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Curiosity and Your Career

By Jacqui Barrett-Poindexter

I adore ‘quiet spaces.’

That is why life in rural Gordonville, Texas, fits. Nestled amidst horses, dogs, cats and goats and located less than two miles from our sailboat and luxurious Lake Texoma, my husband Rob and I live contentedly.

During morning porch- and coffee-time, our neighbor’s cat, “Tom,” trots over to cuddle up to Rob. A gravel road lines the south side of our house. Cars rarely pass. Roosters crow. Trees, with their husky trunks and leggy branches, loom majestically.

On a daily basis, I work alone, just me, and the computer. I write in silence. This enables thoughts to blend and translate onto a colorful virtual canvas.

I adore Twitter, and lately, have become fond of Facebook, and for business I traverse LinkedIn and Google+. Often, these sites fuel creative and imaginative writing. However, I must occasionally flip the social switch to spawn concentration white space.

It is here that the results of my curiosity transition into a career painting.

You see, as a resume strategist, my role with clients initiates with in-depth career reporting, asking probing, focused questions, then digging a little deeper to ask a question of their answer, and then a bit deeper to get them to explain why, how, so what, where, when, how much, what if, why not, where did it hurt, what hurdles did you leap over – you get the drift.

Curiously Peeling Back the Layers

It’s curiously peeling back layers. Each layer has a role, though, and mustn’t be discarded. Each layer provides value to the overall career painting.

A business executive and client recently described the paintings she creates through deliberate listening, curious questioning and engaging exchanges with employees, teams, experts, vendors and bosses. As she eloquently described, her role is to ‘be curious,’ and then convert that curiosity into a completely painted picture of her customer’s landscape so she can then develop pragmatic, executable solutions customized to fulfill their needs.

Another recent client, a senior executive for a mid-sized organization, is a former college cheerleader. In his youth, he held pom pons and cheered on the crowds at university football games. Now, he steers the ship of a growing, nimble enterprise. He creates turnarounds; he vaults business growth; he quells disgruntlement; he drives new product development; he recruits and retains; and much of the time he simply listens, curiously.

Genuine Curiosity Cultivates Trust

It is this curiosity that breeds conviction and trust among his team members; they know they are heard, and their ideas are considered. They know that their boss is cheering them on, encouraging them to do their best in the business game. Coaching the team, my client envisions the end goal and recognizes, rewards and values individual and team contributions.

His curiosity, therefore, is instrumental in catapulting revenue, boosting productivity, increasing employee retention and ultimately, creating a sustainable business.

In your life and in your work, are you curious? Or, do you find yourself mechanically going about your day-to-day just to get through your task list? Or, perhaps you’ve not given yourself permission to ‘be’ curious? Or, you’ve forgotten how? Sometimes our daily grind has a way of stripping us of our curiosity.

Deliberately Curious Behavior

If that is the case, I challenge you to try behaving curiously, even if with only one person, for one conversation, this week. You might be surprised at the rewards you reap.

To support your ‘curiosity initiative,’ I offer four traits you may wish to deploy:

  1. Genuine Interest.
  2. Commitment and Restraint: Shutter distractions such as Internet, email, Twitter, Facebook, television and the radio. Listen amidst stillness. Absorb. Digest. Reflect.
  3. Inquisitiveness: Ask thoughtful questions, and then deepen the conversation by commenting upon their responses and inquiring further. Peel back the layers.
  4. Follow-through Decisiveness: Enact pragmatic, tangible follow-on activity that demonstrates your ‘genuine interest’ (see trait #1) was not feigned. Show an ability and interest in converting what you heard into either a concrete response or a tangible solution.

As for me, in addition to the client interviewing I regularly perform, during which being curious has almost become second nature, I am determined to knit the traits of curiosity more intimately into my day-to-interactions with colleagues and other business associates, as well as my personal interactions with friends and family. While it is sometimes easy to sit back and passively and reactively navigate through conversations and events, I think that being a bit more proactively curious has its life- and career-enriching advantages.

Here’s to BEING more curious!

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