Tag Archives: Written Communications

8 reasons why brevity is important in your job search and at work

I began reading what started as a great blog post. The topic interested me, the writing was humorous and demonstrated expertise. I was settling in for a good read, but there was one major problem; this post was too long.*

boared

When the scroll bar was only a third way down the page, I was wondering when this darn thing was going to end. So I scrolled down the rest of the way only to find out that, yes, my suspicion was correct, I was reading a novel on the topic of the résumé.

Sadly, I stopped reading this promising article.

My purpose today is not to write about the ideal length of a blog post. No, I’m writing about the importance of why brevity is important in your job search and at work.

Brevity in your written communications

1. The debate over the one- or two-page résumé has some merit. My answer to this one has always been, it depends. If you can write a one-page résumé that covers all your relevant accomplishments, do it.

Otherwise your two-page résumé has to be compelling enough for the reviewer to read. Often we’re in love with our own words, but this doesn’t mean others will, especially if what you write is superfluous.

2. Jack Dorsey, the creator of Twitter, had something going when he launched a social media application that allows users to tweet only 140 characters, including spaces. At first I was frustrated with the limitation—and I still think it’s too short—but I’ve since come to see the brilliance of this model.

The twesume was created to make the hiring process quicker. One simply wrote a 140-character tweet with their résumé attached. If the recipient was drawn to the tweet, they would open the applicant’s résumé. Sadly, the twesume didn’t take hold.

3. Thankfully LinkedIn puts limits on characters for its profile sections. For example, you’re only allowed 2,000 characters for the Summary and Employment sections, 120 for your Headline, and other character limitations.

This has caused me to think more carefully about what I write on my profile. These limits have also kept the length of prose under control for those who, like me, tend to be verbose.

4. Don’t you hate long e-mail messages? If you’re nodding in total agreement, you and I are on board with this one. The general rule is that if your e-mail to a supervisor or colleague exceeds two paragraphs, get your butt of your chair and go to his office.

A good rule of thumb is to write your brief message in the Subject Header, e.g., Meet for a marketing meeting at 2pm in the White room on Tuesday, 11/18. The body of the e-mail can contain the topics to be discussed.

Brevity in your verbal communications

5. The interview is not a time when you want to ramble on about irrelevant details. Answer the questions as concisely as possible, while still demonstrating value. If the interviewer needs to know more, he’ll ask for clarification or deliver a follow-up question.

Many people have lost the job opportunity because they talked too much. When I conduct mock interviews, I sometimes feel as though I’ll nod off and lose my concentration.

I’m not the only one who feels this way. People who’ve interviewed others will concur that long answers can be so painful that they’ll end the interview before asking the remaining questions.

Listen2

6. Brevity is also important when you’re networking. People generally like to be listened to, not talked at. Allow your networking partners to explain their situation and needs, and then try to come up with solutions.

Conversely, your networking partners should want to hear about you. On occasion you’ll come across people who don’t get the listening aspect and will make your networking experience painful. Do people the favor of listening to what they have to say, and give your advice with concise answers.

7. At work you must practice brevity whenever possible. It’s said that extraverts tend to talk more than introverts, whereas introverts are better listeners. Try to be an ambiverta mixture of the two dichotomies. Apply the proper amount of listening and talking.

Keep this in mind when you’re speaking with your manager, as she is extremely busy. So state your business as clearly as possible and listen carefully to her suggestions. The same applies to meetings. Don’t dominate them by interrupting and talking on too long.


I’m brought back to the blog post I couldn’t finish which I’m sure is very good, based on the number of comments it received. It’s a shame I’ll never find out, and I wonder if those who provided comments actually read the whole post.

*Many believe the appropriate length is 750 words maximum. I’ve failed this rule by 30 words.

Photo: Flickr, jamelah e.

 

6 reasons why introverts prefer to write

 

Hands on KeyboardLately I’ve been receiving voice-mails from one of my customers asking me to call him back to answer his questions. Not to ignore him, I have primarily responded to his calls with e-mails. This is preferable to getting caught in lengthy phone conversations during a busy time of the day.

Trying to make the best use of my time at work makes me think of six reasons why introverts–I’m included among them, in case you’re wondering–sometimes prefer to write rather than converse over the phone or in person.

  1. Conversations can have no limit. Have you been involved in one-sided conversations, where you’re the one doing most of the listening? Although introverts are said to be good listeners, being treated as a sounding board is not their idea of fun. When communication is conducted with the buffer of e-mail, it is two-way and the introvert feels engaged in the conversation.
  2. Self-promotion is easier in writing. Some people call self-promotion bragging because it means speaking highly of themselves, but I tell them it’s not bragging if 1) it’s true and 2) you’re asked about your accomplishments. Nonetheless, self-promotion can be uncomfortable for introverts, particularly if they have to deliver it verbally. When I want to make my manager aware of an accomplishment, I shoot her an e-mail.
  3. Writing is less exhausting. An introvert feels like he’s on stage when he has to talk at extended lengths of time. An extravert doesn’t want to leave the stage. The act of speaking is not problematic for the introvert, it’s sustaining the conversations over a long period of time that drains their batteries. Writing gives introverts a welcome break from hours of speaking.
  4. Writing gives introverts time to think. Introverts prefer to think before speaking, while extraverts sometimes speak before thinking. We don’t blame the chatty extraverts–it’s their nature. But an introvert doesn’t want to be misunderstood and writing prevents this. One strength I admire about the extravert is her propensity for small talk, because I struggle with it. But when it comes to writing, I can write my thoughts in my own sweet time.
  5. Writing is required to conduct a successful job search and succeed in business. That’s only part of it, though. Great verbal communication skills are necessary in networking, telephone communications, and of course the interview. But when it comes to writing a résumé , cover letter, LinkedIn profile, and other correspondences, an introvert is at his best. At work the introvert feels most creative when he writes. He’d rather have time to reflect; leave the brainstorming to the extravert.
  6. Writing is fun. I know I don’t speak for all introverts, but some consider writing as a release of creativity and a way to express their thoughts to a larger audience. Because you blog, write novels or poems, or simply keep a diary; does that mean you’re an introvert? Of course not. There are plenty of extraverts who love to write. I just happen to be one who enjoys writing every day. Call me nuts.

