/ 26 January 2024

‘Your voice is your brand and your logo’

Remasterdirector 1a5c03258
Our youth is so used to working online that they often battle with face-to-face interactions, says Melini Moses, Director of Express Yourself Communication.

Communication skills that set you apart could land you that vital first job

In an era of fierce competition and rapid technological evolution, effective communication has emerged as a cornerstone for success, particularly for school leavers venturing into the challenging realms of higher education and the job market. Melini Moses, Director of Express Yourself Communication and Training, works to help people harness the power of their voice and equip them with all the tools they need to communicate effectively. 

According to Moses, effective communication is intricate and diverse, forming the bedrock of success in various facets of life: “Students need to be able to communicate effectively across cultural boundaries and frameworks of thought. Those who can express themselves clearly and thoughtfully tend to form healthier relationships, fostering positive self-esteem, and enhancing their academic and professional journey.”

Effective communicators are more likely to participate in class discussions, as they are better equipped to ask questions and present thoughts and arguments persuasively. “This, in turn, leads to better grades in their presentations, assignments and exams,” Moses explains. 

In the competitive job market, where standing out is challenging, the power to articulate thoughts, ideas, and skills becomes a decisive factor in securing employment. “I have worked with several students, among them medical graduates, who are brilliant at their profession but find it difficult to secure internships purely because they struggle with articulating their thoughts.” 

This, she says, highlights the need for investing in equipping young adults with communication skills for the next phase of their journey.

Networking for success

Networking is about building relationships, not just about adding to one’s contact list. Here, she says, preparation is key. “Before an event, do some research on who is expected to attend, and gather a little bit of background about them,” she suggests. “Be sure to note their achievements; this adds a lovely personal touch to any conversation.” 

She also offers further advice: “Always stand when you introduce yourself. Use a firm handshake and make eye contact. Be ready with a strong introduction and don’t be afraid to communicate your strengths. Make sure you have your cellphone charged so you can quickly exchange numbers or digital business cards. Ask open-ended and insightful questions that encourage conversation and listen attentively so you can respond appropriately.”

Non-verbal communication plays a crucial role in creating first impressions. “This can make or break relationships,” Moses cautions. “We must always be aware of our body language and how it may be interpreted. For example, if someone is speaking to you and you are continually glancing at your phone or watch, it may signal that you are not interested in what they are saying. If you are sitting slouched in your chair, it may be interpreted as a lack of self-esteem. On the contrary, if you stand up tall, make eye contact, have a firm handshake and use gestures to show that you are interested and engaged, you are likely to be received more positively.” 

The interview question 

For interviews, research the company well beforehand: “Read through their website, and if possible, speak to someone who has worked in the company to understand its culture. Practice answering common interview questions — these are widely available on the internet and are often used by HR consultants. It would be wise to write down your key achievements and practise how you would explain them in front of a panel.” 

It might also be a good idea for young people to relook their social media presence with a more critical eye. “Employers now regularly visit jobseeker’s online profiles to gauge their fit for the company. Don’t let your social media profile let you down! Ensure you go through all your social media sites and clean up any content that may portray you in a negative light. This includes posts you may have been unwittingly tagged in.” 

She says recruiters often use LinkedIn to search for candidates, so school leavers should work on creating an up-to-date professional profile. “Find people in your industry to connect with on this platform and keep up to date with the latest trends and developments,” she adds.  

Empowering youth through effective communication

Moses says at Express Yourself, the team goes beyond traditional communication training, offering personalised programmes tailored to the unique needs of young people. “The programme focuses on building confidence, refining verbal and non-verbal communication, and adapting to various professional contexts, ensuring participants can express themselves effectively in any situation,” Moses explains. 

All the offerings take the global shift towards digital communication into account: “With the rise in digital technology over the past two decades many of our young people are more comfortable communicating through Whatsapp and text messages, rather than face-to-face conversations. Often they are multi-tasking — sending a message while listening to a podcast. Dinner conversations between families have in many cases been replaced by Netflix, and schooling during the pandemic was conducted remotely.” 

This limited experience in face-to-face communication means many young people battle to express themselves effectively in the workplace. “Some suffer from anxiety while others simply choose to remain silent,” she says. 

This, however, is an anxiety that can be overcome: “My job at Express Yourself is to help them recognise the power of their voice — because at the end of the day, your voice is your brand and your logo. It helps you to connect, to influence and to impact. If you are battling to overcome your fear of public speaking, or want to up your game, engage the services of a communication coach who will be able to hold your hand throughout the process.”

Assisting youth to find their unique voice

Discovering one’s voice, especially in an academic or professional setting, can be daunting, but Moses says there is no reason for people to go at it alone. She urges young people to attend workshops or engage in one-on-one training covering voice training, confidence building, public speaking, storytelling, language, pronunciation and presentation skills. 

“At Express Yourself, we do this through practical exercises, role-playing scenarios, and constructive feedback, which ensures that our clients gain the self-assurance needed to articulate their ideas, share their opinions, and engage confidently in various professional settings,” she explains. “Once they have mastered these skills, they have the opportunity to move on to our other personal development and leadership programmes.” 

 The goal is to equip young individuals with the self-assurance needed to express themselves effectively in diverse settings: “The most important step is to believe that you can do it! Half the battle is already won in our minds. We also drill in: prepare, prepare, prepare! If your content is brilliant, then people will hang on to your every word and may not even notice that you’re nervous!” 

She says storytelling is one of the most powerful weapons in the arsenal of a communicator: “Include stories in your presentations. These help you form a deeper connection with the audience, and you may also enjoy sharing them!” 

Adapting to a changing landscape

While it’s important for young South Africans to proactively embrace technological advancements, she suggests finding a balance between AI-supported communication tools and maintaining genuine human connections. “Incorporating AI into your skill set can be beneficial, but nothing can replace the human touch in effective communication,” Moses says. 

She says South Africa’s diverse population with its array of linguistic and cultural variations could pose a challenge to “those who have not been exposed to this beautiful tapestry before entering higher education institutions or the workplace”. School leavers need to embrace cultural awareness and linguistic diversity and seek opportunities for cross-cultural communication experiences where they can actively engage with people from different backgrounds. “Learning other languages can be a great asset, fostering better communication in a multicultural environment,” she adds. 

Moses sees communication coaching and training as invaluable investments for South Africa’s youth. As school leavers shape themselves for further studies and careers, honing their unique voice to connect and engage with others will prove pivotal in determining their future success.