Monday, March 24, 2008

How To Do It

Susan Bernstein asked last week about what I did to turn a simple phone call into a promising job lead, so I thought I'd share some of my tactics.

First and foremost, I listened. Listening is a crucial communication skill, but it can be an elusive skill as well. In a society where everyone is constantly talking, it's difficult for most people to take a break from their internal and external monologues to take in what someone else is saying. I can say that I've definitely had my moments of picking up a single point from a long speech and ignoring someone while I internally work out my response. But often, a response formulated in this manner misses half of what the conversation dealt with, and it sounds rushed. In this case, I listened to what my contact had to say about the job she had held previously, and tried to pick up the antonyms hidden in context. For example, when she told me about some more senior staff at the job who didn't listen to younger people, I picked up that she felt trapped by an older system and would thrive somewhere that respected her opinion and ideas despite her age.

In listening to what this woman was saying, I heard what she wanted and did not want in a job, and realized that we wanted a lot of the same things: less rigidity and red tape, a more relaxed working environment, and a chance to show our talents, ideas, and strengths.

Second, I made use of my network. I mentioned that I had worked with a former Development Director there, and this prompted her to tell me about the changes that were going on, which gave me a lot of insight, through the lens of my former colleague. I asked if she knew a former classmate of mine who works there, but in another department, and this shared connection helped me in two ways: 1) it connected me to the institution through multiple departments and 2) it brought up my graduate work. Apparently, my particular degree is seen as an important asset at this school.

Third, I picked her brain about the current strategic plans at the school, and learned that the school is trying to boost its image nationwide. This led to a discussion of development and enrollment trends, which is an area I'm very knowledgeable about. This is the sort of conversation where my incessant scouring of the education pages of the Times, Post, and Globe, as well as the Chronicle comes in very handy. After I made a few remarks about the future of enrollment and giving trends dependent on demographic projections, the woman paused for a moment and said that I had just gotten to the heart of the school's President's current vision for growth.

1 responses:

Anonymous said...

Listening, Networking and Knowing what you're talking about. Those are three killer strategies.

Usually I listen pretty closely, but there are times when I zone out while my brain goes off on a tangent. Then I snap back and find myself thinking, what did you just say? But it's important to listen for our own sake and for the good impression it leaves on others. Everybody likes to be listened to.

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