This is the tenth article in our twenty-part series on how to accelerate your career in your twenties, and this time we’re focusing on the art of communication. Communication skills are vastly underappreciated in most workplaces. Many of us get through day-to-day work life without really thinking about how we communicate, but it really does penetrate every aspect of who we are and what we do. Whether you’re sitting at a desk typing emails, making phone calls or working face-to-face with people in a group, how we put ourselves forward can have a huge impact on our careers.
Communication forms part of our identity
We’re defined not just by what we do, but what we say. How you choose to express yourself at work will have an enormous impact on your eligibility for promotion within the business. If you’re clear, concise and professional, and people find it easy to understand you and read your position, you’re far more likely to go far. On the other hand, if you’re ambiguous and tend to sit on the fence, or mumble or talk too much, you may find it harder to attract that elusive promotion you’ve been waiting for. How you communicate will determine what kind of employee - and what kind of person - you are to others.
Don’t like public speaking?
Don’t be dismayed. When we think about communication we often think about public speaking or team-leading. While communication skills certainly help in these areas, there’s more to it than that. Communication is about how you speak to your fellow colleagues from day to day. How you sign off your emails or handle quick phone calls. It’s about being clear, focused and providing useful and relevant information at the right time. So even if you don’t think of yourself as a bold and confident public speaker who can entertain a room, that doesn’t mean you’re a bad communicator.
Find time to practice
We have countless opportunities every day to hone our communication skills, both in and outside of work. If you handle something poorly or regret saying something in a certain way, don’t feel bad. Remember it and learn from it. Look to your peers and see how they deal with similar situations. Volunteer to attend meetings and company-wide networking events- doing so will give you plenty of opportunities to voice ideas and practice your style of communication. Also, remember that it isn’t all about speaking either. How you word letters and emails usually has a big bearing on what people make of you, particularly in this day and age. If your emails are riddled with typos and lazy sign-offs, you won’t garner quite as much respect as someone with flawless grammar and who signs off each email in a professional way.
Above all else, remember that communication is only 50% talking - the rest is listening. If you’re not sure what to say it’s usually best to not say anything and carry on listening. It’s far better to not say much and contribute something very valuable from time to time than it is to waffle on aimlessly and not achieve anything. Remember this, and you’ll go far.