Sunbelt Middle Market Manager Jenny Fox spoke to students about her experience in the workforce and shared advice on communication etiquette. (Photo by Shane Battis)

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Students listened closely as a longtime businessman recalled a time when his former boss lost his temper during an altercation then apologized as the two worked to have more civil conversations in the future.

Communication was the topic of this semester’s first Fireside Forum lecture as students were given advice on navigating the sometimes-rocky world of bosses, clients, and customers. The four-part series is geared toward students in the College of Science & Engineering because professional development education is not emphasized in their curriculum.

Dr. Phil Hartman, the college’s dean, said he wants students to be thinking about life after TCU.

Panelists Jenny Fox, a middle market manager for Sunbelt and former TCU graduate student, and Silverback Exploration CEO George Young Jr. were invited to talk about their experiences collaborating with different types of people in the workforce and how students should conduct themselves post-graduation.

STARTING CONVERSATIONS

One thing the panelists stressed to audience members was how even young employees need to interact with others professionally.

When she started working, Fox said she was surrounded by staff members closer to her parents’ age than her own–a situation entry level employees may encounter. However, she talked about how professionalism should transcend age.

“You don’t want someone to know how old you are by how you write an email,” she said.

The tone of a conversation is also important, Fox said, and the medium you choose can make all the difference.

Recalling her experience as a salesperson, she said laying off the keyboard and making calls is a much more personal approach. Letting customers vent over the phone and assuring them that someone is really listening is sometimes the only thing necessary to ease their frustrations, she said.

Young also encouraged students to have verbal conversations and warned them not to write messages they may regret later.

“Email and text are forever,” he said. “You may delete it, but it’s still there somewhere.”

WORKING AS A TEAM

Fox emphasized the importance of employees working together in order to solve problems and strive toward goals. A big part of that is making an effort to show your co-workers what you can contribute, she said.

“If you can’t communicate what you’re smart and gifted about, you’re not going anywhere,” Fox said.

However, it’s not always easy.

When it comes to big corporations filled with people with various backgrounds and personalities, Young said there will be people who are tough to get along with. He said this is because not all co-workers have the same thoughts or agendas, so it’s best to be flexible and try to understand your peers.

CONNECTING WITH BOSSES

Taylor Lewis, a junior biology major, asked about dealing with intimidating or unreasonable bosses.

Despite his anecdote about the temper tantrum, Young said he’s never had what he considers a “horrible” boss throughout his entire career and has taken something positive away from every job. His advice for Lewis was to try and build relationships, even with difficult employers.

“Most of the time you can find some common ground with even the most intractable boss,” Young said. “There’s something you can find that you can relate to them or they can to you with.”

Fox agreed and passed on a lesson her father taught her about getting people to open up. He told her that “no one wants to listen to you” because they’d rather talk about themselves.

Although employees should try to get along with their employers as well as the rest of the staff, Young pointed out that it’s not a one-way relationship. He told audience members not to yield to anyone who challenges their morality or does something that makes them uncomfortable.

He said it’s best not to be reactive when something serious comes up, but to take a step back, seek advice from someone trustworthy and think everything through. After that, you’ll know what to say.

The final panel of the academic year is planned for Feb. 22 and will feature a new panel of guest speakers to discuss satisfying the demands of employers. TCU students from all colleges are welcome to attend.