You Are What You Read

A common interview question is “What trade publications have you read most recently?” Unfortunately, most job candidates not only are not prepared for the question but also have not read anything related to their career recently. It can be a blunder not to be ready for this interview question but it is even worse not to read professional material that concerns your job/industry on a regular basis.

I know what you are thinking. You are thinking “And when do I have time to read? I work 12 hours a day!” If you are working too many hours in your job to devote a few minutes a week to professional reading you are not being productive. You are on a treadmill instead of the career ladder. A treadmill goes nowhere while the ladder leads up. It is imperative that you carve out some time to read for your career.

On your PC, you should have at least two folders in your Favorites/Bookmarks section – Professional Sites and Media. Spend some time surfing the ‘net for sites that relate to your industry that have regularly updated information. For example, if you are in the legal profession, FindLaw might be one of your bookmarks as a site to read regularly. In the media file, you could have the major networks, AP, and Reuters bookmarked to check daily. Reading online can be done in between meetings, when waiting on a phone call, or when you first arrive in the mornings.

Unfortunately, the PC isn’t portable and so much time that could be used reading is spent in transition. That is where good old print publications come in handy. Subscribe to at least three professional journals and three newspapers. Make a habit of keeping one of the two types of print publication with you in your briefcase or in your car. Use the time when waiting for trains to cross the road, stuck in traffic, or waiting in line at the coffee shop to do some reading.

Staying up-to-date on what is happening in your industry gives you an edge in your career. You are more likely to be able to identify trends that will help you take your career in the right direction rather than getting stuck in a dead-end job. Reading helps you stay abreast of changes in personnel in other companies, thus identifying possible job openings and opportunities.

New innovations in your industry are nuggets of gold in your professional reading. A new product, a new invention, a new approach to doing business – all of these can give you an edge when you are in tight competition. People who read tend to be more creative in their jobs and advance more rapidly because they can synthesize ideas and apply them to their own situation to improve productivity or sales.

The U.S. economy is a brain-driven economy rather than a muscle-driven economy. The smarter, more informed, more educated (either formally or informally) members will prevail over those who are less informed. It is vital to stay current with your industry and not get bogged down in the slog of every day work. With the explosion of information that is easily available now, those who can hone in on the important bits will have an edge over those who are too intimidated to read professional material. Read to win. Read to progress. Read to be the best in what you do.

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