I am a student of English, and I love it in all its forms. Language is powerful, adaptable, and one of the few things that separates us from our hairier cousins. The ability to communicate complex ideas and to transmit knowledge and experience is incredibly useful and really quite amazing. And when you add the complexity that arises within a language: like regional dialects (regiolects), or ethnic or societal dialects (ethnolects and sociolects, respectively), things get really amazing. Language adapts and evolves to suit the needs of its speakers, and it’s a really incredible thing. Don’t get me started.
When you’re looking for work, communication is your most powerful tool. You’ll need to read job postings and sift through requirements. You’ll need to write introductory emails or letters, and you’ll need to proofread your resume, compose thank you notes, and speak clearly during interviews. You need to ask clear questions and provide accurate and appropriate answers.
And perhaps most importantly, you must monitor your tone.
Professional communications require a professional tone. Sociologists have a term: “code-switching”, and we all do it. It’s what we do when we change the way we communicate with others. The language and tone you use when talking to your parents is different from the tone you use when talking to your friends. We behave very differently when we’re speaking to a four-year-old and when we’re speaking to a fourteen-year-old, and VERY differently when we’re talking to a police officer.
It’s something you do already. There are expectations in social situations, and you need to meet them in order to communicate effectively. When you’re looking for work, you need to maintain a professional tone.
There are lots of resources to help you with business communication, which is what you should be using when you are looking for work. There are also some cautionary tales about using too much jargon or popular business-speak. Here’s a quick overview of some of the tips they offer, and one or two that might not be covered:
- Use an active voice and keep your tone conversational. But not informal. It’s easier to walk this line than you might think. Avoid slang, for instance. Say you would like to meet, not that you wanna. Say that you will be there at 10, not that you’re gonna try to be there for ten.
- Avoid jargon and buzzwords. Industry-specific language is often good to reassure potential employers of your bona fides. However, don’t lean on them. They’re a tool, not a crutch. Some people seem to use jargon to obfuscate, not communicate. Clear and simple is usualy best.
- Proofread. Proofread. Proofread.
- Grammar is important. I’m not saying that just because I’m a word nerd and a former English teacher. Make sure you know your basics like subject-verb agreement, the differences between count and non-count nouns, and that almost every sentence should contain a subject and a predicate.
- Spelling matters, too. Tapping and taping are very different things.
- Plan. Do a little research. Make sure you have people’s names and titles right.
- Sign off. Use “Sincerely,”, “Regards,”, or “Thank you,” Make sure your contact information is in your email signature.
- There is a time and a place for lolspeak. This is not it. DO NOT RESPOND TO AN INTERVIEW INVITATION WITH “k. c u then.”
Get some advice, read some tips, or get in touch with any questions. Our employment counsellors are here to help.