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August 1, 2016
My Best Piece of Career Advice: Listen
I remember a marketing intern asking me once, “What is one thing that I should be doing to learn as much as possible while I’m here?” My answer was simple, “Eavesdrop.” Of course, I was kidding – at least partially kidding. I went on to tell her that she should be listening to every work-related conversation around her. She should be interested in learning from others’ challenges and solutions. She should pay attention to how people talk to one another in the agency, communicate with clients and deal with vendors. By “eavesdropping,” she could more quickly get up to speed on what it’s really like to work in marketing – and not just be exposed to the limited number of projects to which she was assigned.

This is my way of saying that learning how to listen is my best piece of career advice. Listening is one form of curiosity, and curiosity is one of the most important traits a solid marketing strategist should possess. Being curious involves asking a lot of questions and great strategy stems from finding or developing answers to insightful queries. Here are some specific ways that up-and-comers can "listen" at work in order to learn how to ask the right questions in their day-to-day work:
  • Literally listen to what your supervisor is asking of you. Take the time to hear all of the details before interrupting or rushing off to get started on the project.
  • Ask questions, even if you think they're "stupid.”
  • Study the structure of and approach to internal and external conversations.
  • Ask if you can join meetings and conference calls even when you're not invited. 
  • Take good notes and review them carefully after every meeting.
  • Read religiously industry news and trend information.
I’m typically not one to use quotes, but this one seemed an appropriate way to finish my article:

“Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.” 
—Stephen R. Covey

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Emily K. Howarda marketing strategist since 1997, developed her skills at some of the country’s top marketing firms including DDB Worldwide, while working on brands like American Airlines, Pepsi, Bloomberg and Merck. Now as Vice President of Esparza, Emily’s integrated communications approach helps clients find order in marketing chaos. She’d love to hear from you and can be found on LinkedIn or @ekhoward on Twitter.
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