daily, and they all typically have the same subject line. According to Ossmann, if an email’s subject line reads “press release” she most likely won’t even open it. “Since I get a lot of pitch emails everyday, the ones that have boring subject lines are usually skipped. You have to make it interesting so it catches my eye and makes me want to open it,” Ossmann said.

Ossmann

Flag important emails. News stations are definitely competitive with other news outlets in the area, so missing an important story could cost them a lot of money. If you have a breaking news story, it is best to flag the email or even call a reporter direct. They will appreciate your information and it will make your relationship stronger.

Be aware of large-scale events. As much as they wish it wasn’t so, reporters have to focus their time on covering large events that take place in their area. Sometimes, important and newsworthy stories are skipped when something like the Superbowl or a big marathon is taking place. It is important to remember that, even though you may have a great story, it may not be placed during a time like this.

Be careful with exclusives. Exclusives are a great way to build your relationship with a certain news outlet or reporter, but be cautious of what message that is sending to the other news outlets and reporters that you are connected to. Ossmann said that she and her coworkers watch every station during the evening news and will notice if a company spoke to another station and not them. Even if they had a great relationship with that company previously, it is damaging to be selective on who you give story ideas to.

Always get back to reporters ASAP. According to both Paluch and Ossmann, the number one complaint of reporters is that PR people don’t get back to them when they said they would or in a timely manner. Often, the reporter will get frustrated and move onto another story at a different company. It is important to have media relations as a number one priority amongst your daily tasks to ensure that you are getting them the information they need.

Paluch

Include enough lead-time. Even if you have a breaking news story, the media often needs at least an hour to prepare and arrive on site. Both Paluch and Ossmann agreed that breaking news stories should be pitched about an hour or more before air time and all other stories should be pitched 3 days to a week before.

Include extra information. If a pitch includes the contact information for sources, photos and video (if applicable), the story is more likely to be placed. Reporters are very busy just like we are, and any way that we can make their lives easier is appreciated. One note from Ossmann: make sure that pictures and video are good quality, or they can’t use them on live TV. In addition, Paluch mentioned that if you are planning on sending a lot of digital media, make sure to only send it to one email account or their servers get jammed and the only way to fix the problem is to delete your pitch.

Keep these tips in mind and you will be on your way to securing more placements! For more information on PRSA and to see a schedule of PRSA-NEW’s upcoming events, visit http://www.prsanewis.org.

View from the Bottom: Crucial Skills the Classroom Won’t Provide You With

Originally posted on Weidert Group’s blog.

The other day one of my best friends, who attends a UW university that shall remain unnamed, called me to give me an update on her newly declared major, public relations/ web presence. I always love to hear what she’s doing because I think there is a lot that can be learned from the perspectives other colleges are taking on the industry.

Our conversation was going great until we started talking about internships. I asked her what she was planning on doing for the summer, hoping to hear about an awesome opportunity she got in her college town. Instead, she replied with, “Internship? Where the heck do you expect me to get one of those? We don’t have to get internships here.”

It took all I had in me not to scream at her. But, that would not really help anything.

The sad thing is that there are a lot of students, across the state and our country, who are graduating with degrees in the public relations/communications field and feel the same way. It doesn’t matter where you go to school, internship experience will be required at almost any place you apply. After working at my internship at Weidert Group for seven months, I can’t stress enough how important it is for college students to secure internships before they graduate.

Because if you don’t, you will be stuck interning after you graduate, in order to obtain the necessary experience for entry-level jobs in this industry!

Here is my list of the top five things (that employers see as necessary skills) that you won’t learn in the classroom:

1.) How to pitch the media. This is something that many of us will be doing everyday after we graduate, and it is one of the main skills that prospective employers look for when they are hiring. Have you had success pitching the media? Do you know what goes into a proper press release or media alert? What’s the difference? My internship has provided me with the ability to pitch print and digital media, as well as form relationships with local media professionals. Now, I can go into an interview and show them my media placements, display my media contacts and discuss their preferences in press release layout.

