Five critical career skills

Several months ago, I received a jury summons in the mail, and the proverbial eye roll ensued. “How can I get out of this?” was the first thought that ran through my mind. After a very honest round of jury selections, I was chosen for a civil case that would keep me out of the office for five days. 

After coming to peace with my frustration, I found myself engulfed in the responsibility that had been bestowed upon me. Being swept away for a week allowed me to reflect on five critical skills that impact the success of an individual in a career transition.

  1. Listen Openly: When you are not allowed to discuss or talk in a courtroom as a juror, you are forced to listen openly. During your next interview listen with the intent to understand first rather than listening with the intent to speak or reply. Although this was extremely difficult, see if you can practice your “juror” listening skills during your next networking meeting or interview.
  1. Validate All Perspectives: In a five-day trail, I was able to hear from expert witnesses such as the coroner and the civil engineer, as well as the mother, the passerby and the defendant – each had their own version of a story to tell. Whether or not they were stating fact, assumption or opinion, each brought their own angle of the incident. It was my responsibility to allow everyone to share their story. If you are in a career transition, you are only one conversation away from your next position. Take time to validate perspectives and hear everyone’s story before reaching any conclusion on whether or not they can be helpful to you.
  1. Apply Critical Thinking Skills: We often hear from companies that critical thinking is one of the most important skills in today’s workplace. Jury duty allowed me to hone these skills and reminded me that thinking critically is nothing more than deciding if a claim is true, partially true or false. Think critically when you are applying for positions, networking or in the interview process – use this as a time to reach conclusions based on reason and parcel through observations, unstated assumptions and values, misinterpreted data and evaluate arguments about a person, a company or an opportunity. Decrease any prejudices, biases which will ultimately reduce your risk of making a career mistake.
  1. Let Go of Assumptions: I had a lot of assumptions of jury duty, thanks to great television programs such as CSI and The Good Wife. I had assumptions of what it meant to serve as a juror as well as prejudices of criminals and civil attorneys. I had to relinquish these assumptions when I walked through the courtroom door. We all arrive to situations with assumptions. Next time you walk into a networking meeting, let go of all your assumptions and thoughts of who can help you and who can’t. Become a reporter and ask a lot of questions – check your assumptions at the door.
  1. Finding the 5 percent: Although I was a bit uneasy about missing a week of work, I approached this situation and applied my 5 percent rule. When individuals find themselves in a situation that is less than desirable, which you will, try and find the 5 percent of what is great about the situation. It might be finding the 5 percent that you didn’t know from a speech that you have heard several times, meeting a new friend, your next boss, partner, employee, volunteer, lender, hairdresser or dog sitter.

I found a lot more than 5 percent during my week of jury duty. I learned about new technology, civil engineering, mathematics and much more. I was able to check my prejudices and assumptions at the door each morning and listen intently, muddling through facts, opinions, data and arguments. I also made a few new friends from my fellow jury members. So next time you are called for jury duty, see it as an opportunity to practice these five critical career skills.