Most of us here grew up in a time where emails and phone calls were pretty constant. I got my first email address when I was still in elementary school, and I’d been making phone calls since I learned how to talk. But there is a big difference between calling a relative or emailing a friend and communicating with an employer or customer through phone or email. Learning to communicate professionally can sometimes be a little tricky, so keep reading and check out my tips on how to effectively communicate in a professional setting.
In general, there are a few key things to look for whenever you are calling or emailing in a professional capacity. The first is fairly obvious: remember your manners. Have proper greetings and goodbyes on emails and phone calls. Do your best to speak professionally as well, both in written and oral communication. When making these calls or emails, keep on track. It’s pretty easy to go off on a tangent, telling stories that aren’t relevant or helpful. Be polite and courteous, but try and stick to the original intention of the message when possible. Finally, keep a lookout for your personal life slipping through. Most importantly, check your email signature and your voicemail message. They should include your contact information while being short and professional.
When emailing, always include a brief but informative subject line and send the email from a professional email address (your UMBC address is great while you’re in school). If you have a longer message, make sure to break up the text into readable paragraphs. Whenever I’m hit with a wall of text in an email, chances are I’ll at most skim the information. One characteristic of emails that should work in your favor is the paper trail. This means if you’re appropriate and professional, you have a clear record of your conversations with colleagues and clients. It is easy to refer back to when trying to recall what was discussed and can be used to clarify miscommunications.
I don’t know about you, but phone calls intimidate me. It's easy to misunderstand tone and body languages like in emails, but requires an instant response to keep the conversation moving. Kind of stressful. So it's very important that you take professional phone calls seriously. Always answer an unknown number politely (I know, I know spam calls are the worst, but you don’t want to accidentally hang up on a potential employer). Try not to talk too quickly, and if possible, have an outline of questions you need to ask. Consider taking notes during the phone call, then emailing a summary of your conversation afterward to make sure everyone is on the same page. Finally, don’t do anything else while on the phone! It's tempting to get mindless chores done, but it's important to give these phone calls your full attention.Go forth and communicate professionally! And if you’re ever in a situation where you’re texting or video chatting, be sure to apply the same principles described above. If you want to take a look at some examples, we have a section on our website and sample documents throughout the Career Guide (check pages 45 and 46).