October 17, 2013
Listen your way to a successful career
You keep your qualifications current, you work diligently and you are willing to pay your dues. Should be enough to succeed at any job, right?
Well, it's a start. You also need to be easy to work with. Because the person management decides to keep when thinning the ranks is very often the person who is the best team player.
One of the best, and easiest, ways to show you are a good team player is to be a good listener. This may sound like a no-brainer, but have you ever worked with someone who is a bad listener? It's like talking to a wall. No one likes working with bad listeners, who just don't seem to care.
The opposite is also true. People love good listeners. The good listener builds rapport and enriches relationships. In fact, being a good listener is such a fab way to succeed at most any job it's surprising to learn that they are as rare as paid overtime.
Maybe it's our hurry-up, want-it-yesterday world, or maybe it just sounds too simple. But it's not; listening well requires an investment of time and effort.
OK, so you can probably stand to spiff up your listening skills. How? Consider these tips:
- Put aside your own thoughts and focus on the speaker.
- Look for the meaningful, the worthwhile, in what the speaker is saying.
- Pay attention to the speaker's facial expression and body language.
- Ask relevant questions.
- Paraphrase what the speaker just said.
- Nod your head or tilt it to one side.
- Meet the speaker's gaze from time to time.
- Put a receptive expression on your face.
- Use interjections ("aha," "yes," "hmm," "I see what you mean").
- Adopt a posture similar to that of the speaker ("mirroring").
- Lean forward, toward the speaker.
- Sit (or stand) still.
- Take notes.
A word of warning: Go easy on the head nodding/tilting, eye contact, interjections and mirroring. Overdoing them quickly turns to parody. Your speaker may feel patronized or -- worse -- mocked. Remember that listening is a skill you already possess; you just need to exercise it without exaggeration.
Listening: Try it and see what happens.
Karen Burns is the author of The Amazing Adventures of Working Girl: Real-Life Career Advice You Can Actually Use. Email her at email@example.com.
Karen Burns is the author of The Amazing Adventures of Working Girl, a career guide based on her 59 jobs over 40 years in 22 cities.
Kristen Fife is a senior recruiter, career mentor, blogger and resume consultant based in the Seattle area.
Lisa Quast is a certified career coach, mentor, business consultant, former corporate executive and author based in the Seattle area.
Randy Woods writes about job-search tools, networking techniques and other tips to help you land your dream job.
Matt Youngquist is the president of Career Horizons, a career counseling firm.
Natalie Singer is a Seattle writer, editor and small-business owner.
Michelle Goodman is the author of "My So-Called Freelance Life" and "The Anti 9-to-5 Guide."
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