The Rewards of Listening: A Conversation with the 2 Hour Job Search Author, Steve Dalton
By Barry Engelhardt
Steve Dalton first proved himself an expert on the job search process ten years ago, with the release of his highly successful book, The 2 Hour Job Search: Using Technology to Get the Job Done Faster. The world was in the midst of a Recession and the book steadily grew in popularity and established an almost cult-like status in the transitioning veteran community. It provided a recipe, while most job search books only provided a list of ingredients.
The 2 Hour Job Search instructed a systematic approach to identifying and making contact with individuals to conduct informational interviews. Dalton established the system while working as a program director and senior career consultant at Duke University’s Fuqua Business School, a position he still holds.
While the ultimate goal of an informational interview is to find employment, it’s not the intent of the process. The intent is to provide an environment to learn and grow by listening to others who had already accomplished objectives similar to the job seeker’s aspirations.
‘Some of my students are starting getting hesitant about reaching out because they don’t think there are any jobs. I tell them to flip that perspective on its head as people need to be heard now more than ever.’
When discussing what our world needs, both in general and especially in a current, COVID-19 filled climate, Dalton’s answer is simple—listening.
‘Make it about letting someone tell their story. It’s a source of joy. Do it, not to find a job; do it to help other people. People need to be heard. That’s a service job seekers can provide in an unselfish and authentic way,’ stated Dalton.
He adds that ‘You’re required to take a speech class, but never a listening class. Listening is so much more important. Through listening you learn empathy, the expertise of others who went before you, and you become a more decent human being. Learn to listen in a world where all the emphasis is learning how to speak,’ stated Dalton.
While designed for recent Duke MBA graduates, The Two Hour Job Search resonated within the military community. Dalton attributes the first edition’s success within the military community to word-of-mouth endorsements, as well as the book’s systematic approach. The book creates a foundational framework that is capable of introducing structure and discipline into the veteran-turned-job-seeker’s life. A friend of Dalton’s recently used the analogy of getting the flywheel started when describing Dalton’s book.
‘Intellectually, I understand. But it’s so hard for me to grasp how hard it is for transitioning military to go from a life of almost full infrastructure to no structure. How terrifying that must be to go from the former to thrust into the latter.’
While in quarantine, Dalton’s kept himself busy, simultaneously plotting the release of The 2 Hour Job Search’s Second Edition and finishing the first draft of his second book. The second edition of The 2 Hour Job Search, in Dalton’s words, is a better version of the original—a cleaner, faster, more efficient, and easier way to use model.
‘One word that I would use to differentiate the revised issue would be authenticity. It was unspoken in the first edition and central to the revised edition. Getting people more formal training and permission to be authentic.’
The past ten years has allowed Dalton, who has been at working as a career counselor at Duke University’s School of Business for fifteen years, to tap into his students’ experience. The time and proximity to job seekers has provided instant feedback and allowed for countless reps. He mentally cataloged Duke students’ struggles and diverse experiences, realizing that the methodologies were universally successful in a bull and bear market. Just as the first addition hit presses during a Recession, the second edition was released during a period filled with uncertainty. The irony isn’t lost on Dalton.
‘I make the explicit point that this is an egoless process. Getting into the habit of not having an agenda. Just listening. Only speaking about yourself when asked. It’s so much a counter program to what most resources teach, this concept of not selling yourself but instead being likable. It’s what the world needs right now. Allow others to be heard.’
In our current, more isolated world, the need for listening is even greater than ever. ‘Listening adds sanity to the listener, getting them out of their own head for a moment, while also granting sanity back to those they are speaking to by allowing them to be closely heard. Sanity is in short supply. Put more sanity into a world that is sorely in need of it right now,’
Summarizing, Dalton adds, ‘you become a better person through this process.’
Barry Engelhardt is the Program Manager for OSD’s Boots to Books Program and recently retired from the Illinois Army National Guard after twenty years in combat arms. He obtained his MBA from SIU-Carbondale and currently practicing social distancing with his wife and two young boys in St. Louis, MO. He is the HR Manager for Store Supply Warehouse.