Learning to Unplug


When you work in social media, public relations, and marketing, you’re probably glued to some device at all times. You could make the same statement for just about any field or person these days, too. Whether it’s Twitter, Instagram, Gmail, or random blogs, I feel like I’m always checking something, scrolling through something, or reading something. There are, of course, benefits to my addiction, but sometimes it is best to live life (or at least a couple days) unplugged.

Last week, my laptop charger broke and I was without a laptop until I could find a replacement. I did still have my phone in hand, but ridding myself of one large screen for a few days was, truth be told, a relief. I find myself immersed in my computer and smartphone sometimes, and I don’t like it. When my laptop is open or nearby, I feel like I have to be working. There is always something to work on. The irony is that despite always feeling like I have to work, I also feel constantly distracted when working online. One BuzzFeed article here, an acquaintance’s Facebook status there.. It’s always sucking you in.

In addition to going laptop-free for a week, I also tried turning off my phone or leaving it behind for hours at a time. For me, this is a bold move, but something I felt I needed to try.

So, what did I discover from my unplugged hours? I was calmer. At first, I felt uneasy.. What if somebody needs to get ahold of me? But those thoughts faded to ones of contentness. Being a highly anxious person, this calmness helped me to enjoy time with friends rather than being on edge and let my mind settle down after a long day rather than stay in a heightened, overthinking state. I also found that my time spent working or online later were much more productive. No longer was I clicking link after link on Twitter (okay, maybe one BuzzFeed article..), but I felt the urgency of the task at hand.

It may not be feasible to go every day unplugged, but when the weather is nice or your mind is too cluttered, it’s nice to take a breather from technology.

You have a missed call, and it wasn’t your mother

Your mom called. How do you know?  You see the missed call on your cell phone, so youmom missed call call her back. You know it’s her, so you don’t have to bother listening to the message, if she even bothered to leave one.

Now, imagine that a number you can’t identify called and left you a voicemail message.  You skip the voice mail and call back, explaining that someone from that number called you.  Turns out that it’s a company where you applied for an internship, co-op or full-time job.  Great!

Only, there’s a problem. Turns out all the company numbers go through a main switchboard, and you’ve just called the receptionist. He or she has no idea who called you, or any reasonable way to find out because so many different people work there.

Now what?

I hope you saved that voice mail message.

Calling back friends and family without listening to their messages is common, and for many people, the norm (though personally, if you don’t leave me a voice mail, then it can’t be that important and I’ll call you back at my leisure).  Doing so with a potential employer, however, can backfire. Here’s what employers may think (assuming you ever make it to the correct person):

  • You’re lazy. I left you a message and you couldn’t be bothered to listen to it.
  • You don’t follow instructions. I told you what to do in the message.
  • You expect other people to do your work for you. You had the info at your fingertips but you asked somebody else to go find it for you.
  • All of the above.
picture source: Lifehacker.com

picture source: Lifehacker.com

Do any of those qualities sound like what an employer wants in a potential employee? (If you said yes, I’m going to be the one calling your mother.)

Listen to the message. Follow the instructions. Make the best possible impression you can.

Tina Mello is Associate Director of NU Career Development, and has worked at Northeastern for over 10 years. Nicknamed the “information guru” by other members of the staff, she loves to research and read about various job/career/education topics. For more career advice, follow her on twitter @CareerCoachTina.