Tag Archives: Listening

7 ways to set yourself apart in the job search

 

running

In my personal life I drive a van. I’m a van dad; a chauffeur for my kids and their friends.

Every night I eat cereal, Great Grains with cranberries, to be exact. Not good for my waistline.

Another fact about me is The Big Bang Theory and The Middle are two of my favorite television shows.

On the surface I’m not a very exciting guy. When my friends ask me if I’m staying out of trouble, I tell them I wish I could get into trouble.

On a professional level, though, people I’ve never met approach me and tell me that they’ve heard about me. Oh no. Is there a warrant out for me? No there isn’t, they assure me.

They’ve heard about my expertise in the job-search or LinkedIn. Or they’ve seen me on LinkedIn numerous times (but they haven’t hidden me). Some of my customer say my name pops up at the networking groups they attend. It’s all good they tell me.

Although my personal life wouldn’t excite a three year-old child, my professional life is worthy of recognition. While you’re in the job search, it’s important to set yourself apart. After work, you can drive a van. Here are seven tips on how to do it.

1. Create a great first impression: This is a topic of which I’ve written and preach to my customers until I’m blue in the face. How you appear in your job search makes a huge difference. Your appearance includes your facial expression, tone of voice, body language, even how you dress. Especially how you dress!

Despite how you feel internally, portray a person who’s enthusiastic about finding your next job. Set yourself apart by expressing the value you offer employers, not talking about your current situation like a customer of mine who mentions during his introduction that he’s been out of work for a year. Those who can help you want to see and hear confidence, not listen to you bemoan how long you’ve been out of work.

2. Listen to people: Do you set yourself apart from other networkers by being willing to listen without cutting them off? Are you that unique person who asks what you can do for others before asking for advice or leads? This will set you apart in the job search; make people want to listen to you by listening to them.

Also remember that networking is ongoing. You don’t need to attend networking events (although that’s great) to be successful. You must connect with people everyday, everywhere. While it’s important to attend networking events, it’s more important that you take advantage of connecting with people who may provide you with your next opportunity.

3. Carry personal business cards: Those who have  business cards are seen as serious about their job search. You’ll carry your business cards, most obviously, to  networking events, but also to social functions, conferences, family gatherings, basically everywhere. 

Your personal business cards should sufficiently tell people about what you do and how well you do it. Read this article on why business cards are important and what information to include on them. They’re not candy, so don’t hand them out to everyone. One of my close connections has a great tip on how NOT to be a card pusher.

4. Hone up on your telephone skills: Whether it’s a telephone interview or a conversation with a potential contact, are you prepared for the call? You may require talking points, or even a script—though this is not encouraged—to make the conversation go smoothly.

Set yourself apart by being articulate and expressing your views clearly. Always think of how you can show value to a potential employer or contact, and include your relevant accomplishments in your conversation. Be sure to mention a “call-to-action,” e.g., “When can I meet with the hiring manager at the company?” Or, “It would be great to meet for coffee.”

5. Request informational interviews: Are you prepared for the informational interview (I prefer calling them “networking meetings“), so you don’t waste the person’s time? Set yourself apart by bringing to the meeting intelligent questions that create a thought-provoking conversation. Don’t waste the person’s time. After all, she’s granting you time she probably can’t spare. Your goal is to impress her.

Keep in mind that most companies are trying to fill positions through referrals. If your conversation goes well and you come across as someone who can solve the company’s problems, you might be referred to the hiring manager. At the very least, you’ll be given other people with whom you can speak.

6. Write compelling résumés/cover letters: Recruiters and hiring managers are complaining about résumés and cover letters they’ve received that are…well, terrible. They are littered with spelling errors, typos, and grammatical mistakes. Take the time to proofread your marketing literature. Better yet, have other people proofread what you submit to employers.

Don’t simply set  yourself apart by submitting a error-free résumé and cover letter. Write one that is tailored for that job, includes quantified accomplishments, and consistent with your branding, etc. Employers want to know that you understand the requirements of the position and that you can meet those requirements.

Anton7. Make your presence on LinkedIn: Because 96% of recruiters/hiring managers use LinkedIn to cull talent, it’s imperative that you’re on LinkedIn. Your job is to get found (read this article on SEO), but once you’re found you want to impress your potential employer.

My default photo of someone who sets himself apart is on the right and one I share with my workshop attendees. They all agree that he is branding himself as a photographer, doing a great job of setting himself apart.

