Business Angle: Communication for Employment in the New Economy
Professional Surveyor Magazine - July 2011
Bill Beardslee, PLS, PE, PP
Part 2: From the employee’s view
In part one of this article (May 2011), I discussed the communication skills that employers use during the process of hiring or rehiring employees at the end of the current cycle. Here, I look at that situation from the other side of the table, where your communication skills are a critical part of your knowledge tool belt, whether you’re being recalled to a previous position or applying for a new one.
If you’re hoping to return to a previous position, now is the time to increase your skill set to enhance your probability of staying employed or even advancing. If this is your status, you need to:
Become familiar with new technology
through articles, online research, and discussions with manufacturers’ representatives. This will allow you to be in the forefront of any new technologies the company may be thinking about purchasing. Learn not only to use the technology but also its applications to various types of surveying.
Expand your communication skills
by taking a course at a local school or a conference workshop. Whether your communication is with field crew, office personnel, contractors, or clients, increased ability is invaluable to the company because fewer expensive disputes or errors arise between skilled communicators.
For those of you seeking new positions, your task will be more arduous because competition will be significant. In the 1970s, studies asked employers what skills they looked for in new hires, and oral and written communication skills were at various locations in the top 10. Today, communication skills are listed as number one in those studies. We live in a communications’ world dominated by the media. Communicating with your children, spouse, subordinates, supervisors, clients, peers, or friends requires a broad and ever-changing skills set. No one can excel without them. Here again, using a local school course or conference workshop will increase your value.
The path to a new position starts with answering an advertisement for employment. The response should have two parts—the cover letter (your sales tool) and the resume (just the facts).
The cover letter is your opportunity, in a brief, concise fashion, to sell your skills. The letter should respond directly to the advertisement by type, location, and date. For example:
“I am responding to your advertisement in the January 21st edition of the New York Times. My nine years of experience as a survey analyst seem to directly meet your needs.”
There is no possible misunderstanding of your initial qualifications. This is also important when responding to advertisements from firms with multiple offices.
The next paragraph should briefly highlight your direct skill for the position and express your only current goal—an interview. Use language such as:
“I would appreciate the opportunity for an interview, at which time you will see how my experience, as indicated on the attached resume, will be an asset to your firm.”
Remember, you may desire the position, but the process is all about them. They want an employee to work on projects and be billed at a rate that will generate profits for them. You are just the vehicle. Show them you are a Mercedes rather than a KIA.
Finish the brief cover letter with:
“I am available for an interview at your convenience and look forward to this exciting opportunity.”
Finished—short, to the point, and very impressive. If I were conducting a talent search, I would interview this person.
Here are some basic rules.
- This is not an autobiography.
- One page: if you have less than 10 years of experience or are starting a career change.
- Two pages: if you have 10 or more years or want to list technical accomplishments or publications.
- Three pages: if you are senior management with a long list of leadership accomplishments.
- Tell the truth.
- Don’t apply if you’re not qualified.
- Don’t include irrelevant information (put your grade school information on Facebook).
- Always target benefits to the employer.
- Don’t get personal.
- Include not one error (especially the name of the person you’re sending the resume to).
- Remember that it’s about their needs.
One last suggestion for email responses: copy your resume under the cover letter on the email itself and attach it. This will increase the probability of your resume actually being read.
Every one of these items highlights your communication skills. Hone them while you have the time. The comments in my previous article regarding increasing technical knowledge also apply here. Remember that while you are trying to sell yourself to them, they are trying to convince you they have a great situation for you. Make sure the culture and workplace are right for you, as well as the compensation. You don’t want to be going through this process again soon.
About the Author
Bill Beardslee, PLS, PE, PPBill Beardslee is the past president of the New Jersey Society of Professional Land Surveyors and their 2006 Surveyor of the Year.
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