Sunday, April 25, 2010
It seems like each week, as we get closer and closer to the end of the semester, I get handed on a silver platter yet another blog topic.
Stress-based meltdowns are underway across campus, both at Curry College where I teach undergraduate courses in communication (primarily public relations) and at Regis College where I teach graduate communication courses.
Professors are realizing that there is no earthly way they will be able to cover all the wonderful material they had hoped; students are convinced that the professors are out to exact vengeance for some infraction incurred somewhere back in the semester by piling on yet one more written assignment!
But I got a response to an emailed question I had sent to one of my student-advisees that once again reminded me of the importance of priorities.
This particular student is one of my superstars of whom I expect and demand 110% effort and dedication, and she usually delivers. But last week was different.
She and I had been chatting about an interview she had scheduled for a possible summer job, and she asked me what I knew about the company. My response after looking at the company's website was guarded. My reading of the company's job posting was that this was not going to be a great learning experience although it had the potential to be a good earning experience.
Her comeback was what threw me: "I don't think I'll go through with the interview. I don't have time for something like that."
Let's see if I have this straight. You need a summer job to earn some money so that you can come back in the fall and continue with your studies.
This interview is with a company that, on the surface, isn't exactly what you want, but it could turn into a paying summer job that meets your immediate need.
And you might actually learn something about yourself in the process. But you're not going to know at all unless you go through with the interview. Hmmmm.
Yes, we are studying...and studying hard...to gain some valuable knowledge and learn some useful skills. And we think of ourselves as young, somewhat experienced adults.
But we don't have time to go on a job interview where, at worst, we'll learn how to identify businesses where we don't want to work?
Here's a shocker for you. Not every job is the perfect job. Trust me...I know!
Life is a learning process. You make mistakes. You hit homeruns. You do everything in between. And you're a better person for all those experiences.
So get your priorities straight. Take the time...to try new things...to make new friends...and to go on interviews.
Who knows? You might actually learn something in the process!
Monday, April 19, 2010
I've just finished reading two graduate thesis drafts, and the cheery spirit with which I undertook the exercise died a quick but painful death.
Where did we lose control? When did attention to detail...not minute detail; the bold and glaring stuff!...get discarded as an unnecessary requirement?
It's bad enough that the grammar was ungrammatical, and the sentence structure was unstructured. Some sentences weren't even sentences; they were (sort of) phrases with missing pieces that left me questioning my own reading ability.
The thing that sticks in my craw (never used that word before and always have wanted to!) is that these aren't grade school dropouts, nor are they undergraduates at some matchbook-cover "online college." These are graduate students at a well-respected, real higher education institution.
So who dropped the ball? Who said, "Close enough; I'll pass you."?
The kicker in this rant (I'm allowed one rant per semester!) is that, to add insult to injury, these are communication majors!
My undergraduate students at Curry College...particularly those who have declared Communication as their major...more specifically those who have declared Public Relations as their area of concentration...know my "thing" about writing. They know...or learn very quickly...that I am death on grammar, punctuation, syntax and everything else relating to correct writing.
They also learn quickly that "I didn't have time" or "My printer ran out of ink" (the 21st century version of "The cat ate my homework.") won't work either. Sloppy writing and editing are just that...sloppy writing and editing. Good writing...correct writing...takes time and patience.
Hopefully, and I do cling desperately to that ever-so-elusive hope, what these future professionals take away...other than a recognition that life is all about learning...is the knowledge that attention to detail is paramount. And, regardless of the medium that one is using to communicate, writing clearly, concisely and correctly is nonnegotiable.
I actually have turned away a couple of would-be adjunct faculty members because of errors in their cover letters and/or resumes, so it's not just confined to the student side of the picture. But, or so I believe, the students are, for the most part, salvageable if only we, the professionals, take time to show them the right way to write.
The take-away here, for students in particular but truly for anyone whose livelihood includes writing of some form or fashion, is the demand for good, accurate writing will not go away. A misspelling is a misspelling, and your credibility as a communicator or as a business person will be tarnished.
