Encourage Your Students to Put Their New Skills to Work Right Away

The business communication course offers unusual value for students because the insights they gain and the skills they develop can be applied in so many aspects of their personal and professional lives.

In the upcoming Thirteenth Edition of Excellence in Business Communication, we’ve added a highlight box theme called Apply Your Skills Now. These boxes give students practical advice on applying their communication skills right away—in other courses, on the job if they are working, and in their personal relationships. Over the next few months, we’ll share these ideas here on the blog as well, and we hope you’re find them helpful in stimulating positive discussions with your students.

A good place for most students to start is improving the level of professionalism in their communication efforts. The sooner they can get in sync with the professional work environment, the sooner they are likely to succeed in their first jobs and position themselves for promotions. You no doubt address this subject already in your course, but in case you need some specific ideas to share, here are ways you can encourage students to practice their professionalism:

  • Communication with all their instructors. If your students have ever started an email message to an instructor with “Yo, prof,” now would be a good time to up their game. Ask them to imagine they are communicating with a high-level executive or someone else whose opinion of them will have a huge impact on their career advancement. They don’t need be stiff and overly formal; advise them to read the situation based on how each instructor communicates—which is also good practice for audience analysis. Use respectful greetings (ask instructors how they would like to be greeted in person and in writing, if they haven’t already told their students), complete sentences, and standard punctuation.
  • The quality of their work. Remind students that everything they produce reflects their commitment to quality, in both substance and presentation. Encourage them to get in the habit of doing their best work now, and it’ll be second nature by the time they’re getting paid to do it.
  • Scheduling and commitments. Missing deadlines on the job can mean missing major career opportunities. Meeting commitments requires the ability to estimate how long things will take (which comes with practice and careful planning), the insight to identify potential problems, and the mental strength to power through the tough parts of a project. (A future blog post in this series will offer students advice on preventing last-minute surprises when they are staring down deadlines.)

If you have any related tips you’d like to share with other instructors, please leave them in the comments.