We all know that most everything we learned in college was useless and that maybe 10 percent of it would actually apply to the careers that we find ourselves in as postgrads. The other 90 percent? Communication. If there is one thing I have learned in the few jobs that I have had in my post grad era, it is that communication is key. Cliché as it is, it is the truth. In order to thrive as a professional in any industry or line of work, one needs to be able to communicate effectively. Any task or project can quickly spiral out of control with the slightest communication breakdown. Those who have been around can attest to this. For those of you who are new to the working world, learn how to communicate because these disasters are easily avoidable if the guidelines below are followed.
The phrase “clear communication” leaves nothing to the imagination. Tasks or action items need to be tangible, well-defined, and have specific deadlines. When asking questions, be clear about the root of the problem and be specific about the information you need. There shouldn’t be a chain of 18 emails trying to get to the bottom of what the problem is or what it is that is being asked. Avoid using phrases that leave anything to the interpretation of the other party. That is when mistakes are commonly made. No one can read minds through the words of an email.
Don’t waste people’s time. Truthfully, this is one I need to work on and I often catch myself babbling on a bit too long in my responses. Short and sweet is best. The more you say, the more opportunity there is to misinterpret something you are trying to get across.
Be prompt in your responses. This is not necessarily “immediately” or “ASAP.” Proper time should be taken to form a well thought out response to an inquiry. However, if something major pops up, it is imperative that information gets distributed right away. A full course of action doesn’t need to be outlined in an initial email, but at least let the invested parties know that something is on the horizon and that there is an issue arising. If something is or will be fucked up, people need to know about it. As much as we want to, it is probably best we don’t wait until 5:00 p.m. to answer that question that came in at 8:15 a.m. Other people have work to do too and you don’t want to be the person holding something up.
The Right People – Not Everybody
Hitting “Reply All” should not be your default. A majority of conversations don’t need to involve everyone plus all of their supervisors. The last thing people need is their inbox getting lit up with one-liners that do not concern them. Everyone knows that bold number next to your inbox is one of the leading causes of stress-related heart conditions. If there is one stat that people don’t want fluffed it is the size of their inbox. On the flip side, there needs to be consistency in your distribution list. I can’t count how many times I have been asked about emails or files that were assumed to have been sent to me, only for the inquiring party to quickly turn around with the classic “Oh I’m sorry I didn’t realize you were not included on that.” There is a balancing act with this aspect and you’ll just have learn to navigate these waters yourself.
No one gets heard and nothing gets done if everyone is trying to talk at once. Stop what you’re doing, take some time to listen, and digest everyone else’s verbal vomit before adding your own to the pile.
There are going to be times where you may not know what to do or how to accomplish a certain task. There are going to be jobs that come along that will push you out of your comfort zone and bring unfamiliar territory and new challenges to you. There are going to be moments throughout the day where you’re going to throw your hands up and smoothly transition into a two-palmed face wipe. And there will be times where you are totally and completely clueless. But I promise, as long as you can at least communicate that despair, things will go much smoother for you..
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