Communication. First impressions. It all matters. You will be judged on your appearance and ability – but above all else, on how you can communicate verbally. That's face to face and on the phone.
Before the days of smart phones and instant messaging, came emails – and believe it or not, there was even life before the internet and the way that businesses communicated quickly was with a telephone conversation. Writing letters relied on the post and took time.
That gadget in your hand is great for your social life, posting photos, booking travel and concert tickets, messaging friends on whatever platform you choose – but to make a good impression for work, you need to be able to communicate clearly and effectively on the phone.
When you grow up with technology at your fingertips and your vast choice of communication channels, you might opt for the least intrusive, but fastest option of getting your message to the recipient. Doing this all the time means that you don’t actually speak to people and develop your verbal conversational skills. Knowing how to have a conversation without being able to read the other person’s body language is a skill that can be learned simply by practising and making yourself pick up the phone more often. Changing your tone and pitch to make sure that you sound interested and interesting is important – in a graduate role, your voice needs to convey authority, confidence and knowledge, you will have shown your academic ability through obtaining your degree, but if you can’t pick up the phone and talk to other people you will quickly come unstuck.
You probably remember recording your voice at school – the language lab lessons; answering questions in a foreign language and playing the tape back to listen to yourself – it’s enough to make most of us shudder at the memory. But it’s a useful lesson to be learned – practice really does makes perfect! When you are rehearsing this kind of thing at home, look in the mirror, smile as you talk, your voice will instantly lift and sound better. Remember this when you don’t have a mirror around – use your laptop screen or something shiny nearby, it’s a visual prompt that will really help you. There will be times where you call someone and you’ll be diverted to their voicemail – you need to feel confident that you can leave a clear message that they can understand, no mumbling or waffling – repeat your name and number if it’s the first time that you’ve called and remember to sound cheerful.
When you’re starting out in your first job, you’ll likely be given a range of responsibilities and tasks – making quick phone calls both internally to other departments and colleagues as well as externally to clients - could easily be one of those jobs. You need to be able to take on this kind of task and create a good impression rather than appear worried or incapable of something that really is so simple. Your generation will have to work harder at this, simply because you’ll have grown up with the technology that has replaced a lot of phone conversations.
So next time you reach to pick up your phone to message someone – use it as a telephone and speak to them instead!