Working Strategies: Finding the right words and how to use them

Jul 14, 2016, 12:46 AM

Career Corner is a program produced by the Minnesota Radio Talking Book Network, part of State Services for the Blind, and it is recorded for people are blind or have reading disabilities. You can listen to the stream of the Minnesota Radio Talking Book Network at, and the password is RTB. Your host, for Career Corner is Anne Obst.

Music Working Strategies: Finding the right words and how to use them • Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window) • Click to share on Pinterest (Opens in new window) • • Click to share on Tumblr (Opens in new window) • Submit to Stumbleupon (Opens in new window) • • By Amy Lindgren PUBLISHED: April 23, 2016 at 12:00 pm I’ve always been a smooth talker. As a child, I could talk circles around my peers and family. Ironically, being somewhat introverted, I didn’t often display my secret super power. If I’d had a special costume to wear under my school clothes, it might have featured a big pair of lips and a microphone as part of the logo. Hah! Take that, Wonder Woman! That costume never materialized, but I did manage to stumble into a career where my super powers can be used for good, in at least two ways. First, I’m able to put ideas into words that help others understand the complexities of job search and career development — hence, this column, as well as books, workshops, and other word “products”. And second, I’ve found that I can provide the words, or at least the framing for the words, that others can use themselves. That is, I can coach job seekers on what to actually say when they’re meeting with employers or asking networking contacts for a meeting. As it turns out, job seekers appreciate this service more than I would have expected. For someone who takes words for granted, it was a learning process to see the lengths others will go to avoid saying the wrong thing or feeling foolish. Indeed, I eventually discovered that being at a loss for words — or fearing that possibility — inhibits people at just about every stage of a career or job search. For lack of words, I’ve found people hesitating to request projects, promotions or salary increases; declining to make outreach to employers to discuss job opportunities; holding back from attending networking functions or from contacting people they don’t already know well. There’s almost no career development task, it seems, that isn’t impacted when someone feels un-confident about the wording to use. Understanding this truth has led to multiple “aha” moments for me. For example, now it makes more sense (although it’s still not good strategy) that job seekers might prefer completing online applications over composing emails or calling department managers directly. Likewise, I can grasp now why networkers find comfort in memorizing “elevator speeches” instead of trusting themselves to converse naturally, and why interview candidates seek answers online for common questions rather than simply identifying the message they want to impart and adapting that message to suit the questions. If I’m describing you, then thank goodness you’re reading this column today. It’s time to break the tyranny of wordlessness and move forward with confidence. The first thing I want to tell you is that personalized, direct communication is always better than the alternatives, even when it’s delivered in a halting or hesitant manner. You will get better at the delivery but only by repeating the exercise multiple times. This isn’t a game you can play in your head, so you will have to commit to jumping in, despite your discomfort. The next thing you should know is that even smooth talkers have processes to help them along. In my case, it’s a series of what-if scenarios and a short list of prioritized talking points. Believe it or not, I follow these steps for nearly every planned communication. Whether it’s a short voicemail I’m intending to leave, an email I’m writing, or a face-to-face meeting I’m headed into, I...