The one skill every job seeker needs is one that most people don’t seem to possess:
Being a good listener
Have you noticed that listening well and being truly engaged in a conversation seem to be lost arts these days?
Whether in a professional or social setting, so many people mark time while pretending to listen, anxiously fidgeting until they can dominate the conversation again. This holds true for both in-person and virtual meetings.
Or they interrupt people and start spieling their own story, because they think it’s more important.
- It’s become worse because of social media, with people’s heightened impatience and need for speed.
- We want things to happen quickly, and then we quickly lose interest.
- More and more people display narcissistic tendencies, and need to focus everything on themselves.
Being a good listener can give you the competitive advantage.
Because good listening skills are so rare, if you demonstrate a keen ear, you’re more likely to be an attractive candidate . . . even if you’re less qualified than your competitors.
Listening well, of course, keeps you open to – and better able to – absorb pertinent information.
Successful job search relies heavily on strong networking.
Successful networking relies heavily on a willingness to patiently listen.
Networking that benefits all parties is all about helping, sharing, finding common ground, and being a good listener.
“Give to get” networking slowly and gently creates evangelists for you and your personal brand
Being a good listener is a little-used, powerful way to build your personal brand, attract people to you and engage them to want to help you, because:
- Most people love to talk about themselves and be heard with intent interest by the listener.
- Most people are not being listened to, but crave it.
- Most people, especially at networking events, have their own agenda and are not good listeners.
- Listening well is a rare personal attribute – one that is greatly valued and can differentiate you from your competitors.
- Being listened to makes people feel valued and good about themselves.
People remember those who give them that boost by being truly interested in what they have to say. They’re much more inclined to keep that good listener top of mind when they hear of an opportunity that may be a good fit for them.
Are you a job seeker who runs off at the mouth?
Many job seekers don’t realize that they talk too much and listen too little. For some, talking is a compulsion.
It’s important to have on your “listening ears” when you’re a job seeker.
In order to land a job you’ll covet and deserve, you need to be open to hearing about opportunities when you’re networking, and be a respectful conversationalist when you’re in interviews.
That means listening intently in one-on-one conversations to the answers to questions you pose, and picking up relevant information in group conversations happening around you.
When you’re constantly talking, you don’t leave room in conversations for people to provide that information.
To find out if you talk too much, pay attention to the cues others give you.
Do people often say things like this to you?
- “I don’t have much time right now”
- “Sorry to cut this short, but I have to run”
Or are you finding that people rarely ask you questions?
They may have pegged you as someone who drones on too much.
It’s time to rethink the way you navigate conversations.
How to curb your excessive talking
Management consultant Brian Smith, Ph.D. offers this advice:
“If you are someone with the gift of gab, make sure that when you’re around others who naturally yield the floor that you don’t dominate the discussion. Mindfully notice whether you’ve talked enough and acknowledge that others deserve a turn. Listen attentively and show curiosity in others’ ideas. Allow a lull to give people time to think. And, if an idea pops up while another is speaking, jot it down and store it for later. Do not speak over someone else. Such disrespectful conduct may lead others to tune you out.”
And he suggests some things you need to do to allow others time to express themselves.
Start paying attention to how you converse with others. Notice how much time is left (or is expected) for a meeting, and whether you’re bouncing around from topic to topic without allowing others to respond. Strive to maintain an even balance between how much you talk and how much others talk.
“Enjoy listening as much as you enjoy speaking.”
When you approach conversations with curiosity, you’re more able to monitor how much you talk. Get used to asking questions and keeping quiet for the full answer. Showing people you’re interest and actively listening will make them more likely to want to listen to you.
“Monopolizing the conversation signals to the others that their opinions aren’t valued.”
Avoid speaking over others
I’m sure this has happened to you. You’re relating something to someone and before you finish your story, they rudely chime in with their own similar story, shutting you down. You’re left feeling that they don’t care at all about what you have to say.
“Giving others space to finish their ideas shows them respect and helps them feel valued.”
Learn to like the lull
You may be someone who is uncomfortable with those silent pauses, and feel you need to fill in the lulls. But other people need that time to sort things out and determine what to say next. Your chatter through the silence will distract (and probably annoy) them.
“Try not to prompt others with a question until you see several begin to make eye contact again, signaling that they’ve finished formulating their idea and are ready to share it.”
Be a good listener in these important ways
- Pay attention to ways you may be able to help others.
- Keep your ear to the ground for others in your network to determine if this person you’re talking to now could be the answer to their organizational or personal needs.
- Ask questions and listen to challenges facing this person’s organization. Maybe you’re the answer to their problems. If you’re not, you may know someone who is.
- Listen carefully to determine if the person you’re talking with is someone you want to continue to network with, or if she/he is an energy-drainer. After all, it’s nearly impossible, and quite exhausting, to be a sounding board for everyone who needs your ear. And, since good listeners are rare, people will try to take advantage of you.
Good listeners set themselves up for reciprocity in networking. Being an intent listener may even make you more memorable than the powerful personal brand message you express when networking.