2.) How to network. Networking is one of the most important skills that a PR professional can possess. After all, one of the biggest parts of our job is managing relationships, right? My internship had provided me with the opportunity to attend countless networking opportunities ranging from client/ corporate events to fundraisers and Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) meetings. At these events, I have met PR professionals in our community that have big influences at their companies (something that will be nice when I am a professional myself).

3.) How to plan implement and measure a PR campaign. Yes, our classes give us a lot of theoretical practice when it comes to PR campaigns. But, what they don’t give us is the experience owning a campaign, approaching a business with a plan and making countless adjustments to the plan when the business says, “Sections B, D, F and G don’t work for us.” While interning, I have had the chance to work on PR campaigns from beginning to end. Unlike in the classroom, I get to go to client meetings, see their reactions and make changes to the document as they happen. You tell me what class allows you to do that.

4.) How to track social media and campaign results. This goes way beyond Hootsuite analytics, people. One of the things that I was most overwhelmed by during my first few weeks on the job was the outrageous number of analytic, measuring and marketing platforms that different companies use. Being that I work at an agency, we have to know them all, because our clients all use different ones. During my time at Weidert, I have used Vertical Response, Google Analytics, Survey Monkey, MyMediaInfo, WordPress stats, Pitchengine and, yes, even Hootsuite analytics. One platform that I need to learn in Radian 6, and you should consider learning it, and the others mentioned, too! The more you know, the more attractive you are to employers.

5.) How to be professional. Yes, there is a certain way that you have to act around your company’s executives and CEO’s. There’s also a way that you have to act around clients. These personas differentiate quite a bit and it is really something that you have to learn as you go. Thankfully, I have been able to make mistakes at my internship, an extended learning environment, versus my first professional job. Mistakes in the real world tend to me more embarrassing and come with heavier consequences.

So, I encourage you to look for an internship if you were previously opposed to one. In fact, Weidert Group is currently hiring a marketing intern and a graphic design intern; consider applying! They are so important and are vital to your success after graduation. If you have questions, or don’t know where to begin, contact me at jbedore@weidert.com or Weidert’s internship coordinator, Abby Gutowski, at agutowski@weidert.com.

UW Oshkosh New and Emerging Media class produces excellent students who can help you improve your online presence

Dear Oshkosh companies and organizations,

One of the things that I love about my degree program at UW Oshkosh is that there are constantly new classes added to our curriculum in order to keep up with the ever-changing demands of the public relations and marketing industries.

Recently, I took a 7-week course entitled ‘New and Emerging Media’, where we learned basically everything there is to know about social media and its application to businesses of all types. The class was a trial course and was designed to be intensive, meeting for two hours, three times a week. The great thing about the class is that it is split into two 7-week sections. So, the first half of the class (which I already took) was all theory and learning the base of different social media channels. We focused highly on how social media can be used for businesses and reviewed the different functions for different industries.

Now, I am taking part in the second half of the course, which is the application of the theory we learned in the first 7 weeks. This part of the class is cool. While the first seven weeks were extremely valuable (we had to set up our own blogs, Twitter accounts and Facebook profiles if we didn’t previously have them), these second seven weeks are even more valuable. For this section of the class, each student is assigned their own client, a non-profit organization in our community that has expressed interest in setting up a social media presence. Using what we learned in the first seven weeks of class, we are expected to work with the client (by ourselves!) and set up a strategically planned social media presence.

So, why am I randomly discussing this? Good question.

After taking the first seven weeks of the class, I became very aware of the many companies who have lack-luster social media pages, or no social media presence at all. Many of these companies simply don’t understand the business advantage to being on these sites or they just don’t have the budget or manpower to be on social media.

