Professional Development Q&A with Chris Yandle

This post is the first in a series of Q&A sessions with friends, former colleagues, acquaintances and other contacts who I consider both influential and inspirational. Each of these individuals possesses a skillset that I believe you will find valuable. They have each made an impact throughout my career path and I wanted to feature them in this series.

Name: Chris Yandle (@ChrisYandle)
Profession: Communications Specialist, St. Tammany Parish Public School System (former college athletics administrator)
Degree: B.A., Public Relations (Louisiana-Lafayette, 2004); M.S., Athletic Administration (Marshall, 2007); current Higher Ed Leadership Ph.D. student, Mercer University (estimated completion: 2019)

I first met Chris during my time with Conference USA from 2006-2010. Chris was a graduate assistant SID at Marshall University and served as the media contact for various sports, which I also handled, for the conference office. We stayed in touch as he climbed the ranks in college athletics at various schools, while I began working in digital media on the corporate and agency side.

We’ve stayed in close contact as he and I have both been making career moves. Chris is one of the smartest and most driven people that I know. Despite what he may think, he was at the top of my list of people to profile for this series. I hope you enjoy the following tidbits and advice from Chris Yandle.

1) How does your current profession align with the degree you graduated with? If you have held other jobs, how closely have they been aligned?
My entire professional career has been in the public relations and communications field. Before my current role, I spent 15 years in communications for college athletics. That career allowed me to learn many skills and juggle many job demands which ultimately prepared me for the next step in my career in K-12 education. The beauty of having PR and communications skills are that you can work in any industry; you learn to become very versatile and multifaceted.

2) What did you ‘plan to do’ after college and how close is that to what you’re doing at this point in your career? Were there any deviations along the way and did they help/hurt your path to your current job?
That’s an interesting question. Before starting college, I didn’t know the athletics communications field existed. I thought I wanted to be a sportswriter, but I quickly fell in love with college athletics. But because I devoted my entire life to the field, it consumed me and I fell out of love with it. I learned that there was more to life than a career. Looking back on my career, I think I accomplished all that I could accomplish. I wish I would have enjoyed more of the journey than I did. I didn’t celebrate the small victories and the little things. I was so consumed with conquering the big events and big victories. I think not enjoying the journey ultimately led to me falling out of love with my career. On a positive note, that lesson has helped me in my new career. I’ve celebrated more small victories in eight weeks than in the previous 15 years.

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3) What’s your best piece of advice for today’s entry-level candidates?
Make the big time where you are. Don’t continuously look for the next big thing. The big thing should always be where you are.

4) What do like the most about your profession?
Being the K-12 sector now, I get to visit our schools regularly and interact with the kids on a daily basis. I didn’t realize how much I enjoyed being on campuses and telling the schools’ stories.

5) What is the biggest challenge you face in your profession?
The biggest challenge in college athletics was the constant rat race. It was never-ending and it was a constant fight for the next title and the next big thing. While college athletics offered upward mobility, K-12 doesn’t offer the same mobility. I think that’s the biggest challenge I would face, but I am not looking for the next big thing. I want to enjoy the journey.

6) How has your industry changed during your time as a professional?
Social media has changed everything in how we communicate and do our jobs. When I started in college athletics, website video wasn’t a thing yet. Now, it’s hype videos, live videos, graphic design, digital recruiting, and 90-hour work weeks. Because of the constant need for information and attention, the purpose of college athletics forced PR and communications offices to change their focuses.

7) Why do people leave your field or company? Do you agree with why they leave?
People in college athletics get burned out easily because of the long work hours and no time for decompression. You’re constantly on the go. I worked weekends constantly for 15 years. Now that I’m in K-12, I have my first M-F, 9-5 job in my life. I can totally relate to why people leave the field. It’s hard to have a family and work 70-90 hours per week. It’s demanding, it’s a grind. I don’t know how my wife put up with it for so long.

