Communication is one of the core skills for recent college graduates, according to employers. Communication style and strategies vary based on the method of communication (in person, email, text, social media, or presentations). Effective communication can also lay the groundwork for cultivating and maintaining mutually rewarding and beneficial working relationships with customers/clients, co-workers, and supervisors. Below are some ways to be an effective communicator in the workplace:

Pause Before Speaking

If you're a new employee, try to observe how your new workplace communicates and follow the best practices you see. You can offer ideas and suggestions, but don't forget to offer your opinion tactfully, keeping in mind colleagues and supervisors who may have much more experience. Consider asking questions before diving into a response.

Listen Attentively

When others speak, practice your “active listening” skills. Instead of preparing for what you'll say next, try to show you are interested in the other person and what they are saying. Look at them, nod to show you are listening, and ask questions or paraphrase what you heard (“So you’re saying…”) to make sure you understand. Notice both words and body language. Listening can help to prevent or minimize conflict or misunderstandings in the workplace.

Who, What, When, Where, Why – and How?

The Five W’s and one H can help make you a stronger communicator. So, when you’re communicating verbally or in writing, cover all six angles. Also, when you need to communicate, consider whether it should be spoken or written – and this depends on the content, purpose, situation, and the preference of your receiver.

Double-Check Emails

Always re-read emails before sending to make sure spelling and grammar is correct, but most importantly, your questions or messages are clear. Consider using a tool like the free version of Grammarly to help minimize errors and strengthen your professionalism in written communication. Respond to emails in a timely manner with an appropriate subject (Project Deadline), salutation (Hi Ms. Brown,) and signature (Best regards, Kevin Mikel). Avoid using overly casual language or abbreviations in emails. For important emails, consider asking a colleague or supervisor to proofread to ensure your message is strong and successful. See sample professional emails here.

Technology Etiquette

Turn off your laptop, phone, or smartwatch when in meetings or interacting with colleagues or supervisors. Try to engage and show interest with strong eye contact and by taking notes as needed. 

Stay Current

You can stay current in your field/industry by joining professional associations, talking to professionals in the field, attending conferences, watching webinars/videos, and reading articles. Ask colleagues or supervisors for some ideas of where to start for your field.

Policies and Procedures

Almost all organizations, regardless of size, have varying degrees of written policies and procedures.  Organizations usually maintain global or organization-wide policies and procedures, as well as some department- or area-specific policies and procedures. As an employee, you are expected to obtain and maintain a general working knowledge of those policies and procedures. Your Human Resources Department, in combination with your specific department, should provide or make available to you in some form these policies and procedures.

Often overlooked or underestimated are the unwritten policies and procedures of an organization, sometimes referred to as the organization’s culture or way of doing business and/or getting things done. Although not always immediately obvious, it is important for you to be aware of the existence of any unwritten policies and procedures. As long as these unwritten policies and procedures are not unlawful or unethical, it is often wise for you to be sensitive and even responsive to them.


Professional Email Communication

Emails are an opportunity to show your written communication skills and professionalism through tone and style. Choose to write emails, starting today, that are clear and professional. Here's an example of how to write a professional email to an instructor or facult member here at Southeastern.

Creating an Email

See more examples of professional communication through email and how to communicate with employers in the job search here.