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The importance of great communication skills

By James Whitaker posted 10-29-2018 06:19 AM


As a student you can spend many years studying late into the night in the library, expanding your knowledge and showcasing your in-depth expertise though papers and projects. But when you finally graduate and find yourself in the workplace it can feel like a completely different arena.


You no longer have hours to spend researching, writing and re-writing carefully written prose. You’re expected to work quickly, collaboratively, contribute to larger goals where you may not see the end results or get any recognition. After years in academia showing your individual skills you are now expected to become a cog in the machine.


For those into sports, this kind of team work may seem like a more natural change, but for many graduates this can be a big learning curve and can make progression in leadership positions very challenging. Particularly when you suddenly have to adjust to your managers not being in the same office or even country.


There are lots of ways to help prepare and develop these skills. Presenting your work as a lecture can give you valuable experience structuring what points are most important and what people need to know. Contest like the Student Paper Contest give great opportunities to achieve this.


SPE also works with other societies to put on events like the Emerging Leaders Alliance and our SPE Online Education platform has multiple on demand webinars such as “Killer Communication Skills” and “Mind Reading, Listening and Being Nice”. 


In addition to these the Young Member Engagement Committee also hosted its regular Communication Skills Workshop at ATCE this year. The workshop started with a brief presentation covering communication methods, their pros and cons and how personality can affect your communication styles. Being mindful of these topics can really help you get your message heard, particularly if you’re finding it hard to get the response you need. 


We all work differently and by recognising your preferred communication styles you learn how to adapt your messaging to different people. This was quickly put into practice by those on the course with a task which split teams into Management and Construction. Teams were tasked with communicating detailed instructions through “emails” and “phone calls” to each other so the others could build complex structures.   


While it was a lot of fun it showed some really important issues that reflect perfectly in a real working environment. People can assume important underlying factors are understood or not know the deadlines that others are working to. The difference between a quick phone call and an email could have huge effects on a person’s understanding and the project as a whole. 


There were three key points to take away from this workshop. Having an understanding of what exactly you need to say, an awareness of who you are speaking to and how that may influence their interpretation, and finally what do you want to happen as a result of the correspondence. Just being mindful of these things can dramatically help your communication skills.


Good communication is really important and teams can stop communicating with each other if they find it too difficult. This has a huge impact on companies and careers so make sure your communication skills are up to date! SPE has lots of resources to help with this and for more information you can also email

Let us know in the comments what your student chapter does to help prepare your members.