Tips for Communicating Well at Work

Why in-person communication is still vital in the digital era.

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So your request isn't totally open-ended?

The strategy is, start with what you know, state your intended direction, and then get feedback, thoughts, or clarification. Because what that does for me is it shows me you've put some thought and judgement into the process ... If you come to me with a decision and I agree with you, how do you look? You look smart. If you come to me with a position and I disagree but you've given me your rationale behind it, I still think you look smart. If you come to me and say, "Jodi, what should I do?" What do I think? I have no idea whether or not you're smart. So take a stand, take a position, and then ask for feedback.

How could people who are looking for a job apply your advice?

The last part of the book is all about the personal elevator pitch … The strategy I use is destination, backstory, and connect the dots. What I mean by that is when you are looking for a job, I always find it interesting when people start by saying, "Hi, my name is Jodi Glickman. I studied social policy at Northwestern, and then I went to work at the EPA, and then I went to the Peace Corps, then I went to business school. And now I'm looking for a job and I think I want to go into brand management." I'm pretty bored listening to that. [Instead, share] your destination first. Tell me what you want to do or where you're going first. Then tell me where you came from, then connect the dots.

Everyone goes in reverse chronological order and it makes no sense … It's not relevant. I only care about what's relevant. When you start the story with where you're going, it's so much more compelling ... I don't care what you've done most recently, I want to know what's relevant to the job you're hoping to get.

[See How to Market Your Skills in Your Job Search.]

How should you respond when someone asks you a question you don't know the answer to?

Here's the strategy. [Say,] here's what I know, here's what I don't know, here's how I'll figure it out. A lot of people don't answer a question that way. They say, oh, you know, I don't know, or I'm not sure, I'll have to get back to you. What I always say is, I know this, I don't have that exact piece of information, but let me go get it for you right away. Boom, boom, boom.

Any final thoughts for U.S. News readers?

The best news of all is that you can learn this stuff … The conventional wisdom has always been that communication skills, you either had them or you didn't … [But] you can learn this and you will absolutely, 100 percent do better on your job.

agrant@usnews.com