"There is no such thing as a moral or an immoral book. Books are well written, or badly written. That is all." - Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray (preface)
Monday, April 12, 2010
I had a somewhat spirited discussion with my Intro to Mass Communication class at Curry College today on social media and the booby traps that lie in wait.
Many of the students couldn't make the connection between "public persona" and, in their minds, the "privacy" of Facebook.
"Yes," they conceded, "the personal information is there...but no one has the right to pry into my personal stuff."
We were talking about job interviews and the reality that employers will, in fact, use whatever resources are available to them to check a potential employee out. The students saw this as an invasion of their privacy (we just happened to be talking about mass communication and the law...invasion of privacy, libel and slander, etc.).
A presence on some social media site is almost universally expected today. Let's face it, particularly for communicators, you had better be there; I can guarantee your competition is!
But we're talking about college students. Shouldn't they have the right to post any- and everything they want?
Maybe so. But what should you have on your site?
Well, if you're planning to venture into some aspect of communication, I would recommend things that reflect your communication expertise as well as your accomplishments while in college.
Links to publications to which you have contributed. Links to websites you have played a role in designing. Your well-written, concise resume. Information about likes and dislikes, skills and abilities, but ditch the profanity-enhanced groups that you "belong" to.
But what about photos, you ask? Good question. As one student pointed out during our discussion, "Facebook has been here and we've been on it forever. We have a lot of photos posted."
He's right. You have been there forever. And, if you have a dream of finding a really great job with a really great organization, you would be wise to do some housecleaning. Get rid of the bare-belly, beer-swilling party photos. Keep the ones where you're having fun like the adult you hope to some day become. Show me your interest in travel or art or sports. Show me what an interesting employee you will be for my organization.
This could go on forever, but I'll leave off right here with my usual caution: "You only get one chance to make a first impression." Facebook (or LinkedIn or Twitter, for that matter) more and more is providing employers with that first impression. Are you "social savvy"?
Thursday, April 1, 2010
I had a meeting with a friend this morning who is at the point in her youthful career where she's wondering "What's next?" She has done a great job for her current employer, and she loves everything about the people and the place. But she's ready for new challenges.
My first question, as always, was "Well, what do you want to do next?"
This led to a very insightful conversation that, at its core, had one recurring theme: "How good am I at what I'm doing? And can I continue this success someplace else?"
That got me to thinking about feedback...how well and how often do we, as either PR professionals or professors, give meaningful feedback to our employees, advisees, or mentees?
Some of us comfort ourselves with a "Well, I gave her a raise. She knows I value her work." But here's a surprise...that's not "feedback."
Feedback is a two-way conversation during which you actually sit down with the individual and review his or her work. What pleases you about the work? What could be done better? Where would you like to see this person improve...and how can the two of you make that happen? In other words, real "I know who you are and what you contribute to my organization" dialogue.
I'm as guilty in the omission as anyone. I often forget, because I have the utmost confidence in those young professionals in their skills and abilities, that I worked in public relations longer than they've been on this earth.
I also forget that I, too, was a novice in this field once upon a time and that I spent countless hours second-guessing my actions simply because no one gave me any feedback other than "Here's a promotion" or "Here's another medal." Greatly appreciated, but of little use in my moments of angst.
So, my learned and highly experienced brethren, take a moment during the day to stop, look, and provide feedback to your younger (and not so young) employees, advisees, mentees.
And don't be reluctant to provide criticism along with the praise. Nothing is perfect, so let them know if they're not meeting expectations...and let them know how they can improve.
Why? So that they will flourish and grow under your care. It's all about preparing the next generation of communicators. Through feedback, they learn lessons and they continue to get better at their jobs...and your job gets easier.
As the Gryphon said in Alice's Adventures in Wonderland: "That's the reason they're called lessons...because they lessen from day to day."