Do Not Burn that Bridge: Collegiality

get hired

I am in the throes of letter writing and giving job references for former students and staff. This post is not a book review of the book in the photograph. I took the screen shot and of the book and add my post as a suggestion for a job applicant or new employee. One of the things that I have heard from prospective employers is the ways in which a candidate or hired employee fails miserably and burns a bridge. In my line of work as an instructor, advisor, mentor, coach or supervisor, I also occasionally see a student or staff member burn a bridge. Occasionally this is done with a positive attitude or the expectation that rewards are instantaneous upon merely doing the job.

I have heard repeatedly that a good attitude can help a new employee. If you are new to a job that you are not sure about make sure that during your shift you act like you care. This job could turn into something else for you and it is hard to shake off a bad impression. Be careful with social media. Do not post negative statements about your employer or co-workers. Nothing is private online and the worst thing that you can do is make you or your employer look bad. Likewise, if you have some terrible customers you also do not want to post information about them. Be careful and smart.

Make sure that you are dressing in a way that fits the environment. If there is a dress code, follow it. If there is not a dress code, ask your immediate manager what she or he suggests. There is nothing more embarrassing than having a manager speak to you about your clothing. In my early twenties, this happened to me twice and I never wore that blouse or the skirt again. Both seemed fine with the ensemble, but giving further thought I realized that they did not meet the conservative norms of that work place. I always suggest to my students who have job interviews to think about the dropped pen exercise. If you have to pick up a pen, will you feel comfortable as you lean in to grab the pen. Bend with your knees–not your back!

Other hints for looking for work–keep in contact with people who are well-connected or who you might want a reference from at a later date. This might be a bi-annual email that updates or an occasional hand written note. Make sure that you keep your circle of references up to date with all the wonderful things that you are doing. Related to this, be careful on social media. There are numerous examples of poor use of social media. I imagine that the communications staff at one East Coast university spent part of this last Monday chatting about a student’s racist post and the follow up posts that only made his original tweet worse. While his Twitter account is now deleted, many screen-shotted the tweet. Plus, the response against his racism was swift. That original tweet could haunt him.

Overall, be smart while you are looking for work and new on the job. Even if you do not have a probationary period, your first few days, weeks, and months are scrutinized. Check in with your co-workers and manager. If you do not have regular performance reviews, ask if you could have some assessment. Think of it as a work tune up. Reflect and learn. And, if you have questions–ask them.

Before You Send an Email to Your Professor

I haven’t taken a Netiquette 101 course recently, so I think it’s time to give some tips about sending emails to your instructors.

1. Always assume that you should be more formal.

2. Address the person in the email with a hello or even a “dear.” Avoid, “hey. And, use your full name, as your instructor might have many students who share your first name.

Sample~

Dear Instructor: I am emailing to find out information about your Fall class. Do you suggest any prerequisites for the class? I’d also like to talk with you about a paper topic that I have. Do you have any time to meet this Summer?

Thank you,

Student X

Avoid:

Hey, I’m going to enroll in you class. Should I be worried about your feminist bias?

Smitty

3. Never send an email that is incoherent. This is email and not a text to your best-friend. Type out all words, use punctuation, and proper spelling.

4. Never send an email when you are mad. This goes for all emails. Send yourself the email and then wait a few hours or overnight, and then send the email that you won’t later regret.

5. Be honest. Understand that your instructor might say that this conversation needs to take place face to face. Some conversations really need that human interaction.

6. Do not be offended if the instructor corrects your use of their first name or some policy. Most of us will be kind and say–we have a 24 hour policy with emails after work is handed back and it’s in the syllabus or I expect students to call me Prof. Schmitdkins.

7. Read the syllabus before sending the email. Perhaps the syll answers your question or notes that you should take the time to write a coherent email noting who you are and why you are emailing.

Overall, treat email with the same integrity that you would treat an office hour visit. And, yes, I do get lots of emails that start off with “hey” and have been asked about my feminist bias…

Collegiality on Campus

Today’s Friday Fun Facts is a reminder. A reminder for me and others that when you work on a college campus–all the other employees are your colleagues.
  • At times the environment we work in on a college campus is stressful. The students’ stress vibrates off their bodies during certain points in the term. It’s always wise to confer with colleagues about student needs.
  • When conferring with colleagues across campus, remember that you are on the same side or the same team. We are all working together on this microcosm. And, this microcosm is ultimately smaller than you think.
  • Never say something via email that you would not say to someone’s face. Likewise, never say something on a voice mail or via a phone call that you would not say to someone’s face. I remember this instance a few years ago when a colleague across campus raised her voice at me, when she had incomplete information. I finished the phone conversation and assumed that she was having a bad day. Later, though, I wondered if I should follow up with a memo. I did not–I let it go.
  • Remember that while this is the students’ campus–it is your workplace, so act accordingly. A campus might seem really “chill” and laid back, but it is still your where you work.
  • Get out of your department or silo and meet people across campus. Yes, get out of your comfort zone and network. It’s healthy and you’ll make new friends.
I look forward to you comments about this post.