Bringing it all together: By night I’m a van driving dad, a cereal eater, and watcher of The Big Bang Theory and The Middle; but at work I’m setting myself apart with my expertise in the job search and LinkedIn. I’m happy with my personal and professional lives. Think about how you can set yourself apart from the competition. You may not use the aforementioned methods, but try to include the majority of them.

What are some other ways people can set themselves apart in the job search?

Photo: Flickr, Running …

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Are you really listening? 3 ways to improve your listening skills

 

Do you ever get the sense that you’re talking with someone and that person isn’t really listening? You’re probably correct about that.

listening to treeAccording to Daniel Pink, To Sell Is Human: The Surprising Truth About Moving Others, most people aren’t really listening to you completely; they’re waiting for their turn to talk. He writes:

“Little wonder, then, that so few of us, in fact, do listen well. For many of us, the opposite of talking isn’t listening. It’s waiting. When others speak, we typically divide our attention between what they’re saying now and what we’re going to say next—and end up doing a mediocre job at both.”

Doesn’t that make you feel loved?

What Pink describes is your average listener. Even good listeners will momentarily lose their focus and have to regain it to follow the conversation.

This comes down, in part, to how interested and/or focused you are in what your fellow converser is saying.

You could be extremely interested, as when your boss is giving you a performance review; or slightly focused, as when someone is telling you how her toddler is assimilating to his daycare.

Regardless, everyone deserves to be listened to.

People who are poor listeners generally don’t care what people have to say, and this can have a negative effect on those who are talking.

These are people who are hopeless. We know people like this who’d rather hear themselves talk than perhaps learn something new from others.

An article that appeared on Business Insider, 3 Ways Being A Bad Listener Hurts Your Career, says that bad listening can be bad for business, giving three reasons:

  1. Bad listening is dismissive and ultimately disengaging
  2. Bad listening leads to inferior information and decisions
  3. Bad listening is a waste of time

I’ll be the first to admit that I zone out on occasion, and people in my family will attest to my inability to maintain 100% listening capability.

In fact, I am not the great listener people, with whom I interact, believe I am. At times, my listening span is about that of a fruit fly’s life expectancy.

Growing concerned about my inability to listen well prompted me to Google “Average Attention Span.”

I was relieved to read that, according to www.StatisticBrain.com, the average human attention span in 2013 is eight (8) seconds—four (4) seconds less than in 2000, and four (4) seconds less than that of a goldfish.

I think this duration is more like a burp that erupts from nowhere and then it’s back to normal.

A more accurate estimate of one’s ability to concentrate and maintain the proper duration of listening is enforced by the length of TED lectures which last no more than 18 minutes.

That’s because people’s sustained attention span is approximately that long. After that, heads begin to nod and bodies begin to shift; maybe they become claustrophobic.

Even when I listened to Susan Cain talk about her stay at summer camp, where she looked forward to reading books, I felt myself drifting from the computer screen to tidy up my desk. This was Susan Cain! my introverted hero. Even she couldn’t hold my attention for 100% of her seminar.

My workshops are scheduled to last two hours. So now I’m thinking if I can’t listen with total concentration, those poor people must be itching to leave the room.

I typically ask a lot of questions or suddenly raise my voice (shout) to keep their attention, which seems to do the trick. But now I’m thinking I need to ask even more questions and shout.

To become a better listener, I’ll now quote the methods suggested by the article and ways I’ll work on listening:

  1. Admit that you can be a better listener. I think I’ve fully admitted that, though I’m probably taking this listening thing too literally.
  2. Practice focusing on what others say. When colleagues come to my cubical I will now turn my chair and face them directly, rather than continue working on a project. I will even offer them a seat after I’ve cleared the paper from said chair.
  3. Acknowledge and respect what others have to say, rather than dismiss them with a short answer or a command. Yes, my daughter, I will listen attentively to your story about prom preparations.

When you come to terms about how poorly you’re listening to others, communication will be enriched.

Pink has a point there; often times we impede progress by not hearing what others say.

I want to be a better listener and give those their due respect, and I’d like others to hear what I have to say, as well.

Photo: Flickr, Jos van Wunnik

5 reasons why what you know about your introversion can limit you

BrainstormingFortuneLiveMediaToday I think about how being mindful of  my preference for introversion may affect my actions. Like a self-fulfilling prophesy, this knowledge occupies my thoughts and sometimes prevents me from doing what I’d like to, what I should do. So the question is would it be better to be ignorant of who I am?

