List of Key Communication Skills for Career Progression

December 5, 2017 - Dom Barnard

With the advances of digital technology, good communication skills both in-person and online are more important than ever. A well-crafted speech or email can help you avoid potential issues, enhance your reputation and persuade others of your idea.

Actively improving your communication skills plays an important role in the process of personal development and career progression. You’ll be able to communicate your message more clearly and you’ll find that people are more willing to tell you information they otherwise wouldn’t have.

Effective communication involves speaking, listening and understand a message and the intention behind it. Improving the communication skills listed below will help you advance your career and professional profile.


Confidence when public speaking

Whether you are presenting a proposal, speaking at a team meeting, or networking at a conference, your ability to communicate in a self-assured manner will build trust with the audience.

If you’re prepared for the event, you’ll be much more confidence with your delivery and knowledgeable about any questions on your topic. In order to appear confident, speak with a steady tone, don’t talk too quickly, use humour where appropriate and acknowledge others.

Confidence when public speaking to a large audience

Body language and nonverbal cues

Body language and other nonverbal cues account for over 50% of all communication. All good communicators need to be able to use and read other people’s cues. Give it as much attention as what you or they are saying.

When reading body language, look out for both positive and negative body language, such as crossed arms or lack of eye contact. This will indicate whether you should wrap up what you are saying, or continue to engage in the conversation.

When using body language and other nonverbal cues yourself, be aware that the person or people you’re talking to may well be judging you on it. Engage in positive eye contact, smile, nod when the other person is talking to demonstrate you are listening, and use hand gestures to emphasise your key messages.

Here are some key aspects of in-person nonverbal communication:

  • Eye contact (are they looking at you or for other people to talk to?)
  • Hand and arm gestures (use them to emphasise key points)
  • Posture (is it upright or hunched over?)
  • Crossed or open limbs (are their arms crossed arms?)
  • Body position (is their body angled towards or away from you?)

Using the right amount of eye contact

Positive eye contact lets the other person know that you are interested in their message and what they have to say. It shows that you value their opinion. Good eye contact also makes you appear confident and will indicate to others that you are knowledgeable on the topic you are talking about. As a result, people will naturally pay more attention to you and what you have to say.


Active listening and questioning

Listening is one of the most fundamental components of communication skills. Listening is not something that just happens, listening is an active process in which a conscious decision is made to listen to and understand the messages of the speaker.

Active listening is also about patience, listeners should not interrupt with questions or comments. Active listening involves giving the other person time to explore their thoughts and feelings, they should be given adequate time for that.

To be an active listener, allow pauses for interjections, repeat other people’s words and ask thoughtful questions to show that you are engaged in the conversation. Don’t focus too much on what you’re going to say next as they are talking. Instead, listen to every word they say and respond back as relevantly as possible.

Benefits of active listening

There are many important benefits of active listening, these include:

  • Builds deep trust
  • Broadens your perspective
  • Strengthens your patience
  • Makes you approachable
  • Increases competence and knowledge
  • Saves time and money
  • Helps detect and solve problems

For more information on active listening, read Active Listening Skills, Examples and Exercises.


Writing skills

Writing well is a major component of a successful career as we are communicating more and more online, with tools such as Slack, Google Chat and Email. Being able to clearly and concisely write your ideas, in an unambiguous way, is a powerful skill not many people possess.

The benefits of written communication is that it give you more time to craft the message and can get other people to read over it before you send it.

When you are trying to persuade people of an idea or concept, use data and examples to back up your points. Keep it concise but informative - attention spans are shorter than ever. Use short paragraphs, bullet points and images to break up your message if it needs to be long.

Poor writing not only makes exchanges of ideas and information less efficient, it also makes you look bad more quickly than almost anything else. Learning to write well has an important side effect, the organisation and structure required also teaches you to speak and think better.

Writing skills are important for career progression

Verbal and presentation skills

This is the ability to successfully communicate information verbally (ideas, thoughts and opinions). Improving verbal skills require a lot of practice for the majority of people, particularly when speaking in front of large audiences.

Verbal communication should be short and specific, tailored to the audience you are speaking to. A conversation about crisis management will be very different to giving feedback to a colleague.

Clearly and concisely articulate your message

Practice speaking clearly and deliberately to people, both in individual conversations and to larger groups of people. The listener should be able to understand your ideas, so avoid jargon were possible, particularly when talking at events such as at a conference.

Say their name in conversation

A person’s name is one of the most emotionally powerful words for them. But how you say it is more important than how often say it. If you say their name with the right inflection, it conveys a lot of positive feelings for them and it shows that you are listening to what they are saying.


