Professionalism in the Workplace: It Takes a Village

By Stacey Gish, IABC Vice President at Large

Professionalism is knowing how to do it, when to do it, and doing it.” –Frank Tyger


Professionalism is defined by Merriam-Webster as “the conduct, aims, or qualities that characterize or mark a professional or a professional person.” Human Resource personnel responding to the 2013 York College Career Development Study define professionalism through the demonstration of a few specific qualities:

* Working until a task is completed

* Demonstrating interpersonal communication skills

* Dressing appropriately

* Arriving on time

* Displaying honesty

* Being focused and attentive

However, according to that same York College study, human resource professionals feel that less than half of their newly hired college graduates display those characteristics of professionalism. Moreover, almost half of those professionals also feel that recent college graduates have an increased sense of entitlement and a decreased work ethic. The influence of these characteristics upon hiring is significant, as 60% of professionals surveyed would not hire a candidate who violated professional qualities during the job interview process. While we know professionalism is important, we often fail at providing resources to students in this critical area.

Equipping college students with the skills needed for success in the modern workplace obviously involves teaching discipline knowledge, but it now includes a curriculum of professionalism. The Gordon Ford College of Business at Western Kentucky University hosts a program dedicated to the preparation of a more professional workforce called PEAK, which stands for Professional Education and Knowledge.

PEAK serves as a comprehensive resource students may use to complement content knowledge. Resources include career awareness and exploration activities, personal development workshops and events, and real-world experiential learning through job shadowing, mentoring, and internships. Students who participate in PEAK-sponsored events report an increased knowledge of professionalism as well as a confident readiness to handle a variety of workplace scenarios. Through PEAK, students also are developing a network of professional contacts who provide advice and mentoring.

Professional organizations like IABC Nashville can play a role in developing professionalism, as well. Students are looking for professionals who model these behaviors. Students desire the expertise of professionals who are living these qualities every day. Here are a few ways in which professionals can assist the next generation of workers:

* Provide tips to students on how to clean up their social media

* Serve as a mock interviewer

* Offer to provide advice as a mentor – either in person or electronically

* Donate your professional clothing to a college career center

* Invite students to your workplace – for a one-day job shadowing experience or a full semester internship

* Invite students to IABC Nashville luncheons, where they can network with professionals

* Participate in IABC Nashville’s visits to local college campuses

Professionalism is an important aspect of our daily work lives. Consider how you will get involved in ensuring the next generation of our workforce demonstrates these characteristics.

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IABC Nashville Takes Awards Seriously!

By:  Tom Kenley, Vice President Awards, President Elect

Tom Kenley3When I see someone dressed in a military uniform, I show respect for their service. When I see someone in military uniform with multiple medals on his or her chest, I tend to sit up a little straighter and ask myself if I should salute (even though I’ve never had the honor of serving in the military). I also look at each distinct medal and think, What was that one for? It must have been for something extraordinary.

Professional athletes, actors and musicians have entire rooms set aside to house the trophies, plaques and ribbons that mark their ascendance to the top of their fields, each item commemorating a separate accomplishment. Each one of these professionals set their sights on being the best in their field, and awards serve as a “tip of the hat” from the industry acknowledging their achievements.

Medals and trophies are symbols of excellence and accomplishment. They also benchmark progress in a field. That’s why we on the board of IABC Nashville have taken so seriously the rebranding and relaunching of the Music City Gold Pen Awards.

[As you may recall, we decided to move the awards program from the fall to the spring in order to align with the awards programs of IABC’s regional awards (the Silver Quills) and international awards (the Gold Quills). If a project does well at the chapter level, this new alignment allows that same project to be refined and submitted for the higher level awards.]

MC-Gold-PensTo reintroduce the Music City Gold Pen Awards, IABC Nashville is pulling out all the stops to make sure that the excellence shown in the work of communication professionals throughout the middle Tennessee and southeastern Kentucky area gets the credit it deserves. And you will want to be there when it happens on May 19 — trust me!

