More than a million students graduate this month and are ready to enter the workforce. However, at a time when these former students willingly admit to being tangled in an endless web of distractions, employment could present their greatest challenge yet: staying focused for an eight-hour day.
While there is always some doom and gloom surrounding the work habits of the current stock of college grads, this year raises questions that may justify the concerns. How will graduates deal with digital distraction and information overload in the workplace? Will it be hard for a generation that grew up with the Internet to work for a generation that didn’t?
It will partly be up to seasoned employers to help assimilate the new talent into their business. Characterized by being savvy, digitally immersed multi-taskers, new grads could be the office savior or a productivity-sinking nightmare depending on how they’re managed. Conversely, the Class of 2011 will need to prove all the naysayers wrong by taking the right steps to make the work transition as smooth as possible.
So, in the spirit of graduation, here are five tips for new employees and “old” bosses to follow as generation wired goes to work.
For New Graduates:
1. Learn the Style. The way you have digitally communicated with your friends, family and even professors may not be the preferred communication style of your new employer, coworkers or clients. Be sure to ask people if it’s OK to text them, or would a phone call be better? It’s up to you to learn how they like to communicate.
2. Stop the Text Lingo. Even though abbreviations have been an efficient way “4 u 2 write”, business works on proper grammar, spelling and punctuation. There are no “passing” grades at work; written projects are either done right or not.
3. Be Patient. Faced with multiple deadline-driven projects, effective workers need to triage their work in order to streamline their tasks. If your boss does not immediately respond to your e-mail, don’t be offended. He or she is most likely prioritizing work and will respond to you in due time.
4. Minimize Distractions. While gainfully employed, you’re going to be expected to get your work done. If you don’t take specific measures to stop distractions, you will be allowing the dings, buzzes, and flashes from tweets, status updates, and texts to drastically hurt your productivity.
5. Separate Work and Personal Communications. Although you may be able to take care of private business on your breaks, your employer will not appreciate you spending time at work on personal e-mails, texts or phone calls. Additionally, always assume that anything you send using your work e-mail account can and will be seen by your boss.
For “Old” Bosses:
1. Understand Their Culture. Your new employee is coming from a wired culture. Many are used to surfing the Web and social media while writing school papers; work will require much more focus. It is important that managers understand that this can be a difficult transition and help grads drop their multi-tasking habits.
2. Caution Party Pictures.Let your young workers know that just because they had a great time last Friday night, doesn’t mean the whole world needs to know about it too. Due to social media, today’s graduates have to be more careful than ever. Be sure to recommend that they manage their privacy settings and online postings.
3. Be a Coach. Work with new grads as a coach to ensure that they come on board effectively. You, or a senior team member, should meet with them frequently early on to find out how they’re doing, set goals, provide inspiration, and head off any problems before they grow into a big deal.
4. Start Talkin’. The Class of 2011 has grown up surrounded by technology. In fact, some are going to be more used to communicating on the Internet than in person. Your job is to get them talking. Interpersonal interaction is vital to personal success and can become a huge competitive advantage for your business.
5. Share Digital Etiquette. Yes, it sounds obvious, but it’s important that mid-way through a meeting with your most important client, your employee isn’t sneaking glances at his or her smartphone. Proactively share etiquette standards that relate to the use of cell phones and note pads; lead by example, and help orient them to your expectations.
On a final note, all of these tips really come down to being able to see things from someone else’s perspective. For graduates that need employment and bosses that need focused workers, the best approach for everyone is to be understanding of others’ paradigms, and to communicate, face to face, early on in the game about what works best.
Congratulations to the Class of 2011! May your transition be smooth, exciting, and profitable for both you and your employer!
Marsha Egan is CEO of InboxDetox.com and an internationally recognized workplace productivity expert and speaker. Named one of Pennsylvania’s Top 50 Women in Business, her acclaimed “12 Step Program for E-Mail E-ddiction” has helped countless workers take control of their inboxes. To learn more visit www.inboxdetox.com.