Consistently, employers cite communication skills as an essential quality interns and entry-level hires need to bring to the workplace. I often encounter job seekers who include on a resume their “excellent communication skills” because they know it’s important, yet lack a real understanding of what that means in a workplace setting.
Before you throw “strong communication skills” on your resume or talk it up in an interview, consider how you have actually demonstrated this skill in real life. Effective communication encompasses a lot.
The ability to convey information
- Giving a presentation in front of peers and superiors
- Writing concise emails, using actual grammar rules
- Articulating your ideas effectively so that others can easily understand, both in meetings or in one-on-one conversations
- Speaking in a way that is professional, polished, confident and free of “ums”, “likes” and other slang or fillers
- Explaining proposals, ideas, policies and plans to customers or clients
Communication skills go beyond what you say and how you say it, though.
The intricacies of communication
- Accommodating others’ communication preferences to increase the likelihood of your message being heard. If your boss is an email person, present your next great idea or request that way. If there are co-workers who prefer to hash things out in person or via phone, take note for the next time you need their support on something. Step outside your communication comfort zone and it will be appreciated by others.
- Knowing which type of communication is necessary for a particular situation, regardless of people’s personal styles.
- Practicing empathic listening. Listen for true understanding of what others are thinking, feeling and experiencing. Forget about formulating your response and instead listen to what is being said AND the emotions behind it. Learn to observe non-verbal communication and tone of voice. Ask clarifying questions and reflect back what is being communicated.
- Determining when to communicate – some colleagues, classmates or supervisors want or need more explanation or updates than others. In the workplace, it is also knowing when to include particular people on an email or conversation and when it’s unnecessary or better not to do so.
Strong communication skills are some of the best skills to develop while in college, but thinking broadly about what that means will make you a more desirable candidate and a better colleague. What other ways do strong communication skills manifest in the workplace that I missed above?
Kelly is a career advisor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where she assists undergraduate business students with all aspects of their career development. Connect with Kelly on Twitter, LinkedIn or BrazenCareerist.