journalism, society

Being Thankful for Not Bearing the Burdens of Endless Wars and Being Grateful to Those Who Do

CPO Shannon Kent, USN
Chief Cryptologic Technician Shannon M. Kent, 35, died Jan. 16, 2019, in Manbij, Syria. (Family photo via U.S. Navy)

Chief Petty Officer Shannon Kent was 35. I say “was” because she is dead. The Navy cryptologic tech, who grew up in Dutchess County, N.Y., died in a suicide bombing in Syria along with 15 other people. She spoke at least six languages, had deployed overseas several times, earned many Navy commendations, faced numerous combat situations, and much more. Her husband is also in the military and her father is a high-ranking New York State Police official.

I am thankful for my health. For my wife. For my family. My freedom. My paycheck.

I am also very thankful that I haven’t had to face a reality that tens of thousands of families are asked to endure: Living in or having a loved one in a war zone. And I am also thankful that I personally have not been asked to leave my family behind and fight a war in an unfamiliar land.

Part of my job is to write/post stories about service men and women with ties to New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut who are killed overseas in the various conflicts in which the U.S. military is engaged. A danger exists when posting these stories; one can become desensitized to what the press releases from the DoD mean for the real people behind the names.

These soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines, and Coast Guardsmen would probably say they do not need to be idolized or lionized. And we shouldn’t gloss over the truth that they are simply human, with all the flaws and strengths and hopes and dreams of humans.

But the big difference is they are doing something we aren’t being asked to do and bearing a burden we don’t have to worry about. They leave home—often small towns they have lived in their entire lives—and are put in harm’s way for causes, missions, and goals that are often debatable and vague and fleeting.

And now during the government shutdown, the more than 40,000 active-duty members of the Coast Guard continue to stand watch while not getting paid.

What we should do is simple: Remember and appreciate what they and their families go through and find some way to say thank you and help. These are some organizations that help members of the U.S. armed forces:

[For an amazing perspective on what war in Afghanistan is like for U.S. troops, read Sebastian Junger’s “War.”]

money

I Am Proud to Support These 34 Nonprofits (and Could You Support Some, Too?)

Every year, I try to support a few charities, causes, and other nonprofits. Usually, this means figuratively writing a few checks for relatively small amounts of money. I do what I can and am happy to do so.

My wife and I recently settled on the 501(c)(3) organizations we are supporting this year with cash. My company (21st Century Fox) is double-matching employee donations through 2018, so our dollars actually will have a triple effect.

These are some organizations, charities, cultural institutions, and other entities I have supported in recent years via donations, fundraising, admission fees, memberships, volunteering, promotion, and retail shopping.

(Note: I didn’t support all of them this year and I may have forgotten some museums and other cultural institutions I visited.)

If you choose to give, I encourage you to do some due diligence and give to causes you truly believe in, demonstrate a track record of success, and have good financial practices. Charity Navigator is a useful resource for rating nonprofits.

What are your favorite nonprofits?

  1. ACHILLES INTERNATIONAL
  2. AMERICAN TRAIL RUNNING ASSOCIATION
  3. ASTORIA PARK ALLIANCE
  4. BEAU BIDEN FOUNDATION FOR THE PROTECTION OF CHILDREN
  5. BOWERY MISSION
  6. CITY HARVEST
  7. COAST GUARD AUXILIARY / COAST GUARD AUXILIARY ASSOCIATION
  8. COAST GUARD FOUNDATION
  9. COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY COLUMBIA COLLEGE
  10. COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY GRADUATE SCHOOL OF JOURNALISM
  11. COMMITTEE TO PROTECT JOURNALISTS
  12. EVERY MOTHER COUNTS
  13. FOOD BANK FOR NEW YORK CITY
  14. FRIENDS OF GOVERNORS ISLAND
  15. GIRLS INC.
  16. GIRLS LEADERSHIP
  17. HELLGATE ROAD RUNNERS
  18. LT MICHAEL P. MURPHY NAVY SEAL MUSEUM
  19. METROPOLITAN MUSEUM OF ART
  20. NATIONAL ALLIANCE ON MENTAL ILLNESS
  21. NATIONAL PARK FOUNDATION
  22. NATIONAL SEPTEMBER 11 MEMORIAL AND MUSEUM
  23. NEW YORK BOTANICAL GARDEN
  24. NEW YORK CARES
  25. NEW YORK ROAD RUNNERS
  26. NEW YORK STATE PARKS
  27. PLANNED PARENTHOOD OF NEW YORK CITY
  28. PROPUBLICA
  29. RAINN
  30. SAVE THE CHILDREN
  31. UNICEF USA
  32. USA TRACK AND FIELD
  33. WIKIMEDIA FOUNDATION
  34. WILDLIFE CONSERVATION SOCIETY
education, professional networking

