Welcome to the Real World

Over the course of the summer, I had the amazing opportunity to dip my toes into the field that I will be entering into upon the completion of my degree next year. Communications is such a broad umbrella, and in my field placement I found that I was carrying quite a large one. My courses had prepared me for some of what I was asked to do, but in other instances I was standing out in the rain – so to speak.

For the tasks that I did have training for, I was confident. I was editing – a skill that has been honed throughout my entire time in university – many documents and am grateful that I was able to continue to polish the skill for a careful and keen eye. I wrote numerous reports that I had to carefully research and then present the information in a orderly and logical manner. Check – done that countless times for my courses as well.

Even though I felt very sure of myself and these skills, applying them to a real world setting proved more difficult than I had thought. There was a learning curve for me as I adjusted to the style that my superiors expected, specifically in regards to the reports. I was thorough in my research for the reports, and wanted to present as many facts as were available to support our aims. I quickly learned that lengthy and detailed reports that are valued in university are not something that general managers and executives have time to read. This made sense to me. The audience for my reports was a group of incredibly busy people. It was not until this was pointed out to me by my supervisor did I think of it.

Not only did this make sense to me, but I had learned it in my courses. It was right there, in one of my textbooks. Goodall, Goodall, and Schiefelbein (2010) note in their section on reports that “few people have the time or the desire to read a long, detailed report” (p. 202). How quickly we forget the things that we take as common sense in our textbooks when the time comes to use our skills in the workforce.

The largest challenge for me was when I was given the lead on the bi-weekly e-newsletter. I was only familiar with the basics of MailChimp and writing for the web. My first few e-blasts were not getting the open and click rates that I was hoping for, and I was determined to refine my strategy to achieve a better result.

The content that I had planned out for the next three months of e-newsletters was good. Updates on the project, new features that were introduced, and promotions that were being offered. I thought this was great information! Why didn’t the subscribers want to read it?

If people were not even opening the email, then I thought that it must be the subject line. Frick (2010) states that “a subject line that is direct, factual, and to the point will get more attention than one that is gimmicky of tries too hard” (p. 172). This is the most useful information I could have gotten. Not taking any journalism courses, I did not hone the skill of writing an effective headline – or in this case, subject line.

This was probably my biggest ‘welcome to the real world’ moment during the course of my field placement. My schooling did not prepare me for everything that I have and will encounter in the workforce. I do believe that the take-home message is that communications is a broad field – not to mention constantly evolving and changing – and we as professional communicators need to evolve and change with it. While my time at university is nearly finished, I will never be finished learning.

 

 

Frick, T. (2010). Return on engagement: Content, strategy, and design techniques for digital marketing. Burlington, MA: Focal Press.

Goodall, H., Goodall, S., & Schiefelbein, J. (2010) Business and professional communication in the global workplace. Boston, MA: Wadsworth Cengage Learning.

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Day 12 of #100happydays – Staying Organized (And How To Get That Way)

We all have crazy busy lives. I’m sure you’ve gotten a sense of my hectic days over the course of my #100happydays challenge. It can be hard to remember everything and stay on top of everything. Little things are easily forgotten when each day’s to-do list is a million items long. I have found a system that works really well for me.

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My day planner is my life – I’m sure many of you feel the same. Whether you have a book version or use something online, it’s they key to keeping track of a hectic life. Here’s a list of tips that I have developed that keep me organized:

  1. Write everything down. Everything. I log even the smallest items into my day planner. I find that the busier I get, the more I need to remind myself to do things. Whether it be scheduling time in to study for an upcoming exam or washing my car, I write it down. When it comes to something that needs to be done, better safe than sorry!
  2. Colour code. With writing so many entries down and trying to schedule things based upon priority, I find that colour coding is really helpful. Pink for personal things, green for assignments, blue for work, yellow for meetings and appointments, and so on. This way, if I have a really busy day – and only a few hours to accomplish a bunch of things – I can pick and choose based upon importance. It also helps when I scan forward to see what is coming up.
  3. Bring your planner everywhere. This book is like my oxygen. I get all panicky when I realize I have forgotten to bring it along. This is where having an online system or an app is helpful – but I’m old school and opt for paper. If you have it with you at all times, you’ll never be stuck in a situation where you are trying to schedule something in advance but don’t know what you have going on.
  4. Check items off. This is partly for gratification, partly for purpose. If you check items off once you have completed them, then you are never wondering if you actually finished something or if you did it at all. You can also look back and see what still needs to be done from a previous date. And after all that hard work to finish a task, it feels pretty good to place a check next to it.

This system works really well for me. I do admit, it is sometimes hard to stay on top of it. But nothing ever comes easy!

What tips and tricks do you use to stay organized?

Day 9 of #100happydays – Having a stressful assignment finally come together

Day 9 of my #100happydays challenge, and the assignment that has been the bane of my existence since before day 1 has finally come together. Our large research group – 14 people – has come together to create a cohesive, succinct proposal for our research. After spending all weekend editing, it is complete. Granted, this proposal is only one stepping stone in the research study that we will be conducting over the next three months – but the weight that has been lifted off of my shoulders is still immense. One more thing down, one little step closer to completing this semester, and just a bit closer to earning my degree. WHEW. I can now relax for a millisecond before I move on to the next assignment ;)

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The Little Things – Or Big – That Keep Me Motivated

Well, finals are among us. Another semester come to a close, and it’s gone by so fast. They all do. Now that I am over half-way through my degree, I can see a light at the end of the tunnel. It’s a little one, but if I put on my glasses, squint, and tilt my head just the right way I can see it.

As I sit here at work – yes, I’m at work, but I can explain – I am lacking the drive to study or to finish my final paper that is due tomorrow. Instead, I’m listening to Christmas music and drinking copious amounts of coffee. I’m going to need all that caffeine in my system as I stay awake all night doing the things that I really should be doing right now. But, such is university life sometimes.

I am often plagued with the little voice in the back of my head while I’m studying or writing,

“What is this even for? What is the point of finishing this assignment? What on earth am I doing with my life? How is this paper going to help me in five years?”

Truth be told, it probably won’t help me. My archaeology lab test isn’t going to come in handy in my life. I may eat my words and head an excavation someday, but I doubt that. All the communication theorists and papers on social media in politics and unconscious motivations of dialect code-switching are wearing me down.

Let me clarify, I in no way think that the core work of my degree is useless. Quite the opposite. But you see, that nasty little voice in my head that feeds off of procrastination and failure likes to try to make me think so. It’s hard for me to stay motivated when the reward is long-term.

Usually, when I write a paper, I make word count marks for myself to hit and reward myself. More often than not, I like to reward myself with ice cream. Or an episode of 30 Rock. In those moments, it’s the little things that keep me going.

This semester seems like it has been especially difficult, though. It has taken quite the toll on me. I have set higher expectations for myself, and pushed myself to the limits to achieve them. It’s times like these, at work, that I see the bright future that I can achieve if I just keep trucking along.

Forgive me for the materialistic stance I am about to take, but I like pretty things. And working in a showhome on a quiet night by myself gives me a little bit of a chance to play house. I look around and can think that maybe this is what I will come home to, not visit three times a week. Granted, any home of mine will not be decorated as nicely, or as clean, but it’s something. A little addition to that light at the end of a very long tunnel. A hope that I will not be in my little basement suite forever. That I will be able to move on to bigger and better things.

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