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How To Break Into The FBI

February 24th, 2009

Catchy title, I know… if you are really intersted in breaking into the FBI you’ll have to go somewhere else.  This story will give you an idea that won’t work anymore (it’s been resolved), but will illustrate an issue that we all have.

When I worked at the FBI one of my tasks was to check the exterior doors each night, after hours, to make sure they were secured (locked).  I walked the entire building, pushing on each door, jarring each handle.  It was pretty boring, since they were always locked.

One night, to my surprise, one door could be pushed open, even though it was locked.  The latch just wasn’t catching, and the problem meant a bad guy could easily just pull the door open and walk into our little secure facility.  Of course they had to bypass security with about 100 video cameras, and figure out which of the 30 exterior doors was bad, but still…

The next morning I was in my boss’s office telling her about the problem, describing how I figured it out (kind of a soft body slam against the door), feeling like I contributed to protecting national security.  Ann just didn’t believe it, though.  She said that the maintenance crew had just fixed that door a few days earlier.

We went back and forth, I was adamant that the door was broken (and a security risk), and she was adamant that it had recently been fixed.  I was confused because I thought she would believe me, instead of argue with me.  All it would take would be a soft push against the door and she’d see there really was a problem.

Finally I suggested, “let’s go look at it!”  “Fine,” she said, and we walked out of her office… when we got to the hallway to go do the door, she quickly went to the left and I went to the right…. and then we turned to face one another and busted up laughing.

We had been arguing for about 15 minutes about different doors!

By this time I had realized how easy it is to miscommunicate even the simplest things, and was sure this was the last time I’d learn the “miscommunication lesson.”  I haven’t, as I continue to miscommunicate.  I bet you do too.

Job seekers regulary miscommunicate.  I think they (you/we) miscommunicate things such as:

  • Who I am. Your elevator pitch or 30 Second Commercial is a great tool but I’m guessing it does more harm than good most of the time.
  • What I am looking for. My description of what I was looking for (project manager or product manager of a web-based company) was interpreted as “Jason wants to repair computers,” which is a far cry from my expertise or passion!
  • How I can help you. Job seekers have rich, cultivated networks… and can help one another in a way that few others can help.  But sometimes we come across as gruff, or not helpful, or not willing to share.  I look grumpy when I’m thinking, and I’m sure it turns people off who would have otherwise asked for favors.
  • How you can help me. If you ask how my job search is going, and I respond “fine,” and the conversation ends there, I missed a GRAND opportunity to ask for help.  Everyone who asks how it’s going is someone who might help it go better.

Communication is powerful, and easily messed up.  How are you communicating better with your network contacts?

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