Three lessons from changing jobs

I got a new job at Columbia University this week and here are some things I've already learned.

It's easy to say "congrats" on social media, but it's not as easy to say "thanks" - just some of the hundreds of social media responses after I announced my new job on Facebook.

This week, after 20 years at Columbia Journalism School (one as a student, 19 as a professor and seven as a dean), I changed jobs. 

I have joined the office of Provost John Coatsworth, who is the highest academic officer of Columbia University. I will be the CU's first Chief Digital Officer, focusing on online learning and social- and digital media.

I will still continue to teach a few classes at the Journalism School, but my priority is going to be dealing with all the dramatic opportunities and challenges in the world of online education. Several units of the university already have thriving online programs; my job will be to find out what's working and see how we can expand it as necessary, if at all. And we need to do all this without harming the magic of a Columbia education that has been developed over 250-plus years. I hope to occasionally share some of what I'm learning out there here at CNET News in the months ahead.

I've been blessed to be in the same job for almost two decades and I know how rare that is, especially in these troubled economic times. And even though I've been freelancing extensively and helping my students get jobs, I didn't quite absorb how dramatically things have changed in the jobs world.

I felt a little like Tom Hanks in a scene in 1993's "Sleepless in Seattle." He's Jay, a widowed father who hasn't been in the dating scene for 15 years and is talking to his friend Sam, played by Rob Reiner. Jay is giving him a sense of how much things have changed since Sam was "out there" last in 1978.

JAY: Tira misu
SAM: What's tira misu?
JAY: You'll find out.
SAM: What is it?
JAY: You'll see.
SAM: Some woman is going to want me to do it to her and I'm not going to know what it is.

Here are three lessons I've learned in my first week on the job.

1. Social media makes it easy to "congrats" but almost impossible to say "thanks." Since my appointment was first posted online by Arik Hesseldahl (@AHess247) of AllThingsD, I've been joyously overwhelmed by scores of Facebook wall postings and messages and more than 200 plus comments on a single status update (screen grab above). While it's possible to post a comment on some of these "congrats" messages, turns out it's hard to keep up with - or track - the volume (reminds me of being on the receiving end of a Facebook birthday). Even my own status update got completely swamped by the posts of other, very kind folks. 

It was even better (i.e., worse) on Twitter, where I stopped counting at 500 posts. Saying thanks was almost impossible - and a generic "Thanks, everyone" tweet won't help, since almost everyone will miss it.

I've started a new post on Storify (a terrific social-media aggregation-and-curation tool I'll visit in a future SreeTip) where I've tried to save hundreds of these tweets, but Twitter's API makes it hard. I turned to Burt Herman (@BurtHerman) for some help. He wrote back that Storify's Twitter search is based on the micro-blogging site's "API limits from specific computers, so that could be possible that you hit the limit. You can either wait for more API access, or else use our bookmarklet or Chrome extension to grab items directly off Twitter, Facebook or other sites. You can download the Chrome plugin here: chrome.storify.com and there's more info on how to use that here." I've got to try this out.

Fact is that it's much easier to say thanks and save the nice notes you get on that old-fashioned technology, email. And my friend Cindy had a good idea. She wrote, "I deliberately waited a few days in the hopes my email wouldn't get lost in the shuffle." See, Cindy, it definitely didn't get lost. 

If anyone has ideas on how to make such social media items more permanent or curate them well, I'm all ears.  [NOTE: Before you mock these as #FirstWorldProblems, they aren't. Friends who've changed jobs in India have expressed similar frustration about this issue. Facebook is big almost everywhere, remember?]

2. Changing jobs means you have to update your information across many platforms: In the old days changing jobs meant printing new business cards and writing a mass letter (later email) informing your contacts about your new job and coordinates (writing this reminds me that I've not sent my mass letter out yet).

Now, you feel that posting a Facebook update and/or tweet has you covered but it doesn't. Turns out lots of social and other sites ask for short bios and you'll likely need to update them all. My personal list starts with my profiles on Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, SoundCloud and Tout, with more to come.

LinkedIn, of course, is the most important online bio of all, but I waited on that and got called out by somebody for being late to the LindkedIn update party.

I also realized that I rely so much on cloud-based services that my personal site, Sree.net - which needs HTML and an FTP server - is too much of a pain to update fast. I am used to using Dreamweaver to update it and don't have it on my home laptop. Time to move to a cloud site, but who has time to transfer all those pages?

3. I've been hearing from a lot of vendors: I've learned that vendors are really good at keeping track of job announcements. Starting the day after the news went out, I've gotten more than a dozen notes from vendors looking to sell me - and Columbia - all kinds of services. It's a good sign overall that they are paying attention to developments and are out there looking for opportunities. Besides, evaluating technology and making recommendations is going to be part of my job. I look forward to meeting with many of these folks and learning more about their wares, but I think I can safely say I won't be needing at least on over-enthusiastic sales rep. Here's part of her fill-in-prospect's-org pitch: "My name is Michelle and I thought Columbia University could greatly benefit from our internet fax service. Columbia University could now send and receive faxes quickly and securely from within your e-mails or software or any web environment."

Incidentally, Hesseldahl, who's mentioned above, was the first person I followed on Twitter when I joined the service in 2008. You can find who your "Twitter godfather" is by going to TwBirthday.com.

NOTE TO READERS: Please post your thoughts in the comments below or e-mail me or tweet me at@sree or #sreetips on Twitter. If you've been reading my posts here, you know that one of the things I am trying to do is learn what works and what doesn't on social media. It's such a fast-evolving, confusing world that I believe we can all learn together. Thanks for reading.

 

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