Category: Employment

In studying communication, students often focus on its impact on getting and holding a job. That’s this category.

Why communication skills matter to everyone


I don’t remember how long ago it was, but I remember a friend telling me about the local newspaper having two openings at the time. They had 104 positions in the newsroom at the time. For those two openings, they received 120 resumés.

If you don’t already know it, resumés are not really for getting a job; they are for eliminating candidates. If you make it through to the interview stage, you are qualified for the job, and so is everyone else who makes it through. I’m not saying the skills are unimportant. I’m saying that if they’re talking to you, it’s a given that you have the skills (at least on paper). So the decision about whom to hire will hinge on other factors. Continue reading

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Communicate your value

pushpullThis is a classic communication problem: how do you communicate your value in a business setting?

Yes, I understand that we all have value just by virtue of being human. Nevertheless, here is a hard truth that some of my students have trouble getting their heads around: The only reason an organization – any kind of organization – will hire you  is because you will help them solve their business problems. (That is a direct quote from a good article on this concept from The Savvy Intern.)

I actually had a student say, “They shouldn’t do it like that. People should give you a job just because you need money to live.” She might as well have said, “Gravity shouldn’t be allowed to hold you down.”

There is nothing servile about this. It’s a win-win situation, cliche though it is. The employer wants your talent/ability/work more than he wants his money, and you want the money more than you want to use your time for something else. If either of you doesn’t perceive greater value to yourself from the trade, then you will not make the trade.

The key is to communicate your value, and you don’t do that by saying, “I’m valuable.” It begins with action – with actually being valuable. If you successfully communicate a lie, it won’t stand scrutiny for long. But unless you communicate the truth, no one will know you can solve their problems, or that your value is greater than your cost.

A good parallel is dating and marriage. To effectively communicate your business value, seduction works better than aggression, which will make you seem desperate. For instance, a testimonial in the form of a recommendation letter or an introduction works better than “hire me! I’m the greatest!”

To put it in bumper sticker form: pull rather than push. As many have said, it’s not who you know, it’s who knows you and what you can do.

How have you found this to be true? Have you discovered an effective way to communicate your value?

Photo by Flickr user Robert S. Donovan.

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Infographic: The Pitfalls of Freelancing

Infographics have become a trend–at least partly, I think, because they’re information-dense means of quickly making sense of a topic, and effectively combine visual and verbal information. This one applies to both writing and speaking, I think, as well as the obvious connections to IT.

Pitfalls of Freelancing
Created by: Masters Degree

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Drop in creativity documented

Read between the lines of Newsweek’s report The Creativity Crisis, and you are likely to pick up the idea that America’s declining educational effectiveness stems, at least in part, from misguided federally-imposed standards.

The average person thinks “art” in its various forms when you say “creativity,” but as this article points out, creativity is much, much broader than that and fostered by disparate activities. Creativity involves bringing together divergent and convergent thinking–generating possibilities, then combining those possibilities and evaluating them for usefulness.

The age-old belief that the arts have a special claim to creativity is unfounded. When scholars gave creativity tasks to both engineering majors and music majors, their scores laid down on an identical spectrum, with the same high averages and standard deviations. Inside their brains, the same thing was happening—ideas were being generated and evaluated on the fly.

I’m impressed that the scholarship that has tracked a group of “Torrance kids” who were tested and then followed for 50 years to see how well the tests predicted creativity recorded more than the stereotypical accomplishments, recognizing the creativity required in a variety of life activities.

[S]cholars—first led by Torrance, now his colleague, Garnet Millar—have been tracking the children, recording every patent earned, every business founded, every research paper published, and every grant awarded. They tallied the books, dances, radio shows, art exhibitions, software programs, advertising campaigns, hardware innovations, music compositions, public policies (written or implemented), leadership positions, invited lectures, and buildings designed.

Only recently in looking at shifting patterns have those scholars been able to pinpoint 1990 as a year in which, for the first time, creativity scores among young people began to drop. Whatever the cause (and several possible are posited in the article) I find this paragraph to be one of the saddest observations of the situation:

Preschool children, on average, ask their parents about 100 questions a day. Why, why, why—sometimes parents just wish it’d stop. Tragically, it does stop. By middle school they’ve pretty much stopped asking. It’s no coincidence that this same time is when student motivation and engagement plummet. They didn’t stop asking questions because they lost interest: it’s the other way around. They lost interest because they stopped asking questions. [Emphasis mine: DK]

It’s not just the asking of questions but also the encouragement to ask them and then to seek the answers that seems to foster creativity. In many ways, colleges are now tasked with countering this trend toward decreasing creativity at the very time political and societal forces are pressuring them (us) to standardize curricula and move students through as quickly as possible into jobs. People need jobs, but I fear that we are completely misunderstanding the preparation required in order to be able to do them.

Creativity is hard to measure, and if we are to serve the needs of our nation and our world, colleges must resist the temptation and the pressure to engage in that which is easy to measure, simply because it is easy to measure.

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A new look at journalism

Kristen King (no relation to me, as far as I know) attended the Region 2 conference of the Society of Professional Journalists, and shared her summaries of several of the sessions. This is very useful information for information workers of any sort, but particularly for journalism and even PR students. This is boiled-down, pure, cutting-edge information. Take the time.

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“Getting gigs” is really about good communication

This isn’t a stretch. Even though Allison Boyer doesn’t even use the word in her post entitled “One Good Job Deserves Another: Landing Gigs,” everything she writes there has something to do with communication, including concepts about networking, listening, and enthusiasm. Speech students, does this sound familiar? She’s talking about what freelancers do, but as we’ve established elsewhere, “regular employees” are still really in business for themselves, and the same advice applies even if you receive W2 income.

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Especially for students: taking charge of your “job”

This blog is “not just academic,” as the flag shows. While we’re primarily interested in communication-related topics, and technology in higher education, we’re focused on application. Feeds show up in a couple of online classes, though, so I want to take an opportunity to post a link to an article that may spark some pragmatic solutions for students who worry about getting a job once they graduate, whether they’re journalism/PR folks or more general students who read this.

It also happens to be a good example post for speech students to show how expressing an opinion goes beyond merely expressing it, but also illustrating it and backing it up.

Columnist and consultant Peter Bregman tells CNN readers/viewers, “No job? Create your own!” Like anything else, it’s easier said than done. (Isn’t that true of everything? So why is that supposed to be a reason not to act?) The idea, or perhaps the attitude, is the value of this post.

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Career with high first-year pay

Students are always interested in this sort of thing. Notice that the headline doesn’t say “starting pay”–that could leave the impression we’re talking about entry level jobs. For some of these, we are; for others, we’re talking about the first year after a promotion of sorts.

In any case,  “Ten Careers that Pay More Than $50k the First Year” is an interesting read.

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