Note to Students: Companies Can Have Ideologies as Well as Cultures

One of our graduate students and I have been busily researching corporate social responsibility (CSR) and related topics in preparation for a presentation we’re going to give at the ABC meeting in Dublin. Our reading has confirmed something that is becoming increasingly obvious: When companies become social actors and put their clout behind various social stands, their ideological dimension grows. This is a trend our students need to be aware of as they learn how to scope out the organizational contexts of their communications.

This past week, it was big news that Google fired an employee whose “anti-diversity manifesto” went public. Among the various conclusions one could draw from this news, one is that it is sometimes–maybe often?–unsafe for an employee to voice an opinion that departs from the social values of his/her company. For one thing, the opinion can go public, which can then embroil the company in a PR firestorm. But even becoming known as someone who isn’t pulling in the same direction as the company’s leadership can put one at risk professionally.

Millennials are particularly likely to support certain social causes and agitate for their employers to do likewise. According to a Deloitte study, 70% say that a company’s commitment to CSR “would influence their decision to work there,” and another study found that 73% “believe that businesses should not only take a stand about important issues, but also influence others to get involved in those issues.” They join a growing body of “social intrapreneurs,” who work for social change within and through their organizations. There’s a lot to be said in favor of social intrapreneurship–but expecting every company to welcome such values and behavior would be naive, and dangerous.

As Philip Kotler and Christian Sarkar point out, any given company’s involvement in social issues can fall anywhere on a continuum from regressive to progressive. Companies who participate in CSR are not the only social actors; many companies push back against various dimensions of CSR and promote more conservative, traditional business values. It’s imperative for a young employee, or job applicant, to be sensitive to a company’s social politics and realistic about how to communicate in that workplace. The engineer who was fired from Google accused the company of being an “ideological echo chamber.” One could argue that, to some extent, many companies can now be described this way.

We’ll be inviting those who attend our presentation to share their ideas for how to incorporate this topic into their classes. If you have some thoughts, please share them.

End-of-the-School-Year Resource Roundup

Yes, indeed, the end of another school year has arrived, and I am already thinking ahead to the next academic year. In planning ahead, I’ve also reflected on the past year and realized I have gathered a LOT of online resources related to business communication. I’m guessing many of you are like me in that you never really leave the classroom and are always thinking about the next semester, class, or lesson.

The articles below appeared in the news feed generated by my Zite app, and I then saved them to Pocket. (Zite and Pocket, by the way, are probably my two favorite apps.) You can also find more resources by following me on Twitter (@pjglentz) or viewing my teaching board on Pinterest. If you have any “must have” resources you’d like to share with us, please do!

Corporate Culture

Design & Typography

Email

Employment

Grammar

Interviews

Leadership & Teamwork

Persuasion

Presentations & Oral Communication

Research

 Rhetoric

 Technology & Communication

 

Submitting Résumés and Cover Letters by Email

A couple of weeks ago, our Business Communication Advisory Board met to discuss various workplace communication topics. We enjoy hearing from these professionals, who represent a variety of business fields—accounting, human resource management, education, local government, health care administration, and many more.

One of the main topics we discussed is what employers really want when they tell applicants to send their materials electronically. Does this mean they want the cover letter and résumé in the body of an email? Should applicants attach Word documents (a cover letter and a résumé) to an email? Should applicants attach PDF files or Word files? Is the email the cover letter, or should a separate cover letter be attached to the email?

Essentially, our board members said that how applicants submit their documents is not as important as the stories they tell within those documents. However, they shared the following thoughts regarding their experiences.

  • PDF files work better as attachments than Word documents, as the PDF file will likely always open and preserve a document’s format.
  • Fewer attachments are better. If both the cover letter and résumé are attached to an email, they should be in one PDF document.
  • Generally, a concise, well-written email will work for a cover letter.
  • Whether a cover letter is sent as an email or as an attachment, it needs to be short and concise and must tell the applicant’s story well—and honestly.
  • Applicants who send a cover letter as an email must be sure to keep the same level of formality that they would in an attached cover letter or printed cover letter. One board member says that applicants who send cover letters via email tend to use a tone and style that are too informal.
  • Applicants should keep in mind that employers use the quality of the writing in application materials—regardless of how they are submitted—as a measure an applicant’s communication skills and overall competence.
  • Applicants should send thank-you notes immediately after the interview and follow up if they have not heard from an employer within two weeks. Interestingly, while board members say email thank-you messages are fine, they prefer a handwritten note. After emails are read, they are likely deleted or lost in the volume of inbox messages. A handwritten thank-you note will likely sit on the interviewer’s desk and continually remind him or her of the applicant. Email messages, they say, work well if the employer has indicated that a hiring decision will be made within a day or two.
  • Board members say it is also fine with them if they receive both the handwritten and email thank-you note. Regardless, the message should thank the interviewer, address a high point or major qualification that was discussed in an interview (not recap the entire interview), and end with a confident expression of interest in the position.

