In an experiment Professor Jean Fox conducted in 2002, participants reacted negatively to speakers who used filler words in their communication and stated it made them appear “uncomfortable and dishonest.” Communication in the workplace- or any professional setting- is very important in many ways. It shows your coworkers, clients, and bosses not only that you are a professional person, but that you respect them enough to write out a thoughtful and professional message. Many people think they are professional in how they communicate. In reality, offend the person they email and brand themselves as an unprofessional worker. In this interview, Nick Schmidt, a Portfolio Manager at Old National Bank in Michigan, answers many questions about professional communication. Portfolio Managers work with private clients and communicate investment portfolios to their clients. Because their job requires constant communication with clients and financial analysts who invest the clients’ money into the stock market, good communication skills are vital assets for Portfolio Managers. In this interview, not only will you learn more about the misuse of filler words, but you will also know more about the “dos” and “don’ts” about communicating in the workplace.
1. What is your professional history?
“I began my career working as a Broker for Morgan Stanley right out of college (early 2014). After almost two years I decided to transition to a more stable role as a Portfolio Manager with Old National Wealth Management where I have been the last three and a half years and taking more research responsibility on.”
2. What writing advice do you have for professional communicators?
“One piece of advice I have is to remain consistent in all forms of communication- no matter who you are communicating with. Whether you are communicating with a client, a coworker, or a friend it should always be in a professional tone. Too many times I have seen people use short hand or slang in their writing, and I view this as a mistake, because you never know who will read your emails and for what purpose. I would also recommend people to continue to work at becoming better communicators no matter how long you have been working because it is a highly valued skill.”
3. What is your one pet peeve when it comes to professional writing?
“I would say my pet peeve is what I wrote above in the previous question, where I receive emails from coworkers that you would be upset to receive as a text let alone for a professional communication. From an oral perspective my biggest pet peeve is when someone is struggling to find a word to say and will instead use “um” three or four times before deciding what works. Better to pause than to say nonsense.”
4. What kind of business reports do you read and/or compose regularly?
“The majority of my time I spend reading research reports for individual companies that are put together by analysts or economic updates from economists.”
5.What are your writing suggestions to make those types of reports successful?
“I would love to see more of the reports provide cliff notes at the beginning of the report itself so that I know what I am going to be reading as well as to be able to find certain items that I am looking for.”
6. What speaking advice do you have for professional communicators?
“I would recommend professional communicators to always attempt to breathe and slow down before giving any type of presentation. This helps the speaker sound more prepared and able to better articulate their position. I would also recommend communicators to have someone provide feedback on things they can improve on. The majority of the time, we don’t realize some of the things we do when speaking that come off as unprofessional.”
7. Name one thing you wish you had known about business communication prior to your professional career.
“The one thing I wish I had known about business communication prior to my professional career would be how to properly structure an email as well as developed better writing habits.
When working in this industry, your communication can be the difference between a successful client relationship and an unsuccessful one.”
8. After assessing the Burning Glass list of Baseline Skills (2016), which skills not in the top 5 would you move into the top 5…and why?
“I would probably move the planning skill into the top 5. I think knowing what you want to accomplish and how to accomplish it is really important especially for people looking to advance their careers. I would also put time management in the top 5. Because there is only so much time in a day, I find myself trying to prioritize what is most important both personally and professionally and looking for ways to accomplish everything I need to.”
9. What team skills do you feel young professionals need the most?
“I think young professionals should look to be more empathetic especially as a good leader. I’ve seen colleagues try to walk all over their team members for personal advancement and it never works out for them.
I also think a good team member should be ambitious and go above and beyond for the greater good. If they see someone is struggling or having a hard time to meet a deadline, don’t be afraid to help step in.
Lastly, all team members should not only be able to give but also take constructive criticism from each other as it is one of the only ways you can continue to grow and improve.”
Practicing the “dos” and don’ts” of professional communication can be difficult, especially if you communicated a certain way for a long time. With time and practice, communicating appropriately and professionally will pay off in your work life. Some of the most important points Mr. Schmidt emphasized about inter-professional communication are: confidence, planning, and staying professional with the way you communicate your ideas and opinions to other people- whether it be your collogues, clients, or bosses. It is important to plan out what you intend to say in a meeting or presentation, and what you type in an email or an instant message. Like Mr. Schmidt stated, the more you plan, the more reliable and prepared you will sound. He also spoke on receiving feedback on your communication. The only way you will be able to fix a mistake and become a stronger communicator is if you learn what you do wrong. The way you communicate with the people surrounding you, even if it is not in a workplace setting, will affect the way they see you as a person and as a professional.
Nick began his career as an investment broker/financial advisor where he helped individuals and institutions with various degrees of wealth, manage their investments and plan for their future. Nick has a vast amount of experience in portfolio/client relationship management, as well as financial analytics. Nick received his Bachelor of Business Administration degree from Western Michigan University with dual concentrations in Economics and Finance. Nick is an active member of the Finance Committee for the Child Care Network, which help low income, impoverished families in Southeast Michigan with the means and necessities to care for their children.
About the Author
Ellie Marx currently attends the University of Southern Indiana. She is on track to graduate in 3 years with a BA in Finance and a minor in Spanish Studies. Ellie is a member of the Honors Program at USI, and currently has a 4.0 GPA. Ellie founded and is president of Club Volleyball at the University of Southern Indiana. Ellie intends on going into a career in financial advising, and hopes to stay close to Evansville.