During the awards presentations, we will give a description of the winning projects, outlining specific challenges and solutions. It will be a great place to pick up a few pointers you could take back to your team to apply to your own projects. So, I encourage you to bring a co-worker or two.

This will be the perfect time to connect with other communications professionals too. IABC Nashville has a diverse membership, representing PR firms, marketing agencies, communications departments of large companies, and many independent contractors (copywriters, consultants, etc.). Networking is one of the main functions of our association, and the Music City Gold Pen Awards will serve up plenty of opportunities to connect with industry leaders.

greenbrierWe’ve chosen an exciting venue run by people who know what excellence is, Nelson’s Green Brier Distillery. Although the company has a history dating back to the 1800s, the current distillery is less than 10 years old. It has a fascinating story. If you come to the awards celebration on May 19 (and you really should), come a little early and take a tour of the plant and hear the generations-old tale of the Nelson family and the little distillery that could. Green Brier’s Belle Meade Bourbon is itself an award-winning product that is gaining quite the following among bourbon and whiskey aficionados.

True to our Nashville home, we will have live music at the event. Watch our social media feeds (listed here) for more details as we finalize those arrangements.

So, we have a great venue lined up, plenty of food and drink, and live music. The only thing that’s missing at this point? You!

Click here to learn more or register today!

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Yes or No to Opportunities? Four questions to help you decide.

Jennifer Fuqua head shot 2014 - CopyBy: Jennifer Fuqua, Past President

We’ve all had to decide whether to take a new opportunity. The art of saying “no” as a means of balance is a popular topic nowadays. But maybe we should pause and carefully consider opportunities before we automatically decline.

Some leaders urge the importance of managing others’ expectations while also prioritizing our own responsibilities.Others declare the power of saying “yes,” to help you grow both professionally and personally.

Sometimes, “yes” is the right answer to take you to the next level.

The article “Saying ‘Yes’ Fosters Growth and Opens Doors to Opportunity,” sparked my interest in this debate. Writing in Entrepreneur magazine, contributor Jacqueline Whitmore provides examples of how agreeing to learn a new task, take on a new role, or get out of your comfort zone, can be a good thing.

However, sometimes, “no” is the wiser decision. 

Yes or No word on question mark background

Alternatively “Saying No to Say Yes,” is an interview Forbes contributor John Baldoni did with television producer and writer Shonda Rhimes. In this piece, Ms. Rhimes notes that it’s important to exert control over your schedule and she states, “Time only becomes available when you limit what you do. Learning to say no is not being negative. It is a way of freeing yourself to do what is most important.”

Often, you have to place ideas, goals, projects, or pursuits on the back burner for a season, just off your immediate radar, but not forgotten. This could include earning a graduate degree, pursuing a promotion or new job, getting married, starting a family or even your own business venture. These are all noble pursuits, but proper timing is paramount for success.

Let’s face it – most of us aren’t forming a line at the door of opportunity, beating on it to do even more. Rather, opportunity usually comes “knocking” for us, awaiting an answer. What stands on the other side of that door of opportunity can be scary. Self-doubt or fear of failure often win out, resulting in our saying, “No, thank you.” And while there is no guarantee of success, good things are on the other side of that same door: the excitement of learning something new, the discipline of practicing a craft, and yes, lessons from making mistakes.

A few years ago I was asked, for a second time, to serve on the IABC Nashville Board. The first time, I said no. I was a full-time working wife and mother (of a toddler) still trying to figure out how to keep all the plates spinning. After some consideration, I took a deep breath and said yes.  Since then, I’ve been on the Board for three years, including in the role of President, and have attended regional and international events. These experiences, though not all easy, have made me a better and stronger person, both professionally and personally. I have made authentic connections, forged new friendships, learned valuable skills, and flourished in ways I didn’t expect.

