Hey Young Homie: Six Communication Do’s and Don’ts for the Young Professional

YH pic

Establishing your company and distinguishing yourself from other businesses in America is its own challenge. The last thing you want to do is hinder your business’ development because of poor communication. Here are six do’s and don’ts to help you build your reputation and professionalism.

Do respond to messages promptly: In this fast-paced, social media-immersed society it’s easy to forget to return that call, reply to that email, DM or Facebook message. If you’re serious about establishing yourself as a young professional then you’re going to have to learn the art of timely communication. Depending on your business, it’s standard to return calls, emails and text messages within 24-48 hours. “I’ve been busy” or even “crazy busy” is not an excuse for unprofessionalism, poor communication and bad habits. It won’t fly in the corporate world so it shouldn’t in your business. Also, be sure to use your out of office and vacation responder if you’re going to be unavailable for more than 2 days.  Make a habit of doing this with friends and family now so you won’t lose clients over it in the future.

Don’t over-commit: With so much happening it’s easy to fill up your calendar with work projects, social engagements and other things until you’re immersed in an impossible to-do schedule. Sometimes it’s work demands; other times it’s poor time-management and a conquest to save the world that leaves us with unfulfilled commitments. Whatever the reason, if you find yourself needing to back out of engagements and projects more than completing them, this is a sign you’ve put too much on your plate. This impacts your credibility and dependability; inevitably, too many rescheduled appointments will make you seem flaky and unreliable. The last thing you want is great products or services, but a bad reputation. If the word on the street is you’re not a good business professional, you may find yourself on the street.

Do what you said you would do: One of the most telling signs of an unprofessional is his/her lack of follow-through. This coincides with the previous tip. If you tell someone you’re going to call, email, text, DM or write them, DO IT! Learn to keep order in your life by writing things down. The dullest pencil is better than the sharpest mind. Don’t be too witty to whip out a notepad or iPad to take note of everything you’ve committed to do.

Don’t let your voicemail and ringtone send an untrue message about you: There have been countless times when I’ve called someone for business and have been greeted by a ring-back tone with offensive language and vulgarity. Learn to create a simple, effective and pleasant greeting for your business line. If your personal and business line are the same, go professional. Learn to transition into professionalism with grace and wisdom. There’s a time and place for some things, not everything, and you want to ensure everything about you communicates professionalism. Better to make the right first impression than to try to create a new impression later.

Do learn how to say NO: This is arguably one of the hardest skills for an emerging professional to learn. Frequently, we take on too many projects out of a fear of missing “the right opportunity” or simply because we are addicted to overworking – aka workaholics. Remember – every opportunity isn’t the best opportunity and, even if it is, that doesn’t mean it’s the right opportunity for you. Learn to unapologetically say “NO” and keep trucking. Better to keep your commitments than to get caught in a pile of tasks you can’t complete. The key is to under-promise and over-deliver and not vice versa.

Do learn how to professionally answer the phone and leave a voicemail: When you answer the phone always greet potential clients with your name and company name (if you have one). For example, “Good afternoon, Bob Warren”, or “Good afternoon, Warren Industries, this is Bob speaking”. This is a simple principle that goes a long way. Also, when leaving a voicemail, speak slowly and give your info clearly. It’s always bad when people can’t return your call because they didn’t hear your name and/or number. You may say, “Well, that’s what Caller ID is for”. That’s true, but to be safe always leave a message. Always leave a message. Always leave a message. Did I mention it’s good to leave a message?

Professional communication will take you far and when you master these simple principles, you will set yourself head and shoulders above your peers. Communication isn’t simply what we say; it’s how we say what we say when we say it to others.