Communication Skills and Career Success
Lack of Communication Skills
What to do?
“The art of communication is the language of leadership”
The ability to communicate is one of the most important skills for any professional. Written and verbal communication skills are of paramount importance for software and IT professionals. You might be a genius who can write a word processing software in Assembly language over a weekend, but if you cannot express your ideas clearly, concisely and interestingly nobody will realize your potential. The ability to express an idea is as important as the idea itself.
Good communication skills like the ability to convey your ideas and suggestions to your team members, friends, colleagues, superiors and clients, ability to persuade others to see your point of view, capability to explain a highly technical subject in plain English, ability to write clearly and persuasively, capability to present your ideas and views to a diverse audience, etc. are things that separate the leaders from the followers, the winners from the ‘also-ran’ and the satisfied from the frustrated.
LACK OF COMMUNICATION SKILLS
If the letters, e-mails and resumes that I receive are any indication, majority of students and even professionals do not possess the ability to write without spelling mistakes and grammatical errors. A résumé with typos and grammar mistakes will not be considered irrespective of your credentials. According to Joel Spolsky, a résumé is a way to get to the next stage: the interview. Companies often get hundreds of résumés for every opening. There is no possible way the company can interview that many people. The only way is to screen people out using résumés. Do not think of a résumé as a way to get a job; think of it as a way to give some hiring manager an excuse to throw it to the waste bin. Your résumé has to be perfect to survive.
If you cannot talk sensibly, correctly and logically without unnecessary stops, stammering and stuttering during an interview or a group discussion, then you can count yourself out. If you cannot write an essay about a given topic without grammar and spelling mistakes, then your chances are not very good. If you cannot make an effective presentation to the interview board, your chances of getting the job are very remote.
It is a pity that even the students who have studied all along in English medium schools find it hard to communicate effectively in English. If you want to get your dream job, then along with your technical knowledge and skills, you must work hard to improve your communication skills.
I have worked as a technical recruiter for a couple of MNCs. I have interviewed more than 3000 students and professionals. What I have found from those interviews is that while most candidates communicate quite decently when answering technical subjects flounder while answering general and personal questions.
Most interviews start with the question “tell us about yourself.” It is a question that can be rehearsed and delivered properly to create a good first impression. Many a candidate fail to do the necessary homework and make a mess during the interview by forgetting the details like name of the schools, year of passing, etc. Once you start with such a disastrous performance, it will be a miracle if the interview goes well. Answers to such commonly asked interview questions could be rehearsed to avoid embarrassment and to create a good impression.
Many companies ask the candidates to write an essay of about 200 – 250 words on a given subject. This test is to assess the writing skills of the candidate. To perform well in such a situation, you must polish your writing skills. The only way to do this is by practice, practice and more practice. You can start by writing an essay about 200-250 words long on a topic of your choice everyday. You can ask your friends to join you and can form a “communication skills improvement group.” You should get what you have written each day corrected by your English teacher or a friend who is good in English. By constant practice you can dramatically improve your writing skills.
You should also try to improve your vocabulary. There are many books that will help you improve your vocabulary. You should also try to improve your vocabulary. There are many books that will help you improve your vocabulary. You can also subscribe to free newsletters like Anu Garg’s AWAD or Merriam-Webster’s Word of the Day that delivers new words, their meaning, usage and usage examples right to your inbox. Another wonderful program that helps you improve your vocabulary is Vocaboly, which has a fully functional free trial version (the only limitation of the trial version is that it uses a computer voice). This program is useful for students preparing for tests like SAT, TOEFL, GRE, GMAT, etc. A good vocabulary is a must in improving the communication skills.
Another aspect of good communication is the accent. You can improve your accent by listening to news channels like BBC, CNN, and watching movies. If you have not studied in fancy residential schools or have not stayed abroad for a reasonable amount of time, then your accent will have some trace of your native tongue. But if others can understand what you are saying and if there are not any significant pronunciation problems, then don’t worry too much about accent. As you interact with more and more people and speak more and more, your accent will improve.
WHAT TO DO?
One problem that I have noticed among students who have spoken their native tongue for major part of their lives is the tendency to think in their native tongue. For example, when asked a question, they will first form the answer in their native tongue and then try to translate into English. This will not work as it takes a lot of time and many times the translation process will get messed up. So it is important to learn to think in English.
So here are some activities that you can perform to improve your communication skills:
- Read an English newspaper (read the editorial)
- Subscribe to newsletters that send a new word everyday by e-mail and learn those words
- Improve you vocabulary using vocabulary building programs like Vocaboly
- Write at least 200-300 words everyday and get it reviewed by a qualified person
- Try to speak in English with your friends and family
- Form a group with your friends with the objective of improving your communication skills
- Organize and participate in mock group discussion sessions
- Watch TV channels like BBC, CNN and good English movies
If you do this then your communication skills will definitely improve and so does you chances of getting your dream job. According to the world renowned communicator and motivational speaker Dale Carnegie, “There are four ways, and only four ways, in which we have contact with the world. We are evaluated and classified by these four contacts: what we do, how we look, what we say, and how we say it.”
So do things right, work hard, dress smartly and communicate effectively and success will be yours.
Wishing you all the very best
By Alexis Leon, TechnoFIRST, August 2005.