8) Are you considering leaving your current field or company?
I was contemplating leaving college athletics for a few years before I was let go from my last school. It was unplanned and certainly led to several months of struggles for me and my family, but it probably was a good thing it happened. For the first time in my career, I am happy with what I’m doing in K-12. I feel fulfilled.

9) What is your favorite social media platform?
My wife and kids will you tell – in unison: Twitter. I like the real-time and 1-to-1 interaction with people. You can instantaneously comment and respond. It’s where I get my news.

10) What was the last book you read? The last TED talk or other e-learning content you consumed?
I am currently reading ‘Do Over’ by Jon Acuff. It talks about making a career change and it’s helped spark my creativity for a book I’ve always wanted to write. The last TED talk for me was ‘Start with Why’ by Simon Sinek. We watched it in one of my higher ed classes. I also read his book, too.

11) Where do you receive your news and information? 
A. Print Newspaper – New Orleans Advocate
B. Online Newspaper – New Orleans Advocate, USA TODAY
C. Television – NBC News, local New Orleans stations
D. Twitter – New Orleans media, national writers
E. Facebook – #FakeNews 🙂
F. Other – Nope

12) What are your hobbies? Do you wish you had more time to pick up a hobby?
My hobby in the fall was coaching my son’s U6 soccer team. Now that I have more time on my hands, my hobbies are reading, playing with my kids and probably doing homework on the weekends 🙂

Listening With Mirrors

Leading clients is a contact sport. As the former Executive Director of Client Leadership (fancy title I know!) at Verge Pipe Media, I learned to roll up my sleeves and get dirty to lead our clients successfully. pexels-photo-85040

Being able to do this requires certain tools in your client services toolbox. Therefore, in my upcoming series of blogs I pull back the curtain and reveal some tools that I’ve used to be successful.

The first tip I’d like to discuss is “listening with mirrors.” “Listening with mirrors?” you say. “What does that even mean?” I’m glad you asked.

Reflective Listening

The way I like to define listening with mirrors is as follows: Listen to your clients intently and then reflect back to them what they just communicated. This is sometimes called “reflective listening,” I’ve come to learn. But I like the sound of listening with mirrors. It presents a great visual reminder for me.

Seriously it does. If I think in my head “mirrors” as I start a discussion with a client, it reminds me to focus on what a client is telling me and then probe deeper into what they just said. This doesn’t mean just repeating what they said, it means responding with reflection (mirrors, get it). Responding with reflection allows the client to “re-see” or rethink about what they just told you.

Reflective sentences may begin like this:

“It sounds like…”

“What I’m hearing is…”

“You feel…”

Beginning your phrasing like this allows you to reflect back, in your own words, what you understood them say. This is often different than what they actually said or what they mean to say. Listening with mirrors usually prompts the client to fill in gaps or add further explanation as to what they wanted to convey. Thus, you are both ultimately speaking the same language when it comes to the problem or situation the client is laying out before you.

Don’t Judge

Another key piece of listening with mirrors is to not judge what the person said when you reflect back. This gives your client a chance to see how they’re coming across, which may or may not be how they meant to come across with the message. Not judging will prevent you from coming across as rude or argumentative, which could lead the client to get defensive.

Overstate

Reflecting back with clients can give you the chance to overstate or slightly embellish their comment or issue in order to see if they really meant what they said. This method may surprise your client, but will usually cause them to pause and consider if they really meant what they said, or if the problem is a big as it seems. Again, it’s all about making the client think about their needs in a different light and possibly re-evaluate or re-prioritize what really matters.

Trust me, it works

I have found in most cases that listening with mirrors is validating to our clients. Think about who you communicate with on a regular basis. How do you feel when that someone takes the time to really listen to what you say and take the time to understand your problems? Feels pretty good right?!

