Sunday, April 28, 2013

Avoid the #1 "Conversation-Killing" Networking Question - PART 3: How to . . . Active Listening Goes for the Gold

"Do you know of any job openings?" 
        If the answer is “NO,” it’ll be a short conversation.
Do you know of any job openings?” is an ill-advised way to open a networking conversation.  In fact, it’s a “conversation killer!”
Parts 1 and 2 of this 4-part Networking-HOW TO-series discussed how to have a productive conversation by establishing a comfort level for the conversation, or meeting, and by offering a guideline for talking vs. listening in order to derive maximum benefit and information.  

Now, we’ll look at “listening” - actively listening as your networking contact answers key questions that can unearth needs and opportunities  -  like mining for nuggets of information that can turn into gold, or in your case, dollars in your pocket in the form of the salary of your next position.

How much should I be listening . . . ??
A word or two about listening . . . We’ve already established via the philosophy of AJC~~Career Strategy that finding a job is a sales process - you must sell yourself, and a networking conversation provides you the opportunity to sell yourself.  That’s 50% of the your job; however, the other 50% of your task is to learn what your networking contact knows relevant to you and your search.  That requires active listening.   Your job in a good networking conversation is to be likening about 60% of the time during the conversation or meeting.

You the job seeker listen about 60%  of the time while your  network contact talks. Obvious, right?  BUT that is too frequently NOT the case!  Something happens -  sometimes, due to nervousness, lack of clarity about our networking goal, or just plain poor listening skills, we find ourselves talking too, too much.  While it may result in selling oneself fairly well, what is lost is information from your contact  -- those  nuggets of information that can turn into leads into your next job opportunity. 

So, give your contact the opportunity to talk and actively listen to the responses.  If you don’t, the $$ cost  = lost information, lost opportunities.

What does it mean to actively listen? 
Recall some conversations you’ve had and observed.  If it seems like we tend to be poor listeners, you’re right.  Study after study shows our propensity is for talking, not listening.  Need proof? . . . Think of introductions you’ve experienced.  How often did you forget the person’s name as soon as you heard it?  Happens all the time.  Why?   Generally, those who study our language habits, say it’s because we are planning what we are going to say next.  While we want to be interesting talkers, in networking, it’s equally important to remember what we’re hearing. 

So, practice your listening skills.  Here are some tips:
(1) When you are being introduced to a new person, look them straight in the eye; after you hear their name repeat it aloud. 
(2) When you ask a question, look the person in the eye, paraphrase their response, and ask if your understanding is correct. 
(3) Nod your head, or say “I see, uh-huh, makes sense” as the other person talks.
(3) In a sit-down networking meeting, takes notes!  After your networking contact, or the person you are talking to, answers a question, either paraphrase (See Tip 2) or ask a follow-up question.
(4) Program yourself before any meeting to actively listen.  Tell yourself to “Ask your question, and then actively listen to the response- no mind wandering during the person’s response.”  Sales people often do this - I know I did - and the conversation is more focused, more fun for your contact, and more productive!

To sum it up . . .    
(1)  Active listening can short cut your information gathering process.  It keeps you focused, and moving forward instead of going back over information you’ve already covered but missed because of a wandering mind!

(2)  Active listening can also get you further . . .faster, when it comes to your job search.  Begin to think of those kernels of information that your contacts share as nuggets of gold.  Information about people, opportunities, and trends that can result in a better job . . . faster.  Nuggets that turn out to be golden - gold, or in this case, dollars in your pocket in the form of the salary of your next position.
So, give it a try!  Active listening will  improve your networking, and I’d wager, your communications overall!

For additional information on marketing yourself and your capabilities, please refer to the many articles found under the Articles tabs of the AJC–Career Strategy website.
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