Top Mistakes Generation Y Makes At Work
Have you ever complained about your boss during an online chat? And what should you do if your email address shows up on porno sites?
Branding expert and boomer Nancy Shenker, drawing upon her management experience, tackles such questions in a new guidebook for 20-something workers.
Her new book, "Don't Hook Up With the Dude In The Next Cube," which she wrote along with 26-year old networking columnist, Lindsay E. Brown, provides more than 200 career secrets ranging from how to best post your resume online (make a personal website) to what to do with funny YouTube videos (never forward to professional colleagues, they say).
Shenker said she was motivated to write the book after catching one of the interns at her branding firm, theONswitch, complaining about her online. The incident happened last year when Shenker was walking past the intern's office computer. "She was trashing me, and gossiping about me, saying I was providing no direction," she says. "And her criticisms were valid. But she didn't have the common sense to talk to me directly. Instead, she was talking on her personal Gmail account and left the screen up."
She fired the intern the next day, telling the young woman that while she wasn't hurt, she thought the intern showed poor judgment. The experience opened her eyes to a new role she could take on -- mentor to the younger generation, she says.
"I realized I could be like a surrogate mom," she says. "And then it was clear much of this also applied for guys, too." (How should you handle the intern's mistake? Traditional advice like "own up to the mistake and admit bad judgment" still applies, she says.)
Keep Your Internet Trail Clean
The book, whose narrator is named the "Boss Lady," is written as a long list. It's divided by subject, including "Before You Send," which covers best email practices, and "Clean It Up," which provides instructions on how to maintain a clean digital profile. The latter would have come in particularly handy for an applicant she once had to reject because his personal e-mail address appeared on raunchy pornography websites. "For me, what you do in your personal life is a private matter," she says. "But I had to think about how this might represent my company. You've got to keep it clean when you are in public."
First impressions count more than ever in the fast-paced digital workspace. "It's all very superficial," says Shenker. "But when you are talking about job hunting, people do judge by their book by their covers." While many of the old rules still apply, she offers five key pieces of advice for young workers:
1. Consider creating a separate Facebook page for your professional self. It's not always necessary, especially if you are trying to create a personal brand in your industry. But if you work in a field like finance, and personal online comments can only hurt, make a separate profile.
2. Don't incorporate text-speak into your work life. Informal abbreviations such as LOL and BRB may be widely known shorthand, but it will make you look childish and completely unprofessional in work emails.
3. Respect traditional interview etiquette. Still bring a hard copy of your resume, as your interviewer will appreciate it. And be sure to ask for a business card and to write a thank you note the day of the interview. A personal handwritten note (not via email) will stand out.
4. Never underestimate the human connection. Most of the people still running the workplace came of age before the digital revolution. A handshake and good eye contact will still leave an impression that an email never could.
5. Disconnect. If your job requires you to be on the grid all day, some healthy separation at night will help for the next day of work.
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Dan Fastenberg was most recently a reporter with TIME Magazine. Previously, he was a writer for the Thomson Reuters news service's Latin America desk. He was also a reporter and associate editor for the Buenos Aires Herald while living in South America.
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