Friday, 27 May 2016

Dear Graduates: Your Communication Skills Will Determine Your Worth









I'd make this quick because I know how short your attention spans are and how little patience you have with long, 'boring' content.




So here it is:






Despite your qualifications from Ivy-league/top-rated institutions; your professional networks and your raw intellectual prowess; your communication skills will either get your feet through those coveted corridors of your dream employers, or will cost you opportunities.






Yes, good, relevant degrees, hard work and whom you know, may get you noticed, but unless you display competent communication skills, you will not progress in your careers.







This is because mastering the three types of communication skills—public speaking; business writing; and nonverbal/body language cues—ensures that you exude value and that's what matters to savvy organisations.







Note however, that your communication skills must be attuned to the business environment and not birthed in your social media space.







For example, for your conversations online, the lazy, casual style you use on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram etc. is unacceptable in any professional platform whereby your information is stored, such as on LinkedIn. Also remember that this is the information age. You will be 'googled' and your LinkedIn profiles will be scrutinised. So don't take any chances by coming across as infantile and unreliable. Moreover, your social media lingo could easily induce the scorn of prospective employers.






Now you're probably thinking that you know better than to communicate that way during interviews, at work meetings or during networking events. But here's something you may not realise - prolonged usage of informal language will dull your writing, causing this inappropriate style to seep into your communication in the business setting.






Case in point, the examples below sent as text messages:







"Howz it going?"





"Pls call me la8tr".



"Dunno wot d problem is".


"Emailed d proposal abt 4.30. Wld follow up 2moro".





The mistake often made is regarding text messages as an informal medium of communication and that sending such messages to your clients/bosses/colleagues or other professionals is acceptable.



It is not of course.





It's always better to err on the side of caution and remain in the professional mode in all work, or business-related issues, when communicating via whatever channels. You don't know who will access your musings or when your messages will be forwarded to decision makers. Therefore completely eliminate slangs and avoid using informal language in professional circles, if you wish to be viewed as the educated, talented professionals that you are.



Note that public speaking skills are increasingly more relevant to how you are rated, either as desirable candidates or as new staff. I concede that you may not be required to mount podiums to give inspiring speeches as newbies. Nevertheless, you will be expected to string together coherent, intelligent sentences to effortlessly communicate a thought----or to refute, engage or persuade----without resorting to the use of filler phonemes or phrases such as the  "ums", "ers", "that's to says", etc.






Good communication really matters


I stumbled across interesting data which lists the main reasons why you as graduates, don't get those desirable jobs. The list is not exhaustive, yet it sheds light on the issue of graduate unemployment.



Most of the blunders are avoidable and relate to how you comport yourselves on social media, (mostly inappropriately). However, the last point clearly lists poor communication skills as a factor for being disqualified by hiring managers.



Enough said.





Conclusion


So here's my stance on how updating your communication skills will be beneficial to your careers:





Great communication skills increase the perception of your worth.





Therefore, hone your communication skills and your chances at being chosen by reputable employers or being considered for advancement in your jobs, will increase significantly. 









Read more good content to be able to improve your writingspeak up more in meetings, even if doubt yourselves, and learn how to discern nonverbal cues.



You are a tech-savvy generation so you know there are numerous resources online to help you in all three types of communication: from writing resources such as Hemingway and Grammarly apps; to TED speeches for public speaking and nonverbal communication.



Simply become more proactive and persevere in the quest to become more effective communicators. Your efforts will pay off when you move swiftly along the path to rewarding careers.





Good luck!





If you enjoyed this post, don't rush off just yet. Please remember to:

 
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- Sign up for updates in the blog's right sidebar so that you are immediately notified via email when a new blog post is published. Don’t miss any more articles!
 




Recommended reading



How To Advance Your Career With Superior Communications Skills

  




  

  Need help improving your skills? Hire me for:


Communications training sessions for  your staff and executives;
 

-Writing assignments (content creation, executive speeches, etc);



Speeches and keynote presentations at your corporate events.

