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Excessive Headphone Usage on Campus Could Hinder Success

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As a new staff member at JSOM, one of my essential responsibilities right now is to meet other staff, faculty and students and immerse myself in the complex social culture found here on campus. I’m a communications manager, and I cannot expect to be able to write about my environment without learning about it first.

As an introvert, I find “putting myself out there” to make those new professional acquaintances is not easy. My natural impulse is to sit in my office, stick my headphones over my ears and retreat into my inner world of familiarity and comfort. Since I realize that doing so would prolong my onboarding period or even short-circuit it altogether, I intentionally put away my headphones unless I absolutely have to use them for specific job-related duties (listening to recorded interviews, job-related podcasts, and more). I suggest that JSOM students who constantly wear headphones on campus should do the same thing.

Hear me out. I know that listening to certain inspirational music can put you into that “study” or “productivity” zone you so desperately need to tackle your class load. And podcasts are a great way to learn something and increase productivity during a commute (especially these five podcast recommendations). Our campus seems to be permanently under construction, ever growing and oftentimes just plain crowded and noisy. Wearing those noise-cancelling headphones can help us bear that burden a little easier and even allow us to maintain our sanity.

But I also know, from learning about what makes our best academic programs so successful, that a business education is more than just “doing the academic thing.” This is a training ground for a business world that requires as many soft skills (such as teamwork, responsiveness, communication, flexibility and respect) as it does knowledge and expertise related to your major.

Every moment you spend isolating yourself inside those earbuds or that pair of Sennheiser’s will hinder your ability to “put yourself out there” to learn and practice these skills. Instead, every minute you spend on campus with your headphones put away in your backpack provides you with more opportunities to meet new people, listen to your surroundings, become more aware of them, increase your tolerance for distraction and perhaps even catch a tidbit of information that you might have missed otherwise — one that might be crucial to your professional future.

A study done by Harvard Business Review from a few years ago related to workplace success found that employees who “feel more estranged and less connected to co-workers” lose their sense of belongingness and commitment to their workplace. Logic dictates that the same phenomenon would apply to a higher-ed environment in which students, faculty and staff feel that same sense of estrangement from one another. It also stands to reason that excessive headphone usage could increase that risk of isolation and hinder success.

So put away those headphones as often as possible. Doing so will increase your sense of belonging and commitment to your current environment at UT Dallas and the Jindal School. Not only that, but you will reduce those bad habits before they become critical stumbling blocks to workplace success after you graduate.

Jimmie Markham

Jimmie Markham brings a widely-ranging life and professional experience to his job as a communications manager at JSOM.  As an infantryman in the U.S. Army, he learned to “improvise, adapt and overcome” and that “no battle plan survives first contact with the enemy.”  He’s been dealing with the unexpected ever since and, in doing so, has become a skilled and dedicated communications/marketing/customer-service and sales-support professional with nearly 20 years of experience using improvisational, critical-thinking, technical and people skills to advance the interests of external and internal clients. A BA in Art & Performance (creative writing emphasis) from UT Dallas helped polish his natural predilection and passion for the written word. Read more articles

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