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Now you’re talking: Why language matters at work

By Goretti Kimani | January 22nd 2016

NAIROBI: The job market today is awash with thousands of people looking for gainful employment. They are armed with great certificates to showcase their proficiency and expertise to any willing employer.

Sadly, one of the most common complaints from recruiters is the lack of suitable job applicants. The reasons for this are as varied as the applicants themselves.

From poorly structured CVs to the inability to communicate and demonstrate one’s skills at the interview level, recruiters are literally getting fatigued in the process of trying to fill vacant positions.

Ineffective use of the country’s national languages, particularly English, are a major turnoff. This weakness is manifested in poorly written applications and barely coherent conversations.

For anyone looking for a job, the proper use of language is of critical importance and opens up a world of career opportunities. If you are hoping for a bright job future, you cannot overlook this skill.


Unfortunately there is a glaring gap between what employers expect and what they are getting. Employers are on the lookout for candidates who are fully developed in their mastery of language. They expect candidates to be fluent and audible.

Candidates who are comfortable with words are quickly able to find favour with employers. Such candidates fit in well in teams and can blend in quite easily within the establishment. Most serious jobs also require advanced reading and report writing skills, mostly in English.

Developing good command of language is not that hard. It starts with one appreciating that the need exists.

Second, you must take decisive action to rectify the problem. One way to do this is through reading a wide variety of books — do not just read for entertainment, but with the underlying objective of improving your grasp of grammar.

Also, develop a culture of using official language at all times. This will give you the opportunity to put into practice what you have read. Avoid using slang, such as ‘xaxa’ and ‘xema’, when emailing or texting your peers, and do not revert to sheng when at work.

Third, make use of the countless online platforms that offer free lessons on how to write reports, pronounce words and understand new vocabulary. As you long as you have clear language goals, you are not likely to run out of options. Seek help from a professional if necessary.

The benefits to improving your mastery of language are numerous. Employers will immediately take note of your communication skills, and as long as you do not neglect other areas of your career, you will definitely find yourself on the fast lane to success.

Good language skills also elevate your confidence and self-esteem, exposing you to opportunities in team leadership and management, as well as enabling you fit and work in diverse work places.

The writer is a human resource and careers specialist with Peoplelink Consultants.

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