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Get-ahead strategy: Build your listening skills

Alina Dizik, Special to CareerBuilder

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While you'll need to learn plenty of skills throughout your career, none is as important as one: listening. Listening is beneficial no matter what you're doing. Whether it's talking with your boss, going on an interview or networking with former colleagues, knowing how to comprehend what others are telling you without interrupting is always valuable.

"Listening is a greatly undervalued skill," says Adria Firestone, a career coach. "Everybody talks about being a great speaker, but even more than being an excellent presenter, you need to be an excellent listener."

Here's how your listening skills can help you advance your career:

Notice subtleties

While words are important, understanding nonverbal cues in the workplace is just as essential and comes from top-notch listening skills. "A good listener even notices what another person may not be saying," Firestone says. Reading the physical cues of your co-workers can help you gauge a reaction to a project or find clues about what your boss really thinks about your latest work. Listening carefully and paying close attention can be a huge benefit when figuring out workplace dilemmas.

Give more thoughtful responses

Have you ever known people who give quick, snappy responses that don't necessarily address the point? Really taking time to understanding a co-worker can help you craft a more intelligent answer to a tough question or put together a thoughtful plan for tackling a work problem. "We spent a great deal of our time preparing what we are going to answer next so that we look good," Firestone says. "The sad thing is, listening skills have really gone out of the window."

Build a dialogue with your boss

There's probably no one worth listening to more than your boss. Being engaged in what she has to say can help you build a positive working relationship. One trick Firestone suggests is squeezing your toes two times in your shoes before answering any question. Having those extra few moments of thought can help you craft a response. "Well-thought-out answers are so much more impressive than careless ones," she says.

Prevent misunderstandings during a meeting

Even though you may not get the chance to say everything you'd like, listening during a meeting saves time in the long run, experts say. Hearing what others at the meeting are saying, instead of thinking about your own words, can help you analyze the real problems that need to be addressed. "You will impress [your co-workers] because you have really listened to the questions being asked, the problems brought to the table and you will have legitimate solutions," Firestone says.

Help in the job search

When it comes to networking, listening to the subtle hints of those in your network can be a game changer in terms of finding work. "If someone senses you are truly interested in them, they will be far more likely to remember you," Firestone says, adding that listening is a critical skill to aid your job search.

Paying attention to the people others recommend to you or the opportunities that don't seem applicable at the time can also pay off in your job search. For example, if you listened to someone talk about a position that seemed out of your league a year ago but you now want to work at the company, recalling that conversation can be simpler after having a meaningful discussion.

It can be easy to forget to listen to others when trying to get your point across, but this skill is especially helpful in your career. Next time you're in a career-related conversation, Firestone suggests, "Don't forget to breathe, to think, listen, listen and listen some more, and then speak."

Alina Dizik researches and writes about job search strategy, career management, hiring trends and workplace issues for CareerBuilder.com. Follow @CareerBuilder on Twitter.



Last Updated: 03/05/2011 - 2:36 PM


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