Take Time to Express Professional Gratitude

Anyone who knows me well knows that I’m a big mush. I don’t shy away from telling close friends and family that I am grateful for them and care about them.

But being “mushy” (in a professional way) with people who have had a positive impact on your education and career is also important. This is as easy as either emailing or calling those mentors, supervisors, colleagues, professors, teachers, and coaches to express gratitude.

Why not take an hour in the next week to reach out to those influences and thank them? Take these steps:

  1. Make a list of three to six people who shaped your education and career. You can make a longer list if you want, but don’t stretch yourself too thin.
  2. Find their contact information (email is fine, but make note of phone numbers wherever possible).
  3. Write a personalized email to each of those six people. Be specific about how they helped you and thank them. If you haven’t been in touch in a long time, tell them what you’re doing these days. Then—and this is important—offer to help. Some ideas: Beta read something they wrote, be a guest speaker in class, mentor someone they know, connect them with someone in your network, look over a resume and/or a LinkedIn profile, write a testimonial, recommend their services to potential clients—whatever is appropriate for your relationship and expertise. Or, just ask to meet up for coffee. Your treat.
  4. After you send the emails, choose two people from the list and CALL. Yes, pick up the phone and speak to them, human voice to human ear. The call can be short. But show your gratitude and say “Happy 2018!”

I’ll make my list and go from there.

 

business, professional networking

Don’t Make These 6 LinkedIn Mistakes

6 MISTAKES TO AVOID ON LINKEDINI know stupid things when I see them on social networks. I have compiled this list of six mistakes you should absolutely not make in your LinkedIn profile, activity, and communication. They are all based real observations.

  1. Lack of capitalization, especially in your name. Are you e.e. cummings? Stop it. Be professional. Initial capitalize the first word of every sentence, your names, and the companies you have worked for.
  2. Spelling and grammar mistakes. This applies to your profile and also in messages to others. This is a mortal sin if you are a writer, journalist, PR pro, copywriter, or some other wordsmith. I once got a message from a contact claiming to be a “communications pro” who had just gotten laid off. He wanted to know if I was hiring or knew of any job opportunities. OK, no problem, that is what LinkedIn is for. But his very short, impersonal message had four mistakes in it, including “your” instead of “you’re.” Are you for real, Mr. “Communications Pro”? I didn’t write back.
  3. No photo or bad photo. Look, I get it. We all wish we could be hired or headhunted because of our credentials. But LinkedIn is a social network. A profile with no photo simply isn’t taken seriously. And with a high-quality camera on every smartphone, you have no excuse for a tiny, low-resolution, or blurry photo. None. Yes, it is a bit like online dating. You wouldn’t respond to a message from a dating profile with no photo, would you? LinkedIn is the same way. We have to accept this reality.
  4. Painfully outdated profile information. You have no obligation to actually have a LinkedIn account. Plenty of folks don’t. But if you have a profile, keep it updated. I can’t believe how many of my contacts have not touched their profiles in years, even after one or more job changes. How do I know this? Because the profiles of several of my connections say they still work at my company when [awkward!] they don’t. Whoopsy. Either update or delete your profile.
  5. Casual and unprofessional content, posts, and interactions. So just because I said LinkedIn is a social network and you need a photo as you do in a dating profile doesn’t mean LinkedIn is a Facebook or a Tinder. Be careful with your language. Keep your posts related to your professional and academic interests. LinkedIn is not the place to rant about the latest episode of Game of Thrones or a frustrating visit to your urologist. Don’t make inappropriate comments on posts you read. Be respectful of others. And for the love of all things rational and good, do not hit on people. Seriously, guys? Just no.

So what else should go on here? Let me know in the comments.