For companies, effective reading should be a fundamental employee skill. It only makes economic sense. Yet, it is overlooked and neglected.
At work, we need to read effectively, i.e., our reading must produce the desired result. It must help us directly, like when we read an email that requests something from us and we reply accurately and precisely. Or, it must help us indirectly, like when we have to refer to different sources to write a report.
Here’s what effective readers do when they read:
They gather information:
- The who, what, when, where and how
- What is fact and what is opinion
- Determine the meaning of a new word based on context
They quickly grasp what is stated:
- What is the single idea of the piece?
- How is the author supporting his thoughts?
- How are sentences and paragraphs organised for impact on the reader?
They understand what is not stated:
- Is the author being rude, angry, hopeful, indifferent, or critical?
- What conclusions does the author want the reader to draw?
Schools do their best to introduce the skill to us – they call it reading comprehension. Once we leave school, it needs to be taken to the next level in college and beyond. Unless we read for pleasure or study literature, that doesn’t happen.
We join the work force and encounter this situation: we send someone an email requesting information and what we receive is incomplete, inaccurate, or not what we asked for. We then spend time and effort to follow up with further emails or calls to get what we want. The reason this happens? The reader or the writer or both are not effective readers.
Here’s what effective readers become:
- Result-oriented writers – they write with the reader in mind
- Efficient and more productive workers – they save their company’s time and money
- Better communicators and consequently, better leaders
Companies should train their employees to be effective readers. Not only does it have a cascading effect on written and spoken communication, it also improves efficiency and morale within an organisation, and impacts the company’s bottom line. Effective readers make economic sense.
It’s official. India’s job growth has slowed down and people are starting to worry. If you’re like me, when you found that one thing that you could do well you kept doing it for a number of years, without considering what else you could do. Maybe now is a good time to start exploring options.
Thoughts create things. So here are a couple of thoughts on creating more job options:
Pay attention to your ‘taken-for-granted’ skills and strengths: It is part of your standard introduction to state your designation and a list of five things you do every day as part of your job. But, in focusing on the big picture (and to make what you do easily understood by everyone else) you may have slotted yourself and overlooked other things you use to do your job well – your cognitive skills and soft skills. I worked in Human Resources (HR) for eleven years and found out: that though I liked HR, I liked processes and operations better; that I had the ability to connect the big picture to finer details; that I could problem-solve, anticipate bottlenecks and view an issue from all sides; and that I had organizational skills, and written and verbal communication skills. I’m no longer in HR and these skills that I discovered are now front and centre on the assignments I work on.
To discover your ‘taken-for-granted’ skills pay attention to the ‘little help’ that people come to you for. As you go about your day, are there parts of your job that you call ‘smaller tasks’ that put you in the zone and make you forget the rest of the world? Explore them further by finding more uses for those skills – either at your current job or as a side hustle.
Learn to work with your hands: I haven’t done it myself … yet, but I see merits in this. Most of us work at our desks for long hours. It does not leave us time to create with our hands. But think about this – chefs, bakers, artists, seamstresses, hairstylists, etc. are always in demand. So are skilled mechanics (just ask vintage-bike collectors), carpenters and electricians. There is a ‘je ne sais quoi’ uniqueness to their jobs that cannot be replicated. That’s why you agonize over who to hire when your car has to be repaired or your house needs new concealed wiring.
If like me, you don’t think you can create anything with your hands, please go back to the part where I said, “thoughts create things”. If you have ever relished a good creamy pastry or admired a unique piece of furniture, know that working with your hands is an alternative you can explore. I know… you’re thinking that the only thing you can do is fold paper. Then take a look at what origami artist Ross Symons does for a living. It’s true it takes time to learn a skill, maybe years, but isn’t it worth it to have an option B for a career?
Having a bigger basket of skills – either by recognizing every skill you have or by learning new ones – is the best way to increase your chances of finding the work you deserve.