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The One Skill Every New Graduate Needs to Succeed

Source | LinkedIn : By Glenn Leibowitz

It’s that time of year again! Millions of students around the world are graduating from college and graduate school, armed with degrees that promise to launch their careers.

And as they embark on their first job, many new graduates quickly discover just how critical knowing how to write well is to their success. No matter how much technology we have to help us do our job better, we still rely heavily on written communication to get things done. Whether it’s an email, a business plan, or a blog post, knowing how to write well is an essential skill.

I’ve seen first-hand how having good writing skills has facilitated the career progression of hundreds of people in my firm and elsewhere.  As a communications professional, I earn my keep and pay my bills thanks to my writing.

Four years of writing term papers and essay exams in college means you’ve honed your writing skills and you’re ready for the working world, right? Not necessarily, and in fact, many soon learn just how much they don’t know about the art and craft of writing well.

Not having sufficient writing skills could become a serious career liability. A 2004 Conference Board survey of 120 corporations concluded that most companies take written communications into consideration when making their hiring and promotion decisions, and implied that many current or prospective employees lack the requisite skills.

This conclusion was backed by a 2006 Conference Board survey of 431 human resource professionals, which cited writing skills as one of the biggest gaps in workplace readiness.

Almost three-quarters of the employer respondents (71.5 percent) in the 2006 survey said written communications is “very important” for two-year college graduates. For four-year college graduates, 93.1 percent said written communications is “very important”. Yet, 47.3 percent and 27.8 percent of employer respondents, respectively, reported new entrants with two-year and four-year college diplomas as being “deficient” in writing skills.

The good news? Writing well is a skill that can be learned—and you don’t have to sit in a classroom at an expensive university and take on loads of debt to learn it.

There’s an abundance of free or otherwise affordable resources available for learning how to write well. You just need to acknowledge the importance of knowing how to write well, identify your skill gaps, and then take action toward acquiring the skills you need.

Here are six ways new graduates can develop this essential skill:

1. Read books about the craft.

Hundreds of books are available to help you learn how to improve your writing. Many of these are aimed at nonfiction writers, while many are written for fiction authors. While I write nonfiction, I enjoy reading books about the craft of fiction, because they contain many valuable strategies for effective storytelling that I can use in my writing.

Two books I highly recommend to anyone trying to improve their writing are On Writing Well, by William Zinsser, and On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft, by Stephen King. Both books have become bestselling classics, and both have had a major impact on my own writing.

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