Knowing Your Audience and Making Adjustments

When most people start writing an essay, they think of what they are writing about–the subject of the essay, the way it will transition, how they will introduce it, etc. What these people normally forget though is who they are writing for, which in most cases is actually more important than what they are writing about. You may be thinking, “How is that so? An essay is nothing without a subject.” This may be true, but an essay is just as unsuccessful if your professor doesn’t want to read it. Thinking about your audience is a crucial part for the writing process, and you can’t truly be a good essay writer without that consideration.

 

The term “audience” seems pretty self-explanatory since it’s just the group of people who will read an essay. But an audience is also a flexible group that you can mold to your liking. Your professor may not be flexible in this regard, but everyone else will be if you plan on publishing your essay at some point in time. Believe it or not, you have the power to choose who you want to read your essay. You can actually write in a way that will encourage certain people to read and discourage others. Granted, there is no guarantee that someone from another demographic won’t read your essay, but if you adjust your style enough you can at least guarantee that someone from the audience you are seeking will read your essay.

 

So how do you go about choosing the right audience? And better yet, what kind of adjustments do you have to make to fit each audience? Well the easiest thing to do is think about what your essay is about and who you want to reach with it. For instance, if you are writing an essay about problems in public schools, then your target audience is probably members of the school board and parents of school age children. This means that the language within the essay would need to sound more formal than if you were writing an essay geared towards teenage girls. By simply changing the tone of your words, you can reach a completely different group of people.

 

What’s great about making those subtle changes in the language of your writing is that you can rewrite the exact same essay to reach a different demographic. You could write an essay about investments that encourages teens to take a stake in the economy and change the language to make it persuade seniors to invest their retirement wisely. Both essays could be about investing in the economy, but the language of each could reach out to a different audience. If you are having trouble figuring out who you are writing for, just try changing the formality of the writing and see what kind of reaction it brings. The audience that reacts the strongest is probably the one that you should focus on.

 

Writing for a specific audience isn’t hard. It’s all a matter of molding your writing style to fit the personalities of your readers. Best rule to think about is that the older or smarter your audience is, the more formal your language needs to be. If you are trying to reach a wide range of people, then keep your style as generic and universal as possible. As long as you think about your readers through every step of the writing process, you will have very successful essays.

Skill Statement Part 2

“Hello, my name is Calvin Stewart. For the past year I’ve worked in a production machine shop using high-powered drills, sanders, and a CNC machine. One idea of mine saved my employer thousands of dollars in production costs.”

Important Skills to Include

These skills are used on many jobs. (For instance, almost half of all jobs require keeping records and maintaining files.) Employers will be looking for these skills when they hire. If you have these skills, include them in your skills statement:

  •         Use a computer
  •         Keep records and maintain files
  •         Apply interpersonal communication techniques
  •         Use computer keyboard
  •         Follow/give instructions
  •         Use correct grammar, punctuation and spelling
  •         Provide customer service
  •         Use word processing software
  •         Use spreadsheet software
  •         Prepare reports

Now Create Your Own

Now it’s time to create your own skills statement. If you have some of the skills listed above, include them. Here’s the three parts of your skills statement:

Part 1: Identify yourself.

Part 2: State briefly the skills you have or results you produced on past jobs that are important to the employers you are calling.

Part 3: Show how you have fit into other companies in the past or the personal qualities you have that are important to the job you want.

Skills Statement Practice

Once you have created your skills statement, it’s time to practice using it. Here are some ways to do that:

Sit with a positive and caring friend. Explain what a skills statement is and why you need one. Have your friend pretend to be an employer. Start by reading your skills statement. Repeat this process until you feel comfortable just saying it.

Use a tape recorder. Find a quiet place and pretend you are speaking to an employer. Imagine the details: the company name, the employer’s name, the job you want. Doing this makes this practice more effective. Now say your skills statement into the tape recorder. Repeat this several times before you play the tape back.

