Last week, I visited with Nick Brody, Assistant Professor at the University of Puget Sound. He teaches Communication specializing in technology and social media.
My undergraduate degree is in Communication, and I was curious to hear his perspective on the current trends, and how social media is changing interpersonal communication.
Today, we have a wide selection of digital tools that enable us to share information instantly with family, friends and co-workers. These tools are interwoven in our lives, and most students are connected 24/7/365.
To help his students become more aware of this integration, he assigned a weekend project. The students had to spend one day completely off-grid and then the second day, they had to document every time they used a digital communication tool and its purpose.
To complete, the assignment, the students were required to write a paper analyzing their experience and document what they had learned.
His goal was for students to acknowledge how many times they use social media and digital communication, and that it was okay to take tech breaks.
The majority of our conversation focused on how social media and digital communication is a tool, not a means to an end. His students use mobile devices and apps to coordinate meeting times, manage projects and connect for social events. He believes that mobile technology will continue to influence our communication behaviors.
Digital technology and social media networks are a more efficient communication tool than the old school paper notes I passed in high school. The biggest difference today, for students, is that our digital communication is saved for a very long time on a server somewhere in the Midwest.
Last year, I wrote about our digital icebergs and how this information can be seen by others. Students’ messages can be accessed and shared publicly with an organization or employer without their knowledge or approval.
I asked Professor Brody what advice he would offer high school graduates to help them prepare for college.
Here’s what he had to say:
- College professors review new student social media profiles to learn about their personalities and goals. Brody said “our social media profiles provide the world with a perception of who we are in real life. Individuals make decisions about us based on these perceptions.”
- Use digital technology and social media to enhance your education. He suggested that students use an iPad to take smarter notes, stay in communication with professors, and to start building a professional network now instead of later.
- Being professional on and offline matters, students should be aware of their digital behavior and the information they are posting. In college, your communication should start to mature and have a professional tone. Students with strong interpersonal and digital communication skills will have an advantage. Most problems occur because of either miscommunication or none at all.
- Understand that digital technology and social media networks are communication tools and learn how to use these tools to your benefit.
- Develop strong communication skills – this includes both on and offline. Possessing the ability to effectively convey your thoughts in writing, speaking or talking to a group of individuals is a skill that all employers seek.
- Be aware that everything you post online is saved for a very long time. Keep in mind that your classmates, professors and potential employers can view your social media postings and comments.
- Most importantly, be yourself and be authentic. Avoid creating an online personality that does not align with your real life.
I would like to add one more bit of advice for our graduating seniors – develop skills and gain experience that will enhance your innate talent.
Last month, I visited with Andres Traslavina, Global Talent Recruiter for Whole Foods Corporate. He is experienced recruited and has worked for noted Fortune 500 companies. Andres stated that the best employees are the individuals that have built their skills and experience around their inherent talent.
He said many times we place our ladder on the wrong wall and spend time focusing on areas that will offer little benefit in the future.
Today, we are so hyper-focused on convincing our high school graduates to major in the perfect degree that we forget there is no guarantee of employment when they graduate. As I discussed in my recent book, focusing on the wrong degree can create problems for students, as well.
Both Professor Brody and Andres provide graduates with solid advice: develop strong communication skills that will serve you well in work and life, and focus on developing your innate talent.