Locking in a job starts with communication: communicating your resumé via email, communicating via a telephone interview, communicating via an in-person interview, communicating via a job offer and contract, communicating via the on-boarding process… Communication goes down the vine in the workplace, eventually leading you to someplace like your inbox.
Oh yes, the beloved email inbox that will greet you bright and early in the morning with 30 messages and a couple threads. Some of your coworkers will choose not to have a social life (or sleep) so they will have no probably flooding that beloved inbox of yours.
You, the millennial (new to the workplace, potentially technology obsessed and stereotyped as having a lack of communication skill), will be put to the ultimate test over the course of your career: can you construct a strong business plan? Can you draft a clear email to a group of colleagues? Can you persuade a client to a business meeting over lunch next week? Writing is one of the most effective forms of communication, especially in the work place. If you can write a damn good report summarizing sales for the month, you better believe your boss is gonna take you out to a seafood lunch. If you can write an impressive sales pitch to get your company to take the left fork instead of the right for the next season, you better believe your coworkers are going to praise you.
I want to give you, the millennial, a telescope in to the world of business writing… starting with building a rhetorical awareness.
According to Purdue OWL workplace writing must consider the purpose, audience, stakeholders and context in order to provide rhetorical awareness. Now, you could follow the link above to read the OWL’s interpretation on these but I thought it would be smarter to wrap up these ideas from a fellow millennial.
Whether you are writing a cover letter, subject line of an email or the introduction to a meeting, you always want to state your purpose. “I am interested in this position because ____” “Subject: Rihanna x Stance Press Release – Needs Revision” “ROI Goal Setting”. With purpose, it is all about why you are writing what you’re writing. The subject of an email about a press release should not be “Check this Out” or “Please Look Over.” As a fellow employee, I’m not going to have a single clue of what the email is going to be about THUS it’s gonna get put on the back burner. In a meeting if you don’t state the purpose as the beginning slide of a presentation, you’re going to lose your fellow coworkers to boredom or they’ll find it inconsiderate of their time. If you’re building a presentation, you want that “purpose” slide to be your most persuasive. Go out with a BANG and give your audience something to look forward to… which brings me to my next point.
Know who is going to be receiving that email, who is potentially going to be reading your resumé, who the clients are that are going to be reviewing your sales pitch… Don’t be that man or woman that accidentally uses abbreviations in an email because you might be too lazy or in a rush to get the draft sent out. Be the person that blows your audience out of the water by using appropriate language, excellent sentence structure and might throw in a joke (given the group). According to Forbes, knowing your audience is the key to success. If you’re not going to listen to me, you should at least listen to Forbes.
Your stakeholders are more important than your audience. The stakeholders are the ones that are ultimately going to be affected by your work. When I think about what I do on a day-to-day basis at work, I am not just thinking about what my boss is ultimately going to think of my PR plan or my press coverage analysis. Eventually, my work is going to work its way up the ladder to other stakeholders in the company: VPs, department heads, PR agencies… Your work means so much more in the workplace than just being an “assignment” or “task.” Your work plays a huge role at the end of the day. Never get discouraged when a coworker asks you to scratch that proposal and start over again, because they are mainly just looking out for the other stakeholders. No matter what you do, keep it in the back of your mind that your work plays a huge role. Remember the other key players.
The context of your writing not only has to deal with the information within but also the design. How you construct the basis of your writing speaks a lot to the contents within. If you have some funky layout that is hard to read, it is going to make the context of your writing seem irrelevant or not worth the time. Purdue OWL recommends three different structures of business writing design: document, information and sentence. When I think about the design process of writing, it’s almost like what your teachers always told you in high school: never put a paragraph on a Powerpoint slide because no one is going to flipping read it. It’s the same thing with business writing. You want your context to clearly explain the purpose while also looking put-together and seeming somewhat interesting.
This wasn’t so hard to digest, was it? Like what you read? You’ll find this information at your nearest Barnes & Noble. Just ask the sales associate for “Rhetorical Awareness for Dummies.”