#TBT…Email Etiquette: The Art of Writing in the 21st Century

Jairo R. Ledesma, Florida International University

For centuries the art of writing a letter was just that: an art.  Writing was reserved for scribes, whose job it was to draft carefully edited letters and books that would be read by the elite. Over time, with the advent of technology the scribe was replaced and the production of books and letters was accessible to many. That was a good thing I guess. The drawback, we could surmise, has been that we no longer pay attention to detail and the power that the written word has. Take for example the manner in which we communicate today. Electronic mail, or email, is perhaps the number one way we communicate (I do believe this is changing, and how you communicate has to do with the age bracket you fall under) and it is perhaps the only way we have to get our point across in great detail, since the days of actually writing a letter by hand are all but gone.

Email in its purest form is a representation of who we are. It allows the reader to infer our character, mood and overall mental well being. IF I WRITE TO YOU IN ALL CAPITAL LETTERS, you will assume that I am either very angry at you or that I simply forgot to let go of the Caps Lock button. if i rite to u like this, u may think that i am younger and hip, or maybe you will think I am your friend or something. Or if I write to you like one my students did recently “Yo Ledesma,  I uploaded my resume go ahead and approve it because I needed ASAP” you may think I was a bit rude.

So, where have all the etiquette and manners gone? Over the course of my almost 13 years in higher education, I have noticed that etiquette as it pertains to writing has diminished and seems to be spiraling downwards. Gone are the days of paying attention to detail, to the tone and to our audience.

The internet/information revolution perhaps has made us go a bit faster than we were previously accustomed to. In our haste to keep up, perhaps we have neglected the details, or is it that in our early educational experience, the emphasis on writing and grammar has shifted? Could it be perhaps that these deficiencies were always there, but is it only now when the written word is more important than ever, that we notice this? Whatever the case may be I find myself having an internal battle of whether or not I should take the time to “school” a student on proper email etiquette. I think about whether the student will actually take into consideration what I just wrote to them. I contemplate whether I now will get into a back and forth with a student who may take offense to a “teaching moment.” In the end, the educator in me always wins out. In my line of work, every moment is a teaching moment, an opportunity to share information and/or an opportunity to make students reflect and think.

Alas, there is hope; I think, I hope. Just browsing the Linkedin website, I come across hundreds of professionals who profess knowledge of email decorum. A quick Google search finds a plethora of articles on the subject. But in the end, I am convinced that it will be the educator in all of us to let our students, our future professionals, know how important communication is and how vital email etiquette is to their professional development and future. I usually do my best in the most polite fashion to let the   student know first what the mistakes were, and then next how it can be done better. More importantly, I let them know why it matters so much that they get this figured out before they reach the professional world. I sometimes provide links to articles (such as this one from inc.com) so that students do not just hear it from me. Lastly, remember that as Career Services professionals, if we don’t take the time then someone else may.  BECAUSE if u dont…some1 will,  butt it May be 2 LATE!!!!!!!

#TBT…Career Counselors Orchestrating Insight

Tom Broussard, Ph.D.

Insight (what some call the “Aha!” moment) comes to people in many ways, and not necessarily when they learn something new as much as when they see something that they know (or thought they knew) in a new way.  SO, what we try to do is create the conditions under which the individual (in even the smallest of ways) can be led to actually “see” something differently.

Of course, in order to do this the conversation must start with a discussion of seeing and how one learns “to see” anything…especially, how one learns to see things that they have never seen before but which have been right before their eyes all along.

As a precept of (much of) adult learning, adults already know what they need to know.  So effective adult education depends on creating the conditions under which the adult learner is led to see things in a new light.

The parable of the three stone masons is always a useful story:  three masons are approached by a  visitor while they are out cutting stone in the heat of the day.  They each are using a hammer and a  chisel and to all intents and purposes, they are performing identical tasks.  When the first stone mason is asked what he is doing, he replies, “You fool…can’t you see what I am doing?  I am slaving away in the hot sun cutting rocks!”

