By Debora Weisbacher
JCS Career Center
Really? No! That cannot be right. It’s not what I meant to say at all! Sorry about the typo. That heading should actually read: “Communication Skills in the Workpace.” Whoops! I did it again. This is a good example of how easy it is to make simple errors in written or oral communications that can result in misunderstandings or, worse, hurt feelings, poor teamwork and general malaise in the workplace.
Good communication skills are essential in our professional as well as personal lives, yet most of us take these skills for granted and have not perfected the art of communication.
Whether you are looking for a new job or already working, there are many ways to improve your communication skills.
One of the most important is to listen carefully to others, giving them the time to get their point across, without interrupting or finishing their thought or sentence. Many of us may think we are good listeners, but instead we may be thinking ahead to what we are going to say next and therefore we are only half-listening to the other person. This is disrespectful to the speaker and does a disservice, if, in the end, we are confused or have misinterpreted what the person said.
For job seekers, a telephone interview is usually the first chance to actively listen to the employer. It is exciting that they are calling to speak with you, but if you make a misstep in your communications, you may be eliminated from consideration right at this point. The very word said by both parties is important, but as the candidate, you must be professional, cordial and concise in your responses. Being organized and saying just the right thing is imperative if you want to make it to the next step and be invited for an in-person interview.
If you are already working, paying attention to your boss and co-workers is the way we all get along in the workplace and complete our assignments. However, each listener will have a different interpretation of what was said. Sometimes it’s a good strategy to restate what you have heard to make sure you understood what was said and that you are both on the same page. This also gives you the opportunity to show that you were actively listening and to get more direction or information from the other person.
Have you ever thought that your body language may be saying something other than what you intended? You may be giving off very different signals than you thought. Body language can show just as much about a person as what he or she says. So if you are interviewing for a job, be pleasant, smile, give a firm handshake and make eye contact with the interviewer.
Having good posture and being enthusiastic and engaged with the interviewer are all positive gestures. If you are fidgeting, looking around the room as you answer a question or have your arms folded across your chest, the hiring manager may feel that you are not open to what is being discussed or not interested in the job.
Write, Write, Write!
Expressing oneself clearly by using words wisely is an art. There are so many ways of communicating these days, especially in writing. When first applying for a job, you may be expected to submit a cover letter to the employer. It is particularly important that you proofread your letter or ask someone objective to read it, and that your spelling, grammar and formatting are perfect.
Since a cover letter is generally your first contact with an employer, it represents you in making a first impression and it is therefore a reflection of your skills and abilities. The written word is just as crucial when you have landed a job and are in the workplace. Business deals are made and lost through good or poor communication.
Be aware of what tone is appropriate for the purpose and audience. Email and social media are usually more casual ways to communicate, but they can sometimes be misconstrued if not written carefully. Write in full sentences and spell out the words; don’t use abbreviations and misspelled words that you might text to a friend. This extra care will help avoid misunderstandings and errors that could be costly to the employer and also to you. So chose your words carefully, both oral and written, and you will be on the way to fashioning success at work and in all areas of your life. Remember that good communication skills never go out of style!
JCS offers a full range of career services. For more information about the JCS Career Center click here or call 410-466-9200.