How I direct my energy. Because I’m an introvert, I should prefer not going to an evening business networking event after a hard day at work. Introverts should take time to recharge their battery, not exert themselves by socializing after a day of being around people.

Instead: I have the energy to attend social or networking events despite believing that my energy should be saved for reading a good book on my Kindle, while munching on Gummy Bears. I must fight the generalization.

How I communicate. Extraverts rule the world when it comes to small talk. Because I’m an introvert, my ability to make small talk consists of 140 characters of carefully chosen words. Entering a room full of strangers, expected to make small talk, should make me anxious and want to run from the room screaming like a lunatic.

Instead: I can make small talk with the best of them, as long as I’m not battling a motor mouth for airtime. I’ve often dominated the conversation in the lunchroom much to the surprise of my colleagues. I must fight the belief.

How I listen. As an introvert, I’m supposed to listen to people…and like it? Accordingly I should actively listen and wait until the person has said his/her 5,000 words. Extraverts, according to common belief, are off the hook when it comes to listening intently–they’re free to talk nonstop because…that’s the way it is.

Instead: I find it hard to listen to people who believe they’re all that. If there were an off button on some of the loquacious Neanderthals I meet, my right index finger would ache. I am totally cool listening to people who believe in equal rights in conversation. I must politely end a one-sided conversation, as well as be cognizant of my over talking.

How I learn best. Introverts are said to learn best through writing and research, rather than by talking to others. This implies that we’d rather receive e-mails than talk with our colleagues’ in their cubicles.

Instead: It is true that I enjoy writing, but I don’t get my kicks by spending a whole day at my computer researching topics like the Sabin Oxley Act and writing a 30-page whitepaper on it. I like talking with my colleagues as long as it’s productive and doesn’t drain my time, so I must extend my self more often.

How about those meetings. Apparently I can’t participate at meetings because I think too much before talking and, thus, lose my chance to express my brilliant thoughts. The same goes for brainstorming. When others are coming up with hundreds of ideas and throwing spaghetti against the wall, I’m supposed to remain quiet until I have an idea that will stick.

Instead: While it’s true that some extraverts suck the air out of a meeting room, I can throw my weight around as good as the next guy. True, I’m not a fan of brainstorming, but sometimes it works if facilitated by the right person. Instead of over thinking, I must speak up more often and express my great thoughts.

I’ll be the first to admit that knowing the characteristics of an introvert sometimes shapes my actions at work, as well as in my daily life. I wonder how I’d act if I was ignorant of who I am. Would I act more like an extravert? Nah.

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4 lessons extraverts could learn from introverts

loud colleague

A colleague recently said to me that she’s tired of reading “self-help” articles for introverts and wonders why none are written for extraverts. After all, she said, extraverts aren’t perfect. Good point I told her. But I also added there’s no market for articles or books on extraverts.

In fact, when you search for books on Amazon about extraverts or look on the shelves of Barnes and Noble, you’ll find nada. They’re just not worth writing about, it seems.

Society has been writing and talking about the shortcomings of introverts for so long that it’s as though, for lack of better words, “Introverts need help.” Some books even talk about how introverts can be more like their counterpart, how you can program your brain to be more extraverted. Continue reading

Misconceptions about introverts. 4 facts about both types

I always want to know the inner thoughts of people, so on occasion I’ll ask my Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) workshop attendees if they had their choice what they would prefer, introversion or extraversion.

Most of the participants enthusiastically say they’d prefer the latter. Usually these are the true extraverts or extravert wannabees–the introverts, secure in who they are, don’t volunteer their opinion quickly.

My next line of inquiry would be asking the group how extraverts are perceived by society. Usually the extraverts and wannabees are the first to speak. They each take turns extolling the characteristics of the extravert: fun…outgoing…full of energy…friendly…confident…they like to party…loud….

Fair enough. Now I ask the group how they perceive the introverts; again the ones who speak up first are usually the extraverts and wannabees who talk without giving it much thought: shy…quiet…secretive…withdrawn…boring…don’t say much….The introverts reserve their comments for a better time to speak.

I help the group to see a pattern; extraverts are described in more favorable terms, save for “loud”; while introverts are described in negative terms, save for “quiet.” Enough articles have dispelled the belief that introverts are shy, secretive, withdrawn, and boring; but society still sees them as the less desirable of the two…ergo my attendees’ desired preference for extraversion.