Listening with mirrors is a zero-cost client service and the return can be tremendous! Reflecting back to clients consistently will help you better retain your current clients and make it easier for prospects and new clients to see that you are genuinely interested in helping them solve problems. Doesn’t get much better than that, does it? 

For more client success insights, subscribe to my blog here

This blog was originally posted by Verge Pipe Media. 

 

Where Personal and Professional Meet

IMG_1307When I launched my personal blog last spring, the goal was to share my personal experiences through a creative outlet (writing, duh) that most recently I hadn’t been able to do for pleasure. Each blog to date allowed me to express information I am not sure I would have shared publicly in the past, while remembering how much I love to write. 

Additionally, the feedback and encouragement I have received about my posts has been tremendous. Thanks to everyone who took the time to comment or reach out to me in some way. Those messages reinforced that I made the right decision.

That said, my blog is going to take a slightly different direction and tone as I continue to immerse myself in the world of Verge Pipe Media. After my first few blogs, I mentioned that my goal was to mix personal posts with content that would establish me as a thought leader and innovator in the world of inbound marketing. Now that I am at VPM, I’m spending a lot of time and effort to help grow the company, as well as writing for our company blog.

Going forward, I will link to the blogs that I publish for VPM on this site. I will also occasionally take the time to write about my personal journey and express my thoughts on how to set a positive example.

Because I have a very structured “work” blogging schedule, I want to make sure that my creative professional efforts are published to the widest audience. So, I hope that my readers (do I have readers?) will welcome this new mix of professional industry information as well as personal posts.

I said all that to say this . . . I won’t just be pushing my marketing and public relations thoughts on this blog. But, you will see a lot of that content here more often.

I plan to hold myself accountable and also provide additional blogs that are both entertaining and inspirational for those that may need the encouragement.

In the meantime, please read my first official blog post from the Verge Pipe Media Blog: Creative Possibilities For Brands and Live-Stream Video Apps

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Failing Your Way to Happiness

unnamedFailing Your Way to Happiness…sounds like a funny concept right? But when you think about it a little bit deeper, it kind of makes sense. I know when I really thought about what that phrase meant, it hit home for me.

I must give credit to my inspiration for this entry, Marc and Angel. I learned of this couple and their blog just recently, and they are a great source of encouragement for me.

The words fail and failure carry a negative connotation. I mean, they are defined as being unsuccessful in achieving one’s goal.

But I like to flip that notion on its head and think like Winston Churchill once said: Failure is not fatal. It is the courage to continue that counts.”

What I take from that quote is, it’s all about how you handle failure. You can either look at all the positives you still have in your life and move ahead in hopes of better things, or you accept the failure and pack it in.

For the better part of my 33 years, I’m positive I accepted failure as a finality. Now, through reading sites like Marc and Angel, clearing negative things out of my life, and realizing that thinking positive is an easy change, I’ve had the courage to continue in the face of failure.

I’ll be honest, my pursuit of a full-time job this spring has produced mostly rejection. Through all the rejections, I was able to stay positive and always cherished the good I had in my life. It’s through these events and actions that I think that I’ve finally “Failed My Way to Happiness.”

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Remember, thinking positive costs nothing and changes things for the better. I’m the happiest and most confident I’ve been in my life despite all the recent rejections and what some would perceive as failures.

By facing things with a positive outlook, I’ve been able to have my “moment of clarity” and am ready to share publicly my latest happy news. It is with great excitement that I announce I have taken the newly created position of Executive Director, Client Services with Verge Pipe Media (VPM) here in Auburn.

I’ve been doing contract work for VPM and its founder Don Crow since March. Along the way Don and I realized that we had many things in common both personally and professionally. We also developed a great respect for each other and realized that together we could really take VPM to new heights.

