The other week I sat in on a Dell Think Tank moderated by Lauren Berger, the CEO of the InternQueen.com who recently released her second book, Welcome to the Real World. The purpose of the Think Tank is to connect students, employers, educators, recruiters and Gen Y job seekers. The mission was to create a dialogue around a broken system.
The Art of Email: If you're a fellow member of Gen Y, you grew up on the computer and used email, AOL Instant Messenger, and text as a way of correspondence to friends and family. The workplace also caught on to this technology and implemented it at great lengths. Except, transitioning to using email from personal to professional should really require a handbook. Learning to craft a perfect professional email is an art. Unfortunately too many graduates enter the working world not realizing how to write an effective formal email.
The Dell panel agreed that universities should create programs that help their graduates navigate communicating with their co-workers and clients via a computer. Rakia Reynolds from Skai Blue Media said a new hire sent her a message reading, "Hey, dude, it's finished!" This casual tone was not how Reynolds wanted her employee to interact with her. There are also times when we're too connected to emails. In such a socially connected world we're oddly isolated. Natalie Zfat the co-founder of Social Co., mentioned, "Technology can make us anti-social. Show that you have communication skills."
To Text or Not to Text: Do not text your boss if he or she has never reached out to you via that medium. However, what do you do if your boss texts you? Text them back but keep it formal. Your boss isn't "Your girl" as panelist Rakia Reynolds explained how she received a text like this from an employee. Mirror your boss's language and texting skills. If they are using a relaxed vocab – you can too, but don't over do it. Always proofread and avoid texting slang like, "OMG", "TTYL", and "IRT." Stay away from emoticons – especially if you are new on the job. These designs unfortunately only remind your boss that you are new to the workforce and might not be as professional as they would like.
The Busy Chronicles: One topic that Lauren Berger brought up was the, "I'm so busy" tagline used by professionals industry-wide. My fellow panelists agreed that we all need to stop one upping one another on our "busy" professional lifestyle. We don't need to compete with each other. We actually all need to relax. John Gottfried of Major League Hacking explained the discussion might be less about finding a work/life balance and more about finding a place where that blurred line doesn't matter. Although, how do you create a work/life balance when we live in a digital 24/7 world? There's no easy answer to this question, which is why it's been debated for years.
As a new hire, especially when you're holding your first job – you need to put in face time. Be the first one there and last one to leave for the first several months. Understand what is expected of you and learn what your hours are. Do you work with clients on the west coast and need to rake in three additional hours to coordinate schedules? Or worse, do you have clients in Asia and need to be on call when the rest of your office is in bed? The last thing any good boss wants is a burned out employee. No boss should expect you to burn the midnight oil, night after night after night. They'd end up with a sleep-deprived employee that could be a risk to their business.
If you are feeling over-extended, approach your boss. Ask for a work smartphone and laptop to answer emails, take calls or complete assignments at home. Most importantly, learn what their priorities are and what can truly wait until tomorrow. Ask to alter your hours several days a week if you need to work odd hours to meet deadlines, work late night events, or conference with clients overseas.
Fix the System: The Dell panel was in full agreement that the university system needs to make changes when it comes to preparing graduates for the real world. Opal Vadham, one of the student panelists, said "Universities need to have a strong social media presence so students can see how social media can be utilized professionally." If a university isn't readily using LinkedIn, Twitter or other platforms to their advantage, how would a student know they could use social media to enhance their job search?
People learn best through leading by example. Universities need to create classes, panels, events that arm students with the tools they need in the real world. While taking History of Central Europe is fascinating it might be equally advantageous to learn how to create a business plan, pitch a client, cold call, devise an elevator speech, lead a meeting or conduct a conference call.
Tackling an Internship: You need an internship to get a job but you need a job to afford your internship – what gives? How does a financially strapped student survive on an internships stipend of lunch and metro fare? Student panelist, Eva Shang from Harvard shared how she had to work a second job while she had an internship. As a student who can't rely on the bank of mom and dad – how do you make it work?
As the InternQueen, Lauren Berger can attest, there's no better place to learn hand on job experience than being in an office environment. Which is why internships are so valuable. Christina Onori from Dell explained that interns (and employees) at the Dell campus participate in several career development workshops throughout their internship, including one about, "Primping their LinkedIn Profile." Many internships can be offered for part time which can offer the student time to find a job and complete course work. In fact, there's a limit to how many hours an employer can have an intern work. If your boss asks you to work longer hours, have your college counselor step in and talk to your supervisor.
To listen to the entire Think Tank Livestream, click here.