Acing all of your courses and getting an honors degree from an A-list university will not help you get hired or to stay employed if you cannot assimilate information and communicate ideas. Effective communication involves more than just formatting your resume with the latest eye-grabbing tricks, loading a presentation with reams of facts and data, or writing multi-page business proposals that lose the reader after the first few paragraphs. You may be fortunate enough to land an interview with your preferred employers, but the grads that master communication will be more likely to get hired because effective oral and written communication is a critical strategy for getting hired in marketing or any other field.
Focus on the following five skills to improve your verbal and written communication abilities.
1. Write, and write some more.
In his autobiography, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft, Stephen King observes that “if you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot.” Writing is a skill, and as with any other skill, you can improve your writing ability and your ability to communicate through writing by practicing your craft. This may be an unpleasant reality for recent grads who had hoped to leave research papers and essays behind them after they graduated, but there is no substitute for practice. Those who are looking for their first professional jobs can place this suggestion into practice by writing different cover letters and resumes to prospective employers. For a more creative approach, prepare presentations that actually “sells” yourself to those companies.
No matter what, writing practice should continue after you land that coveted job offer.
2. Learn to love self-editing.
Writers take joy in creating written communications but then are often loath to change their first drafts. Effective communication requires a writer to put his or her first draft aside and then to return to it after the writer’s ideas have settled and shaped themselves. This gives the writer an opportunity to recognize repetition, grammar inconsistencies, and wordy or convoluted sentences. You should edit out superfluous passages that distract from the concepts you are attempting to communicate. Other self-editing tricks include focusing on the big picture over minor details, eliminating overused words, and developing a rhythm through the particulars of what you are writing.
3. Speak in complete sentences.
You might look stellar on paper, but if you cannot speak clearly or communicate an idea through an oral presentation, your career will be short-lived. Some people suffer from a very common fear of speaking before an audience. Others have trouble articulating an idea or responding to questions and comments extemporaneously. Like writing, speaking and making oral presentations are skills that you can develop and improve. Think about oral presentations that have engaged you and identify the elements in those presentations that appealed to you. For practice, you can join and participate in local Toastmasters organizations. Taking a video of an oral presentation and then watching that video, either alone or with a trusted coach, can help you identify strengths and weaknesses in your oral presentation skills. Those skills may do more to get you through a job interview than a heaping handful of good grades.
4. Be careful of body language.
This principle is almost a cliche: non-verbal communication is as critical as written and oral communication. People who fidget, slouch, or fail to make eye contact during an interview will leave a negative impression that prevents them from landing their dream job. A self-video will help you recognize counterproductive body language mannerisms. Apart from studying that video, the simplest technique to control body language is to mirror a more calm and collected person who is in the room. Developing a broader sense of self-awareness is also an extremely helpful approach to improving your non-verbal communication.
5. Know your audience.
A written proposal or oral presentation to a group of potential customers will be different from a technical presentation to engineers. Likewise, someone who is seeking a new position should do research on the levels of contact within an organization and then tailor his or her cover letter and resume to that contact’s interests. This can be difficult at the first threshold, which is now often little more than HR applicant screening software that filters resumes for keywords and skills. Complicated resume formats with multiple headers or footers will jam HR screening algorithms, and a simpler resume will be more likely to clear this threshold. Resumes that mimic the language of a job description will also be more liable to get noticed. You may need to dig deeper to find someone in the company who can be an advocate to advance your resume to higher levels and provide guidance on the keywords that a screening program will seek.
Your ability to get hired for a coveted marketing position or any other function might appear to be a function of luck and random events, but you can shift that luck and those events in your favor by focusing on effective communication strategies. A continued focus on improving communication skills will then help you to advance your career in every conceivable job function and industry.