Titillating as it can be, gossip is something most people realize they should avoid, especially at work.
But there is an upside to gossip. In a recent survey by staffing firm Randstad USA, more than half of the respondents felt gossip was useful to job hunting. Gossip can also help you identify new opportunities within your own workplace. And even the most casual office chit-chat can give you insight into your work, your company, and even your own job security.
Follow these tips to gossip to your career advantage:
1) Rethink your idea of gossip. Work gossip isn't just about who's dating whom in the office. Any piece of information about a company or industry can be used to your advantage. Reading journals and websites specific to your industry may give you useful information about which employers are growing their workforce. Or hearing a rumor that free snacks in the break-room are a disappearing perk can be a heads up that your organization is doing some belt-tightening.
2) Don't automatically shun all gossip. People often hear important work-related items first through the office grapevine. By ignoring all gossip, you could be isolating yourself. Attend seminars, parties, and other gatherings that provide a chance for networking. Be receptive, listen, and ask probing questions. But don't participate in talking badly about anyone.
3) Filter the gossip. If you just listen, and tune out the nasty stuff, you won't get a rep as a gossip monger. But you'll be on the right channel if there's news that could help your career. Open your ears and extract the opportunity-rich tidbits. For example, you may hear about something as seemingly insignificant as a hiring manager's love of dogs. If you're a dog lover, this could be just the gem you need to make a connection with the person who makes hiring decisions.
4) Put the info to work. Take the information you've gathered and use it to get to the right people. Email the hiring manager of a company that just won a big contract -- and send your resume highlighting your relevant experience.
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5) Befriend a connector. Share your gossip with a connector. A connector is someone who seems to know everyone and effortlessly disseminates news. Likewise, if you need to do damage control, there's no one better to approach.
6) Be your own gossip. If you've had a success you want known -- something that could get you noticed in high places -- get the word out there yourself. Not sure how to toot your own horn? Appropriate bragging has its place in the workplace. For example, at a staff meeting, you could mention a successful group project that you spearheaded. This can get you and your team the favorable attention you earned.
Gossip doesn't have to involve backstabbing or spreading hurtful rumors. Useful gossip is about connecting with others in a positive way. Knowing your interests and using this knowledge to make connections with others can help your career.