For 18 months I studied marketing, advertising and media. Various classes teaching me different theories, techniques and strategies, helping me develop skills and an understanding in that field. 18 months that piqued my interest in the vast open world of marketing, and led me along many pathways that I was curious to explore. Yet after 18 months of 8am lectures, readings I didn’t do, painful group projects and late night crams, what was the key to my downfall in the real business world? I can tell you right now for sure that there aren’t any classes on the last two words of an email, how to learn your boss’s personality, writing in 280 characters, or how to write a social media caption that the boss actually likes – yet those are the issues that have shaped my internship experience.
The Perfect Signoff
How long, and how much thought is appropriate to put into an email signoff? Day one I felt strongly that signing off with ‘Regards’ was for the best. It was nice, formal, and un-offensive, whereas ‘Thanks’, was just too risky and maybe even a little informal. But that simply isn’t enough analysis. My ‘Regards’ – should they be described as ‘Best’, ‘Kind’ or the almost passive aggressive stab to anyone who doesn’t use it – ‘Kindest’.
I received a flurry of emails in those first few days that not even my literally titled ‘Professional Communication’ class had prepared me for. The concept of contacting people around the office through email already seemed so strange, especially so when I could contact any one of them by speaking from the comfort of my chair. But I’ve learnt and had to adapt to the fact that MS Outlook seems to be the platform where the most work gets done. I just had to master the art of the email, surprisingly more difficult than I had imagined.
Bosses & Boba
Like many initial shocks I’ve experienced already in the real world, the relationship with my boss was difficult at first, but bar the occasional misstep here or there, traversable over time. And keen as I was to get to know my boss, with little chit-chat in the corridors, or talking about the poms’ laughable effort in the cricket, I had also made it an early priority to improve my Chinese, and order a bubble tea. So in those first few weeks where I saw a lot of captions, suggestions, and work bounce straight back to sender, I had simultaneously become very familiar with the confused look a young worker gives, when they’re unsure why the tall foreigner wanted fish in his soup at a bubble tea café. Communication with anyone isn’t going to be perfect, it’s about finding that middle ground that works for you and for them and making it work. Maybe next time I should thank those patient employees for teaching me that.
A Story of Love and Hate in 280 Characters
What makes a good social media caption? I’ve tried it all. Witty, done. Corporate, boring. Clickbait, no – have you ever reacted positively to clickbait? And they’re not easy to come by. Try summarizing a 1,500 word article or 10 minute video in 280 characters. Notebooks filled front to back with scribbles and mindless versions of the same caption over and over again, thinking maybe if I try the words in a different order, it’ll look better. You’d imagine that a little bit of research would go a long way, but Marshall’s (2018) 200+ page book on how to write 280 characters only fed my anxiety. But Marshall did get the ball rolling, and got me thinking about these key features in any caption, that I would apply always; be clear, don’t use the passive voice, keep a consistent persona, encourage sharing, and add value. So I’ll add those features to my mess of a mind and spend hours writing over and over to create the caption, and just have it edited or replaced.
(Don’t) Write in Your Own Words!
The elusive company voice that hides in every corner, crack and nook of a company website, social media or any communication, I’ve found is both a copy-writers best friend, and worst enemy. Whether I’m writing a social media caption, or a blog post for an upcoming event, I’ve had to take on the company persona, and write as if I were it. Having never been much of an actor, and being someone in possession of a clear and distinct writing style, this has been an interesting challenge. First of all, the reason behind the voice is clear. Barwacz (2018) wrote how recognition, success and customer gain can increase from a consistent voice, while Friesen (1999) emphasized how it’s what distinguishes a company from competitors, and solidifies the relationship with the customer. So from day one, it was pretty obvious I couldn’t sound like a sarcastic Australian when writing about an upcoming trade show, I had to become the company. The hard thing about that is, you never really realize how limited your vocabulary is, until you’re told that you can’t use it.
Email signoffs, relationships with management, social media captions, and the company voice – it’s sure been an interesting, unpredictable and unexpected learning experience. Definitely one that the classroom didn’t fully equip me for. While I’ve taken many lessons from these six months, and learnt more than I imagined, if I saw the scared, confused Cooper, carrying his suitcase through the doors of Taoyuan International Airport, I wouldn’t say a thing. I came into this internship very much not knowing what to expect, feeling as confident as my decision to uproot everything and move to Taipei in the first place. It’s difficult to notice how much your mindset changes over time, but I can honestly say the journey to arrive here was well worth it. So I’ll leave it on one final note that took me exactly 11 stressed days on the job (questioning my own sanity, and countless emails in and out) to come upon.
Written by Cooper Jones, Intern at VIA Technologies, Inc. For more information about the VIA Internship Program, please click here.