Regardless of what goals a person wishes to pursue, they are unable to go through life without communicating with others, whether it’s written or verbal. This interview is meant to provide advice and criticism regarding professional communication, which will lead to effective communication. The professional interviewed, Melanie Bledsoe, has experience in a variety of accounting positions, all of which called for her to hone her communication skills to perform her job. Even though the majority of people carry smartphones, a tool with worldwide communication potential, there is a likely chance that their communication skills have taken a turn for the worse. “Since we’re so used to short form communication like texting and abbreviations, we’re incorporating that into an email.” It’s either ditch the text lingo or put the phone aside if you want a chance to be considered professional.
1) What is your professional history (include your timeline and roles)?
“I think to get the best specifics, because I’ve been out of school or I’ve worked since 2006; so there’s a lot of history there, is just to look at my LinkedIn profile. Just as an overview, I’ve done a few different things in accounting, I started out with the more transactional type thing like treasury, AP AR, fixed assets, general accounting, and then I eventually worked my way to audit. And then my final role in corporate was a controller, and now I own my own business and work with small business owners, and prepare taxes, do book keeping, and business advisory.”
2) What writing advice do you have for professional communicators?
“Whenever you are communicating through email be 100% professional. Don’t have any emotion attached to the email. Just be black and white with the email communication. I’ve been hearing from employers and college administrators who are in contact with other employers that the newer generation are not fully communicating within the email.
Since we’re so used to short form communication like texting and abbreviations, we’re incorporating that into an email.
It’s just always important to use proper grammar and to not have emotion; just focus on the task, and that’s it.”
3) What is your one pet peeve when it comes to professional writing?
“(Nothing specific.) I guess because I’ve seen so much I don’t let it get to me. I just make sure that I fully understand what they intend. If I am able to judge that they’re not a good email communicator then I just go ahead and set up a time to talk to them on the phone.”
4) What kind of business reports do you read and/or compose regularly?
“As far as what I’m using right now it’s definitely more the financial reporting, so P&Ls, balance sheet. Back in corporate that was pretty much the reporting as well; just focused on the financials. When I was in audit we did a lot with the audit reports to summarize the results of the audit.”
5) What are your writing suggestions to make that type of report successful?
“Enjoying writing. It’s a lot of detailed information that you as submitting to management, for them to read, for them to get a picture of what’s happening at the business. It was just based off a natural interest [in writing] that I was able to translate to the accounting world.”
6) What speaking advice do you have for professional communicators?
“I think a lot of it deals with how you present yourself, so how you dress, your voice (projecting vs timid), your gestures,movement. I would say that’s a big part of it; just physically how you’re presenting yourself.
When it comes what you’re presenting just being prepared and knowing what you’re going to talk about and not waiting until the last minute to prepare the information [is important].
Having eye contact with different member of the audience also demonstrates confidence.”
7) Name one thing you wish you had known about business communication prior to your professional career?
“I wasn’t aware how easily things can be taken out of context when writing an email. I used to write emails like I was speaking, and that is not the way to communicate when you’re at work.”
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?
“Building effective relationships. How well you’re working with others; interpersonal skills. The perception or the type of accounting student is someone who is not that outgoing, their more introverted, they work along. They just think that if they go into a role they can just silo (isolate) themselves and work. People want to work with people who are nice to work with.”
9) What team skills do you feel young professionals need the most?
“When you work in a team it doesn’t mean that things are going to be split evenly; it doesn’t mean that you are sharing the workload. It just means that you are not working by yourself. I always made sure that I focused on making my own deadlines and that I did what was asked of me by those who were in the supervisor position. But, then I was always available to help when others were falling behind, because even though I was taking on more work the goal was to complete the audit in a timely and efficient manner. Even if I’m pulling my weight I may have to pull the weight of other people. Once I was able to realize that that was the reality of working with teams, that everybody has their strengths and weaknesses, I didn’t view it as unfair if I was doing more work than everybody else.”
One of the most important takeaways from the interview concern how to communicate effectively through email. Many people communicate using digital means just as much as they do in person, which leads to the belief that proper grammar is a transferable skill that cannot be made obsolete by features like autocorrect. One aspect of emails brought up when asking Bledsoe about her pet peeves was that sometimes a person’s intentions aren’t clear, which may lead to communication issues that may lead to other problems. An unclear message does not hold much meaning to a person making it more likely for poorly composed emails to not get attention. In addition, Melanie spoke about the importance of context in emails. People should treat context as a key element on an email alongside making sure the intention of the email is clear.
A final important piece of advice concerns emotion. Bledsoe made it clear that leaving one’s emotions out of an email acts as beneficial, and after considering the idea, it appears agreeable. At first one may doubt how valid this advice is because people urge others to make emails more personal, and this idea may lead communicators to believe this meant placing emotion into an email. However, emotion does not appear to serve a purpose in a professional email, and adding in personal feelings may cause confusion for the reader. Even in situations where a person wishes to express their opposition to something, they can do so through simple statements that serve to make valid points for the writer, without any addition of words or sentences to communicate dislike or anger alongside any other potential emotions. Overall the interview process coupled with Melanie’s comments on email communication urges people to set goals towards learning more about effective communication through digital means.
Melanie Bledsoe began her professional career after graduating from Middle Tennessee State University in 2005 by working as a treasury analyst for Mapco Express where she balanced daily cash reports, posted and supplied customers payments, and maintained file for commercial paper short-term investments. After a little more than a year, Melanie found herself working for American Color Graphics, Inc. as a financial coordinator. Here she performed accounts payable duties, reconciled bank statements, and created borrowing bases for outstanding loans, along with other tasks. However, it was 16 months later that Melanie took on the job of a fixed assets analyst for LifePoint Health. Communication became more important now as she worked closely with project managers, accounting and divisions CFO’s to monitor project budgets. In addition, directing hospital personnel on proper recording and submitting of capital activity, which called for her communications to be up to par. As nearly 3 years went by, Melanie saw herself at a new job, but this one came with a change of scenery. Melanie left the state of Tennessee, where she had spent all of her professional career, and moved to Dallas, Texas. This time she took on multiple roles over a 7.5 year period working for LKQ Corporation. At first she continued as a fixed assets analyst, then as the years went by she went through a variety of positions including: general accounting analyst, internal auditor, audit senior, and operations controller. Being an operations controller involved coordinating the work done by accounting staff to make sure it was consistent and conformed to accounting procedures, and serving as the link between management and the Financial Services Center to ensure questions answered. A very important factor to note is that while working for LKQ Corporation, Melanie established Bledsoe Consulting Services in May 2016, where she spends most of her time helping small business owners.
Biography of Wiktor Iskra:
Wiktor Iskra is an Accounting major at the University of Southern Indiana. Iskra is currently a junior at USI, with plans to graduate in 2020. He aims to get his CPA become and Environmental Accountant after graduating. In the mean time, Iskra works at Old Navy as a sales associate, where he is involved with transactions and communicating with customers.