Communication is vital to employment success. The ability to communicate, both written and verbal, is the number one factor that employers will judge throughout the application and interview process.
Over the past few months, I have had interesting conversations, heard concerning stories and experienced downright hilarious interactions with young people and their inability to communicate. Personally, I don’t believe in blaming social media, or technology, or the lack of human connection, or that our children are studying language used by Shakespeare, yet most can’t write a simple business email. Instead, I believe in finding solutions.
Entrepreneurship builds skills, increases confidence and creates network connections. All three of which improve one’s ability to communicate. Having the opportunity to create a business concept, based on passion, provides the incentive to learn.
I have been fortunate to be able to watch young people grow, through participation in a youth entrepreneur program. The outcomes far surpassed my expectations. Here are a few examples of how entrepreneurship improved these student’s ability to communicate.
On the first day of the entrepreneur program, 15-year-old twins told us that they had difficulties with reading and writing. The twins embraced this problem and with the support of other students in the cohort, they developed a business concept to create an app to help teenagers read.
Fast forward 18 weeks, we walked into the school library to undertake a program review and found the twins reading large chapter books.
I asked what was going on.
The twins explained that they had been thinking about the problem and the app was going to be a big thing to do and that there had to be ‘another way’. So, one of them came up with the idea that they should get audio books and read along with physical books. Suddenly, the words started making sense. They had each read five books since (without the audio) and their writing had improved dramatically. The twins were most excited about getting out of household chores, because their mother ‘just walked away happy, when she saw them reading’.
We were so excited that problem solving with an entrepreneurial mindset had opened a whole new world to the twins.
I received the following email from a student:
To: email@example.com Subject: YEP
what is the icons you wanted me to put into the invitation?
That was it, the full email. Again, not looking for blame, but solutions. We spent an afternoon talking and role-playing business communication, including: email, telephone and in person communication.
- You are emailing an investor asking for an opportunity to pitch your idea
- You are phoning your IT developer who is two weeks late on your website
- You meet a competitor at a networking meeting
Real scenarios that entrepreneurs encounter regularly.
The students embraced the activity, which was as hilarious as it was concerning. I’m not sure if it was a lack of confidence or just not knowing, or both, but they simply couldn’t communicate. We engaged some simple tips:
1. The Greeting - Dear Crystal, how are you?
2. The Handshake – confident posture, eye contact, firm handshake
3. Small Talk – ideas to get a conversation started
4. Listening – staying in the moment, active listening and effective questioning
5. The Ask – understanding what information needed to come across and what needed to be received
6. Leaving the conversation – how to exit a business interaction or sign off an email
A few weeks later, the students hosted their own networking event. They engaged with a local MP, a Director of education, city council employees, the school Principal and members of the community with ease and grace.
Pitching is not a natural feeling. Entrepreneur programs allow participants to build and practice a pitch (again and again), with feedback from peers, mentors and coaches. The pitch provided the opportunity to learn and experience: public speaking (in public); presenting powerfully; voice projection and using a microphone; and supporting information (slides, flyers, websites).
This is where our students really excelled, stepping out of their comfort zone to confidently pitch. Selling their skills, idea and the business framework to an impressive audience.
Let’s give our young people every chance at success.
We usually associate the word entrepreneur as someone who comes up with a business concept or initiative to start and run their own business. However, business owners and managers are recruiting people that can demonstrate an entrepreneurial mindset. Developing skills to communicate in business is just so important and being part of an entrepreneur program is a fantastic place to start.
At YEP Careers, we are passionate about supporting young people to have the confidence to become whatever they want to be, whether that is through a career, education, sport, art, music, volunteering or commitment to a cause. In doing so, we are living our life purpose and have become exactly who we wanted to be.
Want an entrepreneur program in your school or community? Contact us at YEP Careers firstname.lastname@example.org
There are twelve key foundation skills essential for success in any job. Being able to provide clear and detailed evidence of your skills, knowledge and approach to work, will show any prospective employer that you are the right person for the job. Each week we will profile one of the twelve foundation skills, along with what employers are looking for and tips to improve the skill.
To order a copy of My Career Passport, or for further information on the programs that support the resource, please visit: www.yep.careers