OMG! – Convey the Right Image with Professional Communications

Let’s face it – texting has taken over a large part of the world. People we never thought would consider texting are texting like there’s no tomorrow. Friends text friends, moms text kids about their whereabouts, dads text kids about their favorite sports teams, kids ignore all texts from parents…..you get the idea. The speed at which information is exchanged can be mind-boggling. While that speed in many ways makes things much easier, it sometimes comes at a cost.

I’ve recently noticed “text-speak” creeping into more formal types of communications, including cover letters, resumes and e-mails with current and prospective employers. Now, to be clear, there should be no problem with “text-speak” in the right context. For instance, if my friend tells me, via text, that she will “C me in 5”, that message is totally appropriate and clear to me and probably saved her several keystrokes to boot! However, seeing a cover letter with the phrase “Ready 2 start 2morow” is probably not going to convey a message of professionalism and sound judgment about when to use various forms of communication.

Communicating well, especially in writing, is still a critical skill desired by many employers. In addition, how a person chooses to communicate in certain circumstances and settings can potentially tell an employer a lot about how a person might exercise judgment in other business situations. For example, if a person chooses to use language as described above in a cover letter, what might they write in an e-mail to an important customer or client?

The best way to approach written communication is to carefully think about the context first. Some important things to consider:

• Who am I sending this to? How well do I know this person?
• Is my form of communication appropriate for the message/situation? (Hint: If it is for a cover letter or resume and contains “text-speak”, the answer is almost certainly, “No!”)
• How might the person receiving my communication perceive it?
• Is there a better or more appropriate way to say what I need to say?

So while texting friends, family and acquaintances, by all means shorten those messages, master texters! No reason to ruin the fun of telling someone with whom you need to end a text conversation: “TTYL”. When it comes to professional and business communications, however, it is best to be as professional as possible, or you will be unlikely to ever get yourself to the stage of receiving “OTJT” (on-the-job training)!

** Matt is the HR staffing manager for American Family’s west and central territories and works out of our Denver office. He has been with American Family for 14 years and spent seven years in claims before spending the last seven in HR. Outside of American Family, you can find Matt cheering on all of the Denver sports teams (which he admits is painful at times) or visiting new cities around the country.

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