Why Headphones are Your Worst Enemy

Why Headphones are Your Worst Enemy

If you walk around D.C., especially during the morning and evening rush hours, you see a large majority of people with their headphones in. Now, I can’t say I am not guilty of this. Sometimes, I understand wanting to listen to music or if you are like me, BBC World Service. Now that I have proved that I am not biased, I will begin this week’s Public Service Announcement… TAKE YOUR HEADPHONES OUT!

The first time I encountered The District’s inherent headphone problem was when the huge snowstorm hit back in January. People were walking around in the middle of the road with their headphones in, and I witnessed nearly 12 people almost get hit by cars and service vehicles. Now, this is not the sole purpose of this rant, but it proves they can be a hazard to your health, as well as your social skills.

My main point is that large numbers of millennials go through life with literal and figurative headphones in. We are so used to always being plugged in, that we have trained ourselves to act like we have never removed our headphones from the morning commute. As a result, people seem to be more intimidated by the thought of conversing with strangers and even with others in the work environment.

It is easy to be intimidated. I was extremely worried about moving to D.C. and starting a new position. When I arrived, I was intimidated by how intelligent my bosses and colleagues are. At The Washington Center (TWC), I am sometimes intimidated by the panel members that come to speak. The panelists on our our "Career Boot Camp: Law School" panel as well as the speakers who attended the Criminal Justice and Law Enforcement Professional Track "Speed Networking" panel were very intelligent and knowledgeable about their fields. They are so well-respected in their positions that at times I forget they are people like me, just further along in life.


Two anecdotes, in case my prior examples were not convincing:

1. Career Boot Camp: Law School

I thought, “Wow, these people are the ones who decide whether I am good enough for their law school," until I blurted out that I loved the color of the tie the Assistant Dean of Admissions from Howard Law School was wearing.

He replied with “Thank you! I made it myself."

I said: “Hmmm, I don’t believe you at all. But if you did, that is pretty impressive. I don’t personally know how to weave silk."

He goes: “You’re right, I didn’t make this. I like your skepticism… want to come to Howard for free?”
He was joking obviously, but it only took one comment ato break the ice with someone I was completely intimidated by. Additionally, I now have a connection to Howard Law, if need be.


“You can’t swing a dead cat in the D.C. area and not hit a lawyer”

2. Strangers to Professional Acquaintances: Via The Metro

Recently, a woman sat next to me on the Metro to Virginia. We complained about the weather and ten minutes later, I discovered she was a federal judge and now does appellate work in Washington, D.C. Appellate law is what I prefer so far and could see myself practicing in the future. To say the least, meeting this stranger was like hitting the jackpot: not only did I network myself as a professional, but I now have someone to speak to who is in the exact position where I see myself in 10 years. What is better than that?


To bring this full circle, I will point out that I would have never connected with these people if I chose to keep my “headphones” in. You may feel uncomfortable and intimidated at first, but I can guarantee that if something good comes from the interaction, you will be ecstatic that you took the chance.


Until Next Time,


Read Nicole's previous blog posts here

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