Oral and written communication

Language exerts hidden power, like the moon on the tides. - Rita Mae Brown, American writer (1944- )

False words are not only evil in themselves, but they infect the soul with evil.  - Socrates, Greek philosopher (469- 399 BC)

The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.  - George Bernard Shaw, Irish dramatist (1856-1950)

Communication – the human connection – is the key to personal and career success.  - Paul J. Meyer, American businessman (1928- )

Communication, it seems, has always been the number one issue, challenge, and problem in the workplace. Consider the more recent example of GM's faulty ignition crisis of 2014. Senior Contributor for Forbes.com, Carmine Gallo characterizes this as a communication failure of epic proportions. With the two documented words "customer convenience" this substandard product safety issue was dismissed repeatedly and ultimately resulted in 13 deaths.1

For more than 20 years, the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) has conducted surveys that ask employers what skills they require in new graduates. Communication Skills has been at or near the top each year. Not surprisingly, NACE has also included communication in the Career Readiness Competencies. Specifically, NACE defines Oral/Written Communications as the ability to:

Articulate thoughts and ideas clearly and effectively in written and oral forms to persons inside and outside of the organization. The individual has public speaking skills; is able to express ideas to others; and can write/edit memos, letters, and complex technical reports clearly and effectively

As with critical thinking skills, much of any academic curricula involves the development of communication skills. Whether writing research papers, essay exams, class portfolios or emails to faculty, these are excellent examples for developing transferrable written communication skills. Likewise, class presentations, group projects, interview assignments, and advising appointments are ways to build transferrable oral communication skills. The challenge, once again, is the ability to connect these skills to your professional development.  Writing a resume, completing job applications, submitting a personal statement, giving an elevator pitch or acing an interview are just a few examples of how to use written and oral communication to launch a career.

Communication competency goes well beyond job searching, as well.  For better or worse, intelligence is judged on how well-spoken or grammatically correct one's communication is.2 So, here are three strategies for connecting your academic accomplishments to your career goals.

Maintain a career portfolio

Many courses will require you to create files or journal for your class assignments. These are academic portfolios designed for reflection, deeper learning, and of course, critical thinking. Portfolios are great ways to demonstrate not only communication skills but also all kinds of abilities and accomplishments. Career portfolios focus on the skills relevant to the field or industry for which you are interested in.  Career portfolio items, often called artifacts, can include but are not limited to resumes, references, transcripts, project summaries, work samples, honors, awards, thank you notes, images, or anything that represents your activities and achievements.  The important step is to take time to reflect on your learning and skill development. Writing about and discussing these experiences will not only help you build your communication skills but boost your career confidence and professionalism as well.

Get involved

Taking classes is only half of the truly marketable degree. Employers will want to know how you applied your learning. It does not matter if it is paid or not, experience matters. Volunteering in your community and connecting with others on campus are two ways to experience all the benefits of undergraduate education. Keep in mind, Wayne State University hosts over 400 student organizations through the Dean of Students Office. Even if there is not a group of interest, there is always the opportunity to start your own. The point is to use all the resources afforded to you to support your success.

Visit Career Services

One such resource is Career Services. Would you like help to start your career portfolio? Or perhaps you want to take advantage of the paid employment opportunities such as part-time on- and off-campus postings, internships, cooperative education, or full-time jobs after graduation through Handshake to gain professional experience.  Whether you are updating your resume, revising your personal statement, or preparing for an interview, Career Services also offers Stop-in Counseling for all kinds of career questions. To learn more about building professional communication strategies, be sure to visit or contact Career Services at www.careerservices.wayne.edu or (313) 577-3390 to schedule an appointment with a Career Planning Counselor.

Words – so innocent and powerless as they are, as standing in a dictionary, how potent for good and evil they become in the hands of one who knows how to combine them.  - Nathaniel Hawthorne, American Novelist (1804-1864)

References and resources

1Gallo, C. (June 9, 2014), "Two Misleading Words Triggered GM's Catastrophic Communication Breakdown" Forbes.com retrieved September 26, 2018, from https://www.forbes.com/sites/carminegallo/2014/06/09/two-misleading-words-triggered-gms-catastrophic-communication-breakdown/#2414e5ca047f

2Schloneger, R. M. (April 21, 2016) Is This Author Intelligent? The Effect of Spelling Errors on Perception of Authors Retrieved October 2, 2018, from https://digitalcommons.cedarville.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?referer=https://www.google.com/&httpsredir=1&article=1001&context=linguistics_senior_projects