The Power of Connection: how communication skills can open doors in your career
21 May 2023
Maybe it’s my LinkedIn feed and the techie type of newsletters I sign up to but they’re all chattering about how AI will clean our cars and answer our phones.
Mind you, after speaking to Warren (I won’t declare his real name) at my Insurance Company, I’m convinced they’ve already replaced their advisors with droids, such were his interpersonal skills.
Anyway, I’ve been a-thinking and a-chatting to all sorts of people about ChatGPT and what how it’s apparently going to run rings round us.
It’s not the only time in history we thought we’d become irrelevant.
For example, I don’t see any leech collectors around Essex anymore and I can’t remember any rat-catchers on the Underground.
But other jobs surfaced for the first time. There were bus conductors and electricians where before there were none.
Out of change, comes opportunity.
As Arnie Schwazenegger said this week. “We have to change with the times. I would not want to drive, maybe for fun, a car that is 50 years old”.
To move on professionally, it’s vital to find opportunities within the change.
Here’s how to do it with two specific stories of Geoff and Kira. Bear in mind that although these two people have technical backgrounds, the methods they use to develop their careers through communication and influence are pertinent to everyone.
As you read, think about how these techniques could apply to you.
Geoff: if you don’t ask you don’t get
Starting to feel like the cyborgs are taking over?
When British Telecoms announced 55,000 jobs were to disappear, they stated that a fifth of those losses were going due to AI with the rest caused by a leaner network. This meant fewer people were needed to crank up systems and keep them going.
But for Geoff, this change that was not going to knock him off the road.
Some years before BT’s announcement, he’d been working with them, fitting copper lines. It was through colleagues that he’d realised that the copper lines he’d been working on were to be phased out. At first, he shivered at the idea of his potential irrelevance.
“If you don’t ask, you don’t get,” he reasoned, so he asked the manager of the Fibre Optic team to inform him when there was a vacancy.
A vacancy soon appeared so the manager invited him to apply for it.
After sometime in the role, Geoff became so adept that he was trusted to train others.
Soon he was itching for a more senior supervisory role. Although he’d not officially managed before, he’d performed a crucial part of that role through informal development of newcomers.
Knowing the importance of networking (beyond cables), Geoff started following one of the function leaders within the company on the internal blog. Not in a stalky way, mind, but with the odd ‘like’ and comment.
She noticed his interactions and soon a conversation started in which Geoff discovered a management opportunity. Sending out clear messages to communicate what he wanted meant avenues started to open up ahead of him.
Geoff had opened up opportunities through face to face as well as virtual interactions.
Being visible through online channels is particularly useful with cross-functional teams and when managing up, since the opportunity for direct communication doesn’t present itself so readily.
This has helped Geoff secure new roles, even as BT was undergoing major changes.
By staying connected and actively seeking out new opportunities, he was able to adapt and thrive in a rapidly changing industry.
Kira: small moves that open doors
It didn’t take long for Kira to realise she was in the wrong job.
After a few months in Tech Ops for an Insurance Company, Kira realised her ambition was to go into Software Engineering.
Unfortunately, she had no access to anyone in that area and had to lean on some resourcefulness to open up a path for herself.
She turned to the job search portal, Indeed.com, typed in ‘software engineer’ and within a month, there were 3 jobs for which she could apply, one of which was internal.
Unlike Geoff’s example above, she didn’t have friendly colleagues or managers dropping hints to a better future.
Refusing to be spat out by the algorithm, Kira didn’t leave it to the portal: she also called the hiring manager directly.
Having won the role, she realised her timing was spot on. Had she waited, she’d have discovered that a TV advertising campaign running 4 days after her application was submitted, had flooded the company with applicants.
In her new role, she keeps the Product Team close. Her first first interactions with them began when she’d see members of that team in the kitchen. Naturally introverted, Kira felt rather awkward about initiating conversations even though she knew that these informal ‘cappuccino chats’ are vital in building connection. She read this, and then struck up a conversation with Meena from the Product Team.
As a result of her interest in their initiatives, she’s been invited to be part of the implementation team for new software, learning fresh skills in the process.
That aside, she’s actually in a stronger position than many of her colleagues – and managers – as she’s paving the way for new technology.
Although she started off by having no contacts she could tap for a lucky break, Kira made her own luck while she was in the company then pro-actively seeking out collaborative opportunities by using her communication skills around her organisations.
Soft Skills to Concrete Outcomes
Now, we can all rail against change.
Or look for the new opportunities within it. If you’re looking for even more ways to do this you can find them here.
So, if you’re worried about being replaced by a cyborg, learn from Geoff and Kira.
Stay visible in your organisation by using your communication and influence skills to form relationships with colleagues and managers, as well as actively seeking out new opportunities.
Who knows, you might just find a new role that you never even knew existed!
1. Talk to people in your area, Product Teams, other departments… be in the know.
2. Use job sites to research open job posts internally.
3. Stay informed and be proactive whether it’s emails, talks, internal comms such as Geoff’s blog action.
4. Follow, like and comment on internal communication such as blogs to form relationships with upwards with leaders, as well as colleagues.
Remember… you don’t have to be ready for a role, only ready enough, especially if it’s a new area.
My question to you is what techniques have you applied or would you consider using?
Answer in the comments below.
Looking to enhance your interpersonal skills? I’ll help you or your team unlock communication superpowers. See how here.