Tag Archives: business communication

Wardrobe Choices for Interviews ..Read This Before Starting a New Job…Four Skills Employers Seek

Wardrobe Choices for Interviews


Knowing what to wear to an interview can be confusing, especially as styles become increasingly informal. Experts offer the below pointers to college students seeking work.

  • Avoid clothing that is obviously expensive unless you are entering the fashion industry. A boss may assume you come from an affluent background and do not need to work hard.
  • Wear accessories to spice up your outfit if you are entering a field requiring creativity. An Apple watch or a colorful tie can do the trick, but only if you wear such accents naturally.
  • Dress one step up from the current staff. If you know employees wear jeans, you should wear trousers, a button-down shirt, and a jacket (though not a suit).
  • Show you have good sense. If you are interviewing for a job in which you will meet with clients, dress as you would if you were going on a client call.
  • Trim facial hair. Beards are not a problem as long as they are neat.
  • Comb your hair—never go to an interview looking shaggy.

–from The Wall Street Journal

Read This Before Starting a New Job

Fresh with your new diploma, you are about to start a job. Don’t blow it! Follow these pointers before you show up for your first day.

  • Research the industry you are entering. Read trade journals and conduct Internet research to learn about the industry at large and where your new organization fits into it.
  • Be ready to work without hand holding. There is no syllabus to follow in a new job, and no one has the time to give you step-by-step instructions.
  • Act like a professional. Wear the right kinds of clothes, be punctual, and behave kindly and respectfully to those around you.

Once on the job, discuss what success in your job means with your boss. Does it mean meeting a quota? Gaining new clients? Set clear goals. Then learn the best way to communicate with your boss. Just because you are used to messaging systems, you may have a boss who prefers face-to-face meetings.

–from Payscale.com

Four Skills Employers Seek

You may be able to write code in your sleep, but that’s not enough to guarantee landing a job. Employers need new hires who also excel in the following soft skills.

Communication Skills. Over 70 percent of employers need new hires who write well and communicate verbally with ease.

Organization. Nearly every employer considers organization a key skill. This includes a neat workspace as well as clear thinking.

Leadership. More than 80% of employers look for evidence of leadership experience on new graduates’ résumés. Leadership can mean the ability to rev up a lackluster team or revamp a chaotic situation.

Relationship Management. Being able to form and keep relationships is key whether you work with the public or colleagues.

–from QuintCareers.com

What are your thoughts about wardrobe choices for interviews, advice for starting a new job, and must-have skills? Start a conversation!



Tips to Make Learning Stick

by Janet Mizrahi

At the end of my business communication course, I ask students to write me a letter or an e-mail to discuss what they have learned. It’s a way for me toshutterstock_298095335_NOV2015 see if they have taken away the tenets of business communication we have covered during the quarter. The assignment leads to pretty consistent positive responses, which are echoed in the students’ course evaluations. They almost uniformly report that they “learned a lot!—thanks, Prof!” and that they “will use what I’ve learned for the rest of my career!”

Although these comments are nice to read, I often find myself not quite believing students’ ebullient responses, especially when I see the errors many of them make in both the writing and the document design of the assignment.

Recently I’ve been using two pedagogical theories to help my students retain what I teach: metacognition—awareness of one’s cognitive processes—and transfer—taking skills learned in one setting and applying them in another. I’ve started incorporating both into my class, and I believe I’m making some headway.

Teaching Strategies to Foster Metacognition and Transfer

Like most of you, I try to show models of good and not-so-good examples of most assignments. However, lately I’ve been asking students to spend some time in class analyzing the writing strategies that have led to the successful or unsuccessful outcome. I can almost see the light bulbs going off in their heads as they list the differences between successful and unsuccessful models.

This is where I used to stop. Now I also talk about metacognition, explaining that it’s important for students to think about what kind of information they absorb and how they are taking in this information so they can retrieve it in a different context. I see students nodding their heads in agreement or actually looking up from their phones when I do this. Suddenly, it seems, they begin to think about what I’m teaching and whether they have learned it.

