Ah, to be young. There are many benefits to youth: fresh ideas, wrinkle-free skin, boundless energy and the glow of having your whole career ahead of you. However, sounding young in person and through your writing can be career-limiting. There are very obvious communication patterns that can stamp your expression as inexperienced and often distract the audience from the true message.
Recognize and address the following communication patterns early in your career to gain an extra boost as you make the transition from school to the real world.
1. Unintentional questioning. Being inquisitive is a great trait. Today's employers greatly value curious employees who think deeper and want to learn more. However, no one -- truly no one -- prefers to hear someone end every statement on an "up" note. This upspeak habit makes statements sound like questions.
Maybe it's because we are confused by the intent or because it reminds us of those trying years when toddlers ask "why?" continually, but falsely adding a question mark to every sentence is grating. Look to moderate your speech so each idea receives its intended effect, and reserve ending on a high note for your work performance.
2. Place holders. It is a shame that a word as loveable as "like" is so unlikeable when used, like, in the middle of many conversations. It is very normal to use place holders, such as "um," "ah," and "you know" when you are stressed about how to respond, like in a group presentation. However, excessive use of place holders -- especially "like" and "you know, right?" -- in everyday speech can be a clear sign of inexperience. Fortunately, this patterns rarely show up in written communication, but it can mar really great ideas while the listener counts the number of times "like" is used while speaking.
3. Extreme punctuation. We all recognize that a well-placed exclamation point can make a strong impact in an email. However, something like, "Hi! I'm super excited to meet you at the meeting tomorrow!!!" has just too much exuberance for most business exchanges. What worked via text with friends, rarely has the right effect after graduation. Reserve the exclamations for when you truly need emphasis to make a dramatic impact. Strategic use will mature your written correspondence.
4. Excessive emoting. Five years ago, I would have advised against using any emoticons in business correspondence. Today, I admit that a strategic :) does have its place in work exchanges between two people who have a rapport and mutual familiarity. However, emoting too soon or too frequently can come across as juvenile, especially when writing across generations or between junior and executive levels. Think of it like cooking with truffles -- a little goes a long way, and only some people enjoy it.
5. Long emails. With the rise of Twitter, it may seem counterintuitive that long emails would be a sign of modern entry-level professionals. Composing an email that resembles the five paragraph college essay is a guaranteed way to make sure none of the message will be read, especially if sent to an executive.
Most senior professionals read what can be seen on the message window of their mobile device and react accordingly. Experienced business writers use these first two sentences to convey the most critical idea and to compel the reader to scroll down a little further. Not leveraging this prime email real estate often results in the wasted effort of crafting a beautiful essay that never has the intended effect, because the reader moves on too quickly.
Any meeting or written correspondence with a CEO quickly shows that poignant brevity is critical when making your mark at a high level. Lead with the key idea and get to the point quickly when writing and speaking. Your well thought-out delivery will win you the appreciation of a busy audience and is more likely to achieve results.
Communication continues to lead the pack among traits that make or break a new employee's success (and satisfaction) in the workplace. When navigating the world of work, take the time to examine how you convey your ideas in email and in person. A careful analysis and swift retooling of your patterns has a major impact on making a great impression both inside and outside of your company.
Robin Reshwan is the founder of Collegial Services, a consulting/staffing firm that connects college students, recent graduates and the organizations that hire them and a certified Women's Business Enterprise (WBE). She has interviewed, placed and hired thousands of people across a broad spectrum of companies and industries. Her career tips and advice are used by universities, national clubs/associations and businesses. A Certified Professional Résumé Writer, Robin has been honored as a Professional Business Woman of the Year by the American Business Women's Association. She graduated Phi Beta Kappa and as a Regents Scholar from University of California, Davis.
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