THE BLOG

How Students Can Hone Communications Skills for College and Future Careers

08/08/2014 04:22 pm ET | Updated Oct 08, 2014

No matter your major or where you wish to work professionally, you must be able to articulate your thoughts in a clear and concise manner. Whether you are delivering presentations, giving directions or explanations to colleagues or simply writing emails, effective communication is key.

It is also one skill that students may not explore deeply enough in college or university. Below are several classes and extracurricular activities you can pursue to develop your communication abilities:

Public speaking
Enroll in at least one public speaking class. If the subject is difficult for you, consider completing additional courses or joining the debate team. Doing so prompts you to address your weakness in a formal way. Throughout your life, you will frequently be asked to present your work or pitch business ideas, so why not increase your comfort level with public speaking?

Persuasive/technical writing classes
You can take a variety of writing classes in school, from creative writing courses, to grammar classes, to persuasive and technical writing offerings.

Aim to enroll in at least one writing course. Persuasive writing classes, in particular, can teach you to successfully argue a specific point and to convince your audience that your recommendations or strategies should be implemented. Technical writing courses can help you explain highly complicated concepts in simple terms.

Communications research/information gathering
If you attend a large college or university -- or a school that is notable for its academic research -- you may be able to find a research class that is specifically tailored to your major or your intended professional path, such as marketing research or psychology research. These courses can assist you in strengthening your overall communications skills, as they provide you with targeted techniques for locating and sharing accurate information within a given subject.

When you build presentations or decide upon new business strategies, you will likely be required to first conduct research - research that goes beyond simply Googling a phrase. You may be asked to complete primary research (e.g. interviews and surveys) in addition to secondary research (e.g. reputable online sources).

Ethics/introductory law classes
Unless you earn a law degree, you likely won't be an expert in this discipline. But that does not mean that you cannot cultivate a general sense of the laws and ethics that govern your field. These details will partially guide the documents, presentations and speeches that you create throughout your college and professional career. Certain schools even offer classes for particular majors, which can make the scope of ethics and the law more manageable.

Software development
You can enroll in college or university courses on nearly any computer or web-based program that exists. However, you may not wish to waste valuable credit, money or time on these classes -- and it may not be wise to, either! With many platforms, you can educate yourself by installing and experimenting with these programs. You may also be able to find free classes online (either through your college or another provider), as well as video tutorials. Computer skills can enhance the impact of the information you choose to convey through such principles as visual design.

Whatever you choose, ensure that you are developing your communication skills now so that you can succeed on whatever career path you choose later. Good luck!