Commonsense Research: With a computer, a curious mind and an investment of time to investigate and think — you win

Here is a simple way to vault ahead of other people or employees when looking for a job or accomplishing an assignment. It works well as a differentiator for anyone at any level in an organization. Or for someone seeking the opportunity to join an organization.

It is a puzzle when prospective interns and new employees don’t thoroughly review the company and the people with whom they are interviewing. When a graduate seeking an entry-level position tells me they have a degree in marketing, I ask them what really great or really bad advertising they’ve seen lately that they love. I ask them what they think of Harbin Clinic’s advertising and why. Most of the time you can see sweat pop out on their foreheads and they begin to stammer. It is almost as if they’ve never actually connected the theory of what they have (hopefully) learned in college with the concrete activities they would undertake in a marketing position.
Here’s another odd one. Lately I’ve been interviewing a lot of juniors in college who are majoring in public relations or communications. When I ask them to produce an article for the paper, or a press release they wrote in class – even a term paper – they can’t produce anything. I’m literally dumbfounded by this situation. So the tip is this: if you say you have a degree in something, be prepared to show examples of what you learned in school or your last internship. Also have some ways you have connected what you learned in school with what you see going on in the world around you.

I’ve interviewed many people who cannot articulate their understanding of what business Harbin Clinic is in (hint, not all healthcare providers are a hospital), who our competition is (that’s one with multiple answers – could be geographic, could be product-specific), or what sort of work my team has produced (wow, that Google search about “Harbin Clinic marketing” is pretty powerful). If someone searches the web for my name, my website reveals that I’m the daughter of a farmer and I have taught healthcare marketing at Berry College. If they check my Linked In profile they can see that I have a master’s degree from Emory University and that I grow organic vegetables. They can check my Twitter account to see that my most recent integrated marketing campaign features a professional pitcher and a head of lettuce (really). Sadly, my Facebook admits that I have an attachment to an orange cat named Valentino, but thankfully it doesn’t show me drinking myself into the ground at any events. Ever. And yours shouldn’t either because I always check when I’m interviewing someone. Always.

If as an employee I were given the assignment to figure out the most important local events in Bartow County, I would call the Bartow Chamber, ransack the local newspaper archives, poll our 26,000-strong corporate Facebook page, call other Harbin employees in that area to find out their thoughts, and drive around in downtown Cartersville and Adairsville (larget cities in Bartow) during the week and on the weekends too. I would check the web to see if I could find the ESRI profiles of those in 30101. I might call some friends I have at Comcast Spotlight to see if they have insights about what programs are watched on demand within 30 miles of Cartersville. I would research races on active.com, good restaurants on opentable.com, and population stats through census.gov.
The very last thing I would do is create a plan to achieve any goal without having put in quite a few hours pounding the keyboard and the pavement.

Once, when I worked at AT&T, I was given the task of marketing a new product that supposedly worked a certain way on our phones. Yet when I took the product out of the packaging and actually tried to use it with a phone, I realized that the instructions were wrong. My bosses’ boss was amazed at my due diligence. My boss was not happy with me and told me that my job was to produce marketing, not to be sure the directions I’d been given by the product team were right. He wasn’t with the company much longer.

Here’s another way to think about it. Have you ever been desperate to find a part to fix your 10+ year-old lawnmower, locate a pair of red patent shoes that matches perfectly with your favorite outfit, or figure out the last name of that cute guy you met in the pub last weekend named “Mark” who lives in Brixton and has red hair? These aren’t work problems, but they are times when a person might be highly motivated to find information. No one needs special training. Instead they need curiosity. And the ability to put seemingly disparate pieces of info together. Which equals common sense.

July 22, 2018