The singer and musician, Stevie Wonder, was born blind. The brilliant percussionist, Evelyn Glennie has been deaf since childhood. Actress and singer, Marilyn Monroe, overcame a stutter. Their sensory impairments did not prevent them from becoming hugely successful in their lives. They did so much more than make themselves understood. They brought joy to millions of people through expressing their talents and playing to their strengths. And they all knew the number one secret of communicating. This post looks at the lessons for jobseekers.

Communicating intentions

Let’s start with mindset. What is your intention when you communicate verbally? Here are 5 common intentions in the context of job and career:

  • Share, inform and convey – your personality, talents, strengths, potential, your know-why, know-what and know-how
  • Describe and explain – your relevant experiences and skills, complex issues
  • Assert and advocate – your values, beliefs, desires, and ambitions
  • Test and stimulate thinking – your ideas for improvement and solving problems
  • Discover – what employers want, information, ideas, and different perspectives

All these intentions are not enough if the way in which you express yourself verbally does not have the desired impact on other people. What is that impact? To connect emotionally one-to-one or with a group so they feel understood and cared about. Communicating becomes engaging when what you say resonates with the other person. Human connection in a shared space is your primary goal and the number one secret of all great communicators.

And the byproducts are numerous – you build rapport; become likable and believable; you create a positive impression and, over time, a lasting impression. In doing so, you sell yourself and develop relationships at work.

Mindsets and skills

Magician, Brian Miller, talks about the two critical mindsets and skills to adopt and practice more than others if you want to make a genuine connection with people.

  • To listen to understand – for understanding, empathy, compassion and building trust
  • To ask questions – for different perspectives, uncovering assumptions, new knowledge, and showing interest

Watch his excellent TEDx Talk below in which he answers the question ‘What does magic feel like to someone who is blind?’

I’ve never been able to get an audience interested without being interested myself. I find that if someone is talking about their passion—whether it’s horizontal oil drilling, Spanish nurse porn, or stamp collecting—I get sucked in. Penn Jillette, Magician

3 ways to develop your listening mindset

  1. Hold back – Get in the habit of testing your assumptions, ask more questions, make fewer statements.
  2. Check your mood and biases – Consciously enter into conversations with an open mind about the other person or the issue in hand.
  3. Hone your ability – Focus hard and remain in the present moment, practice mindfulness and meditation.

Listening is about giving people genuine attention and that makes them feel good. They will like you more and we all love to be liked. We want to work with people who make us feel good. Listen with your eyes (what you observe), your mouth (what you ask), your head (what you understand), your heart (your intuition), as well as your ears (what you hear).

Listening in your job search

The attitude you choose to bring with you influences the response of the other person. Take a listening attitude to your job search and you will

  • better understand job and business needs
  • gain more of the right knowledge and information, and
  • build rapport with the people who can decide your future.

Continually check out your assumptions about people, companies, and job roles. Listen to the advice of others – then listen to your head and heart to make your own decisions.

Asking questions

Most people I meet just love to talk about themselves. Start talking about yourself in response and you run the risk of competing or showing you are not listening. The shutters come down.

A questioning approach is both a mindset and a skill. It means you are no longer the centre of attention and can feel like turning off the personal spotlight, letting go of control and holding back. That can be uncomfortable.

Asking questions can demonstrate your interest, passion and intelligence for the job. Questions also provide a great marketing opportunity, so you need to think about:

  1. Why you are asking the question
  2. What type of question to ask to shape the answer you seek, and
  3. Know the consequences of each

3 common situations to ask great questions

Communicating the right questions at the right times in the right ways helps build relationships for your job and career search when

  • Networking – if you feel intimidated or tongue-tied, take the pressure off yourself by asking simple questions like“what do you like best about your job?” and “what are your top tips for engaging with your employer?” Ask open questions to get a conversation going and then show your listening skills.
  • At a job interview – Ask probing questions to dig beneath the surface of an issue – like“Exactly what does that mean for my career?” You have a golden opportunity to make an impact when the interviewer asks “Do you have any questions for us?”
  • At an assessment centre – Group activities are a common feature. Ask a relevant question at the right time to stand out from other people who dominate or appear to contribute more than you. Hypothetical questions are great for shaping a discussion, testing an idea or an alternative situation –“What would happen if….?”

You can tell whether a man is clever by his answers. You can tell whether a man is wise by his questions. Naguib Mahfouz, first Egyptian Nobel Prize Winner for Literature

In summary, communicating well is a journey from your intentions to the impact you want to have, using listening and questioning to connect with your audience.