The paradox of being a young professional.
You are the future. You are one of the greatest assets to your organisation. You have beaten the competition to get the job you want (or at least, the one you want right now). You have good ideas and want to get things done.
And yet, in many workplaces, you will be seen and not heard. If you are heard, your ideas do not get attention, so what you want to do, doesn’t get done. And you need to get things done.
It’s maybe no surprise that as the newest recruit, you have no track record to back up your position and no brand within the organisation. A sure-fire way to close this gap and start getting your stuff done is to work on your communication skills.
Building communication skills into your brand
Being an effective communicator is a tough skill to master but is well worth it. ‘Great communication skills’ regularly appears at the top of requirements in job descriptions and are central to being a good manager or leader. Even if you have no desire to be a manager, communication skills will help you stand out from the crowd in pretty much any role.
Proactive employers will offer you support in the form of a training program, a training budget, a buddy and hopefully even a supportive manager. Take these opportunities and make the most of them. But no matter how much even the best organisation offers, ultimately, it’s up to you as a young professional to learn how to be a great communicator.
Here are 8 hacks to fast track you on the way to being a great communicator – and just as important, help you to become known as one:
Hack #1- Think about who you are communicating with
You need to tailor your communication to your audience. The benefits of a particular course of action may seem plain as day to you, and you’ll be working with smart people, but don’t assume everyone will automatically know the meaning of specific terms. Consider their role, responsibilities and expertise when choosing your words.
Tailoring your words will endear you to colleagues and managers alike as they will not need to work hard to understand what you are trying to say.
Hack #2 – Have solutions, not problems!
This is not annoying business jargon but an approach that will mark you out as a practical thinker. Someone that does not simply stop at the first block and is capable of resolving issues.
This is not as hard as it sounds, even if you are totally stumped when you come across a problem. Just ask yourself, “What would I do if this were my call?” When you have thought of a way forward, THEN take the issue to your manager. He or she would far rather start a conversation with you about a potential resolution than being hit with just a problem and an ‘over to you, boss’!
If your proposed course of action is not the one used, pay attention to what is. If you don’t understand why a route has been chosen, ask. The difference will be down to either the logic used, information available or a combination. Knowing why the final decision was different to yours, you can then hone your logic for the next time or know which further questions you need answers to before making your next recommendation.
Hack #3 – Communicate effectively by email
With nearly 300 billion emails sent per day, email is the lifeblood of business communication. Whilst your business may not seem that formal, email has certain formalities that need to be acknowledged, especially if you are writing to customers. A standard email needs a greeting, content and a close, as well as a strong, appropriate subject line to stand out because your recipient will be getting dozens of emails a day.
To make the most impact by email and get your messages to the top of the pile, you need to also consider the preferences of each reader – do they like greetings or do they think they get in the way? Do they like a lot of detail or prefer bullet points? Do they have a personal touch or are strictly business?
In some workplaces, tools like Slack and Telegram are used for intra-team messages, but even in these environments, you’ll still likely to be emailing your boss – and (gulp) your boss’ boss. All the more reason to get those emails right!
Happily, SMYL’s email app can help by providing real-time suggestions as you type to make your email more effective. It’s available free of charge and uses AI to make personalised suggestions, allowing you to tailor your messages to the reading preferences of individual recipients.
Hack #4 – Find a mentor in your organisation
A good mentor can help you in a lot of ways, and a fringe benefit is that they can help you make links within the workplace would take much longer to develop on your own. By being introduced to someone through your mentor, you are automatically associated with some of their brand, so choose wisely!
If there is no formal mentoring program at your workplace, you can still make this happen. Find someone who you admire and trust and approach them directly. At the very the worst they will say no but be flattered you asked. It’s worth knowing what mentorship really means so you have the right expectations. This article is a great place to start.
Hack #5 – Don’t just write, talk
Some things are better in person than in writing. There can be a temptation to email or instant message everything but remember you are working with people. For example, a lot of information is conveyed in tone of voice and hand gestures so recognise times when it will be easier to get some points across in a discussion than in writing.
As a young professional, getting face to face time with someone can be hard, but there are more subtle routes than just turning up unannounced at a colleague’s desk. Email or message them first and ask when is convenient to talk. Set expectations as to the topic and how long you think you’ll need. If you don’t get a response to this approach, try to catch them when they are making a drink in the break room and ask when you can talk about the topic. If neither of these work, at least you tried and it’s time to turn up at their desk – maybe with their favourite coffee!
Some workplaces will have particular expectations, for example, your manager may actively encourage just turning up at a colleague’s desk or insist you apply for a colleagues time via the internal ticketing system. Whatever the specifics, don’t forget that if anything is agreed during your conversation, you should commit it to writing and make sure both parties have that record.
Hack #6 – Take the notes and actions in meetings
Volunteer for this underrated job because:
- It’s important. What you write will become the official record. Who said what and when they committed to deliver. If this isn’t done, agreements that are so clearly made in the room can be quickly forgotten.
- You will be the person sending out the minutes and actions. This gets your name known with colleagues, managers and senior managers as you become the natural touchpoint for a particular forum.
- You will get brownie points for volunteering for this task. Most people see it as a chore to be avoided but they are not difficult and represent a great opportunity to stand out.
- You will be engaged for 100% of the meeting. Few others present will be!
Your organisation may have some standard templates for actions and minutes so look these out. If not, here is a good resource to get you started.
Hack #7 – Take opportunities to speak in front of groups
Getting up in front of people and making a clear presentation everyone understands is a fantastic way to build your brand as a great communicator. For many though, speaking in front of an audience is daunting, especially so in the early days of a promising career. Happily as a young professional, you don’t have to deliver an hour-long presentation to senior leadership on your first day!
Begin with little and often. You’ll likely be a part of team meetings for example, so offer to cover a 5-minute regular section or specific topic you think would be interesting for the group. This will be a friendly audience and a good place to build confidence and get constructive feedback. From here, look for opportunities to build up the number of people you’re talking to, the duration you speak for and vary the type of audience. Depending on the size of your workplace, there could be opportunities like department briefings, working groups, steering committees, town halls, quarterly reviews etc.
Even Barack Obama and Winston Churchill had to start somewhere! There are lots of good resources out there and here’s a great article with the basics.
Hack #8 – Stay positive!
This may be easier for some than others but whatever your natural disposition, a positive outlook is far more likely to get results. Plus, it’s an opportunity to show you can cope with tough situations and still play your part in keeping team spirits up.
When it comes to staying positive in written communications, you need to go to extra effort to keep the tone of your words up. Writing has none of the added cues like facial expressions and hand gestures to convey a positive tone that verbal or face-to-face exchanges enjoy. Emoji’s are not a substitute for words and will not convey tone appropriately! Thankfully, the SMYL app has a built-in positivity monitor so at a glance you can see how positive (or not) you are coming across to your audience. Get the tone wrong, and you risk being ignored, or worse, aggravating your reader to the point they don’t want to engage with you.
Using these hacks will subtly but powerfully build your brand as a great communicator, as well as someone to watch. One last thing, don’t forget to ask for help to develop these skills. Help comes in many forms e.g. feedback, technology, coaching, courses etc but does not often simply ‘appear’, so take the bull by the horns and ask!
Use our SMYL for Outlook Add-in (there’s a free plan) to create better business emails. SMYL’s real-time business English language suggestions and reader insights will coach you to more effective emails, written in the preferred style of your readers.