Straight Talk on Professional Communication for Transitioning Veterans

Feeling overwhelmed by your civilian job search?

Uncertain of the communication skills you will need as you transition back into the professional civilian world? 


Sandboxx has teamed up with Betts Recruiting to help you smartly navigate your career transitions and avoid common pitfalls. Get helpful content, tailored for where you are in your military journey, each week in the Sandboxx app!

You know communication is what makes any good team run smoothly and efficiently. It is also one of the most important pillars of leadership. Luckily, these rules apply in both the military and in any professional civilian workplace. Although you likely built strong communication skills from your time in service, they will need to be altered a bit in preparation for your re-entry into the your civilian profession.

The following 5 key communication tips will help you refresh your current communication habits as well as develop new skills that are vital to success in today’s modern *civilian* workplace.

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1. Do your recon: using information to your advantage

We live in an age where practically any question can be answered on Google. There is an endless wealth of information at our fingertips, and one of the most important aspects of communication is being able to understand and relay information in a productive and effective way.

One of the most important aspects of communication is being able to understand and relay information in a productive and effective way.

Here are some questions for you:

  • What does it mean to you to “stay informed in your profession”?
    • Keep up to date on the workings of your company.
    • Ask yourself what information is relevant to your role (considering the nature of both your workplace and position) as well as what you can learn and share to make your team work more efficiently.
  • What information is most important to you?
    • Scan books, journals, websites etc. in order to develop a broad understanding across a range of areas of expertise.
    • Then narrow your search down to a few more specific subjects that are relevant to your position. This will give you a strong base of knowledge overall.
  • What tools can you build which will allow you to easily access information?
    • Organize your information so you can find it whenever you need to. Depending on the source, this might include bookmarking websites or categorizing articles into files on your computer. This will help you avoid wasting time on aimless internet searches.
  • Don’t try to control the flow of information: 
    • This is relatively impossible anyways and will work against you. Everyone has access to the same information, so rather than focusing on filtering some parts out, encourage your co-workers to give their own opinions and interpretations of what is being discussed.

2. Listen well

There is nothing worse than a one-sided conversation. This applies to all aspects of the civilian workplace, whether you are interviewing for a job, engaging in conversation with your new team about a project, or giving a presentation to your co-works.

It doesn’t matter if it’s you who isn’t listening or those that you’re addressing; information is lost just the same.

It doesn’t matter if it’s you who isn’t listening or those that you’re addressing; information is lost just the same.

This cuts down on productivity and weakens team dynamics. Listening might seem pretty obvious, but take a minute to think of how many times you’ve tuned out to run through your mental to-do list or been distracted by that crazy car or that adorable dog while in a conversation with someone.

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Cell phones, social media, and texting don’t help either. So, in this world with hundreds of constant, distracting inputs, how can you learn to listen better?

  1. Don’t try to multitask. Put away your phone, close your computer, pull out a pen and paper to take notes (if it is appropriate) and give whoever is speaking your full attention. You want to absorb everything that is being said, not just 60-70%. Not only are you learning new information, but everyone values being heard and the speaker will appreciate your taking the time to understand what they are saying.
  2. When you have a conversation, invest yourself. At some point you usually have to stop listening in order to respond. Giving good feedback and exchanging ideas is one of the most productive ways of learning, so do not skip out on this. Really think about what someone is saying when they speak and allow the meaning of their words to sink in. Don’t spend the whole time they are speaking thinking of your response, but rather consider what they said and form a response based on your understanding.
  3. Don’t forget to ask questions.  Questions stimulate the speaker to expand on their thoughts, keep you focused on your conversation, and prove to the speaker that you are truly paying attention. You will leave your conversation with both more information than you would have without asking questions and a stronger interpersonal connection with your co-worker.

3. Communicate in the appropriate way

Now that we’ve covered the general specifics of comprehending and responding to information in the workplace, it’s time to get a little more specific. You can communicate using your phone, email, a hand-written response, or an in-person conversation. How do you decide?

First, consider the nature of the information you want to communicate. If it is personal or relating to a delicate matter, you might want to deliver it in person.

  • This will give you the chance to manage the reaction and the recipient(s) the chance to respond to you directly. However, if the information is more general and of less immediate importance it can go in an email or be related via phone call. Additionally, if what you are trying to communicate is potentially confusing or complex, it is always better to write it down so that it is not misinterpreted.

Second, consider your relationship to the recipient. Some professional relationships are more formal than others and thus require different modes of communication.

  • Figuring out the best and most appropriate way to communicate is up to you – think about the structure of your company, whether you have previously communicated with this person, and what form of communication they would be most receptive to.

Third, be accurate. People appreciate details and, unfortunately, will notice if you misspell words or leave out details.

  • Being thorough is one of the easiest ways to earn respect in the workplace. It communicates a strong work ethic and attention to detail that will not go unappreciated by both your co-workers and your superiors. Don’t let the ease provided by technology affect the quality of your information. We’ve all mistyped texts or emails and seen the consequences………this is easy to avoid and an important aspect of success in the civilian professional world.

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4. Observe how communication works in your specific workplace

Every workplace is different and is going to provide you with different communication-related challenges. Additionally, every office encourages its own specific brand of work environment, and it might take you awhile to adjust and figure out what is appropriate.

Every office encourages its own specific brand of work environment, and it might take you awhile to adjust and figure out what is appropriate.

This is totally OK. It is important that you keep your mind open and observe the workplace dynamics in order to figure out how things run on a day to day basis and what forms of communication are used most often. This might involve asking yourself some important questions such as:

  • How do I relate to this company as a whole?
  • What sort of team am I a part of?
  • Do my co-workers seem to communicate more in person or via email or text?
  • How can I make my ideas more receptive to those around me?
  • Who are the most important people for me to communicate with?
  • What sort of conflicts occur here and how can I help?

The answers to these questions will only become clearer as you adjust to your new professional setting.

 

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Credit: blog.militaryauthority.com

5. Communication as a road to success

This might have seemed like a whole lot of do’s and don’t’s, but it is always important to look at the big picture and remember that developing communication as a skill will only lead to your success.

With technology as advanced as it is, communication these days might seem easier than ever, however, this isn’t necessarily true. Focusing on how you understand and relay information to those around most effectively will make you both a better team member and a better leader. So don’t skimp on developing how you communicate, because it will definitely be appreciated by your co-workers, increase your work productivity, and ease your transition into the civilian professional world.

Stay tuned

Stay tuned to this series to:

  • Learn skills such as interviewing, networking and salary negotiation to help you achieve your career transition goals
  • Be connected with civilian employers looking to hire Sandboxx veterans

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