How do you get hired as an investment banking associate at Goldman Sachs when you have admittedly shaky finance skills (a C+ in Finance class) and the hiring committee openly acknowledges that you were the least qualified of all the candidates? How do you apply for a $72,000 academic scholarship, get officially turned down, only to have the program director then call you personally to offer you the scholarship? How do you land a coveted summer internship with Exxon Mobil's Treasury Department without ever interviewing, beating out the 10 classmates who formally interviewed?
No, not through connections; through communications—the ability to know what to say, when and how to say it in order to get what you really want. And that is exactly what Jodi Glickman teaches in her new book, Great on the Job: What to Say, How to Say It...The Secrets of Getting Ahead.
In the case of Goldman Sachs, Glickman gave the best interview. In the case of the scholarship, she called the program director after being turned down to lobby her cause. And in the case of the Exxon internship, a casual conversation with the treasurer of Exxon Mobil Chemical resulted in a job offer.
Glickman's concern is that an entire generation is entering the workforce without the skills necessary to speak up, or speak intelligently. "The fact is," she writes, "dynamic and honed interpersonal skills are the keys to success in the workplace. Across industries, across professions and across the board, from the rank and file to the executive suite, communication and relationship skills are key."
I think she's right. The vast majority of our workplace interactions are still predominantly made up of one-on-one conversations, all of which have the potential to either advance or halt success.
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It's not business, it's personal. With over 5 billion text messages sent daily in the U.S., 500 million Facebook users and over 175 million people on Twitter sending up to 100 million tweets per day, our digital dialogue is exploding at an astonishing rate, yet our personal communication skills are hitting an all-time low. We’ve become so adept at technology that real-time, face-to-face conversation has taken a back seat, with devastating consequences.
GOTJ, as Glickman refers to her book, is chock full of action strategies and example language delivered through a framework of four key themes: Generosity, Initiative, Forward Momentum and Transparency.
Generosity. Often overlooked in business, generosity is as critical a skill as drive, ambition and leadership. From giving praise for individual accomplishments to assuming collective responsibility for failure, generosity shows you to be a team player and creates goodwill with people who work with and for you.
Initiative. We all have the ability to drive and manage our careers to a far greater extent than we may realize. By being strategically proactive: learning new skills, excelling at things you are good at, assisting others, redirecting unwanted work and networking to create opportunities to work with people who are highly regarded, you open the door to engaging, meaningful and productive work that showcases your talents and propels you forward within your organization.
Forward momentum. Business is all about building and maintaining meaningful relationships. We sustain those relationships by keeping our interactions open-ended and active. Often fumbled in daily conversation, Glickman shows that the goodbye is not an end point but rather the beginning of your next conversation. Promising to keep someone posted, reaching out after the next big milestone or just staying in touch keeps the momentum active. "It’s always easier to keep one door open than to have to walk through a new one," she writes.
Transparency. Transparency is an increasingly valued commodity in the business world. Transparency at work includes sharing bad news rather than hiding behind it, acknowledging gaps in information and highlighting problems in advance. And despite our desire to have the answer to everything, transparency is critical when answering a question you don’t know the answer to. Rather than struggling to come up with an answer you don’t have, concede what you don’t know and then promise to go find the information ASAP. Just as consumers expect and value transparency from companies, colleagues expect it from one another.
I personally got the most out of two chapters: Chapter 5: "Ask For Help" and Chapter 7: "Answer Questions (You Don't Know the Answers To). I'll admit, I'm bad at asking for help. So Glickman's strategy, called "The Smart Ask," coupled with both cases and sample word tracks, was helpful. And the three-part strategy of answering questions you don't know the answer to was simple and useful: Step One: Here's what I know. Step Two: Here's what I don't know. Step Three: Here's how I'll figure it out.
Everyone who has ever stumbled in front of his or her boss or colleague when giving an update (or download as Glickman calls it). Anyone who has ever been put on the spot and not known the answer to a question. Anyone who feels like they’re not living up to his or her potential and wonders why. Anyone who knows they are held back at work because they aren’t comfortable speaking up in meetings, sharing their point of view or pushing back on their boss even when they should. Anyone who knows they are good at the job but truly wants to be great and perhaps doesn’t know why they aren’t getting ahead.
What others are saying:
“Thanks to Jodi and Great on the Job, the art and science behind expert communication is no longer a mystery. This is a book that needed to be written—the top-notch advice, tactical strategies and real world examples are a blue print for how to master workplace communication. Do yourself a favor and read this book now.” —Cari Sommer, Co-Founder, Urban Interns