The 1 Thing You Don’t Need to Trust Your Business English Skills
Knowledge is overrated.
But that’s not what we’re told at school. We’re told that the more knowledge we accumulate, the better our grades and university degree. The better our prospects of getting our dream job.
Once we’re in that dream job, we’re encouraged to take further professional qualifications to get that sought-after promotion and a higher salary.
I accept that in many professions, like lawyers, doctors, scientists, further qualifications are a necessary measure of one’s expertise. But for the rest of us, I wonder.
Let me share my story with you.
Once upon a time when I was in finance, I was told that if I wanted to move up the career ladder, get a higher salary and be taken seriously, I needed to study for the industry’s professional exams.
So study I did. I diligently signed up for the courses and fitted studying in between work. Early in the morning before work, during lunchtime, after work and at weekends.
I returned to ‘university-mode’ spending hours poring over my textbooks underlining key points, making copious notes with different coloured pens and highlighters (you should have seen my notebooks – amazing!) and doing extra research just in case.
By the time the exam arrived, I’d done enough practice tests to feel confident that I’d be able to answer the case study questions.
I am happy to report that I passed all my exams. I was ready to face the world.
Or so I thought.
The first time I was faced with my first complex client case, I panicked. Everything I’d learned didn’t help at all. None of the textbooks I’d studied or practice tests I’d completed covered the situation I was faced with.
Suddenly I had to think on my feet and come up with a solution. But I hadn’t been taught this. What was the point of all those hours of study if I couldn’t do my job?
I had no choice but to swallow my fear, think on my feet and deal with the situation the best I could. Feel the fear and do it anyway.
What I learned
I learned that real life doesn’t mirror the textbooks. Real life means dealing with human beings who are unpredictable. They don’t behave in a linear way. They don’t behave as the textbooks say.
So whilst studying and gathering more knowledge gives us a solid foundation, it doesn’t always prepare us for the real world.
I learned more about how to do my work well from similar cases like the one above than all those practice papers.
I learned more doing than studying theory. It was uncomfortable. In fact, it was excruciating but it was an invaluable lesson and I never forgot it. It gave me the confidence and tools to face the next challenge and the next one after that.
And yet, my clients and readers don’t apply this thinking to their English. And if you’re honest, neither do you.
You think that if you have more words, better grammar, more fluency, in other words, more knowledge, you’ll succeed in your career. You’ll be respected by your peers, clients and senior management.
The more English you know, the more confident you’ll become.
➤ sign up to that online course,
➤ join the in-company lessons,
➤ buy a package of Skype lessons,
➤ download an English vocabulary app
➤ subscribe to another YouTube English Language channel to your list
You make a commitment to yourself that you will diligently study and you tell yourself that once and only once you have built a big enough vocabulary bank and mastered all the English tenses and fluency, you will be ready to face the world.
➤ But how will you know when you’re ready?
➤ How will you know when you have all the knowledge you need?
➤ How will you know if the knowledge you’ve acquired reflects your reality? Will all those phrasal verbs help you win that deal?
➤ How will you know if all the time you spent amassing this knowledge will work?
The easy answer is you won’t.
➤ Not until you stop learning and start doing. Start communicating with your English.
➤ Not until you stick your head out and experiment with the English you know now.
➤ Not until you play with it, test it, reflect on it, mould it to your needs by making small tweaks, re-test it.
Only then will you know you have all the English you need to do your job. To communicate effectively.
Here are 2 things I want you to do now to trust your English skills.
#1: Ditch the textbooks
I want you to shelve all your vocabulary sheets, grammar workbooks and phrasal verbs list.
#2:Reflect and Analyse
Taking the English you already have, take a good, honest look at your reality at work and ask yourself these questions.
➤ With whom do I communicate in English at work? International speakers, monolingual speakers of English?
➤ In which situations – meetings, conference call, etc?
➤ What happens during these situations? How do people respond to me and how do I respond to them?
➤ Do I normally get the outcome I want? How do I achieve that?
➤ How do I overcome moments of miscommunication? Does it work? Why?
➤ What happens when I don’t? How do I deal with them?
Once you have these answers, you’ll have a clearer idea of where you’re at now with your English, how much you can already do with it and of the small tweaks you need to make to become a more effective and confident business communicator in English.
If you don’t know how to make those small tweaks, get yourself a Business English coach to guide and encourage you.
Stop learning more English words and grammar.
Go out there and use the knowledge you already have to communicate in English.
Trust me, you have more than enough English to shine in your career.