If you ask an HR professional or hiring manager about the one trait they admire – and require – most in new hires, chances are they would confidently answer: communication skills.
And yet employers will also tell you that communication skills are sorely lacking in far too many recent graduates. The general feeling: higher education is not providing the tools and training required for young professionals to make the leap from classroom to cubicle.
To help close this communication skills gap, we asked members of the Young Entrepreneur Council this question:
“What is your best advice for becoming a master communicator early in your career?”
Here are some of their best answers:
1. Practice With Toastmasters
I’m a huge fan of Toastmasters. A number of our employees have completed the certificate program and results are clear. Anyone who needs to eliminate their fear of public speaking, brush up on tone, increase projection and eliminate filler words like “um” and “like” will benefit from this stellar non-profit. Chapters are worldwide and free for anyone to join.
2. Practice Your Pitch
There’s no better training than the cold pitch. Find someone random outside the office who’s willing to let you bend their ear. Take two minutes and describe you in an elevator pitch format, then ask for feedback. Not only does this keep your communication skills fresh; it can also help you hone your value proposition. Soon, you’ll know what doesn’t have impact, and what does.
3. Participate in a Media Spokesperson Training
Early in my career, before I even spoke regularly with the press, I completed a media spokesperson training. Even the best public speakers would benefit from the skills taught in one of these trainings. A day in front of a camera practicing crisis management and answering hard questions will improve anyone’s communication skills, whether it be with media or your manager.
4. Record an Accomplishment Video
I use a simple tool to train myself in communicating better on video and on stage. Every morning, I’ll turn my smartphone’s camera on myself. I clearly communicate three to five tasks I plan to accomplish that day and big ideas I’ve been thinking about. Right before I go to sleep, I watch the video again to have that feeling of accomplishment every day.
5. Compete in a Policy Debate
If you can participate in a policy debate, you can communicate anything and speak anywhere. If you want a crash course in communication, spend three weeks at a summer debate camp.The lessons learned there about poise, positioning and professionalism will last a lifetime. True, you may be the oldest one there, but you’ll be grateful you invested that time in yourself.
6. Take an Enneagram Test
I have used the Enneagram Test to really get to know myself. Once I found out what my communication style consisted of and what makes me tick, I was able to develop a better set of skills crafted for my personality and behaviors. Not only did it help me communicate better with others, but I learned how others communicate too.
7. Create a YouTube Channel
You’d be surprised by the effect that hosting a YouTube channel has on your communication skills. Not only does it force you to create scripts, presentations and impromptu dialogues, but it also puts you in front of an endless amount of viewers who can comment at their own will. Being in front of a camera helps you work on speaking naturally and fluently, while also getting a solid point across.
8. Take a Class in Creativity
This is kind of offbeat, but we recently did a two hour calligraphy class in our office. It was mainly to help get the creative juices flowing, but it really helped the design team because it allowed them to explore different edges. Although we don’t use calligraphy on our site, the class helped everyone on our team explore their creative side and learn a skill that is highly applicable to the events industry.
9. Read “How To Win Friends And Influence People”
There are a lot of books that cover the topic of communication and relationship building. My all-time favorite is Dale Carnegie’s “How To Win Friends And Influence People.” It covers all the topics related to managing, communicating and connecting with others. It’s an easy read and a great starting point for understanding how to truly communicate with people.
10. Try Gestalt Therapy
I’m finishing an 18-month program at the Gestalt Institute of Cleveland. Every two months, I would spend four days immersed in their training. While it is a therapeutic model, the training has been incredibly valuable to me. It has helped me learn how to create safe spaces within my company and with clients so more profound work can be done.
Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched BusinessCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.