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First Quarter: Lesson in Success (It's the Little Things)

This is going to seem like a minor post, but the matter is important nonetheless because it affects how you are perceived and the post gains weight toward the end. I swear it does. But first, the minor part. All together now: It's the little things. If you are sending an email to someone, don't reply to the latest email they sent you (the one that has a totally different title and subject than the one you're writing about). Create a new email, with a title that matches what you're writing about (so that they know if they're busy whether they should click on it now or not, and how they should file it, and they will have a much easier time finding it later when they scroll through all your emails). Just replying to the first email of that person that you can find even if the topic is wildly different just makes you look sloppy.

Also, while we're on the subject of little things, if you're given instructions on how to submit, such as "the title of your project report should be titled Report_YourFirstName_YourLastName.docx", and you upload "Report.docx", then the recipient may not make a comment but won't think more highly of you because you made that person's task more difficult in actually finding your report next time she looks for it. So now she has to rename it for you the way she wanted it. Always put yourself in the shoes of the person you're communicating with. 

This actually also crossed my mind at the wonderful Alpha Omega Epsilon panel discussion a few weeks ago. One of the AOE ladies asked about work-life balance, and three of the panelists started expounding at great lengths, with minor variations, on their awesome husband who cooks and helps with child care. Well... my guess is that the AOE ladies ranged in age from 18 to 22. While it is wonderful to hear about happy marriages with shared responsibilities, it would perhaps have been more helpful to answer from the perspective of a 21-year-old. If you want to talk about relationships, then I guess something along the lines of "be careful not to get into a pattern of doing all the chores at home for your boyfriend in addition to trying to succeed at your job" might have been more suitable for that audience. Then one person started praising organization, but in the context of child care and her husband picking up the kids when she has a faculty meeting. Which is a very valid and important point for that person, and perhaps not something the audience could implement right away.

I'm the one who threw a wrench into the whole pretty picture by saying something along the lines of "you know, work-life balance is always going to be tough, and of course it matters to be organized because if you aren't you will struggle mightily for sure, but it's a matter of picking your fights because you won't be able to do all the things you want to do." And then I said more, but there needs to be an advantage to being a AOE sister and taking part to the actual panel discussion, so I won't share everything here. Plus, the AOE ladies sent me a wonderful thank you card signed by all the sisters, which I put right away in my Box Of Important Things (this is how free-spirit me manages my organization.) All this to say, it is hard for everybody to put herself in other people's shoes, even long past college age. I also do it sometime. It is a tough skill to master but if you do, you will be ahead of the game!  

I also would have wanted to turn the question around and asked the AOE sisters how they thought professors perceived their work-life balance. One point I made was that I wished we professors knew more when students had a lot of school commitments because it is hard to know otherwise whether people are spending their time surfing the web or trying to finish the assignment for another class. Some other panelists seemed to be of the opinion that students would be on Facebook or Amazon.com.

I am of the opinion (being a goody-two-shoes at heart, of the kind who believes that most people start nice and then become mean and bitter when life disappoints them, although someone argued convincingly the other day that some people are just mean at heart and show their meanness when they get power, even when they're not old yet, but more on that some other day) that students try to enjoy college and also do well in school and when they're in class they might try to finish other assignments or projects or email about an event they're organizing as extra-curricular activity, in addition to answering their texts on their phone.

Of course, part of the reason I think that is that if students actually use in-class time to surf Facebook or buy stuff on Amazon, I wouldn't think very highly of their self-discipline, and the Stanford Marshmallow Project has shown that such students don't do very well in life later on (although admittedly the SMP studied the consequences into adulthood of self-discipline for four-year-olds). 

This is all about thinking about the image you want to project and seeing yourself from the perspective of the other person to evaluate whether s/he perceives you the way you want. 

Comments

Proof! I just got an email about making an appointment later today about the project in my course, from someone who had said she could not meet 11am-noon because she had class. See, when students are on their laptop during class, it could be that they are trying to work out some matter for another class. They're not necessarily on social media.

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