I’ll let Don chime in here to lend his perspective…

“When I think about what makes an entrepreneur, or in this case, join me in an entrepreneurial journey, I think about Tod’s transformation over the past year. I’ve seen him grow as a true professional in many facets, including having a ‘stable’ job working remotely, going into a contract role with us, and then making the decision to join Verge Pipe Media full time on the partner track. The trait that sealed the deal for us was watching the resolve and the positive mental outlook he maintained through the journey. Once we saw that, coupled with the consistency in performance, we knew Tod had the character to make this work and ride the roller coaster that this industry demands.”

I’ll say this again, positivity is a choice. You have a choice to wake up every day and be positive. Choosing to face each day with enthusiasm and positivity has changed my whole outlook on life.

It has allowed me to stop worrying about what I can’t control. It has also allowed me to not rely on other people to define what makes me successful.

I’ll close with a passage from the great Steve Jobs. To me this is a perfect way to show how drowning out negativity and doing things for only yourself can truly allow you to Fail Your Way Into Happiness.

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Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition.”

Be A Better You

IMG_6317 - NEWI’ve not lived up to my pledge to fill this blog with regular posts, because as I’ve said previously, life keeps getting in the way. That’s a good thing though, and I have kept up my practice of writing down the thoughts that swirl in my head. I’ve been working on getting those notes into this blog and I’m finally ready to share a few with you now.

As I’ve faced some rejections and adversity this spring, I’ve been made further aware that you have to look out for yourself because nobody else will. I’ve also been made well aware that YOU are the only person who cares about your personal growth. It’s up to you, and only you, to make it happen!

It is imperative that when times get tough, you stay positive and you stay proactive. The best way to further your personal growth is through positivity and proactivity. If you aren’t doing these two things, you are being reactive and negative and will be unprepared to take action when faced with adversity.IMG_6318 - NEW

Keep these tactics in mind as you look to grow yourself personally…

Be passionate, but also be realisticBeing passionate is good, but you must look at the big picture when you get passionate about something. Having passion without realistic goals or a taking a proper look at the big picture can lead to frustration.

Fear will only hold you back – Let go of your fears and face things with positivity. Stop worrying! Taking a risk will be uncomfortable, but if you are confident in your choices, there should be no fear of failure. You must be ready to step outside your comfort zone!

Emotional decisions are usually bad decisions – Letting emotions get in the way of a big decision can lead to misguided reactions. You are usually acting with a minimal amount of thought when emotional. Sometimes our emotions are based on an unusual impulse. Always make sure to take time to look at the big picture and consult your better judgement.

Flexibility for change is vital – It is easy to get comfortable with your surroundings and accepting things as they are. Comfortable is easy, change is hard. But, it is important to stay flexible and learn to accept change. Learning to accept change is vital to long-term happiness and success.

Identify what you don’t want – It is important to realize that recognizing the things you don’t want in your life is as important as recognizing what you do want. Identifying what you don’t want helps you to focus on the big picture. Don’t ignore what you don’t want. Recognize it and make the decisions to get you what you do want.

Take ownership of your actions – When you have considered the points above and have clarity about your personal growth, act and act confidently. Take full ownership of your actions and be ready to accept the outcome. Taking full ownership will allow you to achieve success in the long-term.

YOU ultimately control your attitude each day and hopefully these tips can help you find some personal fulfillment.

I hope to write again soon and provide some personal and professional updates in addition to other ways you can better yourself with positive thinking. Stay tuned and thanks for reading.

-Tod

Routines Are Good

IMG_2004(1)I have goals to make this blog much more focused and to post more frequently. But, life keeps getting in the way these days. Even without a steady job, I find it difficult to carve the proper time to create new posts.

I told myself that to get back on this writing thing, I need to hold myself accountable and develop a content calendar for the rest of the summer.

That said, this week I will touch briefly on a point I brought up in my first blog. From there, anticipate a few new pieces each week and possibly (hopefully?) updates on my job search and career opportunities.

If you remember in my first post, I provided ideas to help you cope with difficult times. I’ve expanded on a few of those already in this space. The one I am finding most helpful these days is . . . routines are good.

