By Sara Katz, Founder/CEO, Katz & Associates
The humble goldfish, whether a popular cracker or just a real goldfish, can feed communicators an important message
Apparently, researchers have determined that even the most focused goldfish has an attention span of only nine seconds. According to a recent Microsoft study, we people now lose focus after about eight seconds. We are all apparently less focused than one of those pretty creatures we solemnly flushed down the toilet after a brief funeral service when we were kids.
Social Media is Changing Us!
So we all are less able to focus. Microsoft points the finger at our increasingly digitalized lifestyle. I say “our” just to be kind. It’s really that recent generation, the millennials who are the first generation for whom the digital world is pretty much all they remember.
Is this bad? Not necessarily, but it can be! Let’s talk about social media as a good example of the communication challenge. Not only is that the most transformative force in our lives but also the clearest cultural shift – and one that continues to move at warp speed.
Just look at these staggering statistics that were included in a USA Today article recently. U.S. consumers spend, on average, 3 hours and 40 minutes each day on their mobile devices. Folks are conducting their lives on mobile devices.
What does social media do to your everyday communication with people you meet and those you work with and for? How do we prevent social media from insidiously seizing more control of our lives than it should?
This is especially germane as you look toward a highly competitive workplace where decision makers, often older than 40 years of age, are likely to be less digitized than you are.
Not only do you need to effectively relate to and communicate with bosses and coworkers, but you also live and compete in a world of tremendously expanding diversity with other cultures, languages, customs and work habits.
Respect Your Elders
I’m not totally old fashion. I post on Facebook and I “like” people there. I use my iPhone now instead of a camera to take pictures. I tweet. But I guarantee my two kids – 14 and 17 – know much more about it than I do.
But here’s the thing that may be important to you: As a potential future employer, I’m still in charge! I may have control over the job you want. And once you get that job, I may have a significant influence over your career track. So it’s important to also speak my language and use my tools. Sometimes I still prefer a phone call to a text message. Please know I am not just speaking about Sara Katz in this discussion. I am talking about the thousands and thousands of business owners and human resource managers that still like to communicate in what might seem like an old fashioned way.
Diversify Your Communications
Here are a few takeaways that may come in helpful as you examine your communication style and work to build rapport in your professional lives:
- Understand Your Bosses: Often, individuals believe that their bosses and coworkers need to understand them and how they work. Greater success, however, comes from you understanding what makes them tick and what they need from you. Keep in mind that your future bosses are very skilled and competent. Learn what they can give you. Display your potential. Remember, you are going to be them someday!
- Get Face-to-Face: Don’t abandon traditional communication: get face-to-face as a conscious strategy. The ability to have a thoughtful and engaging face-to-face conversation is becoming a lost art but it still has GREAT value in the real world.
- Everyone is Listening and Watching: Remember how easy it is to get in trouble on social media. And know that employers and bosses check! With social media, everyone is listening and watching. And yes, you are judged by what you post on social media. Employers will Google you before they even invite you to an interview.
- Build Rapport: Finally, successful communication requires building rapport – with your needed audience – that could be when interviewing for a job, delivering your thesis, securing a new client, or delivering a speech.
The 21st Century workplace is daunting, challenging, stressful, exciting, tiring, energizing, scary and rewarding. Your challenge is to take the best of you, combine it with the best qualities of those who are ahead of you (and often hiring you) and have the career that you are dreaming of. Social media will be a part of that, but also embrace the old fashion ways of communications; face-to-face, build a rapport. It will serve you well.
Sara Katz is the founder and CEO of Katz & Associates, a nationally recognized communication consulting firm specializing in issues-based communication programs for public and private sector clients. With her team of communication professionals, Sara manages community relations, public involvement and public affairs strategies for her clients.