Stand in front of a mirror. Pretend you are speaking to an employer. Practice your skills statement until you feel comfortable.

Ways to use your skills statement

  1. At the beginning of an interview. A skills statement is a great ice-breaker.
  2. When an employer asks: “Tell me a little about yourself.” A skills statement describes you and your skills in a way that relates directly to an employer’s needs.
  3. When you do follow-up calls to employers. By repeating the skills statement, you refresh the employer’s memory.
  4. When you sit down to prepare a resume. Since your skills statement contains information that will be useful in a resume, it can help you get started.
  5. When you are on your way to an interview. Repeating your skills statement to yourself is a good way to get “pumped up” for an interview.

Skill Statement Part 1

Skill Statement Anatomy

A skills statement can help you get an employer’s attention in thirty seconds or less. A skills statement has three parts:

Part One: Hello, my name is Barbara Wilson.

Explanation: Identifies her to the employer.

Part Two: I have one year experience as a clerical worker and receptionist. I can file, and operate a multi-line phone system. I am also trained in several word processing programs.

Explanation: States present skills or past results produced. Think back on the important parts of your past job. What did you spend most of your time doing? What skills did you need? What training did you receive?

Part Three: I really enjoy working with the public. I can handle stressful situations and was employee of the month two times with my last employer.

Explanation: Shows attitudes or how you have fit with other companies. What personal qualities or abilities did you need to do your job well? Are you good with the public, efficient, loyal, honest? Did you receive any awards? Were you dependable and on time?

Time yourself saying Barbara’s skills statement. It probably takes you less than 30 seconds. Yet, look at how much good information is in it.

Sample Skill Statements

Eileen was laid off from her office manager position at a real estate company. She is seeking a job as a sales representative for an office supply company. She has no previous sales experience but has much firsthand knowledge of office supplies.

“Hi, my name is Eileen Watkin. I have three years’ experience using and ordering all types of office supplies. I’m strong in customer relations and can communicate well. I’m honest, dependable, persistent and a hard working self-starter.”

Charles was injured while working as a tow-truck driver. He wants to find a job working as a service writer at a car dealership. This is a job he has never done but he has researched it well.

“Hello, my name is Charles Dundee. I have four years’ experience working with the public when their cars needed repairs. I can make accurate diagnoses of problems and cost estimates. I enjoy working with the public and can use both spreadsheet and word processing programs.”

Adrian recently finished a one-year certificate program at a community college in accounting. She’s now looking for her first job.

“Hi, my name is Adrian Woodward. I recently completed a one-year accounting program and learned both manual and computerized accounting. I am accurate and detail oriented and was on the honor roll three terms.”

Calvin Stewart has been working in an on-the-job training at a production machine shop for the last year. He knows that the company he is calling uses some of the same equipment.

Contacts: How Part 4

When you don’t know the decision maker’s name:

Janet Jamahl wants to be a receptionist. She knows about ABC Manufacturing, but does not know the decision maker’s name.

Them: Hello, ABC Manufacturing. How may I direct your call?

Janet: This is Janet Jamahl and I would like to speak with your office manager.

Them: That’s Beverly Manson. Hold on, I’ll connect you.

Beverly: Hello, how may I help you?

Janet: My name is Janet Jamahl. I have a year’s experience as a receptionist. I can handle a multi-line phone system, type 45 words per minute and am very strong in customer service. I’d like to meet briefly with you to discuss how these skills might be valuable to your business. (This is Janet’s skills statement.)

It’s not always easy

Unfortunately, many times it is not so easy to get through to the decision maker. The person answering the phone may try to screen your call. In Janet’s call, the screener could have said, “May I tell her what this is about?” Janet should not say, “I’m looking for a job.” Instead she could say:

“I’m calling to make an appointment with her.” OR

My name is Janet Jamahl. I am an experienced receptionist and clerical worker. I am also good at dealing with the public and want to see how these skills might be useful to your company.” OR

“It’s a personal matter.”

