Piers Plaskitt offers advice
Right place right time
Students get advice on finding a job
The cover of The Beatles 1969 Abbey Road album was flashed on a screen in a classroom full of students born long after the breakup of the Fab Four. They knew exactly what they were looking at—an image of the band crossing a street — as the impact the musicians had on the music industry is known across generations.
Piers Plaskitt, a guest speaker in Sean Harty’s Sound Production class, pointed to an individual standing on the sidewalk in the shadows of the album cover. It was not until after the photo was taken that anyone saw him standing there.
“The man in the photograph on the sidewalk is an American salesman from Florida,” Mr. Plaskitt said.
“Why are we talking about him,” Mr. Plaskitt asked of Paul Cole. “He was in the right place at the right time.”
This concept would be the theme Mr. Plaskitt, the CEO of London-based Solid State Logic, would share with students throughout his presentation. Being in the right place at the right time worked out for him when he started his career, and it’s a truism he feels can be beneficial for everybody.
If one is not in the right place at the right time, there are ways to put yourself there. According to the executive it simply means being a blue duck, or standing out from the flock of yellow rubber duckies who will also be vying for a job.
The blue duck, which Mr. Plaskitt carries with him, made its way around the desks of the students during his Jan. 8 visit to the Center for Career Services.
The class, made up primarily of seniors, will soon be looking for a job, and Mr. Harty wants to ensure his students have as much information as they can in order to be successful in their search. That is why when he took his students on a field trip in the fall and met Mr. Plaskitt at the Audio Engineering Society’s Pro Audio Convention, he asked him if he’d be willing to talk to his students. In asking, Mr. Harty had demonstrated a key element for a job search: networking.
Mr. Plaskitt shared with the students his “11 Habits to Live By” when it comes to finding a job. The list includes standard suggestions such as having a resumé, completing an internship and networking. It also contains the unconventional advice such a “Pulling a Hat out of a Rabbit” and “Roast Chicken.”
The complete list also includes RTFM, the Business Card as a Key, How to Apply for a Job that isn’t Advertised, The Interview, Follow-Up and Just Say Yes.
When it comes to finding a job, Mr. Plaskitt said, “It’s about standing out in the crowd, being, acting a little bit different,” he said.
As he went through each habit Mr. Plaskitt related job search experiences from his own life and what he gleaned from observing others.
For instance, relating to number two on the list, RTFM, Mr. Plaskitt discussed how one of his former employees took it upon herself to read every manual for each product Solid State Logic sold and became an expert on the equipment. By doing so, the person put herself in the right place at the right time and now co-owns a production company with artist Alicia Keyes who had been, among many others, impressed with the woman’s knowledge of the equipment she worked with.
From his own experience, Mr. Plaskitt shared what not to do during a job search — making repeated phone inquiries about the status of their application.
Ironically, repeated calls were a technique he used when looking to get his first professional job. Looking back now he realizes his approach was not appropriate and he strongly discourages the practice.
He had landed a job in what at the time was his preferred field, the film industry. The job was to start on a Monday. Just days before he received a letter from Apple Records, of The Beatles fame, requesting an interview and to call to set up a time to come to the studio the following week. He was excited about the prospect of working for such a renowned company. Knowing his job was to start in just a few days, Mr. Plaskitt called and convinced Apple Records to see him the next day. The same afternoon of his interview he called to check on his status, committing a huge no-no. He continued to call several times in the following days even when the studio secretary advised him to stop.
Surprisingly he got the job, unknowingly becoming the man who happened to be in the right place at the right time. The person who interviewed him had accepted another job and was desperate to find someone to take his place. In this instance Mr. Plaskitt’s bad job seeking manners (the repeated phone calls) were not held against him. After only six weeks on the job, Mr. Plaskitt was promoted to Chief Engineer.
“I was told I was the only applicant the studio had received and that I had been a pain but had been polite,” Mr. Plaskitt said.
That was his first job in the sound business. Today Mr. Plaskitt runs a world-wide company that sells high-end sound equipment.
Among the other things he shared with students was the number one, biggest mistake a job seeker can make on his or her resumé: a spelling mistake. One of the slides he shared spelled it out this way: “Spell check!, Spell Cheque!, Spell Czech!”
Mr. Plaskitt advised students they should always dress properly for any interview, even one conducted over the phone. His other suggestions included asking the interviewer questions, being polite to anyone you meet during the in-person interview, arriving 15 minutes early and writing down the names of the people who are conducting the interview. And — be yourself.
For those fortunate enough to get an internship, Mr. Plaskitt said, students should “make it count.”
That means, he said, not waiting for instructions from a supervisor, keeping comments about the company or your work off of social media, asking questions, finding ways to impress and connecting with as many people as possible.
That leads to the importance of networking.
“They key about networking is to develop contacts within the industry,” Mr. Plaskitt said.
One way to do that is to have a business card and use it wisely —pass it out to others, and when you do, hand it to the person with the writing facing up.
When receiving a business card, look at it immediately and make a comment about it, which can help you remember the person. It also shows an interest in the individual. Too often, Mr. Plaskitt said, people take a business card and immediately put it in their pocket without even looking at it.
“Finally, we get to the roast chicken,” Mr. Plaskitt said. “This is the equivalent of a pre-set or a plug in,” referring to tools of the audio trade.
A roast chicken from the grocery store, he said, is like a pre-set, you know what you are going to get. The plug-in, is like the chicken you buy and cook at home — you can customize it to your taste and it will likely taste better than the one purchased at the store.
In other words, this whole process involves being yourself and customizing your job search to your specific skills and areas of interest.
His last piece of advice, “Just say yes.”
When asked to intern or to come in for an interview or volunteer in an industry-related function, say yes to everything.
This can help you get experience and meet people who may be able to help you find a job.
Students asked Mr. Plaskitt about following-up after an interview, which he said is important too.
You don’t want to overwhelm the interviewer by bombarding them with emails. Rather, send a thank you for their time as soon as you can after meeting them. It is fine to send a follow-up a week or two later if you have not heard back from them. It is also fine to email a person you met. Just make it brief.
Mr. Plaskitt suggested the students create a LinkedIn profile. Fortunately, Mr. Harty’s students will have to create a profile as one of their assignments and link one of their course projects to it.
The biggest mistake people make with LinkedIn Mr. Plaskitt said using it as a social media outlet.
“It is a business,” he said. “Photos need to be appropriate, how professional your profile is a big reflection on you.”