Reflections on SeaWorld’s 25th Anniversary

Some memories from SEaWorld including a photo, an award and name tags. It passed by with little fanfare earlier this summer, but SeaWorld San Antonio is 25 years old. This is an important milestone for our city, our region, and one that is important to me personally.

This largest of the SeaWorld parks opened in April 1988 in what was then considered a remote part of San Antonio.  I was part of the opening team to market the park, arriving in San Antonio 7 months earlier.

It would be easy to talk about how SeaWorld San Antonio changed the physical layout of the northwest corridor where it was built.  Even simpler (and more amazing!) would be to examine its economic impact in our region and on the city’s tourism efforts. Or how thousands of high school and college students called SeaWorld their “first job.”

But I will leave that to others to examine.  What I want to celebrate after 25 years is the effect that the place, the project and the people had on my life and on my career.

There’s something about this place – San Antonio – that is hard to explain.  Living in San Antonio opened my eyes to a radically different culture from my Cleveland upbringing. I knew nothing about Mexico, or the history of the region, much less the rich fabric of the Hispanic heritage here.  It drew me back to SeaWorld in 2002 as the Communications Director 10 years after I left the company to start a family and live overseas.

The enormity of the project—building the world’s largest marine life park—did not impress me until much later. We had a big job ahead of us: get the park open by April 15. We did whatever was necessary to make that happen. We traveled, presenting shows in dozens of cities across the U.S. plus Mexico and Canada. We hosted writers, business leaders and anyone who would listen to “park tours” from the vantage point of the Garden of Flags.  While that’s natural for a marketing team, we also planted flower beds, raked, picked rocks and laid sod during the two weekends preceding opening because there were not enough hours in the day to get it all done.

While the impact of San Antonio and the size of the project made a mark on my career, it’s the people I met and the leaders from whom I learned that made the experience a defining point in my career.

At this point in my post, I should start naming names, but if I did that, I would most certainly forget someone who made an extraordinary impact on me over the 15 years I worked for SeaWorld. There is no company I know with stronger leadership, singular direction and focused passion like that of my colleagues at SeaWorld.

Now, as a solo public relations pro, I frequently find something that I experienced during my SeaWorld career which applies to a completely different industry or situation.

While the exact moment of SeaWorld’s twenty-fifth anniversary may have passed, my gratitude is enduring.  I hope I get invited to the park in 2038 to celebrate fifty years.

How to Put Your SWOT Analysis to Work for You

A SWOT Chart created from orange and yellow post-it notes

It's Time to Reflect on your SWOT Analysis

A SWOT Analysis, often used by businesses in strategic planning, is a great way to determine your next career step.  By now, you’ve created a SWOT Analysis with your “trusted advisors,” so  it’s time to look at it and analyze your results.

Reflect on Results

Put all the Strengths | Weaknesses | Opportunities |Threats together into one chart.  How does it look?  Did more than one person identify a similar trait?  Perhaps those observations should be weighted more heavily.  Are your results contradictory? This could mean that each of your trusted advisors knows you a little differently.

Take some time to reflect on your results –usually a couple of weeks.  Pull the chart out frequently and think about what it might be telling you. Now you’re ready for the next step.

Ask More Questions

Go back to your trusted advisors and ask additional questions or get clarification, if needed.  If your results already make sense, then go to the next step.

Consider Your Plan

Where you go next is up to you….and taking a new step is never easy. Your results might indicate you need further professional development or education. Or it might indicate that a sideways move or industry change is right for you.  Perhaps your results indicate that you are right where you need to be and change is farther off on the horizon.  Either way, it’s time to start sketching out some plans.

Get Help

No matter where you are, get some help!  If books are your thing and you are ready to jump into the job market, What Color is Your Parachute? Is a perennial favorite and is updated annually.

Join a discussion group on LinkedIn to see what’s happening in your professional area or in your city.

You might consider a career coach.  They are different than a job placement service and can help you further explore your future possibilities and plug you into networking opportunities you might not otherwise hear about.  My career coach was instrumental in helping me decide when the time was right to start my own public relations practice.

Implement Change

One step at a time. If you have made it through all these steps, then it’s time to map out your next move.  And those trusted advisors who helped you with the SWOT Analysis? They can help keep you on track as you chart your course to the next step in your career.

Related Posts: Don’t Be Surprised by This Year’s Annual Review.

