Ask any U.S. employer for the number one most important skill they look for in business graduates, and the vast majority will answer, "communication skills." The Graduate Management Admission Council's 2017 Corporate Recruiters Survey Report examines the current hiring outlook for recent MBA and business master's graduates. It reports that out of the five top-ranked skills, four fall under the communication skill sets -- oral and written communication, listening, and presentation skills. How can graduates develop these highly desirable skills and show employers they have what it takes for leadership roles?
- Oral Skills
The best leaders are usually outstanding speakers, and strong verbal communication skills are the most sought-after skill across all industries. For many young professionals, the ability to speak well is often a talent that has to be sharpened. Oral communication doesn't simply mean you can speak intelligently, but you must also demonstrate empathy and sincerity.
If you're preparing for a meeting, consider your audience. How will you convey your message so that your meaning is clear to those you are trying to influence? Show empathy by considering your words carefully and acknowledging others' views. Demonstrate sincerity by meaning what you say and saying what you mean. Admit when you don't know the answer to a question, but also acknowledge that you'll find an answer. Honesty will gain you admirers.
- Written Skills
Emails and texts have led us into some bad writing habits. The best writers are always readers, and you're more likely to struggle with writing if you don't read regularly. Immediately improve your writing skills by writing short sentences. Lengthy sentences run the risk of lacking clarity, and your message will be lost if you lose your audience. Utilize short paragraphs for simplicity, and incorporate bullet points and subheadings for longer passages. Always consider your audience and their interpretation when your write.
- Active Listening
Successful communicators are the best listeners, and exemplary listening skills spill over into every other communication skill set. Good listeners start with eye contact. Whether it's an individual conversation or a large presentation, maintaining eye contact indicates that you are not only listening but also receptive, empathetic and care about what they have to say.
To show you are listening, nod that you understand their point (body language) and repeat back what the other person said so they feel heard. Asking for confirmation gives the speaker the opportunity to clarify their point. Don't interrupt -- and remember to smile.
- Presentation Skills
Who hasn't sat through a boring PowerPoint presentation? PowerPoint presentations are banned at Apple and Facebook because the leaders at those companies believe that they can actually hinder communication. Telling a compelling story is much more engaging to an audience than watching a screen, and outstanding communicators are great storytellers.
- Nonverbal Communication
Finally, outstanding communicators are comfortable in their body, and most communication is not through words but through nonverbal cues. Check your body language, making sure your posture is open and relaxed. Concentrate on making eye contact, smiling and nodding when appropriate. Avoid crossing your arms or slouching when sitting, as both show you as closed off and uninterested.
Successful leaders, from Abraham Lincoln to Warren Buffett, are all great communicators. Developing these essential traits will show employers you have the skill sets they demand for leadership positions.
Learn more about the Baylor online MBA program.
Sources:GMAC: 2017 Corporate Recruiters Survey Report
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