Continually expanding functional knowledge, monitoring industry trends, and gaining insights are keys to business and career success. In the early 1980’s, when I worked as a bank analyst and loan officer, the internet was in its infancy. I spent many hours at Boston’s Kirstein Business Library (opened in 1930, it was the second library in the country built specifically as a public business library). There I combed through business journals, trade publications, and Dun & Bradstreet reports. I captured my findings on yellow pads or deposited nickels and dimes into copy machines to save time.
Today we can take full advantage of the internet in general, and podcasts in specific, to build our knowledge base. While I love to read, I use podcasts to efficiently review multiple topics, get a preview to new authors and lines of research, and identify books to buy. I share three suggestions to unleash the power of podcasts for your career.
- Reinforce Your Core
Legendary basketball coach John Wooden said, “It’s what you learn after you know it all that counts.” Start by listening to podcasts in your field of expertise that challenge old assumptions and expose you to the newest research. I majored in economics in college and have a master’s in business. These are applied social sciences based on the study of psychology, sociology, history, philosophy, and religion. I reinforce and nourish my skills by listening to podcasts covering these areas.
Core Podcast Examples:
- Freakonomics: hosted by Stephen J. Dubner, the show tries to expose the hidden side of topics (e.g., economics of sleep or how to become great at something), using economic principles and research. Dubner does this by speaking with Nobel laureates, professors, and entrepreneurs.
- Hidden Brain: created by Shankar Vedantam, the show explores the unconscious patterns that drive human behavior and questions that lie at the heart of our complex and changing world. Vedantam does this by speaking with psychologists, sociologists, and other researchers.
- Throughline: hosted by Ramtin Arablouei and Rund Abdelfatah, the show uses history to go back in time to understand the present. Arablouei and Abdelfatah interview historians, authors, and researchers to provide perspective-shifting viewpoints on current topics.
- Explore New Areas of Knowledge
In my book Develop, I describe the Two Plus One Theory I’ve observed in highly successful people. They have a core strength (one); develop a secondary strength that is unique to their business or industry (two); and increase their emotional intelligence (plus one).
Use podcasts to identify and develop a secondary strength that will set you apart for your peers.
Exploring Podcast Example:
- Wharton Moneyball: I did not like statistics in college and using data is not a core skill on the talent management side of human resources. Learning how to make data-driven decisions would differentiate me from other HR professionals. Hosted by statistician experts Eric Bradlow, Shane Jensen, Cade Massey, and Adi Wyner, the show tackles the world of sports, and explains how decision makers in the game can avoid the common mistakes by embracing data.Another tip is to pair an area you don’t like or fear, with a topic you enjoy. This podcast helps me because it develops skills I shied away from (statistics, AI, and data), with a topic I love – sports! So, it holds my attention.
- Balance Inspiration with Insight
Hearing others’ stories inspires us to action. Psychologist Robert Cialdini calls this form of persuasion “social proof.” When we hear success stories from people we relate to, we are more likely to replicate their success because it is the right thing to do, the task seems feasible, and we believe other people will approve of what we do. I get inspired listening to the podcast, How I Built This (LINK). Host Guy Raz interviews entrepreneurs to learn how they built their iconic brands.
Inspiration is not enough; however, you also need insight. To understand the link between behavior/actions and outputs/results. I am intrigued by a new podcast hosed by Zachary Crockett, The Economics of Everyday Things (LINK). I learned that a gas station owner makes approximately a 7.5% margin on gas before overhead, but 33% on average on items purchased inside the convenience store (food, drinks, etc.). This insight can be applied to make the business more successful.
Power up career development using podcasts. They are a great way to strengthen your core skill areas, explore new ideas, get inspired, and gain insights.