Effective Business Communication: A Guide for New Grads

I know plenty of vibrant, mature and talented young people. However, I often encounter plenty of recent graduates that don’t know how to communicate properly in the business world.

Effective business communication isn’t really taught in college and sadly, it seems there are a lot of young people who need education on this.

As thousands of college graduates enters the workforce in the coming weeks, I think it might help for them to have a guide about business communication etiquette. After all, how young people communicate with their friends is very different than what’s expected and accepted in the workplace.

Business Communication Tips

I asked my friends and colleagues to share their business etiquette and communication tips for Millennials and recent grads.

Whether you’re a recent graduate or have been in working for a few years, here are some business communication tips that will help you excel in the workplace:

  • Check availability for meetings. Don’t set meetings (or show up to meet with someone) without setting a time first. Just because something works for you, doesn’t mean it will work for someone else. And, if you’re scheduling meetings with your team, check their calendar if you have access. That saves everyone a lot of time.
  • Communicate changes. When you’re sick, running late or can’t make a meeting, let people know. Don’t make people wait for you because you failed to communicate a change in plans.
  • Show up on time. The old adage still applies – if you’re on time, you’re late. Make it a practice to show up for meetings 5-10 minutes early. And, more importantly, don’t show up late.
  • Dress appropriately. Understand your company’s dress code and take a cue from your colleagues. Don’t dress like you just rolled out of bed or like you’re going out to a bar. Be professional and put together – even if your company’s dress code is casual. After all, it’s always better to be overdressed than underdressed.
  • Understand communication preferences. Find out how your company uses various forms of communication – phone, email and text. Every office is different. Some places are okay with texting, others aren’t. A good rule of thumb is to follow the lead of your boss and colleagues. When in doubt, ask! Don’t assume how people like to be communicated with. 
  • Use texting for short communication. If your company is okay with texting, use that for quick and timely communication. But, if your message is more than a sentence or two, send an email or pick up the phone.
  • Use proper grammar. Don’t write emails like you text your friends. Use proper grammar, capitalization and punctuation in your communication.
  • Don’t underestimate the handwritten note. Despite all of the technology available, going analog can be your best option. Handwritten notes can make a huge impact – whether it’s a thank you note after an interview or sales meeting.
  • Give people proper attention. That means, make eye contact when you meet them. Give a proper handshake (not a limp fish one). Listen when others talk. And, by all means, don’t stare at your phone or type away on your computer during meetings.
  • Know when to pick up the phone. There are some things that just can’t be solved via email or text. Don’t let email chains go on forever. And, don’t cop out by delivering bad news via text or email. Sometimes, it’s far more effective and efficient to pick up the phone or walk down the hall to get the answers you need or deliver important information.
  • Give context. When sending an email, LinkedIn invite or making phone call, give people context for the conversation. Who are you? Why are you reaching out? What do you want? Provide that information for the most productive conversation.
  • Use a professional email address. Especially if you’re looking for a job. After all, it’s hard to take partygirrrrl@yahoo.com seriously. 
  • Drop the “like”. Avoid using filler language such as “like” or “um” during interviews and presentations. Keep your tone polished and professional.
  • Be smart on social media. Even if you’re job isn’t in marketing, employers pay attention to your social media activity. That means, don’t complain about your job, your boss or your co-workers on social channels. And, you might want to keep your party habits to yourself.

This is by no means a comprehensive list, but I think this covers many primary business communication tips that would help a recent graduate get their career started on the right foot.

What business communication tips would you add? 

About Laura Click

Laura Click is founder and CEO of Blue Kite Marketing, a Nashville-based integrated marketing firm. In addition to being the lead blogger on the Blue Kite blog, Laura is a proud Mizzou alum, avid runner and dog lover. You can connect with Laura on Twitter at @lauraclick, on LinkedIn or Google Plus.

  • http://www.ltc-associates.com/ LTCA INC

    Good advice! Among recurring problems we’ve seen:

    1) Not communicating changes. Why this is so hard to comprehend in the young adult mind I’ll never understand, but I think they don’t want to get in trouble, get embarrassed, or they simply misjudge the situation. It’s hardly confined to new grads… not everyone is considerate of others, which leads to…

    2) Keep your promises. Anyone here ever do any remodeling or work with contractors? Is it also your experience that 90% can “do” the job, but simply lack the fundamental skills of running a business, ie showing up on time, communicating changes, keeping promises? I didn’t mean this to come across as a rant, but a lesson for new grads: half of competition is showing up.

    3) Email, hmmm: Although I agree partygrrrrl @ gmail is not an auspicious start to one’s career (depending on the line of work), I will say that not everyone needs a “corporate-speak” address either. We work with colleagues who express their personality and it’s fine. Some hypotheticals to give an idea: VandyFan @ gmail.com or what are obviously home accounts GaryandLinda1945 @ yahoo.com. It doesn’t bother me, it’s a big world. Once we hire someone, they’ll get a Laura @ ltc-associates.com email address from us anyhow…

    Thanks!
    @ltcassociates:disqus

    • http://flybluekite.com/ Laura Click

      Excellent points and additions to the discussion, Stephen. I think that keeping your promises is huge. And, when you can’t, you need to communicate that. I think keeping the lines of communication open is key to success in business.

      As to the point about email – I think it does matter when someone is searching for a job. The examples you suggested are far more benign than some of the things I’ve seen. You have to remember that your email speaks volumes about your personal brand too! Also, to that point, I know plenty of entrepreneurs and small businesses don’t have professional URLS. I think it’s important to invest the tiny bit into getting a branded and owned email address. It’s great for branding and helps legitimize you as a company.

      • http://www.ltc-associates.com/ LTCA INC

        That’s surprising to me that any sole proprietor or small business wouldn’t obtain a vanity email. It’s just so gosh-darn easy to set-up, and cheap as all get-out.

        • http://flybluekite.com/ Laura Click

          It IS surprising. Yet, I see it all the time.