Alberta is standing on one side of an event staring across the room at the organisation she’d love to work for when she graduates. She’s done a pass-by and maybe managed a nod but now she’s standing at the other side of the room wondering how to make them notice her. Other than breaking into song or dancing around the room, Alberta is not going to make contact by standing at a distance and not communicating.
Sadly - employers don’t have a sixth sense about our brilliance. So if Alberta doesn’t go and talk to them, they will never know that she is a great person with clever ideas that could be a great asset to their team.
Otto is sitting in a group who are trying to pull together a project for a presentation. Otto hasn't said a word through any of the three meetings so far, except that he had to leave early one time.
Sadly - nobody has a clue that behind Otto's closed face there is a huge brain full of ideas that he can't quite articulate.
Alberta and Otto are locked into a sub world due to a lack of decent communication skills, yet communication is one of the most essential skills we need as humans, whether for work or in our personal lives.
While most of us are comfortable and confident around our own kind - family and/or friends - we need to be able to call on that confidence when talking to people we don’t know. Being able to communicate well improve your job chances enormously and help you become valued within an organisation. .
Employers want people who can
This doesn’t mean you need to become a loud mouthy sales person or the extrovert that always organises the parties. It means that you feel comfortable about having a conversation.
Say more than hello to the person next to you in a lecture theatre, workshop or café this week. Ask what they study or comment on something going on around you both. It is amazing how quickly people will respond to conversation when it is offered to them on a plate – many people struggle to start small talk.
If you are on the receiving end of a conversational opener – grab it with both hands. Respond with interest. Even a polite ‘How's your day’ or ‘What do you think of ….’ with your local barista is practice in starting and holding a conversation with someone you don’t know personally. Hairdressers are stars at it, they can talk to anyone - and more cleverly – can get anyone and everyone to talk to them!
Think of how you feel when someone shows you a tiny bit of attention with a greeting (how's your day), a compliment (love your shirt). The warmth of that moment makes it easy to establish a conversation and respond in kind.
A great way to get practice with communication is through the AUT Edge Award and Beyond AUT (award for postgraduate students). These awards require you to do volunteering hours that get you out in the community talking to – aggghhhh – strangers. Edge students often comment on how difficult the first day can be, but how quickly they find their communication skills improve. They may be with strangers but they have the volunteering activity in common to talk about and that builds their confidence to talk to other people in other situations more easily.
Make sure you don't become an Alberta or Otto. Finding ways to communicate with others will help your study and you will find that job search, networking and interviewing are not such a big hurdle.
Written by AUT careers writer, Angela McCarthy