It was the right time for me to say yes. Had I said no, I would have missed out on experiences such as winning awards, leading a group on a successful project, and speaking before an international audience. Throughout this journey, I’ve learned about leadership and teamwork and also watched as friends and colleagues have made similar leaps toward opportunity.

Several factors can go into whether you say “yes” or “no” and both decisions can be difficult to make. Ask yourself these questions to reveal your “right” answer.

  1. Is it something you want to do (or could see yourself doing)?
  2. Can you make time for it by removing or delegating less fulfilling responsibilities?
  3. Will you regret it if you turn down the opportunity because you were afraid?
  4. Is this the right “season” for this to happen?

As I look back on the yes and no answers I’ve given over the years, I have some regret, but primarily for the opportunities I let pass by because I let fear win out.  So here’s my soundest advice: do your best to know yourself, recognize your potential, and be willing to say yes…to YOU.

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IABC Nashville 2015 Year-end Review

Logo with imageAs we approach the end of 2015, I want to thank our members, guests, speakers, sponsors and others who have supported IABC Nashville. This year has been productive as we have provided valuable content and professional development and networking opportunities to our fellow business communicators in the Middle Tennessee and surrounding areas. Our chapter’s success is made possible by the involvement of our members and guests and the dedicated service of our 2015 Board of Directors. Thanks to each and every one of you for sharing your time, talent, and enthusiasm with IABC Nashville.
Since my midyear recap of chapter activities in June 2015, the IABC Nashville chapter has hosted a well-attended summer mixer at Bar Louie, three professional development luncheons at Maggiano’s, and a festive holiday mixer to celebrate the season at The Pub.
Our chapter currently has close to 50 members and continues to grow and attract new guests to our events. This talented group serves in business communication roles at various levels, representing industries such as automotive, healthcare, agency, school systems, colleges/universities, government, media, and professional services. This diversity is what drew me to IABC Nashville and it’s my hope that it continues to be a differentiator as we seek to increase our awareness and grow our membership. Learn more about IABC membership by visiting our website or speaking with a Board member.
Here is a list of recent accomplishments:
  • New Brand Launch – following the international unveiling of IABC’s new brand at the 2015 World Conference in San Francisco, the first since the organization’s founding in 1970, IABC Nashville launched the new brand locally. Thanks to branding committee members Phil Matisak, Tom Kenley, Gene Boulware, and Gayle Gallagher for their creativity and attention to detail. On a related note, Tom Kenley, VP of Awards and I are co-presenting on this topic at the upcoming IABC Leadership Institute in February 2016. Learn more about our new brand on the IABC Nashville website.
  • New Year, New Board  – we are excited to announce the newly-elected 2016 Board of Directors who will begin their terms on January 1, 2016.
President – Phil Matisak, ABC, UPS (retired)
Past President – Jennifer Fuqua, Meridian Surgical Partners
President-Elect Tom Kenley, The Rogers Group
Secretary – Glenda Betts, TVA (retired)
Vice President of Finance – Paul Ladd, World Christian Broadcasting
Vice President of Membership – Gene Boulware, The Vincit Group
Vice President of Communications – Misty Moore, HCA
Vice President of Professional Development – Genma Holmes, Holmes Pest Control, GSH Consulting, LLC
Vice President of Awards – Tom Kenley, The Rogers Group
Vice President At-Large – Julie K. Davis, MA, MS, APR, Brookdale Senior Living, Inc.
Vice President-At-Large – Stacey Gish, Western Kentucky University
Vice President-At-Large – Paul Lindsley, MA, ABC, Phase 3 Marketing & Communications
  • 2016-17 Strategic Plan – under my direction and with the leadership of Julie Davis, a diligent committee has developed a detailed two-year plan that will strengthen our chapter’s offerings to area business communicators through professional development and networking events, membership benefits, and leadership opportunities. Many thanks to Phil Matisak, Gene Boulware, and Glenda Betts for their dedication to this important initiative.
  • Regional and International Involvement – Tom Kenley represented the chapter at the World Conference in San Francisco in June and Gene Boulware, Paul Lindsley and I attended the Leader Summit and Southern Region Conference, held in Denver in October. Additionally, two of our members, Paul Lindsley, ABC and Tom Kenley, are serving at the regional level as VP of Chapter Relations and Chapter Services Director, respectively.

