“Yeeeah, did you get the memo?”

My undergraduate experience (probably like everyone else’s), was FULL of research papers, response writing and never ending library hours. With MLA, APA, Turabian and more, my head was swimming with citation styles, footnotes, end-notes and every other note I can think of! Not until I had reached grad school did I actually write my first memo. A one-page, concise, critical analysis of a major topic – just the facts, and as briefly as possible – and not quite like the lame Office Space reference in my title…

Sounds easy, right? One page? How hard could that be? That’s exactly what I though. But, boy, am I glad I started writing them last semester, because I am now officially using the skill at work.

Just the other day I was asked to write a memo about E-Verify, a new electronic system that allows employers to check the immigration status of their employees online. Once I began researching, I realized there is a lot of information available. I needed to write about its history, why it was created, who uses it, what states require it and what laws forbid it – all in one page. Now, it wasn’t so easy after all.

The purpose of the memo was to inform my colleagues about a new potentially hot-button topic facing immigrants and immigration policy. In order for us to carry out our mission, it is important that we know the facts. So I set to work and plowed through bunches of websites and articles, online opinions and editorials. After weeding through mounds of information, I was able to collect my thoughts, organize them, and begin writing.

Within two days, I was able to turn out a well-formatted and cited memo outlining the facts and history of the new policy. It went to use immediately: my Domestic Policy colleagues were able to read it and feel that they had gained a working knowledge of the topic. Not only did I use my grad school skills at work, but I also felt like I had made a significant research contribution to our ongoing policy initiatives. I think I need to write my former professor a thank you memo, now that I think of it!