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TIP TUESDAY: Can You Hear Me Now?

Whether you are an entry-level account executive or the CEO of your firm, one of the most important skills necessary to thrive in the workplace, is to be a good listener. But what does it mean to be a “good” listener and how can you use this skill to excel on the job?

Everyone has their own way of communicating, both verbally and physically. Below are tips to help you become a better listener in the workplace and throughout your career.

Understanding Various Styles of Both Verbal and Physical Communication

Understand that there are several different types of communication styles, and that the background of the person you are speaking with may be different from your own. Keep in mind that this includes more than just the words a person is speaking. It’s necessary to pay attention to things like tone, facial expressions, gestures, and posture to fully interpret what a person is saying and how they’re feeling.

Building Relationships with People You Frequently Talk To and Work With

Building meaningful relationships with your colleagues will help you get a grasp on their communication styles and will also help to create a positive work culture. Developing this rapport will not only allow you to learn their approach to communication, but it will also make the communication process more efficient.

At times, you may encounter individuals who are very soft-spoken and others who are loud and passionate in their delivery.  You will certainly meet people who like to communicate with their hands and make a lot of movements, some that are very direct, and others who are verbose and may take longer to articulate their message. Being patient and focusing on the speaker will allow you to better understand the point they are trying to make.

Listening to A Complete Message or Thought

Regardless of the speaker’s approach, allow them to completely finish their thoughts before responding. Interrupting could cause them to lose focus and forget important details. Listening to their complete thought will also allow you to digest the whole of what they are saying instead of in fragments. Additionally, if you are speaking about a subject that is sensitive to you, don’t make assumptions and try not to overreact or get easily offended. Listen, comprehend, and respond in a calm manner.

Asking Questions to Illicit the Best Response

If you don’t understand something that was said, you should never leave a conversation with lingering questions.  In order to illicit the best response, be direct with your language and don’t be afraid to rephrase your question if their answer still doesn’t make sense. Remember, no question is a bad question and it’s better to get a clear understanding of the situation now rather than have to revisit the topic later.

After a conversation, meeting, or presentation is over, it’s helpful to recap the conversation either verbally or in writing to ensure that you not only listened but understood the message correctly.

Throwback Thursday: CNN Debuts on June 1, 1980

On this day in 1980, CNN (Cable News Network), the world’s first 24-hour television news network, CNNmade its debut. The network signed on at 6 p.m. EST from its headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia. CNN went on to change the notion that news could only be reported at fixed times throughout the day. At the time of CNN’s launch, TV news was dominated by three major networks–ABC, CBS and NBC–and their nightly 30-minute broadcasts. Initially available in less than two million U.S. homes, today CNN is seen in more than 89 million U.S. households and over 160 million homes internationally.

CNN was the brainchild of Ted Turner, a colorful, outspoken businessman dubbed the “Mouth of the South.” In 1970, he bought a failing Atlanta TV station that broadcast old movies and network reruns and within a few years Turner had transformed it into a “superstation,” a concept he pioneered, in which the station was beamed by satellite into homes across the country.

In its first years of operation, CNN lost money and was ridiculed as the Chicken Noodle Network. However, Turner continued to invest in building up the network’s news bureaus around the world and in 1983, bought Satellite News Channel, owned in part by ABC, and thereby eliminated CNN’s main competitor. CNN eventually came to be known for covering live events around the world as they happened, with its reporters often beating the major networks to the scene. CNN gained significant traction with its live coverage of the Persian Gulf War in 1991 and the network’s audience grew along with the increasing popularity of cable television during the 1990s.

TIP TUESDAY: What Do Employers Really Need to Know About Job Applicants?

Employers invest significant time, energy, and resources in bringing a new employee onboard.  Recruiting, screening, and interviewing processes are all done with the goal of hiring an employee who will do a job well and work well within an organization.  So what do employers need to know to hire successfully?  And what are the things employers don’t need to know?

Need to Know:

Experience.  Does the applicant have relevant work experience (or other experience)?

Education.  Will the applicant’s education help him or her do the job?

Personality.  Does the applicant have the motivation, energy, and attitude that’s needed for the job?  For the organization?  Note—employers shouldn’t always look for an applicant who will “fit in.”  Sometimes the right person for the job is someone who will shake things up, bring a new perspective, or reenergize a team or department.

Not So Much:

Credit score. It’s apparent from recent legislation on state and local levels that employers don’t need to know whether an applicant has a good credit score—at least for most jobs.  The District of Columbia is the jurisdiction that most recently enacted a law that prohibits employers from asking job applicants about their credit history.  It joins 11 states that have similar laws. Generally, the laws allow employers to inquire about an applicant’s credit history if the job involves unsupervised access to large sums of money or to customers’ financial information.