Another forum that fosters student thinking about the acquisition of knowledge involves a peer edit session. After students evaluate a classmate’s assignment, they discuss it using questions I have given to them. When students work together in these small groups, they are less inhibited to bring up their own challenges with completing the assignment. Fellow students often offer feedback that helps the other grasp a concept. This reinforcement of what they have practiced again turns on light bulbs and theoretically helps cement knowledge.

Another strategy to get students thinking about how they learn is assigning a written reflection about their writing, which they complete in class. (I’ve tried assigning it as homework, but those responses tended to be much less detailed, dashed off instead of mulled over.) Questions to pose in a reflection are designed to force students to perform a metacognitive analysis of their own work.

These written reflections can be incorporated into many business communication assignments. For example, instructors can ask students to list what they know about a subject (say writing an e-mail) before a lesson. Then after the discussion, students can again reflect of what they have learned about the same topic. Such reinforcement forces students to make connections and subsequently, in theory, to add to their own knowledge. Answering reflective questions such as what was confusing, what was challenging, what made X difficult, how did you figure out how to do X? helps students become more actively involved in their own learning process.

I’ve found one reflection especially helpful. For a large group project, students write a rough draft of their individual section of a report and bring it to class. Using hard copy, students work in teams of two or three and follow a peer edit guide that includes the assignment’s requirements. From that session, students rewrite their rough draft before they submit it to me for a grade. On the day they turn in the rough draft, students answer the answer the following questions:

  1. Read your section again. What would you like to work on for the final draft? Be specific and list at least five elements you’d like to change when you rewrite.
  1. What challenges did you encounter when writing and rewriting your section? What did you learn about writing in general and writing for business audiences in particular?
  1. What specific advice would you like me to provide as I read your rough draft?

The first question helps students look at their work objectively, and I’ve found that almost uniformly, students detect the same problems as I do when I grade. The second question gets them thinking about themselves as writers and the importance of drafts, which may be the single most important writing strategy they take away from my course. The last question forces students to look at their writing critically and ask for my feedback, thereby stimulating metacognitive thinking… and hopefully, taking away more from our time together that will stick with them.


What are your thoughts about transfer of knowledge? Share your experiences!

Critical Thinking Case Study: Is Amazon.com a Jungle?

A recent article in The New York Times exposed harsh working conditions for white-collar employees at global e-retailer Amazon.com. Current and former “Amazonians” called the company’s pace relentless and said they were encouraged to tear apart coworkers’ ideas in meetings. Likewise, they told of approved systems to sabotage colleagues and working long and late hours—all to service standards the company itself labels “unreasonably high.”

The article quoted one employee who said it was commonplace to see workers crumbled at their desks in tears. Another said the yearly purge of management “losers” kept employees in a constant state of high pressure Amazon owner Jeff Bezos expected.amazon

The article noted that those who are successful are rewarded with Amazon stock options that can make them wealthy. However, others who are unlucky enough to have a personal problem such as cancer or a miscarriage are pushed out.

Amazon’s grueling pace has been in the news before, especially about its fulfillment centers, where blue-collar workers have complained of Dickensian working conditions. It has been reported that the physical work there is compounded by the non-stop stress of being monitored for productivity.

These complaints from both white- and blue-collar workers come from a company ethos that is dedicated to the consumer; in fact, Amazon’s 14 Leadership Principles lists its No. 1 goal as “customer obsession.” Leaders “work vigorously to earn and keep customer trust.”

In response to The New York Times article, Jeff Bezos said he did not recognize the company the reporter described, and other employees have come forward to praise the corporate culture in which workers are “dedicated and excited to go the extra mile.” Likewise, Bezos says he doesn’t tolerate “callous management practices” and claims that he himself would not work at Amazon if the conditions were as bad as the article depicts.
Classroom Exercise

In teams, discuss the following questions. You can read the article from The New York Times and the rebuttal written by an 18-month Amazon employee Nick Ciubotariu at the links below.

New York Times Article
Rebuttal to New York Times Article

  1. What do you think about a corporate culture that encourages employees to put the customer before all else? Would you like working in such conditions?
  1. The white-collar workers hired at Amazon are aware of its work ethos. Do you think they should complain about their employer? Why or why not?
  1. How do you feel about making purchases through Amazon.com in light of the claims being made about its harsh working conditions?