Tag Archives: communication

Basking in the golden silence

13 Oct
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Photo via Joel Jefferies on Flickr

When I’m asked, I always like to say that my family is my sister and my mom. Though I have an extended group of aunts, uncles and cousins, when I consider the mental image of family, it’s those two. Because of this, I am wholly unaccustomed to boisterous weekend gatherings of generations of assorted relatives, reliving the “remember when…” stories and having hours lapse before everyone starts to peel away slowly to do it again the following week. While not a solitary creature, I revel in a quiet household where not much needs to be said because it is understood that our shared time is entertainment and company enough.

Over the years in romantic relationships, I’ve learned that the same approach I take to family togetherness works best for paramours as well. I remember in my youth, being in each other’s pockets seemed like the place to be, and God forbid something happen to one of us while the other wasn’t there to simultaneous experience it. Honestly, I’m shocked I wasn’t more exhausted from sustaining these types of dealings.

With age comes wisdom, as well as your own business, which requires you to mind. As I move within my current relationship, I try to keep in mind that while there is an “us,” more importantly there is a “me” and “he.” I have to allow both of us space to decompress, unwind, unpack and reflect without the nagging feeling of “growing apart” and he does the same.

What I see as somewhat of conventional (romantic and non-romantic) relationship wisdom, many others don’t seem to get, if the anecdotal examples from various advice columns imply. Some of my favorites are Dear Prudence on Slate, Carolyn Hax on Washington Post and A Belle in Brooklyn Ask.fm page. Lack of basic communication practice (ask for what you want, be open to compromise, don’t accept less than you’re worth) seems to be at the root of nearly all exchanges for which people are seeking guidance, be it a relationship between mother-daughter, boss-employee, boyfriend-girlfriend or just two people who are exploring the dating scene. Reading the submissions is one of my guiltiest pleasures; people always find a way to reach new level of “Huh?” with each question.

Mind you, in no way am I saying that my communication style is ideal – I can be short of patience, I want people to get to the point quickly and I hate arguing with those closest to me. What I always try to keep in mind is to listen more than I speak, consider all the perspectives, even the ones that aren’t being presented, and that taking 10 seconds before speaking in anger or irritation can save a whole lot of feelings. The more I operate within these kinds of guidelines, the better my relationships work. And the more of that sweet, sweet silence I get to have in my happy household.

Theory Versus Real World: What Gets You A Job?

22 Mar

theory

cube Both look so appealing, don’t they?

I have to say, lately it feels like “The Onion” is trolling my life. Between poking fun at how little time we truly have to dedicate to our passions and then a too-close-to-home joke about the usefulness of a communications degree, my ego is a bit bruised. Though I’ve still not forgiven them for their “joke” about Quvenzhané Wallis (for a review of that mess, read Awesomely Luvvie’s thoughts), those two articles are the epitome of the snark, sarcasm and punch to the gut smart writing the site is known for.

Let me not lead you to think that this post is about “The Onion” and their capacity to make you feel things, all of the feelings. The reason why the article on the communications degree hit home so hard is because that was my life in the first six months after graduation. Now, as I approach December graduation for this Masters degree (silently cheers), the question of how communication schools are appropriately preparing students for the tough job market really comes to the forefront. When I was an undergrad at SMU, my major program was known as corporate communications and public affairs. Very clear, right? The school offered three tracks: corporate communications, public affairs and nonprofit. I ended up with multiple internships and met some nice people at the organizations. But really, what do you learn on internships, other than how much you hate filing and how to be shuttled around as you shadow person after person who doesn’t have time to really delve into their role because in five months, you’ll be gone anyway. I don’t know how much interaction the school had with the companies who hired SMU interns, but that relationship could have used an overhaul and direction on what the students should be learning. The evidence of the lack of collaboration was apparent when, in an interview not long after I graduated, I realized I could have an hour-long discussion about critical theory but I couldn’t tell you what an editorial calendar was and I had no idea how to pitch the media.

