If you want to succeed in any fast-paced profession, you need to be an active listener and a fast learner. Employers need hard workers who can build new skills, learn new concepts and ask the right questions to excel in their roles. So let’s take a closer look at what good listening and fast learning can do for you in any work environment.
How good listening skills make you a quick learner
Being a quick learner and a good listener are interconnected skills. For instance, if you work in a deli and need to learn how to use a meat slicer, you must be a good listener during training to ensure your work is efficient and safe. If you don’t pay attention in training, you’ll be a slow learner. Your employer won’t like having to repeat instructions, and you could even hurt yourself when you attempt to operate the machine on your own. In short, active listening makes you an effective learner.
Good listening and quick learning skills empower you to adapt in fast-paced environments. Say you’re working in a kitchen. Each chef or manager runs their kitchen in a different way, so even if you have a lot of foodservice experience, you’ll need to learn new things fast. Where do they store vegetables? How does the team process orders? What do you do in the event of a fire?
Or let’s use another example: Say you’re an executive assistant, taking notes for your manager during an important business meeting. You’ll need to learn the jargon the business uses to keep up, and you’ll need strong listening skills to translate all the information in the meeting into a memo that is concise and easy to understand. The better you listen, the faster you’ll learn.
Absorbing important information early will help you acclimate to a new setting—something you’ll find useful in any job. If your work allows, you might even want to keep notes in a small notebook during your training sessions or write down important concepts to study on your breaks.
Why fast learners stand out at work
The ability to learn quickly ensures that you’ll keep up with the demands of your new team. For example, in a busy kitchen, several tasks pop up at once. Listening with a keen and thoughtful ear will keep you from mixing up orders, saving your restaurant valuable time and money. Neglecting to listen, on the other hand, can hold up the kitchen line as orders have to be repeated or redone; it can even cause customers to become ill, since failing to listen to the specifications of an order can lead to accidental allergens in dishes. Learning the responsibilities of your new role and the techniques you need to meet them will prevent you from making costly mistakes.
One reason people fall behind at work, especially as new employees, is that they are too shy or fearful to ask for the information they need. This impedes your ability to learn how to do your new job. You don’t want to be a bother to your boss, but you should ask questions, have conversations with your coworkers, and research new information about your position in your free time so that you can learn the role quickly and start making an impact. Read an article about your industry. Ask for ways to improve during your performance evaluations. Keep up-to-date on your role, and pursue consistent learning about how to do your job better.
What to do if learning quickly isn’t your strong suit
The fact is that we all have different learning styles and learning capabilities. Some of us take longer to internalize certain skills than others. That’s okay. The important thing is to put in the effort to learn at the best pace for you.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed, one of the best ways to get ahead is to break up your work tasks into manageable chunks. Practice one skill at a time. If communication isn’t your strong suit, practice the kinds of interactions you have at work when you’re at home with your friends and family. If you have trouble staying organized, focus on small ways to improve. Sort your files into folders on your computer, or clear clutter off of your desk. Identify one easy-to-fix issue to work on, rather than tackling everything at once.
How to add soft skills to your resume
As you learn new things and get some practice at work, keep track of new skills you can include on your resume. Our best advice is to highlight your skills high up on your resume, above the work experience section. (If you need some help, check out our easy guide for writing the perfect resume.) Employers these days are far more likely to hire based on skills, then provide training on the job, than they used to be. Make sure to emphasize your abilities, and be ready to talk about how you’ve used them successfully in a job interview. Include any certifications you’ve earned. A food safety certification would come in handy in that kitchen job.
Important soft skills make your resume stand out. Communication skills in particular are a vital part of many jobs. You need to know how to communicate professionally with others, how to maintain your cool in professional disputes, how to be an eloquent speaker and an effective listener at the same time.
Interpersonal skills also stand out on resumes. This important skill allows you to interface with others professionally. Being able to read facial expressions, interpret body language and understand social dynamics will help you in any public-facing role. It also allows you to be more of a team player. After all, it’s hard to be part of the team without engaging with other team members. Talk to your job interviewer about a time you used interpersonal skills to solve a problem at work. Perhaps you addressed an incorrectly made dish with a customer at a restaurant, or worked with a customer in a retail establishment to find out what they needed and connect them with the right product.
Quick learners also tend to impress with their time management skills. If you can learn how to complete a task quickly, you’ll spend less time finding your footing and more time getting the job done. In a job interview, share stories about how effective time management benefited your team. You might have processed orders more efficiently because of your supreme time management skills, for example.
Including these skills on your resume will demonstrate to employers that you can learn new job responsibilities efficiently and effectively, improving their bottom line in the long run.