The second one answers the same question, “I am a stone cutter and this is what I do.  I cut rocks.”  The third one answers, “Why, I am building a cathedral!”  Nothing is different between the stone masons except what they see in their mind’s eye.

We all see things which we take for granted (and have taken for granted for so long) that often we can no longer see them in different (and exciting) ways.  Similar to the masons, work (the act of working) for many people has become narrowly described and discussed simply in terms of “what they do,” not “what they see.”

In today’s globally connected and service-dominated marketplace, more and more of work is defined by how people see a thing and less by the thing itself.   Successful builders of any edifice in this new world are the ones with the vision to see in different ways and help create the conditions under which others may share that new vision—that new way of seeing.

21st century career development (most of which must be self-directed—an even more challenging task!) must focus first on the act of seeing (and our capacity to change how we see things) as a necessary precursor to raising the cathedrals demanded in every modern organizational realm.  While we may all be stone cutters, the “Aha!” moment graces those who learn to see what others are late (or loath) to consider as part of their reality.

In a similar way, career counselors are (or try to be) adept at creating the conditions under which the “Aha!”  moment will be a more likely outcome of the encounter because they focus first on how their client sees anything–the world, themselves, their strengths, their weaknesses, etc. before turning to what they might do in the future.

These “castles in the clouds” rise from our experience, our education and the inner nature of things that construct knowledge as well as constructing cathedrals.  Great career counselors are particularly good at orchestrating what they have seen in the past and integrating it with the future.

 

FSU Student Success Story

Shout out to Sarah Sweat for being a #SeminoleSuccess!

Last summer, Sarah,sem a mechanical engineering major, interned at Cummins Inc in Columbus, Indiana.

Currently, the recent FSU featured student profile (https://www.fsu.edu/profiles/sweat/) spends her time as a Freshman Interest Group (FIG) leader, The Florida State University (FSU) International Programs (IP)student recruiter, and Finance Chair on Dance Marathon at FSU‘s 2016 Executive Board. In only a few weeks, Sarah will be interning with Ford Motor Company in Detroit, Michigan.

Keep up the fantastic work, Sarah!

#TBT…African-American Male Students and Career Decision-Making Behavior: Tools for Success

Sunday, April 29, 2012 06:59 PM
L. Felix Daniels, Ed.D., University of Central Florida

“I have no idea of what I’m good at.” “I just want to make a decent amount of money.”  “If I can find a stable job with enough money to take care of a family, I will be happy.”  “I just want to help people, but I have no idea how.”  Reminiscing about my work as a career counseling practitioner over past 8 years, I find that these are just a few of the revelations that surface during my sessions with undecided students.  I’m sure many of you may be able to attest to this precarious predicament by virtue of the work you’ve done or by your own personal experiences during your undergraduate days.  Even after graduating from a local community college years ago, I too found myself undecided about my career choice once I arrived at my four-year institution.

Today, more than ever, it appears that career indecision is on the rise amongst college students.  According to a survey of freshmen students, approximately 75% cited getting a better job while 73% noted making more money, as the most important reasons for attending college.  Due to the data revealed from this survey, as well as my sometimes intense encounters with students, it appears that family, a forever fluctuating economy, and more often than not television shows also influence the career decision-making process of today’s millennial students.  Although relevant, these influences don’t always make for “ideal” sessions with our undecided students. As such, it is necessary for career counseling practitioners and administrators to continue gathering information to assist our undecided (and often decided) students.

In order to gain more insight into the experiences of our students, I chose to embark upon an intense information gathering exercise.  In other words, I began working on my dissertation.  From the lens of Social Cognitive Career Theory, I chose to examine the experiences that impact the career decision-making behavior of African-American male transfer students.  According to recent statistics, these students are facing serious challenges with retention in our systems of higher education.  As a seasoned career counseling professional, one may assume that career indecision plays a significant role in the matriculation of these students.  Guess what?  It does!

The participants revealed insightful information that may aid us in our quest to help students make sound decisions about their careers.  Participants noted that experiencing less than desirable job salaries, academic  ability, and gender also played significant roles in the process of selecting a major.  Of the experiences that led to the development of career decision-making self-efficacy: choosing a major consistent with self, engagement in practical experiences, working independently and solving problems, meeting with advisors, and being involved in extracurricular activities were all imperative to the retention of this group.

