Career development involves verbal or written interaction. Effective communication enables rapport and relationships to be built and fosters productive and collaborative work environments.
Effective Communication Overview
How can Career Development Practitioners (CDPs) ensure effective communication?
- Conduct a needs assessment with regards to the type of assistance a client requires
- Have good listening and attention giving skills
- Have effective verbal and non-verbal communication skills
- Possess good written communication skills
- Be perceptive regarding a client’s appearance, demeanour, mood, attitude and behaviour
- Possess questioning and summarising skills
- Show empathy
- Be able to establish rapport with a client
- Be able to use a range of software products to convey a message
- Possess presentation skills.
Whether you speak, write or use body language, communication is the fundamental necessity of your relationships with other people. Communicating effectively is of utmost importance. As a CDP, you use communication to build rapport and maintain relationships with your clients.
Effective communication requires you, as a CDP, to:
- Actively listen to fully understand the needs of your client
- Be observant of what (verbal cues) and how (non-verbal cues) your client is communicating
- Provide your client with proper information and advice, be it verbal or written communication
- Remain relaxed and friendly while communicating
- Give clients your full and undivided attention
- Be sensitive and display empathy when the need arises
Failure to communicate effectively results in your client feeling unheard or not understood. Your client will leave dissatisfied with their expectations not being met. This in turn, could lead to your client not realising the clarity they seek in their career.
Let’s take a look at a day in the life of Amanda who is a CDP in Ulundi. Amanda has a follow-up meeting with a client who has just completed matric and wants to attend university. Nompilo arrives thirty minutes late, rushes into the office and sits down quickly. Amanda remains relaxed with a kind expression on her face, ready to listen.
Amanda begins the session by observing Nompilo’s disposition and gently greets calling her by her first name. Nompilo responds mainly in one-word answers. Nompilo is usually a chirpy, confident girl, but she is not herself at this appointment. Amanda notices that Nompilo does not make eye contact, she’s slouched and tense and the tone of her voice suggests something is bothering her. Amanda refers to this by reminding Nompilo that she is usually so optimistic about life, but not today. Amanda invites Nompilo to talk freely about what is bothering her.
Nompilo bursts into tears, barely able to speak a word. Amanda hands Nompilo a drink of water and waits while she calms down. Nompilo proceeds to explain that she comes from a very rural area and is the only member in the family who has completed matric. At home, she has a father (a labourer), a mother (homemaker) and a five-year-old brother.
The weather in KwaZulu-Natal had recently been quite bizarre and Nompilo mentions that a tornado went ripping through her village leaving her home in ruins and her father badly injured. Nompilo sobbed not knowing what to do, as the money that was reserved for University will now be used for treatment for her father and to rebuild their home.
Amanda places herself in Nompilo’s position and tries to feel what Nompilo feels. All the while Amanda watches Nompilo, giving her attention and uses synchronised body language and eye contact. Every so often Amanda leans forward with an open posture, nodding, focusing on what is being said. Taking in a breath, Amanda starts to rephrase the situation back, using her own words conveying acceptance and non-judgement.
She asks open-ended questions to keep the conversation flowing and carefully highlights the most important areas and feelings. In doing so Amanda assists Nompilo by exploring the situation, encouraging understanding of the situation and finally acting on a solution. Nompilo starts to see things from a different perspective and is grateful that her parents are still with her. Amanda encourages her to be strong and focused. Together they brainstorm possible ways in which to solve the issue at hand.
Amanda discusses options like the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) and bursaries with Nompilo. Nompilo completes the necessary online application in Amanda’s office and is pleased that this option existed. Relieved, Nompilo decides that she would like to raise funds to assist the community in recovery. Amanda helps Nompilo to explore social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to broadcast the message for soliciting help.
Nompilo feels deeply about the situation and with Amanda’s supports her in developing a proposal for funding and a powerful PowerPoint presentation using images from the community, together with little video clips of those members affected by the tornado. She then supports Amanda in emailing various organisations. Amanda encourages Nompilo to practice her presentation for fluency before she takes it to charitable organisations like Gift of the Givers and presents this to them. In no time support starts to pour in. Nompilo and Amanda are both pleased with the outcome.
Here we see that the career practitioner supported beyond typical career-related issues, but kept within their professional boundary. The CDP used their existing skillset to assist the client as best they could. We see that the career development practitioner observed, listened, and was empathetic. The career development practitioner assisted the client verbally and in writing.
Once the client could see the care and effort being displayed by the CDP, she eased up and felt comfortable. The client saw the CDP as reliable and someone she could trust. Communication here was effective and reflects a good career development practitioner and client relationship.
Christopher John Beukes