One of the things I get all the time is an apparent continuation of a conversation I was in some time ago, and I’m meant to pick up the thread without any explanation or context.
Depending on the people you are dealing with, this can be quite an easy trap to fall into. As a DBA that looks after many instances of multiple database engines, middle tier technologies and load balancers, I tend to get pulled into loads of conversations. For the person in question, let’s say a developer working on one project, they see this interaction as a one-to-one relationship between them and me, but for me it’s a one-to-many, as I’m dealing with many such conversations at the same time.
When I’m in that position I’ve stopped trying to figure it out, and now the conversation goes something like this.
- Person : You know that thing we were talking about last week?
- Me : No.
- Person : You know, that thing…
- Me : I literally have no idea. Please explain…
In some situations, it turns out it wasn’t even me they had the conversation with, or I wasn’t copied into the emails. A fact that only becomes evident when they take the time to order their thoughts…
I’m generally pretty happy to help people out, but I’m not going to go through hypnotherapy to pull back distant memories in order to continue a conversation you think I should remember. As you saw from my previous post on this subject, I expect each interaction to be self-contained. If there is any context necessary, it should be in the interaction itself. I shouldn’t need the skills of Professor X to pull it out of your head…
So before you pick up the phone, start typing on chat, or begin an email, take a second to plan the conversation in your own mind.
- What introduction is necessary to get people up to speed?
- Is there any prior knowledge I’m assuming, that I probably shouldn’t?
- What is the main purpose of this interaction?
- What are the outcomes I’m looking for?
It will only take a couple of seconds to figure this out. I’m not asking you to spend an hour preparing for a five minute chat, but don’t just launch into a stream of consciousness and expect everyone else to jump back in at exactly the same spot they left.
Sometimes the tech world drives me to despair. A quick look around Stack Exchange and forums and you can see most people have terrible written communication skills. I have a long history of trying to encourage people to improve their communication skills because it really matters.
This is something I have had to work on myself, and still do. If you don’t put some effort into developing your communication skills you will always remain a second-class member of staff.
I’ve got to the point now where I’m becoming hard nosed about it. If you’ve not already recognised this in yourself and started to try and do something about it, why should an employer waste their time with you?
If you really don’t know where to start, you might want to look through these series of posts I wrote a while ago.
You might think it’s all about silent geniuses, but the tech industry is really about communication. If you can’t communicate efficiently with colleagues and the users in the business area you are working in, there is no point you being there.
Please, please, please make the effort. Once you do you will never look back!
It’s important you can present yourself in a confident and professional manner when it comes to interviews, but this also carries over into a work environment.
Once you get a job you need to be able to communicate effectively with your colleagues and with your customers/users. I know you think your silent genius act makes you look special, but it doesn’t. The initial interaction between humans involves building rapport. It’s kind-of difficult to build rapport with someone who refuses to talk to you and can’t look you in the eye. You need to get your communication skills sorted before you try to enter the job market.
If you are working in IT your written skills will be really important. You will need to communicate with colleagues and customers/users in a concise, but accurate way. People won’t read waffle (TL;DR), but they will demand enough detail to make sense of what you are saying. A quick read through your typical IT forum will make you realise that most people have terrible written skills and are incapable of stringing together a logical argument. You don’t have to be a prize winning novelist, but you need to be able to make yourself understood.
Remember in a previous post I wrote about enthusiasm. It doesn’t matter how enthusiastic you are if you can’t express it!
I’ve written some post on writing tips and public speaking tips. I think this is important for you as someone who is trying to enter the job market, or someone who is trying to move up the ladder. Don’t lose out on an opportunity because you’ve neglected your soft skills!
Check out the rest of this series here.