Pay history. A new state law in Massachusetts and a new ordinance in Philadelphia prohibit employers from asking about an applicant’s pay history; similar legislation is pending in other states and municipalities, including New York City, where a bill approved by the city council awaits the mayor’s signature. Basing an employee’s pay on pay history instead of the market value of the position can be a disadvantage to workers who entered the workforce at a lower pay rate; and it can perpetuate gender-based pay disparities.

Not Right Away:

Criminal history. Several states and numerous cities and counties have enacted “ban the box” laws that prohibit employers from asking about an applicant’s criminal history on a job application. Many require employers to delay these questions until after an applicant has been offered a job.

Not At All!

Protected characteristics. It’s a rare job that requires a job applicant to be of a certain age, race, color, religion, national origin, or sex (think female actor for a female role). If employers ask for information, it’s because they want the information. And if they want the information, it’s because they’re going to use the information.  At least, that’s what the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) “generally presumes” about an employer’s questions.

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibits employers from asking questions that are likely to elicit information about a disability before a conditional job offer has been extended.  Employers should avoid questions about an applicant’s history of using sick leave, history of hospitalizations, workers’ comp claims, etc.  Questions should be limited to whether the applicant can perform the essential functions of the job with or without reasonable accommodation.

To get the information it needs while avoiding information that’s irrelevant (and possibly unlawful), an employer should focus on the qualifications for the job in question and make inquiries that will help it evaluate how the applicant’s skills and experience align with those qualifications.

THROWBACK THURSDAY: First Star Wars Movie (Episode 4) Opens

(from The History Channel online)

Star Ware posterOn this day in 1977, Memorial Day weekend opened with an intergalactic bang as the first of George Lucas’ blockbuster Star Wars movies hits American theaters.

The incredible success of Star Wars–it received seven Oscars, and earned $461 million in U.S. ticket sales and a gross of close to $800 million worldwide–began with an extensive, coordinated marketing push by Lucas and his studio, 20th Century Fox, months before the movie’s release date. “It wasn’t like a movie opening,” actress Carrie Fisher, who played rebel leader Princess Leia, later told Time magazine. “It was like an earthquake.” Beginning with–in Fisher’s words–“a new order of geeks, enthusiastic young people with sleeping bags,” the anticipation of a revolutionary movie-watching experience spread like wildfire, causing long lines in front of movie theaters across the country and around the world.

With its groundbreaking special effects, Star Wars leaped off screens and immersed audiences in “a galaxy far, far away.” By now everyone knows the story, which followed the baby-faced Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) as he enlisted a team of allies–including hunky Han Solo (Harrison Ford) and the robots C3PO and R2D2–on his mission to rescue the kidnapped Princess Leia from an Evil Empire governed by Darth Vader. The film made all three of its lead actors overnight stars, turning Fisher into an object of adoration for millions of young male fans and launching Ford’s now-legendary career as an action-hero heartthrob.

Star Wars was soon a bona-fide pop culture phenomenon. Over the years it has spawned five more feature films, five TV series and an entire industry’s worth of comic books, toys, video games and other products. Two big-screen sequels, The Empire Strikes Back (1980) and The Return of the Jedi (1983), featured much of the original cast and enjoyed the same success–both critical and commercial–as the first film. In 1999, Lucas stretched back in time for the fourth installment, Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace, chronologically a prequel to the original movie. Two other prequels, Attack of the Clones (2002) and Revenge of the Sith (2005) followed.

The latter Star Wars movies featured a new cast–including Ewan McGregor, Liam Neeson, Natalie Portman and Hayden Christensen–and have generally failed to earn the same amount of critical praise as the first three films. They continue to score at the box office, however, with Revenge of the Sith becoming the top-grossing film of 2005 in the United States and the second worldwide.

WEDNESDAY WORKFACT: Which occupations are expected to see greatest growth?

Much of U.S. job growth over the past 35 years has been in occupations that require higher levels of education, training and experience,jobs according to a recently released Pew Research Center report. And based on our analysis of official government job-growth projections, that trend seems likely to continue.

Employment in occupations requiring average to above-average levels of preparation – a metric that combines formal education, on-the-job training and prior related experience – is expected to grow 7.9% between 2014 and 2024, according to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics. That equates to nearly 6 million of the 9.7 million jobs predicted to be added over that time. Employment in occupations requiring below-average preparation, on the other hand, is projected to grow by only 5.1%, or the equivalent of about 3.7 million jobs. (The BLS projects overall 2014-24 job growth at 6.5%.)

The differences in projected growth were even more pronounced when looking at social skills, which Pew Research Center defines as encompassing interpersonal skills, written and spoken communication skills, and management or leadership skills. Employment in occupations that require average to above-average levels of such social skills is projected to grow by 8.1%, versus just 4.4% growth for occupations requiring below-average levels of those skills.

Click here to read the full Pew Research report