When you can’t get through to a decision maker

If this happens, at least find out the decision maker’s name. Say something like:

  1. “May I leave my name and number and have them call me back?” After giving the screener your information, ask: “What is his or her name so I’ll know whom to expect a call from?”
  2. “Perhaps I’ll send a brief letter. To whom should I address it?”
  3. “What is the name of the person who handles the hiring?”

Once you have the name, write it down on your contact sheets and diary yourself to call back in two or three days. When you call back, ask for the decision maker by name. This greatly improves your chances of getting to the right person– the person who can set up a face-to-face interview with you.

If a screener tells you there are no positions open.

Never believe this unless you hear it directly from the decision maker. Screeners are paid to screen not hire. They do not know what is going in a decision maker’s head. For instance:

  •         An employer may create a new position for an applicant with the skills and experiences that fill a need for a company.
  •         The decision maker is unhappy with an employee and would like to replace him but has not told anyone.
  •         An employee recently told the boss that she is leaving but no one else knows.
  •         The employer has been toying with the idea of creating a position to improve production.
  •         The decision maker you spoke to has no need for a new employee but has just had lunch with an employer who does.

It is easy to understand that a screener would not know about these possibilities. These kinds of situations make up what is called the “hidden job market”. Eight of every ten positions are filled due to scenarios like these. This is why you must get past the screener and to the decision maker. Do whatever you must to accomplish this.

Contacts: How Part 3

  1. Have your partner make the following statements so that you can practice responses:
  •         We don’t have any positions open at this time.
  •         I don’t have any openings and I’m too busy to meet with you.
  •         Why don’t you check back with me later?
  1. Practice giving the employer brief examples of how you gained the skills mentioned in your skills statement.

Getting through to decision makers

The interview is the path to the job offer. Employers do not hire resumes, applications, or phone calls. They hire people they have met. Setting up these face-to-face meetings is the one reason you are contacting employers.

You are not calling employers to find:

  •         If they have any openings
  •         If they are accepting applications
  •         If they will look at your resume

You may find all this information in a very short phone call, but that’s not the main reason you are calling. You are calling to arrange a face-to-face meeting with the decision maker. But first you have to reach the decision maker. Here are some tried and true methods of getting through to the person you want.

When you know the decision maker’s name:

Bob Williams wants a job as a checker in a supermarket. Here’s how Bob handles his call when he knows the decision maker’s name:

Them: Hello, Low Price Market, may I help you?

Bob: This is Bob Williams calling for Alice Fenton.

Them: Hold on please.

Alice: This is Alice Fenton.

Bob: Hi, this is Bob Williams. I have six months experience at a food store as well as two years’ experience serving the public. I am fast and accurate and able to work a variety of shifts. I am calling to set up a meeting with you to discuss how my skills might match your company’s needs. Would Wednesday or Thursday be better for you? (This is Bob’s skills statement)

Alice: Thursday in the afternoon would be best.

Bob: How about 1:30?

Alice: That’s fine. I’ll see you then. And bring a copy of your resume.

But what if Alice had said:

Alice: We don’t have any positions at this time.

Bob: That’s OK. I’m not expecting you to offer me a job that doesn’t exist. But I’ve found that when I have had five or ten minutes to talk about my skills, people often think about someone else who might be interested in hearing about them. With that in mind, could we meet briefly?

What if Alice had said:

Alice: I really don’t have any openings and I’m just too busy to meet with you.

Bob: Well, thanks for your time today. I wonder if you know of anyone else who might be interested in hearing from a skilled worker?

Contacts: How Part 2

Just a few sentences

All this magic comes in just a few sentences. The first identifies you by name to an employer. The next show skills you have and the results you have produced in past jobs. Finally you show attitudes you have now or ways that you have fit into other work settings. That’s all there is to it.