Teamwork skills

This is the ability to work with others as part of a team to achieve a goal. The people you work with may have different ideas and objectives, but good teamwork skills allow you to find a common ground to satisfy both parties.

Employers expect employees to be team players. Teamwork is required for almost every industry, ranging from business services to information technology to food services.

Regardless of your role, you need to be able to work well with others, and convey that fact to your managers and other team members.


Selling and persuasion skills

Even if you are not in the sales team, selling plays an important role in your career. You can use it to influence stakeholders to pursue an idea, decision, new job role, action, product or service.

To become a convincing communicator, you need to find a mutually beneficial solution by understanding an audience’s motivations and expectations. In order to find this beneficial solution, you need to uncover what factors would be most influential and agreeable for the other party.

To learn more about how you can improve your sales skills, read Improve your Sales Skills with VR Training.


Analysing an audience

Explaining a particular concept to an audience requires you to be aware of the level of understanding of listeners. For the communication process to be useful, use of language, jargon and ideas should be understood by the audience. This might require, at a conference for example, you spending a couple of slides covering the basics of your topic for people in the audience who are not familiar with it.

The type of audience affects the choice of language, humour, opening sentences, length and more. You can determine the level of expertise on your topic or idea during the early stages of your conversation and adjust to it accordingly.


Enthusiasm and patience

The person or people you are talking to want to feel that you would rather be talking to them than anyone else. When you give them the impression that you are interested in what they are saying, you make them feel valued. As a result, they are more likely to open up to you.

Patience is another key skill of good communication in the workplace and for career progression. Nobody wants to communicate with someone in a bad mood or who can snap at any time. You’ll find people are much more willing to open up and tell you things if you are friendly towards them.

Communication skills in a business meeting

Giving and receiving feedback

Feedback provides a great opportunity to develop skills and identify areas which need improving. There are key areas to think about when both receiving and giving feedback, which can be applied to a wide range of feedback situations.

Feedback is important for a number of reasons, it allows you to:

  • Identify areas which need improving, areas which you might not have realised otherwise
  • Create a continuous learning loop, where you can iterate and improve your skills over time
  • Quantify hard to measure areas such as presentation skills, performance in a team and behaviour
  • Give people an opportunity to ask for help if they are performing badly in an area, this is particularly true when receiving feedback from your manager

Full list of important communication skills

A-D

  • Active listening
  • Articulating
  • Asking questions
  • Assertiveness
  • Body language
  • Brainstorming
  • Business Storytelling
  • Clarity
  • Collaboration
  • Concision
  • Confidence
  • Conflict management
  • Content strategy
  • Convincing
  • Courteous
  • Creative thinking
  • Debating
  • Describing ability
  • Diplomacy

E-N

  • Editing
  • Emailing
  • Emotional intelligence
  • Empathy
  • Explaining
  • Expression
  • Eye contact
  • Facial expressions
  • Friendliness
  • Grammar
  • Humour
  • Imagination
  • Improvisation
  • Interpersonal
  • Life Skills
  • Listening
  • Logical thinking
  • Marketing
  • Motivation
  • Multilingual
  • Negotiating
  • Nonverbal communication

O-W

  • Open Mindedness
  • Persuasive
  • Presentation
  • Promoting
  • Public speaking
  • Quick thinking
  • Quotes
  • Rapport building
  • Reading body language
  • Reading facial expressions
  • Social
  • Social media
  • Speaking
  • Speech writing
  • Team Building
  • Teamwork
  • Technical Writing
  • Telephone
  • Verbal Communication
  • Visualizing
  • Vocabulary
  • Vocal tone and pitch
  • Writing

Picking the right type of communication

Communication can be in person, via email, by telephone, through text-message, or even video. Each medium has its advantages and disadvantages and each adds something different to the message you are trying to convey. Some messages are better suited to some media than others. For example, most people prefer to have bad news delivered in person. But people also vary widely in how they respond to different media.

For example, people who lack confidence in their written communication prefer talking on the phone. Others prefer the slower, more thoughtful pace of email and actively avoid phones.

You, of course, have your own preferences, but part of communicating well is being able to identify the preferred medium of the other person for any given situation and be versatile enough to use it.


In conclusion

The manner in which we communicate directly impacts how others view us personally and professionally. If you succeed in all other areas of your life but fail to successfully communicate, you most likely won’t progress in your career.

On the other hand, if you can be positive, proactive and informative in your communication, then you can win your audience’s attention, trust and respect.

Communicating well is one of those abilities that is often overlooked, and yet those who have it are at a huge advantage to those who are not. Fortunately, many of the communication skills discussed can be learnt.