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Last week, I attended an interesting breakfast meeting which launched a new book.  If you are new to the commercial real estate business, I encourage you to read it: it is published by REALpac and is an updated version of their most popular publication.  This comprehensive resource will be useful as you discover your position within the industry.  (Full disclosure: I will not get a commission for saying such nice things.)

As with most meetings, the most stimulating part is not what was listed on the official program but what happened during the conversations.  I was fascinated by a conversation on literacy and the challenges it poses for everybody. 

The older people in the audience were concerned about the poor literacy skills of the generation entering the industry.  I hear it in various forms: Tweets and Powerpoint presentations are going to be the death of us.

I spend a lot of class time cajoling people to be more convincing and punishing those who write incomplete and illogical responses.  I do so not because I am a great writer but because I have experienced the consequences of not being a great writer (and my teachers probably complained about me).  Sometimes, these efforts show up when our friends in industry chat with me about the strengths and weaknesses of our graduates.

I notice that some of my students focus on conclusions and avoid the long-form arguments which would be familiar to older practitioners.  Long-form arguments, or even short arguments, can not fit into 140 characters or even 140 words.

The meeting noted that one of the things which distinguishes co-op students from others is that co-op students have the experience of seeing the work which goes before presenting a conclusion to a client.  They have seen how to anticipate somebody else’s doubt or objection to a conclusion, to say “I considered it” and to offer a convincing response.

It will be interesting to see how the skills of “new generation” evolve as it matures.  In part, communication now is more visual and quicker.  Emoticons and emojis are emerging as a new form of communication.  I am not convinced that it is necessary to respond immediately to every tweet or message or Facebook post, but I am not in a frontline customer service position.

It takes time to learn anything important.  A good textbook is a good start.  Other essential skills are learned at a university or, later, at the School of Hard Knocks.