December 2, 2019  |  Michael Keathley , PhD

When planning their education and future careers, many students think only of the hard skills needed to get the job, such as:

  • How to create and manage a budget
  • How to insert an IV
  • How to file a court motion

Although these necessary skills show how someone can function within a specific job, employers increasingly seek soft skills among job applicants to bump them from job interview to job offer. Soft skills are often defined as those that make us human, and one of the top soft skills employers look for is writing.

Communication Is Changing

With the rapid advancement of technology, organizations are communicating increasingly via electronic methods, such as:

  • Email
  • Meeting chat pods/virtual discussions
  • Instant messaging
  • Shared documents in the cloud

Employees’ writing skills need to keep pace with such innovations and digital options. Employers’ written communication needs and the relationships established within internal and external stakeholders are critical to organizations’ success locally and perhaps even with locations or business partners around the world.

The rapid advance of technology has also made organizations more aware of the benefits of domestic and international diversity. For an organization to foster an inclusive culture that welcomes such diverse perspectives within a mindset of open idea sharing, written communication skills are needed even more now than ever. An employee cannot assume that everyone collaborating on a project shares the same experiences, perspectives, or points of view. Therefore, employers value those who can communicate in such a way that all views are welcomed and combined in new ways. Often this integration of ideas is done in writing.

Why Writing Is Still Important

Some of the staples of writing remain even more important in today’s world if the organization is going to thrive. Employees need to demonstrate in their writing an understanding of their audience. Things to consider are:

  • For whom is an email being sent or a report being written? What expectations does that CFO have for a budget explanation or a judge have for a court motion that has been filed?
  • Are the documents written with clear context and purpose? Can an employee explain the needs reflected in the budget to a potential funder, for example? Can an employee write the court motion in such a way that the judge is inspired to act in favor of the client?
  • Is the format what the audience will expect within that context?
  • Has the document been carefully edited with accurate word choices to avoid potential misunderstandings?

One final point that must be understood is that technology and other forces continually and rapidly change the employment landscape. As Chris Atkinson pointed out, five critical skills employers are seeking through the end of 2020 reflect these changes:

  • Technical knowledge/digital skills
  • The ability to work in a team
  • Communication skills
  • Judgement and decision-making skills
  • Creativity

This list is typical of other surveys and reports on what employers are seeking in applicants and even in those they promote. Writing is not only included as the third skill listed, but is also well known to foster the other four.

Learn to Improve Your Writing

As a prospective or current Purdue Global student, you might feel a bit overwhelmed by the need to build writing proficiency into your education; however, the planning has been done for you in the following ways:

During your time at Purdue Global, you will be assessed in the soft skills, and you can download a Competency Report that indicates the skill level you have attained in each including communication.

Although the hard skills are important, be sure to take advantage of these opportunities to develop the soft skills, such as writing, and to share your level of development with employers to increase your chances of gainful employment after graduation. To learn more about how Purdue University Global prepares you to write for your future employers, request more information.

Filed in: Careers


About the Author

Michael Keathley, PhD

Dr. Michael Keathley is the chair of composition and writing at Purdue University Global. The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not represent the views of Purdue Global.


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