Related Posts: Thinking about a Career Change? Think SWOT.

Thinking about a Career Change? Think SWOT.

Fly swatter laying in the grass

Not Swat, but SWOT!

No doubt you’ve made some resolutions about your career after your annual review.  If it’s time to evaluate your career path, why not start with a SWOT?

A SWOT Analysis is an acronym for a business analysis in which you evaluate Strengths –Weaknesses –Opportunities – Threats.  The concept is often credited to Albert Humphrey, who piloted a project at Stanford University in the 1960s with Fortune 500 companies to manage change.  However, according to a U.K.-based website called Marketing Teacher, the concept may have been introduced as early as the 1950s and have an entirely different author.

Traditionally, Strengths and Weaknesses refer to a company’s position or an internal analysis. Threats and Opportunities refer to market conditions or external factors.  The analysis is often done in chart form, with one square for each category.  It is considered a first step in a company planning its future.

This process is completely adaptable for personal professional growth.  That is, with some trusted professional friends.  Here’s how.

Start by thinking of your support network.  Who do you turn to when you have a professional dilemma or need to seek counsel on an ethical matter?  Who has watched and supported your career?  Think above and below where you sit on the career ladder.  Anyone who has mentored you would be good, but so might those you have mentored or have worked alongside.

Use only your most trusted professional friends and then ask them privately to share what they believe to be 2-3 items in each category.  You will obviously want to preface the request with some language to talk about how you are evaluating your career and considering future changes.  You might even supply a chart or use an online form builder like Wufoo  to put together your responses.

Once you have gathered your responses, read each one and take some time to evaluate them. It may be helpful to put them into one chart and see if some items appear more than once. Do you see trends in your career?

When I was considering a career change some time ago, I used this strategy to consider my options.  I asked four professionals for feedback.  While many of their observations were not a complete surprise, it is very beneficial to see how others see YOU.  There were some pleasant surprises. Two participants saw a future opportunity for me in a college classroom, a step I have since taken. Another pointed out that my current position was a threat to my future health, something I knew but was choosing to ignore at the time.

I didn’t use every piece of information I received right away, but over time, I have returned to these evaluations for guidance and direction.   Whether you are considering a career change, or need strategies for growth in your current position, a SWOT Analysis offers an outside-in look.

Next week, how to put the SWOT Analysis results to work for you.

Related Posts: Don’t Be Surprised by This Year’s Annual Review.

Related Posts: How to Put Your SWOT Analysis to Work for You.

Don’t Be Surprised by This Year’s Annual Review

You know it’s coming because it happens every year at this time.  Annual performance reviews are a ritual that we love to hate. Here’s why:  we are rarely prepared for them, they are often poorly written or vague, and we are not always convinced they are a true measure of our performance. Not to mention that we are rarely prepared to ask for a raise!

I ought to know – I went through more than a decade of reviews as a corporate communicator and know first-hand that PR pros are rarely prepared to promote themselves.

Why not take a new approach this year so you won’t have that “deer in the headlights” look when the boss calls you in for this corporate ritual?

Here’s a checklist to get the most out of your performance appraisal.

First take stock of your accomplishments for the year.  Have you met the objectives set by your employer?  If something is lacking or missed the mark,  what happened and why?  Be prepared to explain.

Were you missing important components like people resources, budget allocations or a timeline for planning?  How did that contribute to or hinder your efforts? Is there a way to pick up where you left off next year?

Is there a key program or campaign that was successful? Reflect on that and plan to highlight it in your review conference.

Now take a minute and write up an executive summary for your accomplishments that can be included in the discussion and added to your comment section of the document. It’s the section you always forget to utilize — but not anymore!

Based on what you wrote for your executive summary, would you give you a salary increase?  How much? While a 10-15% raise in this economy is very desirable, be honest with yourself.  How did the company do this year? Is a 5% bump a more viable increase?

Be prepared for a range of options.  Some companies have fixed ranges, while others have a “pot of money” to divide among those who have earned it.  Others will award a token cost of living adjustment.

Before the conference, set some goals for yourself, your team or your organization for the coming year.  By having an idea of where you want to go, you may even beat the boss to the punch.

By assessing your successes and challenges over the year, putting them in an executive summary, and creating goals for next year, you will be ready for your appraisal conference.

Let me know if it worked for you by leaving a comment.