I remember a time in college when a schoolmate asked me what I thought was more important, verbal or written communications. I immediately said “written communications,” and he argued for verbal communications. His argument was sound and he spoke compassionately about being able to address audiences real-time. As I was leaving the room, he seemed to be talking unaware of my absence.

3 areas of your career when effective communications is essential

communicationOne story I tell in my workshops is about how a former customer of mine improved communications between two warring departments. He told me that these groups were literally at war with each other and just couldn’t play well together.

He further explained that he would call members of the groups together and make them “talk” to each other. “I also made note of their body language and facial expressions. If I noticed hostility, I’d mention it and tell them I could see their hostility. Did I make them kiss and make up? No. But it almost got to that point.

If you haven’t given thought to your communications, you should. You should think about how it affects the aspects of your education, job search, and job. You should also think about the ways you communicate.

In College

Networking2College is the beginning of the rest of your life, as the cliché goes. Therefore, it’s important that you strengthen your verbal and written communication skills. And you don’t have to major in Communications in order to strengthen your communications skills.

Your verbal communications. Take advantage of any opportunities you have to present in front of a group. As scary as it may seem, you will be better prepared for the workforce. Try to ignore your fear and think that this is part of your education.

You’re not only communicating with your mouth; you’re also communicating with your body language, facial expressions, and voice intonation. The more animated you are (within reason) the better your message will come across. Some believe that effective verbal communications is 80% presentation.

Your written communications. When you write expository papers for your classes, put your best effort forth. Be concise, yet informative. The working world prefers ideas presented in writing that are as short as possible.

This includes emails, proposals, marketing literature, whitepapers, etc. I remember a marketing manager saying to me, “Brevity is the key to success.” She was right.

You’ll learn that when you leave college and enter your job search that your success will depend on your marketing campaign. This will include your written and verbal communications. Don’t focus on only one form of communications, though.

In your job search

Commission having a Job interview.Networking will be a valuable activity in your job search and require excellent communication skills. It’s by networking that you will penetrate the Hidden Job Market, which is a topic in itself. Your goal is to be known by people who matter.

Important forms of communications include your ability to articulate your talents and goals. It’s also important to listen to the people with whom you’re networking. Listening is a key component of communications. I’ve been to networking events where I felt like a sounding board. Don’t do that to others.

Once your networking has led you to the decision makers of organizations, it’s time to put your written communication skills to use. Write resumes (plural) that speak to the needs of employers. Create a strong online presence with your LinkedIn profile.

The interview will arrive after you’ve put your efforts into networking and writing strong marketing documents. It’s at the interview that you’ll have to shine with answers to the tough questions. Where you’ll have to come across as confident and affable. Where ultimately you’ll have to demonstrate your communication skills.

At work

BrainstormingFortuneLiveMediaCongratulations, you landed a job. Now is the time when your communication skills will help you in performing well and progress among the ranks. Your colleagues and supervisors will expect you to be articulate and clear when presenting ideas.

Company meetings are a great example of how important it is to present clear ideas. Let’s say you have to report on the social marketing campaign you’re working on. The group of twenty people, including the director of the organization, want to know the specifics of the project.

To your credit you’ve come prepared. You walk to the center of the room (don’t sit) to deliver your PowerPoint presentation. You flick through each slide, talking about how you’ll employ Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn to promote the organization.

Your body language demonstrates confidence, the tone of your voice is upbeat, you smile and communicate effectively with your hands. You notice that the director is smiling and nodding while you’re talking.

Bringing it together

Communications constantly ranks high on employers’ lists of essential skills. There’s no secret why. How you’re graded in school relies on how well you present your projects, how well you write your papers.

How you’re perceived during your job search has a great deal to do with your ability to express your value. And don’t forget the importance of listening. You must employ written communication skills to land the interview. And finally, it will be your ability to verbalize your value to employers that will land the job.

But it doesn’t end at the interview. You will demonstrate your communication skills at work in a variety of ways. Throughout your professional life communication skills will play a role in your success.

A Heart-Warming Story

A blog entry from Martin Yate called Put Joy in Your Life is touching and on the surface seems to have nothing to do with the job search.

But putting aside the fact that Joshua Bell, one of the greatest musicians in the world, is playing merely for fun, let’s stretch our imagination and envision some analogy to the job search.

Maybe a lesson about being unsuccessful because of poor marketing and the inability to sell oneself. Joshua only made a handful of money.

“After 45 minutes of continuous playing: Only 6 people stopped and listened for a short while. About 20 gave money but continued to walk at their normal pace. The man collected a total of $32,” writes Martin.

If we thing long and hard, we could think of some way to relate the story to the job search. The inability to understand one’s audience; as in poorly written or verbal communications.

This could be a lesson on being the most qualified person for the job (the guy’s world famous) but not getting it because he’s playing to the wrong audience. Obvious. 

But I’m sure our analysis of the story would trivialize it and probably make a mess of the message Martin is trying to send.

Read the story on Martin’s blog and you may ask, “Why is it posted on Knock ‘Em Dead’s blog?” On the other hand, it may hit you like a brick and make complete sense…it’s just an awesome story about a man having some fun.