How to Make People Think You Don’t Deserve Your College Degree (Common Rookie Mistake)
Jim was a typical college grad today. Smart, resourceful, and pretty savvy on the computer. He was enthusiastic and eager to learn. Everyone who interviewed him at his current employer had agreed he was the right candidate for the job. His first few months at his new job were great. He found the work interesting and his co-workers and manager encouraged him to share his thoughts and provide ideas and input for improving their projects. In Jim’s mind, his career was starting off nicely. But then….
The company landed a large account. Jim had been working behind the scenes to help this team prepare to take on the additional work in the event the client was won. Jim also knew from his work on this project that a new position would need to be created to specifically handle this client. Jim wanted the job – badly. He knew the client’s needs and felt he could do a great job building the account. He asked to meet with his boss so he could share his interest in the position. In Jim’s mind, he couldn’t imagine his boss saying no. But that’s EXACTLY what happened.
“I’m sorry Jim, I think you are a bright employee, but we need someone on this account who is more professional,” was what his boss told him. Jim was completely stunned. “More professional? I am professional!” thought Jim as he left his manager’s office. Jim was so upset, he left work that day and seriously considered not going back. He spent the night at home ranting about how hard he had worked and how he knew he was the perfect person for the job. The next morning, he decided that he couldn’t let it rest. He needed to know the real reason why he wasn’t chosen for the job.
Jim got to work and went straight to his manager’s office. “Can I talk to you?” he said in a tone that clearly indicated he was angry. “Sure. Close the door,” his boss replied. Jim said, “I want to know the real reason why you won’t hire me for the new job.” His boss calmly responded, “Like I said yesterday, you are a good employee, but we need someone who will properly interact with this client. They are a very traditional company and they expect a certain level of professionalism.” Jim struggled not to scream. “What have I done that has been unprofessional? I’ve done everything you’ve asked and regularly exceeded your expectations. You always tell me my ideas are great. So, if my work is good enough for you, why isn’t it good enough for our client?” The manager sat back, thought for a minute and said, “It’s not your work Jim, it’s how you communicate.” Now Jim sat back. He honestly had no clue what his boss was talking about. Reading his mind, his boss said, “I can see you have no idea what I’m referring to.” Jim just nodded. “Let me explain…you have great ideas, but when it comes to talking about them with teammates or writing about them in an e-mail or project document, you come across as uneducated. Someone on the team even asked me recently if you lied about getting a college degree. It’s because you use a lot of slang when you talk. For example, the word ‘like’ is in almost all of your sentences when you speak. More importantly, your e-mails look like text messages. They run on and on, without any punctuation, capitalization or sentence structure, and they are usually full of typos and spelling errors. Take the e-mail you sent me yesterday morning about the migration project. Your ideas were excellent, but I had to read your e-mail FOUR TIMES until it made sense to me. I’ve mentioned this to you before, but you haven’t corrected the problem. You even told me that you thought e-mail was too slow and wished you could just text everything. I realize that your generation is used to texting, but in the working world, you have to consider the fact that the people you are interacting with are used to a communication style that is much more traditional. How you speak and write says a lot about you as a professional.”
The story above is true – it happens every day. The #1 complaint I hear from managers about recent grads in the workforce is their poor communication skills. They aren’t referring to your ideas or your ability to speak up – they know you are confident and willing to contribute. They are talking about the way in which you deliver your message. Want to impress managers? Want to stand out as an exceptional young professional? Then, be sure to communicate by their standards, not yours. Everything you say and write should be carefully considered. Your next promotion could be riding on it.
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