I can’t say this enough, routines are good.

My newest routine, the ones that I implement daily, are writing down thoughts which are swirling in my head to un-clutter my mind and sticking with my workout plan.

Even if your routine is doing one common thing each day that you enjoy . . . Do that one thing. Then do it tomorrow. And the next day. And the next. That is all. If you do your one thing, it will make you feel good. You did it. That’s all you need to do!

You may think that one thing can’t possibly be enough to consider it “a routine,” you’d be wrong. You will be amazed at how once you’ve accomplished your one thing, you will feel like you’ve accomplished something big. Your day will feel complete. You will feel fulfilled.

Then you start to stack those “one thing” accomplishments on top of one another and, before you know it, your outlook on your circumstances is better. You’ll soon have achieved a month’s worth of “one thing” accomplishments and your attitude will have improved.

Your “one thing” could be anything, such as these examples I’ve mentioned before:
1) Working out
2) Meeting a friend for lunch
3) Writing a blog post
4) Playing with your kids
5) Writing down your ideas
6) Starting a savings fund for a vacation
7) Reaching out to “weak” contacts
8) Cooking dinner

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My “one thing” routine is a stabilizing force for me right now. When you hear “one thing a day,” boy does it take the pressure off your circumstances.

Routines are good, especially “one thing” routines. So, no matter what that one thing is . . . get up, get the blood moving, check things off that “to-do” list, but don’t forget to accomplish the one thing that YOU enjoy each day.

The Importance of Creating Consistent Social Media Profiles

IMG_1309You find yourself on the job hunt and you think, “Well I’ve updated my resume so I’m all set.”

WRONG!

Whether you want to admit it or not, your social media (Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, etc.) profiles are just as important to update as you look to land that new job.

A recent study indicates that nearly 40% of HR managers and hiring professionals look at potential candidates’ social media profiles while screening for new employees.

This means your “branding” needs to be consistent and also responsible, on all of your public platforms. I actually can’t believe I just used the word “branding” in regards to referring to a human! Even as a Public Relations and Marketing professional, I hate that we’ve been convinced we have to have a “brand.” Our branding should come naturally . . . It should be what we always do!

I do want to stress that although the term “brand” associated with a human sometimes irks me, responsible thoughts, actions and social media use are important and do carry a lot of weight. Think about it; if companies for which you are applying for jobs have vision, mission, and core values statements . . . Shouldn’t you?

Ask yourself:
What are my work processes?
How do I define success?
How do I manage a team?
How do I run a meeting?

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Consider these things — write them down, study them, edit them and make them into a personal branding document. This document will go a long way toward defining the work version of you! Your working “brand” will begin to emerge and you can stick to these values moving forward. Have these values at the ready and curate them on your social media channels.

Full disclosure, I‘m working on my branding document right now after hearing this idea from a friend. (Thanks Brett!)

However, I want to reiterate the importance of responsible social media use and expand on some best practices related updating your social media profiles. Assuming that you did in fact tackle the resume updates first, next make sure that same information is also updated and consistent on other sites.

Think of the list below as a “quick hit” guide to making some simple updates. I could go on at length about the importance of each site, but for now, consider these easy updates when you begin to modify your social profiles.

LinkedIn
LinkedIn has a helpful “tracking tool” that shows you how robust your profile is, as well as gives you tips on how to have a complete profile. That said, remember these hints when updating your profile:

1) Use an updated/current headshot
2) Post your resume as an image to your file
3) Make sure your job title or description is accurate and up to date
4) Make sure your blog link is prominent
5) Also post your blogs as LinkedIn posts

Blog
1) Think of your blog like “home base”
2) Have the same or similar visual look and feel on your blog as on your other site’s cover images
3) Links back to your blog need to be prominent on your other profiles’ “about” or “bio” sections
4) Links to your other social sites need to be easily found on your blog
5) Plug your other social profiles into your blog posts

Facebook/Twitter/Instagram
While each of these platforms are unique to what service they provide, they are grouped together here because in essence, these quick tricks can be applied across the board for consistency.

