Friday, February 28, 2014

Your Message Means You Need Help More than You Know

(This is the follow-up--or rather, reinforcement--to explain to students why it DOES matter how they handle themselves when communicating either verbally or in written format when addressing or presenting information about themselves to a superior--ESPECIALLY anyone who makes decisions about that individual's career path. I don't care how the delivery system operates--if it's hand-written, sent via email, or spoken.

And yes, this sure includes college. It's why I've emphasized each semester that (a) a community college is NOT "major league" level, but rather where developmental training is emphasized, and (b) the workplace today has too few job opportunities and too many candidates who are more than willing to prove THEIR superior status over someone who doesn't care, and (c) college, especially the freshman year, is NOT 13th grade. If you're a first-year student, you're back on the bottom of the ladder. And no one cares who you were or what you did in high school.)

First, let me again repeat that I know how much technology has changed the way we communicate today. Regretfully, too many people, young and old, have fallen victim to the simplicity of text messaging styles and believing them to be acceptable beyond personal social connections. That's not just my view: it's one that's been chorused for several years from the corporate world and business and hiring managers. And if that kind of response comes from someone who decides the potential acceptance or rejection of your status as a new member of that company because he or she did not feel you knew how to properly present an effective way of displaying a level of communication to their satisfaction and standards, you've got no one to blame but yourself. They aren't your friends, family, or romantic partner--and blurring those lines of status isn't something that may be of importance to you until that desired promotion, bonus, advancement, or even lucrative job offer has been declined and the damage done.

Let me use this example from a former community college student in New Jersey in 2005. She was an education major with an emphasis on English; 9-12 level, so she could teach in high school. This is her exact email to me one day:
hey i need ur opinion on something. i had to do observations for my intro to teaching class. i wore dress jeans one day and brang coffee with me all the time. they just called to tell me that i cant go back bc of these things.  also i didnt go once and emails the teacher to let her know bc i got into a snow tubing accdient and i had to go to the doctor. What should i say to my professor since obviously hes going to ask.
Wow. Aside from the horrific spelling, punctuation, grammar, and other odds and ends, let's tackle the issues.

First, she didn't realize that her attire--her wardrobe--wasn't appropriate--and she didn't care or know about dressing for the workplace and success.
Second, she was auditioning for a job! She was a student teacher in training! A college had endorsed her as capable, qualified, and educated. She didn't prove that by her LACK of awareness! An observation means just that--being evaluated (or in her case, being an observer) by those people who want to see if she's worth hiring! And she gave herself a higher level of entitlement-status than she had earned or deserved: she thought she could act as if she was a seasoned pro.
Third--and the saddest part of all--she doesn't even understand that she committed a grievous number of errors and that it's her lack of responsibility in these matters that caused it--compounded by the fact that she has no clue about how much damage she's already caused to her status in the field she plans to graduate from and find employment.

This is bad enough, but I assure you that I still have students today who don't understand these issues--and I will admit flat-out that I made huge mistakes (not these!) in my many careers, including teaching. 
But I sure knew better and how to say "Yes, I was wrong" when I was put on the spot by someone who made decisions about my status--and that included my instructors. 

So, yes, it counts. It's your way of presenting an idea. And I expect better.

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