Does all of this advice sound familiar? Sure. We have been sharing a lot of this advice with our students for years. However, it’s nice to tell our students that we know the advice will work because professionals in their (the students’) anticipated careers have told us this is what they look for.

Resources for Landing a Job

Spring semester is graduation semester for most of our seniors, and it can be both an exhilarating and a scary time. Finally earning your degree is wonderful, but trying to land a job, especially in this economy, can seem like a hopeless exercise.

If you’re teaching a course that has a job-search component (or, like me, teaching your program’s capstone course for graduating seniors), take a look at the following resources.  They can give your students more optimism and increase their odds of job-search success.

Each year, Forbes.com combs through hundreds of websites and solicits input from readers to produce its list of career-boosting websites. This year’s list, ‘The Top 100 Websites for Your Career,” includes some classic sites—e.g., CareerBuilder.com and the website of the US Bureau of Labor Statistics—as well as sites to help particular groups (e.g., work-at-home women and those seeking employment in the nonprofit sector).*

A companion article, “The 10 Best Websites for Your Career—2013,”** narrows the big list down to the 10 most helpful sites. Your students will enjoy the slide show and learn why each source is particularly valuable. (Spoiler alert: LinkedIn leads off the list.)

Training+Development magazine, published by the American Society for Training and Development, also published “A Top 10 List of Resources to Launch Your Career.” But this is a list of top tips, not a list of resources. Only ASTD members have access to the full article (though it appears you can access it through EBSCOhost), so I’ll quote the gist of their advice here:***

10. Follow news and developments in your career field

9.  Use the resources at your alma mater

8.  Promote your internships and volunteer experiences

7.  Network in person

6.  Arrange informational meetings

5.  Be persistent: follow up

4.  Use online business networking

3.  Manage your online presence

2.  Customize your résumé

1.  Get support (from a “buddy” who keeps you on track)

These tips probably repeat what you’re already telling your students, but it helps your “cred” that the leading organization in professional development reinforces your advice.

I particularly like tip #7: Network in person. It seems that today’s students would rather do anything than physically go to an informational interview, a research interview, or a professional meeting. (I’m remembering a comment one of my seniors made just last week, when we were discussing the client interviews they were going to conduct: “Can’t we just email them?”)

Yes, it’s tough out there, but using these resources, an assiduous job seeker can hugely increase his/her chances of employment success.

*Jacquelyn Smith, Forbes.com LLC, 18 Sept. 2013, Web, 22 Feb. 2014.

**Susan Adams, Forbes.com LLC, 18 Sept. 2013, Web, 22 Feb. 2014.

***Alan De Back, Sept. 2011: 78-80, print.

It’s pretty easy to put together a lesson on the dos and don’ts of interviewing for a job: Say this, don’t say that, dress appropriately, research the company…the list goes on. If you’re looking for stories, statistics, or trivia to enliven your class discussion of the job interview, here are a few articles, courtesy of my Zite app and Twitter feed, that you may find interesting.

On another note…Are any of you going to the Association for Business Communication conference in New Orleans this week? If so, look us up. We would enjoy seeing you.

Bests and Worsts from 2012

New Year’s greetings to you!

As you head back to the classroom, you might enjoy this random collection of “bests” and “worsts” from 2012—either as comic relief or as examples you can use in your teaching.

Enough Already! 2012’s List of Most Overused Words and Phrases.” While not many of these are bcomm related, it’s interesting to see what current expressions people are already sick of—and to learn about Lake Superior State University’s annual List of Words to Be Banished from the Queen’s English for Misuse, Overuse, and General Uselessness.

Famous Spelling Fails of 2012.” These are few but mighty . . . reaching into the highest echelons of U.S. politics.

Top 7 Résumé Grammatical Errors and How to Avoid Them.” This list from simplyhired.com is short but excellent.

Business Insider’s 10 Worst and Best Ads of 2012. This site for advertising professionals showcases the worst “stinkers” of the year and the best of the best.

The 15 Worst Marketing Stock Photos of 2012.” The commentary on these photos is funny—but there are good lessons here about (ineffective) visual rhetoric, too.

The 10 Worst Communication Mistakes for Your Career.” This 2012 Forbes article provides timely advice on communication gaffes to avoid if you want to be perceived as leadership material. (Bonus: Contains a link to the “Top 6 Communication Skills That Will Get You Promoted.”)

May your students’ triumphs be many and their “fails” few in 2013!

Follow-up: Facebook Password Requests

Our March 21 post addressed the issue of employers asking job candidates for their Facebook passwords (see Classroom Talking Point: “Job Seekers Getting Asked for Facebook Passwords”).

The folks at Mashable.com provide some great tips for handling requests for Facebook passwords: “What to Do When a Potential Employer Asks for Your Facebook Password.”

Perhaps you’ve discussed this topic with your classes. If so, please share your tips and advice.

(NOTE: Many thanks to Marie Flatley for sending us this link so that we could share it with you.)