Tweets and texts rule the day, but that doesn't build the kind of communication skills that employers are desperately seeking.
Employers Want Strong Writers
Communication and writing skills are in high demand by recruiters and employers. According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers, written communication was the No. 3 most desired quality overall, behind leadership skills and the ability to work as a team member.
Let's say you're an engineer. You've invested lots of time in your hard skills, and your technical expertise is stellar. But you don't understand why after 15 job interviews, you still didn't get hired. If you think that writing doesn't apply in your job field, you couldn't be more wrong.
According to national surveys by the Association of American Colleges and Universities, employers want to hire candidates who can write coherently, think creatively and analyze quantitative data.
'Clear Writing Is a Sign of Clear Thinking'
Burning Glass Technologies, which studies job trends in real time by mining data from employment ads, found that competent writing and communications skills are scarce among job candidates. This is across nearly every industry, even engineering and information technology (IT).
Jason Fried, founder of Basecamp -- a project management software company -- also champions the importance of writing skills in the workplace. In his book, "Rework," he says:
If you are trying to decide among a few people to fill a position, hire the best writer. [His/her] writing skills will pay off. That's because being a good writer is about more than clear writing. Clear writing is a sign of clear thinking. Great writers know how to communicate. They make things easy to understand. They can put themselves in someone else's shoes. They know what to omit. And those are qualities you want in any candidate. Writing is making a comeback all over our society ... Writing is today's currency for good ideas.
Five Tips to Become a Better Writer
- Assess your writing and your desired job field and consider enrolling in a community college writing class appropriate for your skill level. And while you're at it, throw a creative writing class in there for good measure.
- Read. Read a lot of good writing, particularly in your desired career field. Pay particular attention to how the writers build their article or essay. Think of it as reverse engineering a building to see how it was constructed. Be curious. Ask questions like, "Why did the writer use this turn of phrase?" Think of the desired effect. Remember that writers choose words for a reason and a desired effect.
- Join a career mentoring network, like Veterati, and learn from industry professionals how to become a better writer and communicator.
- Be visual and conversational in your writing. One of the most important and often-overlooked tools to help you become a better writer is to read your work out loud. It helps to record and play it back. If recording a video is too distracting, just record audio. Listen closely for anything that doesn't sound right. Reading your writing aloud will help you develop a more natural conversational style and flow.
- Revise, revise, revise. Writers often are too close to the work to see mistakes. Having another objective reader or two review your work can be useful in catching things you've missed. (Even good writers miss things.) This is where a professional mentor or someone in your career network can help. Think of it as your personal editorial team.
Be patient with yourself and the process of becoming a better writer. As with any skill, it requires time and effort. And don't be afraid to reach out. Most people are happy to lend a hand and help you in your quest to become a better writer.
If you really want to differentiate yourself from the crowd and increase your marketability, work to become a better writer and communicator; it's a worthy investment for your future.
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