Professional Communication

It only takes a few seconds for someone to form an opinion about you so when you are communicating with employers or really anyone for that matter, you want to make your best first impression to build your reputation, network and expand your opportunities.

Whether you’re meeting someone in person, over the phone or virtually here are some tips for introducing yourself professionally:

  • Who are you? A student/Intern/TA
  • How should they address you? Ms./Mr./Mx. First Name? Last Name? Nickname?
  • Speak confidently – Stand tall, make eye contact
  • Incorporate hand gestures – Give a firm handshake – Or ask if they are ok with one, wave or make other appropriate hand gestures
  • Keep your introduction brief – Short, sweet and to the point (30 seconds or less) See Elevator Pitch below for more info on this
  • Do your best to learn names – Remembering names or titles can be useful for you later when you email or follow up


  • Set-up your voicemail on your phone for a more personal touch
  • When setting up your voicemail message remember that employers and companies looking to interview you will hear this
  • Clear and delete messages in your voicemail box often so employers may leave important messages
  • If your voicemail box is not set-up employers may not know if your number is correct
  • If your mailbox is full employers will not call back and you may miss an opportunity
  • Respond to voicemails in a timely manner (within 24 hours)

Answering the phone

  • Don’t answer the phone if you don’t recognize the number! Let it go to voicemail and then return the call if they leave a message
  • When answering the phone greet the person on the other end with a salutation such as “Hello, this is YOUR NAME” or “Hello, this is YOUR NAME at SITE NAME you are interning or working at”

Calling an Employer or a Professional

  • If you’re calling someone and they don’t answer leave a voicemail including your name and number and reason for calling so they may return your call

  • Always include a greeting, a salutation/signature (Dear, Good morning/afternoon, Hello, Sincerely, Best, Warm Regards)
  • Address formally, to the right person, with the correct spelling of their name
  • Be responsive, timely and clear 
  • Proofread for grammar mistakes and spelling
  • If it is longer than a paragraph consider a different method of communication
  • Avoid slang/emojis – even saying “Hey” is not appropriate language
  • Do not email when angry and if you’re having doubts about it don’t send it, walk away and return to it later
  • Use exclamation points sparingly
  • Be clear in your Subject Line
  • Be careful when CC or BCCing – maintain privacy
  • Your email is a reflection of you

Make an appointment with your Career Advisor for help with creating a script or draft to send out for cold emailing, informational interviews, thank yous, follow up, resignation or networking.

An elevator pitch earns its name from the point that it should take you the same amount of time it would take to ride an elevator to sell yourself to the employer.

Similar to a commercial, an elevator pitch is a 30-second window of opportunity to promote and summarize your qualifications, ability and ambitions. Who you are professionally and why the person you are speaking with should take an interest in you.

Crafting Your Elevator Pitch

Start with what you do currently.

  • Introduce yourself with your name and what it is that you do (student, intern, job title)
  • Use your title expand on this or a relevant project or role you’ve recently had
  • Make it interesting…what is one big project or accomplishment you are proud of that you worked on or implemented?
  • Tell a quick story if possible to prove the results of the project

Be authentic!

  • How are you different from others who already work there?
  • Why are you the person to do this?
  • What is unique about you or your background that could be beneficial to them?

Sound natural, not robotic.

  • Although you want to keep this to 30 seconds reaching 60 seconds is ok but you do not want to sound like an auctioneer!
  • You also do not want to sound rehearsed or robotic. Try to stay personable and focused in the moment.
  • Keep it conversational you do not need to be talking at the employer the entire time, ask questions or keep it open ended for them to respond

What can you do for the employer?

  • What unique background or skills will you bring to the company or the role?

Leave them wanting to know more.

  • What is your objective or end goal?
  • What do you want to get out of this?
  • Leave them with a way to contact you to speak more about this.

Practice, practice, practice! Use this at networking events, on a train, networking is everywhere!

  • Active Listening – eye contact, not interrupting, face the speaker, give full attention, ask q’s
  • Know your audience
  • Keep your message simple, direct and clear
  • Be aware of your body language – Avoid crossing your arms, fidgeting and maintain eye contact
  • Be aware of your tone of voice – You want to sound calm and polite as if you’re asking for someone to “please pass the butter”
  • Stay away from negative words or extreme like “never”
  • Try to be friendly and approachable – Smiling or using good body language can help

  • Be transparent & proactive
  • Have 1 on 1s
  • Set goals 
  • Prioritize projects 
  • Ask for help when you need it and ask questions
  • Document what you discuss and send a follow up email summarizing
  • Everyone has different ways of communicating, strengths/weaknesses
  • Manage your time – Arrive ahead of time and plan ahead 
  • Get in touch with supervisor if running late or need to call out sick
  • Answer emails and complete tasks in a timely manner
  • Prioritize tasks that need to be done asap

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