Opening career doors with good communication skills
What can help today’s students become more employable in tomorrow’s workforce? According to national expert Danny Rubin, it’s mastering every day, simple communication skills such as emails, phone calls and meetings.
Rubin – founder of an eponymous online curriculum resource for business communication skills – will be headlining the upcoming ACTE’s National and Iowa’s Annual Virtual Work-Based Learning Conference on April 29-30. His keynote and breakout sessions will cover details on employability skills, how to write the best emails and tips for handling rejection, which are valuable for any work-based learning program.
With his extensive background as a reporter and consultant for national network news and as an author of three books, including “Wait, How Do I Write This Email?,” Rubin brings industry standards and best practices to his work with business communications and work-based learning programs.
Below, Rubin provides a glimpse into his philosophy on how good communication skills and etiquette can help students enhance their career skills and employability.
One of your mantras is “Write well, open doors.” Why should educators emphasize communication skills to their students during work-based learning?
We know that writing is important in school. However, we can forget all of the little ways that writing comes into play in business and the real world. It can be an email, a thank you note, or writing to get someone to understand our message. It’s become critical to make sure that students know that every message can hold the seeds of opportunity, so it’s important to do them well. When we learn to write professionally and treat the recipient with respect, doors will open. It can lead to an internship, a job, a career or an opportunity. It can all depend on how we write. It can be an uncommon approach to focus on writing and the basics, but it really is significant.
You’re speaking at three sessions, including the keynote, at the upcoming work-based learning conference, and one session solely focuses on crafting emails, which may typically be a topic that we sometimes overlook. Why is writing a good email such an important skill?
An email is the first impression in the business world, and since we do these things all of the time, it’s a highly valuable skill. The act of writing an email holds tremendous importance, and we need to look at this routine exercise in a new way. It’s a window of opportunity for students as well as any other employee. A work-based learning program needs to include how to write an email for an opportunity, and it should be a core thing, a skill that is included in an intentional way. Devoting time to emails makes it a centerpiece for instruction.
Do you think the advent of texting, social media and writing through emojis and stunted abbreviations has affected the way people, especially young people, understand how to communicate in a business setting?
Like with anything, you don’t know what you don’t know. You can’t expect this next generation to communicate with their friends using texting and emojis and then magically know how to communicate in a business setting. They have to be shown and have examples of what to do. These skills matter, and the only way we will see improvement is through a more concerted effort. Educators need to focus on the day-to-day skills to help students open doors. Changing how we approach work-based learning and including this type of skill-building into the core part of instruction can make a difference.
With the ongoing pandemic, much of the world has utilized Zoom meetings to connect and communicate for business, so your inclusion of this topic at the conference will be very timely. What are some common mistakes you see students as well as adult employees make when using virtual meetings?
First, you want to be on camera. If they only see your name on the screen, they have no idea if you’re giving them your attention, and at a minimum, you should be giving someone your time and attention. It’s similar to attending a meeting in-person. You wouldn’t want to have your back to them the entire time. That would feel awful as a speaker or supervisor who is trying to connect with you. Show them you care what they have to say and give eye contact and attention. Those are the basics.
When you are presenting virtually, I always stress to stand up. It makes you sound more confident. You breathe better, you project better and you have more confidence in your hand gestures. The audience can feel your energy, similar to if you are in the front of a classroom or board room. Also, make sure your background is not distracting and has good lighting, so they are only focused on you and not your surroundings. Finally, look into the camera, imagine you’re talking to a crowd and bring your energy.
Rejection is hard for anyone. What are some basic things for students to remember when they don’t get the job?
What really counts is how you react. We all face rejection, and every single one of us has missed at something – even if we were qualified. Students who experience rejection can learn from it and know what to expect next time. One key thing when you receive rejection is to respond. Answer the email and thank them for the opportunity. You do not get angry and go silent. You respond and thank them. The person they initially pick may not work out, and employers will look at who responded versus the one that didn’t. Use the opportunity to make connections and grow. You never know when things may come back in your favor.
Registration for the ACTE’s National and Iowa’s Annual Virtual Work-Based Learning Conference closes on April 26.