1) Have your cover photo and profile photo be the same or similar to your blog images
2) Make sure that your blog link is in your “about” section
3) Review your privacy settings to make sure you are aware of the content you want visible
4) Review your friends and followers list to make sure you are connected to people you deem appropriate
5) Post your blog entries often and include links to the blog with compelling images

In life, as well as on social media, treat people well and with respect. Post responsibly and consider your thoughts and actions online also have consequences just as if you were saying them aloud in public! These ideas should be your golden rules and also should become the “brand” that you aspire to have . . . A personal brand that reflects intelligence, honesty, responsibility, and compassion.

Need further assistance with implementing these concepts? Contact me here.  

People Want To Help

IMG_1127Life is full of challenges. Regardless of the challenges we encounter in life, I’ve learned their weight and impact is lessened when we are able to connect with others who want to help. It may sound cliché, but I’ve found it to be true during my recent difficult timesPeople want to help.

Now, I promise my topics won’t all trace back to me losing my job, but this one is especially compelling to me. I also hope that some of the items I mention here will be useful to others.

Something I wasn’t sure of before I lost my job, but am now, is that people truly want to help when you are in need. While you like to believe your friends and family have the same principles as you, you’re never really quite sure. And, you always hope that you’re never in a situation where you need to rely on others or reach out for help.

But, I kept hearing over and over from friends and family in the last few weeks that they were there for me if I needed help. Many also advised me to reach out to many different groups of people, because they would want to help as well.

I know that in my adult life, from time to time, I’ve seen others struggle and felt compelled to help or reach out. It wasn’t always the easiest thing for me to do; it just felt like the right thing to do. You may not even be asking for “help” but you don’t want to seem desperate or needy.

I think the first step, the reaching out, can be the most difficult for people. People want to help or even just talk about what issues you may be facing, but they aren’t often sure how to begin the dialogue. Therefore, if you don’t initiate and seek the conversation, it may never take place.

So, I hope the following tips from someone who has been on both sides of this situation will help others as they either feel the need to seek help or hope to help others who may need it.

1) Just say anything
Have you ever received a note from someone unexpectedly and ended up being upset about it? I’m assuming rarely or never. You were just happy they contacted you in any way and it didn’t matter the context of the letter. The contact outweighs the context, so say anything! The initial contact will prompt future dialogue.

2) Be honest
The old saying goes — honesty is the best policy. That holds true when you want to reach out to someone for help or to help someone in need. Be honest and forthright when you make contact. Don’t be afraid to be upfront about what is bothering you or if you have a concern for someone else. People appreciate honesty and it will build a solid foundation for your dialogue.  

3) Don’t be afraid to ask for help
If you are in need of some help or guidance, just be honest and come out and ask for help. If you are afraid people may perceive it as needy or desperate, don’t. Friends and confidants will be flattered that you feel they can help in any way. I’ve seen first hand in the last few weeks how receptive people are when you seek their help or advice.

4) Reach out to “weak” contacts
Lastly, if you’ve reached out and made contact with your trusted confidants, but are in the position where further networking may be needed, reach out to your “weak” contacts. Those people who you’ve lost contact with or haven’t spoken to in a while. Maybe you’ve had a close relationship before and for one reason or another that contact has lessened. Trust me, they will be happy that you reached out and it will also start a fresh dialogue. It is all about the contact. Then follow what I’ve said above once you make the re-connection: be honest and don’t be afraid to ask for help.

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Life isn’t easy. Life throws challenges your way and those challenges usually make us stronger. Along the way, as you face these challenges, no matter how big or small, you don’t have to face them alone. Remind yourself that daily. You are not alone in this mortal coil and you are surrounded by many people who truly want to help.

-Tod