Other opportunities coming your way soon…
  • Newly relaunched Music City Gold Pen Awards – Get recognized for your work, earn bragging rights for your clients, and get feedback from communication professionals. Watch your email for the “Call for Entries” and more information.
  • Leadership Institute is February 4-6, 2016 in Long Beach, CA and provides an excellent opportunity to hone your leadership skills as a business communicator, expand your connections, and learn best practices from experts in the field.
Closing on a personal note, it was a privilege to serve this chapter as president in 2015. I had the chance to enhance my leadership experience, collaborate on meaningful projects, and deepen my relationships with friends and colleagues, while also making new connections. I look forward to continuing to serve IABC Nashville in other capacities, working with the Board to deliver programs and content and produce events to help improve our results as business communicators.
I wish you all a wonderful holiday season filled with friends, family, and special memories, and look forward to seeing you soon at an event in 2016!Connect Here. Go Anywhere!


Jennifer Fuqua
IABC Nashville
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Career Transition

By Paul Ladd, Senior Correspondent for World Christian Broadcasting

Paul LaddCareer transition can be an exciting time. It can also be scary, especially if your transition is involuntary. Let’s face it, getting canned hurts. And it sucks. I know. I’ve been there.

You may find yourself asking, “What do I do now?” Countless books have been written on the art of getting a job or finding a better one. Some are better than others, but I’ll let each of you make your own call on that. I’d simply like to offer a few random thoughts that I hope will be helpful.

Until you land a new job, your job is finding a job.

If your former employer offers outplacement and counseling services, by all means, take advantage of it. Even if the agency doesn’t have a job suitable for you right now, you’ve at the very least added new contacts to your network.

In addition to updating your resume, try to compile a file documenting your achievements, if you haven’t already. The late Robert Half called this a “personal personnel file.” You never know when this will come in handy, either in preparing for a job interview or just as a reminder that you have accomplished some pretty impressive stuff.

Get some business cards made. “But, Paul, I don’t have a job! Why should I do that?” Because you’re going to need them. They don’t have to be anything fancy, just something with your name and contact information and what type of work you do. Business cards in your pocket or handbag are preferable to schlepping a stack of resumes everywhere you go.

Reach out to your fellow professionals. Don’t be afraid to call or email. They are usually the best bet for finding out about jobs in your particular area of expertise. Seek out networking opportunities, such as IABC Nashville events or perhaps a mixer sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce or some other group. You can often find out about these in the business section of your local newspaper. Social media, such Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter can be useful tools in networking, but nothing replaces personal, face-to-face contact.

Career transition support groups are another excellent resource. There are several around the Greater Nashville area and perhaps there’s one wherever you are. An online search of “career transition support groups” should help you find what’s available in your community.

Seek out those who will be supportive, whether that’s professionally, emotionally or spiritually. Avoid those who are not supportive. This can make a big difference.

Now, a few thoughts for those of us who know someone in career transition.

Reach out to that person you know who has been downsized, laid off, whacked, made redundant, or whatever term is in vogue this week. We all know they’re all euphemisms for fired. Someone in career transition is not contagious. You’re not going to get transition cooties or anything of the sort. Take him or her to lunch or meet for a cup of coffee. Listen to their story. Offer them any leads or ideas you have. And just as importantly, offer them encouragement. A little goes a long way.

Career transition is a tough time. I speak from experience. The lines of a song covered by Frank Sinatra come to mind: “Pick yourself up, dust yourself, start all over again.”

But you’re going to make it. I believe in you!

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