“You have to be interested. If you’re not interested, you can’t be interesting.”
Have you ever met someone at a networking event and all he talked about was himself? You find yourself asking him a number of questions only to realize that he has not asked one question about you. Or, have you ever conducted an informational interview only to find that the person who requested the interview has no specific questions about the work you do or your employer? And, what about the presenter who demonstrates no enthusiasm for the subject matter she is presenting on?
People like interesting people. More importantly, employers are drawn to, and ultimately hire, people who are amusing, curious, and engaging. If you are not interested when networking, interviewing, or presenting, the takeaway can often be that you are also not interesting. That is enough to call “game over.”
Below I’ve listed 5 steps to take and become interested:
- Observe and Process: Keep a daily journal for ten days. Write down your level of interest (1 is not interested at all; 10 is off-the-charts interested) in your everyday interactions and activities. Do you see a common theme among those journal entries that received low scores versus those with high scores (time of day, people involved, subject matter, your general mood at the time)? Could you have changed something to shift your interest level in the future?
- Do Your Homework: Often, lack of preparation can result in lack of interest. You didn’t do your homework so you are anxious, ill prepared, embarrassed, or worse, drawing a complete blank. Give yourself ample time to be ready and you will find that your interest level can dramatically increase.
- Dig Deeper: We often make judgment calls based on the superficial. If you are finding that you aren’t interested in something, dig deeper and ask yourself, “Why am I not interested?” The answer may surprise you. If you find that digging brings you no clarity, try digging into the meat of the subject. For example, if you are preparing for an interview you may find the “About Us” or “Who Are We” sections of a company website boring and uninspiring. Instead, look into other ways to learn about a company like Googling recent employer headlines or talking to a fellow student who interned with the employer.
- Pay Attention: As soon as you aren’t interested, you “check out.” Checking out can take on many different forms: not listening, day dreaming, or monopolizing a conversation. As soon as you find yourself drifting, make a conscious effort to pay attention. Very close attention. Resetting and connecting back to the matter at hand can often bring you back to a point where you are interested.
- Find Your Hook: If you are not interested in the subject matter, move on and find what in that moment interests you. I’m intrigued by people: where they came from, where they are going, their motivations, and their passions. I may not be interested in the theory of relativity, but I am almost always interested in the person talking about it. Find your hook and you will become interested and thus interesting, which leads to a better and more fulfilling experience.