Here are some facts we learn about both dichotomies:

  1. Extraverts are talkers and learn best by bouncing ideas off one another; introverts prefer written communications and enjoy the process of researching on their own.
  2. Extraverts are great with small talk, the envy of introverts; but introverts are known for their capacity to listen.
  3. Extraverts feel confident in large groups, whereas introverts prefer smaller more intimate groups. This is not to say, however, that introverts can’t function in large groups–it takes more effort and getting outside their comfort zone.
  4. Extraverts are uncomfortable with silence, while introverts relish it. Introverts feel no need to fill empty space and need time to re-charge their batteries.

Perhaps because my workshop group trashes introverts, or because I’m an introvert, I feel the need to defend the less desired of the two. I stress that introverts can be outgoing and fun…for a certain amount of time. Then it’s time to recharge their battery. Read an article,  7 things extroverts should know about introverts (and visa versa)on how extraverts and introverts can better understand each other’s behavior.

It’s not that introverts are necessarily quiet, don’t talk, or are boring; they like to process information before speaking. What they say can be as brilliant as what extraverts say; introverts just say it when they’re ready. (Unfortunately we sometimes miss the window of opportunity.) The article mentioned above says it nicely, “If you want to hear what we have to say, give us time to say it. We don’t fight to be heard over other people. We just clam up.”

The final question I ask the group after we’ve discussed the accurate personality traits of both factors is, “What do you think I am, an introvert or extravert?”

Usually the extraverts and wannabees say without thinking, “Definitely extravert. How could you get up there and talk if you are an introvert?” Others who have been paying attention and shuck off the stereotypes say I’m an introvert who has the ability to demonstrate more “extravert” type tendencies. These are the introverts who speak up with conviction. And they’re correct.

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Introverts, come to peace with who you are

As an introvert I often admire–no envy–people who seem totally relaxed with small talk and “working the room.” That’s not me, however.

I know the importance of small talk and mingling, and I do my best to oblige the members of a party or networking event. But I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not all that great when it comes to this small talk stuff.

That being said, I don’t want you to pity people like me. Where we lack the gift of gab, we excel in thoughtful rhetoric. Could you say we’re deep? You could, but that’s really missing the point. We enjoy conversation as much as the next person, just not at a supersonic rate.

In other words, we are who we are. Introverts are people who could care less about mastering small talk; we’re more inclined to speak at length with someone…maybe the whole night. We engage, listen, engage, listen, etc. An article called The Problem with Networking illustrates the often futility of working the room, yet the benefits of honing in on one or two people who will later prove to be useful connections. I quote the authors of the article, Stephen and Sheree Van Vreede:

“….My point is that I have watched job seekers work a room, build large social media communities, and network, network, network like the best of them, all with very little result. Many of these people are extroverts, love mingling, and are the life of most parties, but that’s where it ends….At the same time, I have seen other job seekers, introverted techies with small communities who like to sit in the corner at every party, hone in on the top handful of contacts and turn almost every one into a possible job lead.”

Don’t take this as an invitation to talk at us and expect us to listen without wanting to express our thoughts; we have thoughts, you know. We offer the courtesy of hearing you and then building on that conversation. We like to ask questions to generate conversation. We also like to be asked questions and complete answering your questions. Allowing us the time to process shows you’re truly interested in what we have to say.

It is said that at an event we enjoy developing a relationship with people with whom we feel connected. If we are talking with one person the whole time, we’re not bummed out. We don’t consider this a loss. On the contrary, we feel satisfied. Do you think this weird? We’re not, like, into collecting 15 business cards, most of which we’ll deposit in the circular file cabinet. We want real connections.

That’s part of connecting with fewer people–it’s easier for us to keep track of them. I’ve been at networking events where I’ve met 10 people or so, but only two or three were memorable. These were the ones I followed up with, the people with whom I developed a relationship. As they say, less can be better.

If you’re an extravert and thinking, “This guy’s a freak. This guy’s a hermit,” that’s fine. Think what you want. This is who I am, not who I’m not. There ain’t much I can do about it, not if I want to feel comfortable and fulfilled in my networking endeavors. And, no, I’m not here to offer you introverts hollow advice on how to be more like extraverts….I’ve come to peace with who I am.