SMU has since revamped their program underpinnings, and current undergraduates can focus on communication studies or public relations and strategic communication. Many non-theory related skills that would have helped me as a student who was transitioning to the real world – video production , photojournalism, production, campaigns – are now core classes. Perhaps, back in 2003-2007, we didn’t truly understand the way the communications field would shrink, requiring practitioners to be Jacks of all trades. However, I can’t help but feel a bit cheated. Don’t misunderstand, I love theory – I should hope I do, since I’m in graduate school. Hindsight being the all-knowing pain it is, I now understand that combining that theory with cross-departmental offerings would have been a benefit for me, and I’m sure others.

As “The Onion” points out ever so cleverly, the kind of real world training obtained in internships and junior positions can be limited as well, and communication studies programs need to proactively influence the preparation students receive. Yes, the ability to keep organized files is important, but if that is the highest level of involvement an intern receives, it’s a waste of everyone’s time – except for the company who gets dirt cheap labor for summer.

In my previous position, the intern was an eager student who wanted to learn as much as possible, exactly what one would want from young workers. I made it my goal to make sure her internship did not mirror the experience I had  years ago, waiting on the next assignment and considering how I was going to apply the little I was learning to my resume.

The best feedback I received when I left: she felt blessed to have had me as her manager. So I guess something good did come of yesteryear, if I can take the complete opposite of my experience and apply it to her internship.

What would you say made you prepared for your first job out of school: theory or internships? A blend of the two? Any intern horror stories you want to share?

My Experiments With Networking (Online and Off)

9 Mar

Like many people, I suck at networking. I admit it, I’m the person lurking on the edge of chatty circles, clutching to my glass of white wine and hoping to get enough conversation to make the valet tip worth the time spent. I know,  common sense and network communication theory tell us that the more ties you have and the stronger those ties are, the more valuable your network. But there is something ever so slightly terrifying about pasting on a smile, mustering up some courage and saying to a near stranger “Hi, my name is Leisa, tell me about yourself .”

Thank goodness the Internet exists then, because I got all of my life through the recent online stream and Twitter chat for “The Politics of Black Women’s Hair Symposium” at the University of Pennsylvania. Three panels convened to discuss one of my favorite topics from the perspective of intellectual (graduate students presenting their papers), hair bloggers (including one of my favorites, Afrobella) and academics (moderated by another favorite, Melissa Harris-Perry). I wasn’t able to watch the academic portion but I did watch and tweet about the incredibly well written and articulated papers from the students and I was able to catch the end of the bloggers’ segment.

Hegemony, power structures, standards of beauty, patriarchal – it was wonderful to hear these words spilling out of the mouths of these intelligent panelists and attendees. I was reminded of the reason why I decided to get my graduate degree: the love of a thorough and nuanced discussion of the ways we communicate, the study of society and academic excellence. The papers covered a range of topics, from marketing within the natural hair community, specifically looking at Mixed Chicks, Carol’s Daughter and Miss Jessie, to the rise of bloggers as natural hair experts in relation to the decline of traditional hair stylists. Some great points presented from the papers: the transition from beauty companies using models with tightly coiled hair to a more ethnically ambiguous look and the fact that though some natural women look to online styling advice, it is also the responsibility of hair stylists to meet their customers where they’re at, which is online.

And it wasn’t all online. I managed to network, and I did it without a glass of wine! My former cube spouse, who blogs over at Pimplomat, you should go check him out, hipped me to the Dallas Press Club event “Becoming the Ultimate Freelancer.” It was my time attending a Dallas Press Club event, and boy am I glad I went. I met the knowledgeable Neil Foote, who bonded with me over the cultural touch point that is The Tom Joyner Morning Show (complete with karaoke-style singing of the intro hook). The panels featured journalists turned freelancers, freelancers from the start, content marketers, lawyers and other experts. Lo and behold, turns out that speaking to strangers over coffee and breakfast tacos isn’t as hard as I’d made it inside my head. I’ll definitely be back for another workshop and networking event.

Have you surprised yourself at a networking event or during a Twitter chat, and turned it out? Walked away with a list of new contacts, followers and inspiration?  Share your success tips!