My company has traditionally employed young adults who are working in their first or second professional job following their college graduation. Many of these young employees are “book smart,” however, they often appear to be shallow, even unintelligent, because they have not mastered the art of conversation. One of the best, and non threatening, ways of starting a conversation with one’s boss is to be aware of what is going on in the world. Being informed of local, regional, national, and world events is a good way to start a conversation or participate in a conversation that is taking place in the office or during other work related events. There is a big world outside college campuses and it pays to know what is going on beyond how well one’s alma mater’s football team is doing in the current season. It has been amazing to me, a person who has diligently followed the news of the world since elementary school, that many of my employees are, in a word, “clueless” about anything that does not personally involve them. It is a boring person indeed who is so self centered as to think there is nothing in the world outside his/her hometown that is worth knowing about. If one is not informed about what is going on in the world, it is impossible to be interested or interesting. The danger from a lack of knowledge about current events is in being perceived as a dullard with nothing to say, no opinion of value, and consequently, as someone many people would prefer not to be around. Word to the wise: stay informed about what is going on and be both interested and interesting.
Melissa and I stay informed by reading newspapers (2 to 3, or more, different ones daily) as well as news magazines (Time) and other periodicals of specific interest (photo magazines for me, Rolling Stone for her). In fact, for both of us, keeping up with the news has always been a part of our lives and we followed our parental role models in reading the daily news, and I thank my grandmother (Olie – as covered in another post) for giving me a subscription to Time when I was about 12. To me, it is just normal to know what is going on in both local news and in the world. But, we’ve found that this is not normal for many people. And, as a result, we have had to explain that this is not just about reading, or being informed; it is about being able to interact with other people and, as Melissa well explained, to converse and to provide an appearance of intelligence. As we have tried to share this guidance with our young employees, we see how technologies have evolved over time and some of them have taught us how to use things like twitter or other news feeds to follow news. So, while I like the feel of paper and of newsprint, I encourage these employees to find their own sources and preferred ways of keeping up with the world. It is true that, too often, the news is bad (a common excuse that has been given for not reading), but the gory details can be skipped if that is the problem. The other common excuse is the lack of time. But, if the bosses have time for it, employees should. And, the success of a career may depend upon it.