Students often ask how they will know what areas to focus on in communication, since it is such a broad area. My answer is to always start with some basic analysis on what the student likes to do and does not. Then move to strengths and areas that need to be improved as far as professional skills. One of the ways to learn more about aptitudes is to ask people you trust to give you unbiased feedback. Ask colleagues, peers, and supervisors for feedback on what are your particular strengths and weaknesses. Since confidence in communication skills in the job market is key, ask for feedback from those you trust about your communication abilities as well. You may be very surprised about what you hear.
Whether your dream job involves working for someone else or starting your own business, you will need to build communication skills which include being able to persuade, negotiate, understand nonverbal cues, listen, collaborate, and express yourself well in written and oral contexts. Communication skills are also the foundation to other skills necessary in the workplace-such as time management, organization, critical thinking-and are vital to being a successful leader in any profession.
This second step includes taking a personality and a career aptitude test, but do not answer based on what you think you should because this will skew the results. Answer what you really feel. If your skills or knowledge base is not what you wish them to be, that is fine (you can always work on those), but do not answer the questions based on what you think is supposed to be the right answer, what your friends would say, or what you wish to be. Honesty is key in self-reflection.
After you gather your personality and aptitude test results, review job websites and discover which keywords job positions are seeking. Large job posting websites such as jobvite.com, monster.com, careerbuilder.com, glassdoor.com, indeed.com, and LinkedIn.com offer many options for reviewing job postings, posting a resume, career services and more. When you view the job postings that may be of interest to you, ask yourself these questions:
Are the main keywords listed in the posting appealing to you?
Can you see yourself being motivated and inspired to do your best in these jobs?
Do you currently have the skills and knowledge base to fit with these positions? Even if you do not, are these areas that excite you enough to seek further professional development and education for the future?
Make a list of the job descriptions that fit with your interests and another list of those that do not. As a side note, makes sure when you do decide to send in a resume that it has every key word mentioned in the job posting in it. Often the first review of a resume is a computer program seeking those key words before passing the resume on to the next step.
After creating your possible job lists, you will need to learn more about those jobs and what they entail. There are several ways to do this including finding a mentor, volunteering, internships, and networking. Seek out a mentor working in the industry (and even the job position) in which you are interested. Only someone working in the specific industry can provide basics of the culture, responsibilities of the job, and advancement opportunities, and answer your questions. One way to find a mentor and to network in general is on professional networking sites such as LinkedIn.com, Xing.com, and Spoke.com.
I once was talking with a friend who wanted to change professions and work as a creative designer for a toy manufacturer. She took the opportunity to talk to all of her friends, family, and professional contacts to inquire how best to make that career change. I gave her some advice, but then I thought about her situation throughout the day. That night I was talking to a parent of one of my son’s friends and she mentioned she worked for Mattel. Was this coincidence? Well, if I had not known that my friend was seeking that position, it would never have registered in my mind. What was the result? I gave the contacts to each person and my friend ended up getting a job which fit well with her goals. The bottom line is that people do not know what your goals are unless you tell them and you never know where the next opportunity will come from, so seek advice and feedback from everyone.
In addition to keeping in touch with your network, professional websites also works well because you can follow organizations you are interested in to learn more. Professional social networking sites such as LinkedIn.com and Xing.com make it simple to find out more about the careers, organizations, and jobs that are attractive to you. Create a profile if you do not have one (remember to edit well so there are no typos) and make sure any email addresses given are professional. Do not use your personal accounts such as . It is easy to set up a brand new account exclusively for job seeking. You can also add the personal touch with a professional photo. One tip when creating profiles in more than one setting, make sure that all the information given is the same-and truthful of course! Do not guess on dates, titles, and names or embellish, because any differences can create a message of dishonesty or fabrication, which can ruin credibility.
For example, in the communication field, there are prominent communication organizations such as the National Communication Association, Public Relations Society of America (which also has a designated student organization ), American Communication Association , and International Association of Business Communicators among many others including regional associations. All of these organizations have conferences that anyone can attend and are the perfect opportunity to have face-to- face interaction with those within the community.
The caveat to networking is to not abuse your contacts. Make sure to be respectful of the amount of contact, how often, and if the person is able to directly provide knowledge of the situation. What this means is, do not spam everyone you have ever met, but be strategic about requests that can directly help. When establishing your professional network, first identify what connections are important to you and your career path and then strategically plan how you will use them.
Another way to discover aptitude within an industry, organization, or job position is to volunteer or find an internship. This will help you learn about the organizational culture-take a walk through the building’s, lobby, or other publicly accessible areas. Look at the dress, offices, what is allowed as decor, what is the noise level, do you see a hierarchy? What kind of vibe do you get? These are all nonverbal cues about the culture of the organization that can provide more clues as to your interest in pursuing the connection.