I had the absolute pleasure of speaking to the Avon Chapter of Busniess & Professional Exchange this morning. What started out with elevator pitches moved on to resumes. Although it was an interesting journey there was a common thread that lead from one topic to the other: engagement.
Let’s face it – the driving force behind most communication is engagement. Oh sure, there are times that communication is strictly one way – i.e. speaking to our children. Trust me, when my son was in his teenage hey-day the last thing I wanted in talking to him was engagement. No, it was more a “just listen and do”; unfortunately, this is my kid we are talking about so there was a lot more engagement that I ever bargained for – gee, wonder where he got that….
Ok, fine, he got it from me. I’ll admit it. Having recognized that I can take a mere statement and build an engagement on it I have had to realize that it is not always the desired response. Ask any of my former bosses.
I study communication at all levels and all forms; I love it and it is fascinating. Normally because of the amount of research and analysis I can bring to light certain points that people normally overlook. Just like making the statement that normally the purpose of communication is engagement. You want the other person to be drawn into a conversation with you.
The most difficult mode of communication to build engagement is the written word. When you are speaking to someone in person or even over the phone you have clues that you can utilize to adjust your speaking patterns or chosen words to encourage engagement. However, with the written word you are far removed from that person. For this reason sometimes it feels like a shot in the dark.
So how do you even begin to craft a message that will build engagement? The first thing you should do is ask yourself, “What is my desired outcome?” Even thought this sounds simple enough you would be surprised how many people really do not know what they want when they send off a message.
Oh sure, when you send a resume you want them to call you –right? But what then? What do you want them to ask you about, what do you want to focus on during the conversation – have you thought about these before you craft your message?
Sometimes we make things too darned difficult for our own good. Start small, start simple. First figure out what kind of response you want from the other person. This will help drive your message.
Sometimes the recipient is looking within your message to determine how they should respond. That might sound confusing so let me give an example. I received a text yesterday – nothing new, I get a lot of texts (I’m really big on texting). Anyway, this one was a very simple message: it was the name of a place I worked at when I was a teenager, but that was the extent of the message, oh, and some exclamation points.
I looked at it and thought, “Ok”. I am not sure what the meaning was, I mean it wasn’t an invitation to join them, maybe it wasn’t even meant for me – who knows. I certainly didn’t and since I was clueless, I didn’t respond. I wasn’t trying to be rude; but not having spoken to this person in a while I just assumed it was sent to me by mistake.
Long story short – know what it is you are saying and why so you do not leave the recipient clueless. Because if you do want a response and you do not allow them the opportunity to respond you have no one to blame but yourself if you don’t get it.
Now, if you are sending a more lengthy communication, i.e. resume or email, again start with what is your desired result. Then you need to think about your audience. Realize that their time is important, no matter how little they are giving to you, it is important. You need to make your message count – and this means it should matter to them.
Your resume should answer the question, “What can you do for me?” If you are asking for an informational interview you should enlighten them as to who you are, how you got connected to them, what type of information you are seeking and why – oh, and thank them. Don’t forget your manners.
Let me be blunt – for some reason we all find that we have less hours in the day so we have become very selective with the amount of time we share with others and even more selective on those others that we choose to spend time. Within your written communication you need to build the case for why they want to give you their time. In other words why would it benefit them to speak to you?
Let me take blunt a step further: until you can answer the questions of “What do you want and why should I give it to you” do not send that communication. Only after you can answer these two questions then you can begin to craft your message in a way that will not only speak to these to points but significantly increase your chances of accomplishing your desired result.
Lisa K. McDonald, CPRW
Certified Professional Resume Writer
Career Polish, Inc.