Universities focus a lot of attention on the development of a student’s writing skills. By the time that you graduate, you will have written dozens of research papers. You will probably have given numerous presentations. You will probably have the impression that you have mastered the communication skills you need in your career. Unfortunately that’s not the case.
In fact the ability to write research papers and give formal presentations are some of the least needed communications skills in most career areas. If these communications skills are not used very often, you may wonder what communications skills are needed since everyone talks about why communications skills are so vitally important.
Here are the communications skills that are the most essential for your career.
- Listening – This is the most needed communication skill. We hear of someone being a good listener, but we rarely talk about how this skill developed.
- Interviewing/Asking Questions – This isn’t job interviewing. Rather it’s the ability to talk with people and find out what is going on. This is an essential skill when your job requires you to seek input from others before you decide on what needs to be done.
- Understanding Non-Verbal Messages – This is the ability to read people’s facial expressions, body language, and other indicators of how they feel about what’s being discussed.
- Communicating Ideas – This is the ability to explain your ideas to others in a way that gains their confidence and willingness to accept your idea.
- Speaking Up – This skill is one of understanding when and how to speak up when a situation warrants it. This skill must also be supported by judgment and courage.
- Giving and Receiving Corrective Feedback – Everyone needs to know how to respond to others who give us corrective feedback (criticism). But the ability to give corrective feedback is also essential.
- Participating/Leading Meetings – A lot of work gets done in meetings. Everyone complains about these, but they are a necessity. There are definite meeting skills that every graduate needs to know.
- Communicating to be Understood – Not everyone who you will work with will be a college graduate. For others English may not be their first language. How do you change your communications to your audience? How do you make sure that others understand you?
With the exception of non verbal messages and possibly meeting skills, most of these topics are not taught in college courses. You will find help for each of the skills in the Section entitled: Developing Essential Communications Skills.