If you have read my previous posts on the benefit of hiring interns, this is just another reason. I am currently in a class with 10 other students, who happen to all be very knowledgeable on social media, and can be a big help to your organization. If you are struggling with any of your social media channels (i.e. Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, LinkedIn, Foursquare), email me at bedorj33@uwosh.edu and I will hook you up with some great students who would love to help you succeed online!

Love,

Social Media obsessed intern

🙂

How to Set Up and Internship Program With UW Oshkosh

First off, let me start by apologizing for my lack of blogging this past month. As many of you may know, I ran for a national position for PRSSA in Seattle at National Assembly, and preparing for that pretty much took over my life. In hindsight, I suppose the process would have been a good thing to blog about!

Anyways, at my internship I am working on a series of blog posts regarding the steps companies can take to set up an internship program at my school, UW Oshkosh. I am very grateful of the opportunities that I get at my internship and want more companies to help students in my program. Below is my post, originally seen on Weidert Group’s blog. Enjoy!

***

I hope that I have influenced some of you with my last blog posting about the benefits of hiring interns. There are a number of different skills that we can bring to your company including, a knowledge of new and emerging media, unmatched enthusiasm, flexibility to work for long or short periods of time and the ability to help with time-sensitive projects. If you read my post and are now inspired to hire an intern, here are some guidelines for starting an internship program with my school, UW Oshkosh:

Before you contact the university, make sure to have the logistics of the position figured out.

1.) Decide why you want an intern. What are we going to be doing if you hire us? Typical interns either help out with special projects or perform basic daily tasks on an ongoing basis. Decide, with your team, what areas you need the most help with, where an intern can be most beneficial and how the intern will learn valuable skills though the experience.

2.) Figure out the period of employment. It is better to post an internship description with clear beginning and end dates. That way, both the employer and intern are clear on the expectations of the position. If you are looking to hire after graduation, write that there is potential for full time employment in the description. However, if you are unsure of the end date of the internship, write that it is ongoing or open for consideration. This step is very important because it helps us plan around our class schedule.

3.) Organize current employees. It is very important that an intern has an obvious supervisor. Too often, I hear frustrations from fellow interns who don’t know who they report to or who is evaluating them. Make sure to designate one person as the intern supervisor. Other essential factors include deciding which departments the intern will work in, deciding if the intern will work in one department or several, determining what training/ orientation will be needed, and working out liability issues that the intern may face.

4.) Write a position description. Have this completed before you contact the university, as they will ask for it to review. Although many employers leave this out, it is crucial to include the skills/ qualifications that are preferred. If you are seeking juniors and seniors only, include this near the top of the description to avoid confusion. Also, make sure to include duties/ responsibilities, hours/ week, location and the pay rate. If you are not going to pay an intern, which is discouraged by UW Oshkosh, then you need to list this at the top of the description so students can decide if they are able to afford taking the position.

Once the above tasks are completed, contact the appropriate person listed below. They will be able to help you with the next steps:


College of Letters and Science

Graphic Design, Public Relations, Advertising, Writing/ Editing, Media Research, Communications, Radio/TV/Film, Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Geology, Music, Theater, Art and other related majors

Internship Coordinator Chrissy Lambie

lambiec@uwosh.edu

College of Business

Marketing, Accounting, Finance, Business Administration, Supply Chain Operation and Human Resources majors

Internship Director Jessie Pondell

pondellj@uwosh.edu


College of Education and Human Services

Elementary Education, Secondary Education, Special Education and Human Services Leadership majors

Director of Field Experiences Mary Beth Petesch

petesch@uwosh.edu


College of Nursing

Coordinator of Student Academic Affairs Becky Cleveland

clevelan@uwosh.edu

If you have additional questions about this process, please visit http://www.uwosh.edu/career/students/internships/internshipresourcesemployers

If you would like to learn more about Weidert Group’s internship program, contact our internship coordinator, Abby Gutowski at (920)-731-2771 (ext. 224) or agutowski@weidert.com.