Guest post by Harper Mac
Strong biceps and six-pack abs can do a lot for you. They can improve your social life by attracting new acquaintances and scaring off less well-meaning characters. Your brawn has its limitations, though. You can post your flattering pictures all over the Internet, but they are no substitute for clear writing skills. Whether you are emailing someone about a job, maintaining a blog or recruiting collaborators for a project, you need to be able state your thoughts clearly. Formal education beyond high school can give you the rigor and experience of reviewed writing. It also gives you an edge when contacting people online.
Putting your best foot forward
First impressions, as we all know, are critical for beginning a career. While personal appearance can, without a doubt, open doors, strong writing skills – or lack thereof – are most often what constitutes the first impression an employer, a customer or vendor sees. Just as the time one spends in the gym directly correlates to physical appearance, time writing well – not to be confused with just writing – pays off in terms of writing that will catch the right eyes.
Perfect practice makes perfect
Most people are familiar with the popular – but illogical – saying of how practice makes perfect. A different line of thinking, familiar to every Marine who’s completed Boot Camp reflects the need for not just doing, but doing something very well, consistently. Writing that is constantly reviewed and critiqued is a necessary step to acquiring the type of skills you want and need to have in order to stand apart from your competition. An online learning program allows you to complete a degree while working a full-time job or taking care of your family, building those skills in a demanding environment. They key here is to take full advantage of writing opportunities in school, just as you’d not overlook a piece of gym equipment not in use.
Regular weekly assignments are common in online programs. They keep you on track since you do not get to see your professors and classmates face-to-face. These assignments may include short essays on material from weekly lessons or exams with short answer or essay questions. You may need to post on class-wide discussion boards. Often, you’ll need to post replies to your peers as you expand on each other’s thoughts. Additionally, you’ll write term papers that will give you experience developing and organizing longer papers.
Team projects are excellent opportunities for you to practice your communication skills. Rather than simply explaining your opinion or some facts, as you might in your regular assignments, you’ll need to work with others to make decisions and complete your project. Disagreements are inevitable, and you and your virtual team members will need to resolve conflicts in a professional manner without being able to talk to each other. This practice will certainly help you in your future when you run into conflicts and must negotiate compromises without causing ill will.
Because you do not interact in-person, the only impression that your professor and classmates will have of you will come from your writing. All of your course communication should to be polite and formal. You don’t have to be long-winded, but avoid abbreviations common in texting and instant messaging. State your questions clearly so that you can get the answer you need without sending multiple messages and risking annoying your instructor.
Though you will be flexing your mental muscles, you don’t have to give up your workouts completely. Everyone likes a fit, strong book addict, and upping your communication skills will help make you a better-rounded individual.