The #1 Skill Employers want YOU to have… Oral Communication

This is the first in a series of blogs that will highlight the key skills that employers seek. Each month, an AU Career Advisor will share insights into each skill– how do you develop the skill while at AU, how do you demonstrate, and why is it important?  First up: Oral Communication.

Must have strong oral and written communication skills.”

If you’ve searched for a job or internship, you’ve seen this requirement in one form or another. According to the American Association of Colleges and Universities (AAC&U), the ability to communicate orally is the number one competency sought by employers. So, what does it mean to have strong oral communication skills, and how does your degree prepare you to use oral communication skills in the workplace?  The good news is that your American University degree and campus experiences do develop this skill- whether you’ve majored in the liberal arts and sciences or business.
The majority of us can speak, therefore we have oral communication skills. How can you demonstrate to an employer that you have “strong” or “excellent” oral communication skills? Consider your experiences as a student, intern, or employee. In any of those roles, have you:
  • Conducted a classroom presentation?
  • Led a student group meeting?
  • Negotiated with your student group on how to complete a project?
  • Answered a customer’s question or resolved their concern through explaining a policy or procedure?
  • Used the spoken word to de-escalate a tense situation?
  • Provided spoken advice or counsel to a classmate, colleague, client or customer?
  • Persuaded a colleague or classmate to adopt an idea or to use a particular approach to solve a problem?
  • Participated in a debate?
These activities and more represent “strong oral communications.” It is the number one skill that employers seek because we all speak in the work place.   As a baseline, employers seek employees who can articulate their ideas, support their positions, and communicate clearly with their teammates. Most employees must be able to effectively communicate with internal and external customers. Some roles involve the ability to conduct presentations with confidence. All employers want you to be able to communicate in a positive and professional manner.
So, before you write your next cover letter or head out the door to your next interview, consider how you’ve developed this very important skill. Provide the employer with specific examples drawn from your academics, work experience, and extracurricular activities.  Articulate these experiences well, and you will have taken the first step to demonstrating competency (even excellence) in oral communication.
Not confident in your oral communication skills? Consider the following:
  • Nervous about public speaking? Try Toastmasters.
  • Join the AU Debate Society
  • Take a leadership role in any AU student club or community organization; ask to lead meetings or projects
  • Shy? Intentionally work on speaking up in class.
  • Take advantage of classroom opportunities to be a presenter- don’t cop out in a group presentation and let your teammate do all the talking.
  • Above all, stretch your comfort zone to improve your skills in public speaking!