 

  Let me help you get results.
   

   


   Contact me:



A) Send an email to: Lucilleossai@gmail.com.


B) Call for a free consultation:


Nigeria:              0704 631 0592
   International:    +234 704 631 0592    






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N.B-   
First and second images courtesy of Stuart Miles; via freedigitalphotos.net. Embedded tweet courtesy of Twitter. Last image courtesy of Ratch0013; via freedigitalphotos.net.




Wednesday, 27 April 2016

The Most Frustrating Question About Writing...Answered



It's becoming a regular occurrence.






A well-dressed executive, sitting across the table from me, a worried expression etched on his face, inevitably asks:





"How do I become a better writer?"



Then I sigh.




Not because I'm the go-to resource for all questions about business writing.





Or because I vanquished my former nemesis, the colossal writing challenge, and emerged victorious, with a perfectly crafted piece of content.







Or because I have, in a eureka moment, uncovered the secret to writing with simplicity, brevity and clarity and have been sharing the knowledge with all who desire to become more effective communicators.






I often sigh because I recognise the dilemma we all face as professionals. Whether you're a seasoned business writer or just finding your 'voice', it is often a battle to produce impromptu pieces required to influence, refute, inform or confirm.




And what if you need to address a crisis and respond in a timely manner, without recourse to your company's official     communicators, or to that friend of yours who’s a wordsmith?





So when an experienced and business-savvy executive, in a coaching session I recently completed, asked me the most frustrating question about writing, I simply shared what I constantly do to hone my skills.





I told him to develop and maintain a habit of reading regularly and to simply 'do it'; that is, to write. 



He stared at me in disbelief, clearly unconvinced about the effectiveness of my advice.



I thus decided to explain the usefulness of the tips given. After all, what good am I, as a communications advisor, if I cannot adapt my style to educate or persuade?




Below are the two simple steps I suggested which will improve his skills, as well as your business writing. 




1) Read regularly and extensively






Now I know this isn't what you want to hear, being the stressed-out professional that you are, juggling multiple tasks and dealing with deadlines, unreasonable bosses and uncertainties.



But there's no way around this. Unless you develop a habit of reading good material on a daily basis (for quicker results), or a few times a week at least, you will NOT improve your writing skills.
 


Good leaders and ultra-successful people attest to the principle of reading good books. I learnt that Warren Buffet, an investment savant and excellent writer, who is praised for his exceptional annual letters to shareholders, is a voracious reader. Bill Gates, Oprah Winfrey and many others also read for 'self-education' rather than for entertainment.



Not only does reading amplify your knowledge, increase your vocabulary and improve your overall communication skills, it does two things you don't immediately realise:



A) It exposes you to different styles and nuances in writing


Your brain, like a sponge, will soak up interesting expressions, new concepts and unusual constructions. At some point, all these things will seep into your writing; they will enrich your content and help you develop a unique writing 'voice'. Oh and your grammar improves as well.



B) It makes you more discerning by sharpening your cognitive abilities


You will begin to question things, uncover hidden meanings, and analyse what isn't being stated. Your imagination will also stretch and you will become a more rounded individual.



Free online resources to encourage reading



 
But what if you simply don’t have the time to read hardcover books?



Well, there are numerous resources online, which you could, and should read. You could assess online versions of important media outfits such as Bloomberg, The Harvard Business Review, The Economist, The New York Times, etc. Some demand paid subscriptions after a certain number of free articles but you have various options available on the Internet. Other free resources include articles from the Reuters, CNN or BBC websites.





More often than not, your favourite local newspaper has an online version. A word of caution though: Only read newspapers where error-free content  is guaranteed and where journalists are experienced, respected professionals. You do yourself no favours by reading pieces rife with grammatical errors and/or written in sub-standard business English.




