A few months ago I was listening to a presentation by developmental molecular biologist John Medina. That's quite a title, right? The short version: He's a brain scientist. Medina has spent more than 20 years studying how we think and—as you can guess—technology has caused a big-time shift in what's going on upstairs.
Amid some discussion on multitasking (we can't) and sensory overload (we do), there were two points in Medina's presentation that really hit home in the crowd of 3,000+ employers. Almost every recruiting director I spoke with afterwards said they've noticed these in their new hires, so I'm sharing them with you now.
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Whether you're interviewing for a job or trying to stand out in your current role, take a 10,000-foot look at yourself from an employer perspective and see how you rank in these areas.
1. Employers want idea generators: "Growing up Google" has, of course, been extraordinary. Whereas previous students were forced to hunt through outdated encyclopedias, pound the stairs at the library, and—worst of all—wait, we now have answers to any question you can imagine delivered piping hot in less than a second.
Believe me, I'm not romanticizing the "way it was before." Not at all. But the truth is we've become addicted to immediacy. This has not only impacted our ability to generate new ideas (Why bother if someone out there has already thought of it, right?) but it has also meant we expect every question in business to have a black and white answer.
For example, let's say you're working at your first job and you accidentally make one of your company's largest clients very angry. What now? There's not going to be the perfect Google search that will walk you through how to handle these very real nuances of work.
So as you're attempting to impress employers, you will go further if you can assure them you are an employee who doesn't expect solutions to be spoon-fed or found online, but that you can come up with solid ideas on your own.
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2. Employers want leaders: Since some studies show that 93 percent of communication is nonverbal, the ability to "read" others and get a sense of what's going on behind their words is obviously critically important. However, the fact that we use technology to communicate so much these days has resulted in a slow erosion of this skill.
According to Medina's research, the younger the study participant, the less they were able to recognize common facial cues. This shouldn't be surprising given the stories we've all heard or experienced. I know of at least two employees who have quit their jobs via text, and I have countless examples of misused E-mail.
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In my presentations on this topic, I always talk about how E-mail should never be used to resolve a disagreement and—never fails—I always have someone in the audience who says something along the lines of, "I'd rather use E-mail when I'm mad because I can say exactly what I want to say and the other person won't see me upset."
While that's true, what you don't have any control over after you hit send is how they're going to react to what you've written. They may take it the wrong way, thereby making the situation 10 times worse than it could have been.
Whatever message you thought you sent means nothing compared to the one that was received. So if you're looking to build or convince an employer that you have real leadership muscle, always remember that's a face-to-face game.