Simply the Best

By Shelagh Foster

Knowing your job market, communicating clearly and respecting everyone in your work environment are sure-fire ways to make yourself “most employable”.

The first step towards a rewarding career is knowing what’s out there jobwise, and preparing yourself. Become an expert in your field even while you’re still studying.

Find out which websites best serve your industry and subscribe to their email newsletters. This way you will be on top of trends and developments, and you will be more informed than most when it comes to interviews. Research alumni groups related to your industry and follow updates on their websites. This will keep you informed about who is doing what; also, the invaluable information will enrich your conversations during interviews. Read industry-specific online and print newspapers and journals to find out not only what the industry players say about themselves, but what media specialists say about them.

Apply for vac jobs, job shadowing opportunities and internships in your industry. If you are not able to do this, the next best option is to gain any kind of work experience – paid or voluntary – anything that will show a prospective employer that you have a work ethic and you are familiar with the demands of the workplace.

All of the above will place you in a position of power when you start your job search. You will have a better understanding of the different positions available and what works best for you. That’s not to say you will necessarily get the job you want, but you’ll be able to construct a plan of how best to get there.

Speak up
Effective workplace communication is made up of three elements: delivering a clear message; making sure it is understood; and listening.

There’s no point in using big words and jargon if the person listening or reading doesn’t understand you. Be aware of who you’re communicating with, and when in doubt, always be a little more formal than necessary and always address people with respect. Don’t use anything in your communication that may distract or put people off (sarcasm, ambivalence, inappropriate language, jokes or slang) as your key message will be lost. Keep your communications clear and simple. Stick to the point and don’t get lost in side-stories, long-winded explanations or excuses. And always check your grammar and spelling.

If you sense that the person you are speaking or writing to doesn’t understand what you’re communicating, ask. These simple words at the end of an email can save time and tempers: “Please get back to me if there’s anything that isn’t clear.”

Most importantly, listen to the other person, or carefully read what they have to say. This is an acquired discipline, but the more you listen, the faster you will learn – and the more you will be respected by your peers and employers.

On the note of respect, a few words about workplace etiquette and behaviour: I have a theory that everyone you work with – peers, line managers, clients – deserves to be treated with respect, regardless of whether or not you feel it. This means the following:

Respecting people’s time: being punctual and not messing about when you should be working. (Arriving early and leaving late is also guaranteed to impress.)
Respecting people’s space: not talking at the top of your voice or disrupting other people’s work to chat. (Socialising at work is great, but not at the expense of work.) Not making inappropriate sexual advances or comments to anyone, ever.

Respecting the company’s resources: not using the company phone for lengthy personal calls; not helping yourself to stationery.
Respecting those with valuable knowledge: this means being prepared to gain knowledge from everyone in the workplace, regardless of whether or not you actually like them. This may seem counter-intuitive, but the benefits are enormous, both for you and for your colleagues.

Follow these guidelines and you will always be one step ahead of the pack. Good luck!

Shelagh Foster
Shelagh Foster is the author of Your First Year of Work – A Survival Guide (Bookstorm, 2013) and co-author of Your First Year of Varsity (Bookstorm, May 2016) with Lehlohonolo Mofokeng. She holds an Associate Degree in Speech and Drama (Teachers) from Trinity College London. Shelagh divides her time between writing, writing coaching, holding workshops and seminars country wide, reading up a storm, helping to organise a national literary festival and trying to get to grips with yoga.

The first step towards a rewarding career is knowing what’s out there jobwise, and preparing yourself. Become an expert in your field even while you’re still studying.