Effective communication skills are critical in today’s economy

Effective communication skills help you compete

The massive layoffs in recent years and the continued soft state of the economy have caused many people to turn to job training. To be really effective, part of that retraining should involve developing and maintaining effective communication skills.

Having the confidence to look a person in the eye and express yourself in an intelligent manner can mean the difference between success and failure during an interview and later.

Consider this: Two equally qualified candidates interview for a position. One is poised and gives clear, thoughtful answers. The other slouches in the chair, laces his answers with heavy doses of “you know”, “like” “whatever”, and is constantly looking down or away. Who do you think stands the better chance for a second interview? Whom would you invite back?

I once had the pleasure of representing Toastmasters at a job fair. We explained how candidates improve their chances of succeeding at job interviews (and later, in the position itself). Fortunately, most of the people who stopped by understood the value that such a program offers. But, not everyone saw the benefit of improving their communication skills.

One individual brushed off my initial query by saying, “I’m in computers.” Just because he worked in some IT position—in his mind, a back office, no-contact sort of position—he didn’t realize just how often he communicates with others. And it’s those contacts that speak volumes about a person and his company. As I mentioned to him, they can include:

– Discussions with co-workers and managers about projects

– Conversations with clients about problems

– Presentations to clients or management

– Annual performance reviews

Regardless of how “squirreled away” you may think you are, you still interact with people on a regular basis. And even though you may know your job better than anyone else in the company, if you cannot express yourself clearly, you limit your ability to move within your organization. Worse—as noted above—your job search becomes more challenging if your verbal communication skills are poor.

How to improve your communication skills

What can you do to improve your communication skills? A good place to start is by joining Toastmasters. Your confidence level rises as you enhance your speaking and presentation skills. Dues are very low, and clubs meet at various times; you should be able to find one that meets at a convenient place and time.

Universities and technical colleges offer writing and speaking programs. Many offer evening classes, as well as online writing courses. You can get help with interviewing through college placement and state job-service offices. Many of these programs are free or at minimal cost.

Being in the communications business, I understand that learning is an ongoing process. Writing regularly for numerous projects (including this blog) helps me stay sharp for my clients. Membership in Toastmasters and seminars I offer help me hone my presentation skills. In addition, I keep several reference guides within reach to address those finer points of English grammar.

What are you doing regularly to improve your communication skills? The time and effort you invest in bettering yourself will pay dividends at every step of your career.

For related reading, see “Remember the fundamentals of communication” and “Resolve to improve your communication skills.”


Tom Fuszard, public speaking, discount travel


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