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Career Corner: Keep Your Jargon to Yourself

Co-workers use plain language to come to a mutual understanding on their ideas. – Courtesy photo

By Angela Copeland

Have you ever wondered how your website is doing in the SERPs? What about your PPC? Are you getting a good CPA? What about the CPM? Are you tracking all of your KPIs?

Was the last sentence obnoxious, or what? There’s a good chance I almost lost you when you saw it. You may have immediately wanted to stop reading this.

In the corporate world, I’ve spent many years as a digital marketer. I’ve led teams and projects centered on acquiring new customers online. These acronyms are part of the jargon that digital marketers use every day. They stand for search engine results pages, pay per click, cost per acquisition, cost per thousand, and key performance indicators. Who would have guessed?

Sometimes, acronyms can be a necessary and useful way to communicate. Other times they’re a total waste of space and frankly rude to the person you’re speaking to. I’m sure you can relate. Who hasn’t felt talked down to by someone throwing out industry jargon as if it’s another language? It can feel like the person has something to prove.

The point of what I’m saying is this: if you can communicate your message to someone simply and without using jargon, do it. Only use industry specific jargon and acronyms when there’s not another way.

This is especially true when you’re talking with colleagues or clients who work in another department, another industry, or another company. And, it’s also true when you’re interviewing. Nothing turns off a hiring manager (or a candidate) faster than throwing a bunch of letters at them.

Talk to others in a respectful way. Speak to them in a manner that shows that you believe you’re on the same level with them. Assume they will understand the concepts, but don’t assume they’ve been studying from the same dictionary.

I’ve never received a higher compliment than when I worked with franchise owners. After giving a presentation to a few hundred owners on the topic of digital marketing, one owner approached me. He said that nobody else had ever spoken to him about the internet in a way that he understood so clearly. He appreciated me taking the time to speak using plain language, but with an important message.

This idea has never left me. Setting aside the jargon allowed the real message to come through. The important message. The meat. It allowed me to speak with people who are intelligent business owners – but not digital marketers by trade – about important things that would impact their business. Plain language allowed me to do it in a way that anyone could understand.

The next time you give a presentation, go on a job interview, or sit in a meeting, look for the most straight forward way to explain your point. Your message will get through to everyone, no matter what level or background. Best of all, you will gain respect and understanding.

Angela Copeland, a career expert and founder of Copeland Coaching, can be reached at copelandcoaching.com.

January 15, 2019

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Angela Copeland


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