Delivering effective internal communications isn’t easy. To really connect with their employees, companies need to speak to them in an honest, open and engaging way.
Most employers understand this, and our clients embrace it. As a result, there has been a shift in recent years towards journalists – experienced storytellers – moving into the corporate world and joining the communications teams of leading companies. Two of our own clients have made such moves.
But it takes two to have a good conversation. Internal communications are only ever truly effective if employees are equally good communicators. And you need to have that goal in mind from the moment you apply for a job.
As a HR Manager, I’ve seen my fair share of nervous candidates. I can recall one particular individual who, not long after the interview began, resorted to writing down his answers to my questions on cue cards before reading them out loud. Either my questions really were terrifying, or he was suffering from a serious case of stage fright.
Nerves don’t necessarily spell disaster in an interview, nor do they mean an individual won’t be outstanding once they’re actually working in the role. However, I do think that communication skills are more vital now than ever for individuals looking to get ahead in their career – and, in particular, for those just starting out.
I often meet school leavers and graduates who say that they struggle to communicate effectively. This is usually always due to a simple lack of actual experiences for them to talk about. The age-old conundrum for more junior job candidates is to convince a prospective employer that they have the necessary gravitas and ability for a role – without having had a chance to gain experience.
In this instance, I would encourage individuals to realise the value of their story. All of us have particular areas that we’re excel in, things that we’re curious about, and situations or people that we’ve dealt with in the past. As an interviewee, the trick is to remember that when the meeting is over and you leave the room, you’ll be leaving your story behind. So, consider the best way to communicate it!
Consider relevant examples from your past that you can draw upon. Perhaps you held a position at university that involved working in a team, or maybe even leading it, or maybe there was some degree of financial management? Any one of these responsibilities can illustrate to your prospective employer how you might be capable of handling different aspects of the role you want.
The best stories are the most memorable stories. The man I interviewed with the cue cards was very nervous…yet he spoke so passionately and engagingly about the experiences that he felt would benefit the position he was being interviewed for that ultimately, these were the things that he left behind with the interview panel and he was offered the job.
So don’t worry if you make the occasional mistake or get slightly flustered: your key focus needs to be on what makes your story memorable, and then how to get that across to your audience.
As an employee, the value of your story increases with every year of your career. With each new project you work on, and each new skill that you acquire, your story needs to be recrafted and retold. And that never changes, whether you’re the intern or the CEO.
[This article was originally published on 8th August 2014. It has since been updated]