What does it all mean?  Although this study alone does not solve the problem of the declining number of African-American male students, it does offer some insight into what we can do as practitioners and administrators to address the issue.  Engaging students in various forms of self-assessment, career research that includes practical experiences, making students aware of academic resources and challenging them to utilize them are all strategies that can enhance career decision-making behavior.  Along with these strategies, we may also want to make concerted efforts to reach out to this population as students tend to visit Career Services when they need a job or at graduation.  However for many of our students, that may be too late!

Connection, Spring 2012 Edition

3 Ways to Effectively Assist Military and Veteran Students in Writing a Resume

by Lindsey Walk, Career Planning Coordinator, University of West Florida

The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq are coming to a close, and Congress has unveiled a plan to drastically reduce the number of troops on active duty. With this reduction in force, we can expect to see an increase in the number of veterans pursuing a college education and subsequently utilizing Career Services. It is important for career professionals to understand this unique population and the types of positions they are seeking so we can effectively assist them in writing their resumes.

Speak Their Language

Each branch of the military has its own acronyms and nuances, which can make it difficult for a career coach to assist in translating military experience into a resume. For example, in the Army, a soldier’s job is referred to as a Military Occupational Specialty (MOS).  However, in the Navy, a sailor’s job is known as a Rating. If you are not sure what an acronym or a word means, an employer probably will not understand either. Go through the service member’s resume and identify any words you do not believe all employers would understand. Ask the service member to explain or use a search engine to look up the term. It may not be apparent to the service member that the terminology may not be understood by an employer because he or she has been using these words for his or her entire career. Since the resume is likely the most important document in the job search process, ensuring all military jargon is translated to understandable terms is critical.

Have Service Members Review Their Performance Evaluations for Useful Content

Service members have learned many skills through deployments, military training, and other experiences. These experiences are normally well-documented through the service member’s annual performance evaluations. The bullets on the performance evaluations almost always begin with an action verb and typically quantify, both of which are important traits for bullets in the experience section of a resume. They may also be divided into sections such as Competence, Physical Fitness/Military Bearing, Leadership, Training, and Responsibility/Accountability, which could assist in writing a functional resume. Take the time to discuss the experiences from their performance evaluations with them and see how they fit into the type of positions they are currently seeking. Stress to the service member that he or she does not have to show the performance evaluation to you. The performance evaluation can be reviewed privately by the service member, and he or she can choose the relevant bullets and discuss those with you.

Understand the Federal Resume

Many service members are interested in continuing to serve the United States government after leaving the service. To assist service members in this goal, career professionals must have an in-depth understanding of the USAJOBS website. The majority of federal positions are posted through USAJOBS with few exceptions. Career professionals must be aware of the drastic difference between a federal and private sector resume.

Some differences between a private sector and a federal resume include the following:

  • A private sector resume is typically 1-2 pages while it is common for a federal resume to be 3-5 pages in length
  • Federal resumes should be written in paragraph format while bullets are preferred for the private sector
  • Keywords should be capitalized on a federal resume to call the attention of the Human Resources professional reviewing the document while this would not be appropriate on a private sector resume
  • A private sector resume does not require the applicant’s social security number, supervisor’s name, and contact information, salary, veterans’ preference status, and other personal details while these are requirements of a federal resume
  • Federal resumes include a combination of details and accomplishments for all positions the applicant has ever held while private sector resumes typically require less position detail and focus more on accomplishments

It is recommended that applicants use USAJOBS resume format instead of uploading their own versions of a federal resume. Using the USAJOBS format presents the information in a clear, organized, and uniform way making it easier for Human Resource professionals to review. All career professionals should create and build a USAJOBS resume as this will make the process easier to explain to those you are assisting.

Remember that many service members join the military right out of high school and may not have written a resume previously. This is a population that has much to offer employers, and your assistance will be instrumental in helping them meet their career goals.