In her young adult work readiness book Great Communication Skills, reading specialist Ellen Kahaner contends that on the job communication skills are quite different from the skills we use to communicate at home, at school and with friends. “Reading, writing, speaking, listening and observing, which once felt so familiar…can no longer be taken for granted,” writes Kahaner. “To find and keep a job, you will have to apply your communication skills in unfamiliar ways and learn skills that conform to the needs of a particular workplace.”
On the job reading
Miscommunications happen all of the time, especially at work. If you simply skim a document you may miss an important piece of information like a procedure that if not followed will have a negative effect on the company. However, sometimes you can read quickly. It all depends on your purpose for reading explains Kahaner. “A memo can be read quickly…a manual that gives you directions for doing your job will be read more slowly.”
On the job writing
The documents you write on the job must be accurate and clear. If you’re working with a large amount of information, Kahaner suggests using a method journalists employ when they write a story “lead” or the first paragraph. That first sentence of a newspaper article includes the Five Ws and H: who, what, when, where and why.
On the job speaking
Studies show that many people fear public speaking over even death! And some jobs require that you speak in front of groups for meetings and presentations. Fortunately speaking is something that can be learned.
Kahaner says preparation is key. “If your fear or anxiety leads you to prepare more, that can be very useful to you,” she writes. “The more you prepare, the more confidence you will have.”
On the job observation
This is perhaps the most important concept Kahaner introduces in the book because observation skills are not as obvious as writing, speaking, listening etc yet they are crucial to success in the workplace. While you’re interviewing you must observe the culture of the organization including dress code—is it relaxed or formal? When you first start working for a new company observe how meetings are run. I heard a story once of a new employee who showed up on time for a meeting only to discover the meeting was well underway. That was the culture of the place—to be early is to be on time.
Great Communication Skills (which I borrowed from the library) also features a great information section listing various organizations and websites that offer career development assistance to young adults making the transition from school to work. One such organizations is Jobs for the future. For more information visit the website at www.jff.org.