Sunday, November 29, 2009

For Anyone Who Has Been Referred to as "That Person with the iPhone"

Today I'd like to cover a topic that is currently affecting and may significantly influence our generation's workforce. With the introduction of products like the iPhone and Blackberry along with other smart phones, a new race of people has started to crop up. I've seen them all over campus and in the workplace. These beings have a left or right hand constantly occupied by a cell phone or may have an ear that lights up blue as they mysteriously talk at people without making any eye contact or carrying on a logical conversation. While technology is super cool to play with, and I can't criticize too much because I'm an avid text-aholic, there's a point where we need to put down our cell phones, start connecting with people personally, and well...get a life!

Step Away from the Impersonal Communication Methods

While some companies encourage their employees to use a Blackberry or commit 8+ hours of their day to sitting at a desk within hands reach of their phone and e-mail, doing so isn't necessarily the best method for encouraging positive relationships inside and outside of company doors. While working with several companies, I've noticed that company culture has a strong influence on communication methods. Last summer while working at an oil refinery in the South, the best form of communication in many cases was to make sure to meet someone in person before ever commencing communications with them because your e-mails or phone calls would probably be ignored otherwise. In contrast, at another company I worked with where it was necessary to communicate with multiple locations around the world, calling someone and speaking with them before commencing any e-mail communications was the best way to be productive.

Given that many recent college graduates have grown up in the age of e-mail, cell phones, and Facebook, it may come to a surprise to them when their e-mails go unanswered or calls go unreturned for days or weeks at a time. What these graduates do not realize is that they way they have been communicating with their friends while growing up is not necessarily appropriate for their work environment. is your hint! It is time to ditch the impersonal communication methods and get your networking skills shaped up. Especially when starting a new job at a company, it is important to actually meet people in person whenever possible or call them personally to introduce yourself. Believe it or not, this will significantly increase your ability to effectively communicate with individuals with various backgrounds and experience levels. If a person is able to associate your name with a face or voice, they are far more likely to help you out.

I know the thought of having to introduce yourself to new people can be a little scary, but I can assure you that it's not so bad once you try it out a few times. The shyness will pass as you see the benefits of your work. For example, last summer I had to compile a large amount of information to validate the existence of a certain kind of machinery throughout a plant. Since there was no way I could possibly identify each piece of equipment in three months, I had to network with individuals to help me figure out what was in service, rotting on a block, or had been torn out years before. At first I was very hesitant to introduce myself to anyone since I was the new kid on the block. Luckily, my mentor identified this, told me get over it, and made a point to introduce me to anyone and everyone he could to get me going. After a few weeks, I had this whole introduction thing down and was able to gather all the information I needed to get my project done within the time frame proposed. A few individuals even made a point of going out of their way to help me and back me up in any difficult situations that arose!

When it comes down to it, making a point to go out of your way to listen to someone or introduce yourself to them is a great way to network. I've always thought of it as your door into a special communication club. Once you have given the password (an introduction and initial point of contact), you are officially in the club! You may not have free reign of the club, but you have the opportunity to build a positive relationship with a co-worker and promote productive communication.

The moral of the story is that it is important for you to get away from your e-mail sometimes and go talk to people in person. Just because you sent ten e-mails to someone doesn't mean they are going to listen to what you have to say. Plus, you might be surprised by what you may have in common with your co-workers or it might turn you that you are both struggling with different aspects of a problem and may hold each other's answers.

That's all for now. Your work assignment for today is to put down your iPhone/Blackberry/Smart Phone for a few minutes and go talk to someone instead of e-mailing or texting them!

If you have any additional questions on this week's topic or any career-related topic, feel free to e-mail me at or comment on this or any entry.

Like always,

Good Luck Job Seekers!

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