I'm serving as the New Grads Job Search Expert on Job-Hunt, and will be writing a monthly column for the site. If you haven't checked out Job-Hunt.org before, I encourage you to do so. The site is very easy to navigate and includes comprehensive information to help you throughout your job search process--from getting started with your first job search to how to work with recruiters and deal with a tough career transition.
In my first piece for Job-Hunt, I shared stories from my own first job, work in career management, and lessons learned from rocket scientists as well as the proverbial "water under the bridge."
This month, I focus on the importance of listening. It's not a skill that you find frequently in a position description, but your ability to be a strong active listener can make all the difference in the interview process--and once you get hired.
For the past year, I've been taking classes in storytelling from Narativ. I'm learning how to tell stories that make an audience lean forward. I'm learning strategies to tell what happened instead of how I feel about a situation. The Narativ methodology is helping me to become a better storyteller. But mainly, I am learning how to be a better listener...without listening, you lose impact--in your job, in your ability to work with others, in your ability to communicate.
The process of finding your first job--and positions after that--can be fraught with anxiety, self-doubt, and doubt: Am I really qualified to do this job? Do I have the experience that it takes? All too frequently, you may miss a really obvious skill---one that can make all the difference--and that you already have. The skill I am referring to, of course, is listening.
Several years ago, I watched an Ivy League senior with a 3.98 GPA from a relatively unpopulated state (let's call it Nebraska) participate in the selection rounds for a Rhodes Scholarship interview. He had a long list of organizations he'd been involved in as well as measurable achievements for his extracurricular efforts. But there wasn't a single activity that he was involved in that he didn't hold the top title--President, Captain, Chair. As he told the committee, "I just prefer to be in the leadership role."
He didn't get picked. The committee went with other candidates who had experience in simply serving as a committee member, a participant, a team player.
In the midst of everything, never forget: Employers are looking for great listeners who can follow directions! Often, they will hire you for this singular ability--and then teach you the rest.
That's my two cents on listening. Now I want to hear what you have to say...