If you prefer using social media, a good repertoire of interesting short and long-form content is LinkedIn Pulse. Now LinkedIn has granted access to everyone to publish on its platform, so be very selective. Not all content featured on LinkedIn Pulse is written in standard business language. A good rule of thumb is to start reading articles written by respected 'influencers', such as Arianna Huffington, Guy Kawasaki, Richard Branson, etc. Note their writing styles, 'tones' and sentence structures. A bonus of this platform is that you could download it as a mobile app for easy access.





I also recommend reading blogs that publish short but useful articles.  On Twitter, I 'follow' and regularly read posts from Copyblogger; Mashable; Business Insider; The Entrepreneur; etc. Most of these sites enjoy huge 'followings' on social media, especially on Twitter and Facebook, so you'd be spoilt for choice.




What is important is to be disciplined enough to read regularly and widely, (yes even outside your field). Perfect this habit and watch your writing skills become more polished and your content, richer.





2) Write often even when you doubt your ability









Write every other day if you can manage it.



Since you’ll be required to write emails multiple times during a workweek, you’ll need to hone the art of email writing. Emails, once an informal mode of business communication—second in importance to official business letters sent via courier in the past—is now increasingly demanded. Learning how to write powerful business emails that get you desired results is a discernible advantage you will have over your peers.



If you deal with sensitive information or if your clients/business partners demand a certain degree of formality in their communications, formal writing skills are crucial for effectiveness.  



Given that writing with clarity is an important goal of successful communication, this post from Inc.  provides four simple tips you should use to write with clarity and substance.




Note also that storytelling is a valuable tool for creating content that influences your target audience to take action. It's also becoming important for personal and professional brands. Let's all learn to get it right.






I 'discovered' Quora about a year ago. It is an interesting site whereby knowledge is shared by professionals from different fields...for free. Registration is also free, allowing you to choose topics of interest and sign up for email digests. For example, I stumbled upon a response from Tom Corson Knowles  on Quora, where he listed a treasure trove of online and offline resources for writers/authors.



Naturally, not all of us aspire to become bestselling authors; we simply want to improve our writing chops at work. Note that what is required for the progress you seek, is a disciplined mindset and a persevering attitude. Remember that you're responsible for this aspect of your professional development; therefore make yourself accountable for your writing.




It will pay off sooner than you think when you're singled out for a promotion.




Conclusion



I can only hope that the executive whom I recently coached—whose concerns about writing prompted me to write this post—would become motivated to try some of the tips given.








It might be relatively easy to develop a habit of reading regularly and extensively.



Writing, on the other hand, demands more mental energy and creates anxiety.





I understand completely because I too have those moments of dread. But take the plunge and begin with the basics: Write shorter sentences, (preferably no longer than 20 words in the beginning); check your grammar and proofread thoroughly, (I recommend reading your content audibly after writing); use simple sentence structures; and watch your punctuation.




Read even if you don't 'feel like it' and write, even when that inner critic tells you you're no good.




And this is how you become a better writer over time.




If you enjoyed this post, don't rush off just yet. Please remember to:


- Share this article in your social networks by clicking on the icons at the top or below.

-Sign up for updates in the blog's right sidebar so that you are immediately notified via email when a new blog post is published. Don’t miss any more articles!



Need help with improving your communication skills?  

Hire me for:

-Communications training sessions for your executives;

-Writing assignments (content creation, executive speeches, etc.);

-Speeches and keynote presentations at your corporate events.



Let me help you get results. 



Contact me:


A) Send an email to: Lucilleossai@gmail.com.

B) Call for a free consultation: 

Nigeria:             0704 631 0592
International:   +234 704 631 0592  




-------------------------

N.B-   First image courtesy of Stuart Miles; via freedigitalphotos.net. Second image courtesy of Bluebay; via freedigitalphotos.net. Third image courtesy of Adamr; via freedigitalphots.net. Fourth image courtesy of Iosphere; via freedigitalphotos.net. Last image courtesy of Master Isolated Images; via freedigitalphotos.net.