The Nelson A. Rockefeller Center for Public Policy and the Social Sciences

MLDP Week 4: Writing in the Workplace with Julie Kalish ’91

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Read a student's account of our most recent session in our Management Leadership and Development program below. For more information, about MLDP, click here.

Atul Vaidyanathan '14 and Marissa Wizig '14 practice professional writing skills by preparing a response to address a hypothetical situation in the workplace

Professionalism: what everybody seems to emphasize, what every person should want to embody in particular situations, and what every employer is looking for. How do we achieve this? We attempt to reach this prevalent expectation in our culture through factors such as our appearance, speech, and writing. Alumni and professor, Julie Kalish ’91, focused on the latter in our latest session of MLDP.

In a survey regarding what employers looked for in new employees, writing in the workplace ranked highest amongst communication, analytical thinking, and presentation. Not a surprise right? We have been writing for most of our lives and here at Dartmouth, we write all the time. Yet writing in the workplace requires a different, specific set of tools. The audience, the image of the institution you’re representing, and anticipated reactions change in the working environment. I have had some experience writing in the workplace, especially with emails, but I did see some “do-nots” I should be conscious of (like avoiding exclamation marks, which I tend to use). Working on hypothetical workplace writing situations in a group was a great way to put such a useful skill into practice.

My favorite part of the session was analyzing former President Jim Yong Kim’s March email to the Dartmouth community, which addressed hazing. I realized, through the group’s critical analysis, how several paragraphs could make all of the difference in determining people’s reactions and implications about a given situation: an email’s context and timing matters. Kim’s article was sent out very late in the controversy and was released to campus two days before his World Bank nomination. The email used “we” throughout to emphasize community and address many constituents. The email showed me that regardless of position, there are many factors one must consider in writing and there are many tactics to utilize.

We can work to achieve greater professionalism through clarity, concision, and correctness in our writing. Though I will have to consider institutional constraints, I want people to take me seriously and understand what I’m talking about. Though the form may change, writing will always be a task of ours, so prepare and be ready. Writing skills are possibly the best tools you could have in your kit when your job search begins.

-- Danielle Moore ’15

The Nelson A. Rockefeller Center for Public Policy and the Social Sciences