Remember when you were in pre-school learning the ABC’s? How simple were those days? “A is for apple, B is for book, C is for cat.” As the years progressed, your understanding of letters, words, punctuation and tone of voice grew; and so did your knowledge of the power of words.
It’s funny how we can chop and change our communication to suit any situation, message, environment and person – it also means that we have a responsibility to be constantly aware of who we’re communicating with and how!
Communication at uni has a style which tends to be very formal, however, when you enter the workplace things change considerably. Consider how you ‘speak’ to people with your body language, how your tone of voice comes across in an email and how you need to be aware of the types of language you’re using in different settings; work, social, university and at home.
One // Written Communication
Written communication can be a tough one to navigate outside of University. Not only will the tone and formality be something you will need to consider, but also frequency, timeliness and channels.
Frequency Matters: Be honest. How often did you check your uni email? Once a day? Once a week? Once a month!? When you are looking for a job and then once you enter the workplace, you need to be aware that the time and attention given to you by those you work with and for, needs to be reciprocated. So if your recruiter, boss, your colleague or a client has emailed you, it’s courteous to respond in a timely manner!
Tip: Download your email app onto your phone so that you are always accessible during work hours.
Switch the tone to match the context: When I’m writing an email, a cover letter, or a blog article, I take into account a few things. a) The content b) The intended audience c) Who it may reach outside of my intentions (this is for emails especially). What you need to realise is that regardless of the platform you’re using – your tone needs to fit the context of what you’re trying to say.
For example, when I’m writing a blog article for generationYOU, I CAN be casual with my language because I’m writing for people around my own age (17-25 year olds), as opposed to if I’m sending an email to a web developer to fix a bug on my website – I’m going to apply a less casual tone because I want it fixed ASAP.
Tip: The trick here is to read the situation AKA if your boss prefers to use a messaging app through work hours for general work-chat, then great – but if you need to ask for 3 weeks off of work you’re best formally requesting a meeting.
Being a lazy communicator: This point refers to including mumbo-jumbo in your sentences that no one (AKA your boss, colleague, client, contractor) but yourself will understand what you’re referring to. Remember the K.I.S.S method – Keep It Short and Simple! This can still be applied to literally anything you write. You should also be in the habit of proof-reading everything – yes even that sticky-note to Susan the receptionist.
Tip: How great is it to receive a clear and succinct message? Now aim to be a creator of these – think short sentences, effective wording and no errors.
Two // Verbal Communication.
Ahhhh the holy grail of the workplace: being able to eloquently and effectively communicate verbally face-to-face, in meetings, during a presentation and while telling a weekend story during lunch *sigh*. Beware: If you became lazy with your natural speech during uni, you may need to up the ante slightly when you enter your professional industry.
Tip: Think of someone you know who is a good communicator. Why is this? Are they confident? Do they pronounce every word to the ‘T’? Does the inflection in their voice match the context of what they’re talking about? Now start paying attention to how you communicate with your friends vs how you should be communicating in an office-setting/with a client. Generally, you should stay away from raising your voice, giving sarcastic responses, dishing out attitude or excessively swearing.
Three // Body Language.
As we move into co-working spaces galore – body language has become more and more important in a professional setting. We are no longer confided to our own cubicle and shut off from our colleagues until they approach us or vice versa. So while it was acceptable to slump over your desk/computer at uni when you were just over writing that paper – it’s not so welcomed in the office at 3pm when you’ve hit a wall and would rather be anywhere else!
Tip: Avoid randomly checking your phone while at a meeting with a client, not maintaining eye contact or offering a closed stance (i.e. arms folded) while someone is talking to you. Also read this article on how to instantly appear more confident through your body language.