Whether or not you’ve managed to find a job, internship or volunteer position, it’s essential that you strive to be an effective communicator. A recent study found that communication skills are considered an “important” or “very important” attribute by 98% of employers hiring entry-level employees.
There’s an old saying that goes: good communication is, bad communication doesn’t.
You can’t control how other people communicate, but you can do your best to be a good communicator. Here are a few quick tips.
When you’re hunting for work, written communication means business correspondence or an application package, though other modes of communication (social networks, blogging, Twitter, etc.) may put you on a company’s radar as well.
Good written communication not only means double and triple-checking spelling, grammar and punctuation, but also carefully following the conventions appropriate to a given form of communication.
Once you’re employed, any written material you draft can impact your employer’s reputation.
As workplaces increasingly use technology to communicate (instant messaging in addition to e-mail, for example), you’ll need to adjust to different modes of communication on the fly.
Just as formal correspondence won’t make for an interesting blog post or tweet, you’ll never forgive yourself for sending a work email that is missing a few vowels or has a hashtag slapped on the end.
That might sound silly, but it’s easy to make one of these mistakes when you aren’t paying attention.
While some people prefer communicating verbally instead of through writing, verbal communication comes with some difficult challenges.
It’s easy for someone to forget key details if they’re distracted, or to focus on the least important facts if the major points aren’t clear.
Stay concise. Stick to the most important parts of your message and repeat them before you part ways.
Try to provide an opportunity for your communication partner to summarize what you’ve said and ask questions if necessary.
Don’t assume you’ll remember everything of importance from a conversation and don’t be afraid to ask for clarification.
It’s always a good idea to send a short message recapping what was discussed. This follow-up will help you avoid misunderstandings.
It might seem easier to conduct all communication in writing, but this isn’t always possible—or desirable. Verbal communication often results in more efficient discussions and more productive brainstorming, as well as strengthening a team-oriented focus through personal contact.
While estimates vary as to how much of our communication takes place through body language (some say more than half), there’s no disputing that people will react to the physical cues you provide.
Your posture, gestures, movements and facial expressions all contribute to your body language at any moment.
Of all types of communication, body language is by far the most complicated, as individuals usually use it without conscious intention.
While different workplaces will have different expectations in terms of body language, there are a few rules that apply almost anywhere:
- Show signs of engaged listening (nodding, leaning forward)
- Don’t fidget while others are talking (it’s distracting and suggests that you’re bored)
- Use hand gestures with restraint
- Don’t point at people (whether you’re talking to them or about them)
- Don’t cross your arms (yes it’s comfortable, yes it’s defensive)
- If you have to sneeze or cough during a presentation, try to do so quietly
- If you have to do so multiple times, excuse yourself from the room
- Above all else, make eye contact
It’s unlikely that anyone will commend you on proper body language—but if you display inappropriate body language, you might find yourself in for a very uncomfortable conversation.
There’s always more to know about workplace communication, but these basics should give you something to work with as you look for a job.