Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Communicating more effectively as a job and career skill set 14: addressing the challenges and opportunities of an increasingly real-time ubiquitously connected world

This is my fourteenth installment to a series on what is one of the most important, and also one of the most commonly problematical of all workplace skills: communicating with others, and as an effective two (or more) way process (see Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development – 3, postings 342 and following for Parts 1-13.) And in a real sense this posting is the real beginning of this series with all preceding it serving as preamble.

• Up to here I have been discussing communications best practices in general, and with a goal of presenting a foundation of basic approaches that have held valid for a long time – for generations for much of what I have been presenting.
• The issues and perspectives that I have been writing about here all still hold, and in many respects have become more important in our current workplace. But my goal for this posting is to at least begin a discussion that is more directed forward and towards new and emerging communications challenges. My goal here is to begin a more detailed discussion on more effectively communicating in our rapidly emerging everywhere and all the time connected world, where distinctions between work life and personal life, and professional and personal information sharing and communications can and do blur, and if not always for us then for many who we would communicate with.

I begin this by noting that I have already at least begun a discussion of some of the issues that I would more systematically explore here, in earlier postings and series. And in that regard I note:

• My stand-alone posting: Social Networking with a Professional Face,
• A follow-up seven part series that I wrote with the same general title as that, which you can find at Social Networking and Business as postings 106 and loosely following,
Social Networking and Maintaining a Professional Image – a brief guide, and
Social Networking and Maintaining a Professional Image – an update.

I will add in more specific background material references as I continue this series and this line of discussion within it. But I at least begin putting what I would say here into the larger context of this blog as a whole here, with these reference links. And at the risk of repeating myself from earlier postings, I begin this phase of this overall discussion by noting some crucial orienting points.

• I wrote in this series in Part 13 of the importance of finding an effective context-specific balance between immediate spontaneity, and strategic planning. It is a hallmark of ubiquitous real-time anywhere and everywhere communications, that it creates pressures to shift this balance towards here-and-now immediacy and spontaneity, and even when forethought and strategic consideration are called for, and in presenting yourself as a professional as you convey your message, as well as in specifically shaping what that message is.
• The quicker and more immediately spontaneous the online channel, the more likely it is that users will skip words, use the wrong words or abbreviations that might be misinterpreted, and use slang that can sound anything but professional in tone.
• People sharing information and opinion online all too often do so as if their messages would all evaporate as soon as they are sent and their specific intended audience has seen them. You have to assume that everything – absolutely everything that you post or transmit online will persist somewhere where it can be searched for and found, and forever.
• When you post professionally online, and certainly when you post through a business-managed instant message tool or similar employer-provided service, you have to assume that your boss will see it, and certainly if you send anything that might raise a red flag for what you say or how you say it – using what might be construed to be discriminatory language for example.
• Never assume that your sense of humor, or the fact that you are sending a message with humorous intent will automatically be understood as such, and certainly when you use shorter message formats.
• When you post publically, through social networking sites such as Facebook for example, you have to assume that this will all be visible to the people you deal with professionally too. And so will content that others post about you or on your Facebook wall or in similar types of sites.

I write this generically, and with regard to online posting and messaging, document sharing and communications in general. What you put online persists and people can search it out and find it. Your online record is at least assumed to represent your level of judgment and your opinion and your level of professionalism. And the cumulative impact of all of this can and does develop early on and even before the beginning of your professional career per se.

• College admissions offices increasingly review the online record posted by and about prospective students when reviewing their applications. Applicants for admission to competitive schools can be turned down if questionable material is found.
• This same type of candidate screening takes place and is even more likely to be used when applicants are applying for a job, and not just for a first job. So photos on your Facebook wall of your getting drunk and messages about how hard you party can come back to haunt you – and even if you set your privacy settings so that only people you have friended should be able to see those photos or read those messages. People re-post and that can open the door for anyone to see this now more publically available content.
• People can lose jobs if the wrong person comes across the wrong online content by or about them.
• And if it is not a matter of posted content showing specifically problematical behavior, ill-considered messages can lead to misunderstandings and to problems that are remembered for their consequences.

So I write this with Twitter and instant messaging, emails and social networking sites and blogs and the full range of online channels in mind. Think before you post. Be aware of what others post about you, and either in text or image format. And be aware of both your short term and immediate communications goals and the longer term potential consequences of how you communicate online.

I am going to continue this discussion in a next series installment where I will focus on Twitter, instant messaging and microblogging, and on matching your communications needs and objectives with the channels that you would communicate through. Meanwhile, you can find this and related postings at my Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development – 3 and at the first directory page and second, continuation page to this Guide. You can also find this and related material at Social Networking and Business and its continuation page.

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