Last week, I was running late. I was saving work files, grabbing snacks for the kids, and thinking about what I was cooking for dinner. I could hear the clock ticking in my head. Tick, tock. Tick, tock. I couldn’t find my keys. I don’t have a fancy keypad door lock, just a traditional deadbolt. I ran into every room. I moved chairs, and even one of the dogs from her favorite spot on the couch. I couldn’t find my keys. Then, I realized they were on my middle-aged-man-carabiner-clip attached to my belt loop…so I wouldn’t lose them.
Maybe it’s age. It probably is. The carabiner clip was an adaptation, meant to ensure I wouldn’t misplace my keys. After a good laugh at my own expense, I tried not to be too hard on myself.
It’s not uncommon to overlook something we’ve grown accustomed to seeing day in and day out.
Danger: Proximity and Environmental Blindness. When you work in the same place day after day, you tend to look past the little things. This proximity and environmental blindness makes it easy to overlook details or people. Standards weaken over time without reinforcement and some sort of compliance check. I’ve witnessed – and I’ve been a part of – exhaustive searches for talent where the final outcome was to promote an internal candidate. Perhaps the search was meant to survey the talent pool. Perhaps the search validated the decision to promote from within. Whatever the case, individuals who are already known are often selected. So, be known. You don’t have to be a social media influencer to ‘see’ the people around you. Just be available, accessible, and responsive to your team, connections, followers, and friends.
Danger: Assuming the person you’re talking to understands. If you’ve been in your role for a period of time, you have established a level of expertise. You learned through your experiences over time, and you implemented (sometimes without thinking) some system or process to make yourself more efficient. Someone new doesn’t have the same acumen. Specialized knowledge should be worn with pride as a badge of honor.
Unfortunately, too many people seem bothered rather than excited to share. They think that because they’ve repeated themselves so many times, others should already have a base level of knowledge. (Think of a time when someone rolled their eyes in frustration because s/he was asked a question.)
Assuming the people you talk to understand your process, instead of making sure they do, is an easy way to alienate others.
Never lose sight of the fact that every interaction leaves an imprint. While people often remember poor experiences more than positive experiences, there is value in the positive experience. The simple act of taking the time to explain and ensure understanding could lead to a more meaningful, long-term relationship. (Think of a time when you were excited about a project after talking with someone else with the same passion.)
Danger: Vague exchange. A conversation used to involve talking. “I talked with Sue today.” “I spoke with the doctor today.” It was clear. Two people – sometimes by placing phones to their ears – took turns exchanging information and pleasantries with one another.
Conversation doesn’t actually mean saying words anymore. “I talked with Sue today” could mean “I texted…”, “I DM’d”, “I What’s App’d”, or “I Messenger’d.”
Electronic communication is designed to be brief; quick…share…respond. Unfortunately, tone can be lost, and that could lead to misunderstanding.
Many people are vague. Knowing that, use communication to your advantage. Be straightforward and specific when you communicate. “I will call you at 4pm” or “Please text me at after 2pm” provides precise direction to the person on the other end. Don’t leave them wondering if you’re calling them, or if they should text you.
It’s important to remember that something that comes easy to you, may not come as easy to others. When you are too close, you run the risk of overlooking details that can be crucial to the person with whom you’re communicating. Consider the world around you. Never assume. Always clarify and communicate with clarity. The dangers of comfort in job search may cause you to miss chances to engage, to learn, to impact, and potentially, to miss job opportunities.
David Rose is a Partner and VP of Talent Acquisition with YELLLOW DOG Recruiting, a firm focused on placing leaders in the hospitality and service industries.