Saying these few sentences takes thirty seconds or less. You are not trying to convince employers to hire you on the spot. You are not reciting your complete work history. You simply want to get attention and interest.

Writing your skills statement will take about half an hour. This is time well spent. A skills statement will make your employer contacts more productive. It will speed your return to work.

Steps to take before you call

Print this page and have it nearby when you are ready to call employers. Review it before you start and keep it (along with your resume and skills statement) in front of you as you call.

Before you call:

  •         Set a schedule of when you will make your calls. Have clear goals. For example: “Today I will call 10 employers.”
  •         Make your initial calls in the morning. Return calls in the afternoon.
  •         Plan and practice what you will say. Call a helpful friend and practice (role play) with them.
  •         Practice your skills statement.
  •         Write down potential questions or questions employers have asked you and practice answering them.

When you call:

  •         Have your skills statement, resume, and a completed job application in front of you.
  •         Smile when you talk. That smile will come through to the person on the other end of the line.
  •         Be enthusiastic. Vary the level of your voice.
  •         Create a mental picture of the person you are speaking to. Talk with them, not at them.
  •         Ask for a face-to-face meeting.

Getting past the screener:

  •         Ask for the decision maker by name.
  •         Sound confident, as if you should be speaking to the decision maker. Because you should be!
  •         Ask for the decision maker’s direct dial number.

And remember:

  •         Set goals.
  •         Be persistent.
  •         Ask for a face-to-face meeting.

Practicing before you call employers

To do these role plays, you need a partner. This could be a friend, relative, or helping professional.

  1. Have your partner be the screener that answers your call. Practice getting past this screener and to the decision maker. When your partner asks the following questions, practice different answers:
  •         May I tell the manager what this is about?
  •         Are you calling about a job?
  •         May I have the manager call you back?
  1. Now have your partner be the decision maker. Practice what you will say once you reach the decision maker.
  •         Practice using your skills statement and then asking for a face-to-face meeting.
  •         Practice giving the person a choice of two times to meet.

Contacts: How Part 1

How to State Your Skills

Josh has just begun his job search. He’s excited about landing a job, using his new skills, and finally getting back to work. He’s listed ten employers to contact, refilled his coffee cup, and sat down at the phone. He dials the first number and reaches the decision maker. He is both stunned and excited with this stroke of good luck. He blurts out, “Hi, my name is Josh Linton and I was wondering if you have any job openings.” There’s a brief pause and the employer says, “No, we’re all full right now, but call back some other time.” Within less than a minute Josh’s first call is over.

During the next hour Josh makes nine more calls and speaks to five decision makers. His approach is the same. So are the responses. By the end of his first job search session, Josh is discouraged. As he sips cold coffee and rubs his forehead he mutters, “This is going to be harder than I thought. Nobody is hiring.”

Too often this is how job search goes. But it doesn’t have to. You can get the responses you want from employers. Short phone calls can lead to job interviews. But first you have to see the hiring process through an employer’s eyes.

With an employer’s eyes

When Josh called employers, they were not sitting around waiting for his call. They may have been serving a customer, repairing a machine, writing a report, fighting a headache, meeting with an employee or all of the above. When Josh’s call arrived, their mind was still focused on the task at hand. They may have wondered whether they should even take a call from a total stranger. It may be a time-wasting interruption. But then again, maybe it is a new customer with a large order. So they took the call, and then heard Josh asking if they had job openings. Getting out of the call was a no-brainer. Just a quick “NO” and they were back to more pressing problems. And Josh was no closer to an interview.

Thirty important seconds

Once you see this process from an employer’s eyes, you know what must be done. Within the first thirty seconds you must grab their attention and give them a reason to spend valuable time on you. A skills statement does both.

Your skills statement moves an employer away from problems at hand and encourages him or her to talk to you. He may be moved to ask questions about your skills, to ask how you can help them, or to set up an interview. In any case, you are no longer a total stranger. You are a person with value and skills. A person worth talking further to.