While it was once taken for granted that any given college graduate possessed high proficiency in written communications, it would appear as though the Internet Age has yielded an excess of degree-holders who are severely lacking where writing aptitude is concerned. For these graduates, the road to gainful employment can be an especially rocky one given that organizations representing virtually every possible career path share in common a desire for employees possessing “above average” communication skills.
Thanks in large part to the ubiquitous presence of so-called “text speak”—which holds little regard for the conventions of spelling, grammar, and punctuation—young job-seekers frequently struggle with the task of composing professional correspondences. In a study entitled Are They Really Ready for Work?, researchers found that in excess of one-fourth of four-year college graduates and almost half of two-year college students possessed inadequate writing skills. Among the employers surveyed, spelling errors, poor grammar skills, and incorrect word usage represented some of the most widely cited issues where employees’ emails and reports were concerned.
In general, a professional email should include a subject line that clearly indicates its topic. The email itself should begin with a salutation addressing the recipient, and the message should be as clear and concise as possible. Most importantly, professional correspondences should adhere to standard rules of spelling, grammar, and punctuation, and be entirely devoid of text speak (e.g. one of the most pervasive offenders, “LOL”).
Likewise, reports and other workplace documents should be subject to rigorous review for spelling and grammatical errors, correct word usage, overall clarity, and consistent formatting prior to submission. Individuals who are new to composing professional documents are encouraged to seek out high-quality examples and/or advice from a more experienced colleague.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the weakening of college graduates’ writing abilities has been accompanied by a decline also in verbal communications skills. In fact, according to a 2011 survey conducted by the National Association of Colleges and Employment, many employers were less than 100% satisfied with their employees’ ability to communicate verbally—a reality that experts have also linked to a breakdown of communication skills in the era of email and texting.
Oral communication plays an important role in the professional world, serving to build healthy work environments, foster productivity and creativity in collaborative settings, and, when the need arises, formulate mutually beneficial solutions to workplace conflicts. Moreover, great communication skills are vital for individuals whose job responsibilities include giving presentations, whether to colleagues, potential clients, or students.
Communication is an art, and one that can be refined through quality instruction and careful practice. This being the case, perhaps its time to reconsider the value of those liberal arts courses—rhetoric and composition, public speaking, and the like—that would appear to have very little to do with your chosen career path, but which in reality can make or break your job search success.
This article is brought to you by Staffing Kansas City, a full-service Kansas City employment agency that provides contract-to-hire, direct hire and temporary employment placement services.