Remember how satisfying it was to solve a mystery just by replaying the details in your mind? Where are your missing keys? Did your sweetheart lie to you? Where did you see that statistic that you could use in your report? Paying attention to details has many benefits.
Being detail oriented is a valuable workplace skill: Detectives analyze clues to solve a case. Medical professionals keep a close eye on details so patients get the correct dose of medication. Accountants check their numbers: a payment of $100,000 and a payment of $1,000,000 is just the difference of one zero, with very different results.
From these examples, it’s clear that paying attention to detail is a vital skill to emphasize in resumes and skills assessments. Detail oriented people have more workplace autonomy because employers can trust them to keep a business’s reputation.
Attention to detail, or being detail oriented, is valuable at the workplace. There are several ways to sharpen or improve your attention to detail skills.
What does detail oriented mean?
If you are detail oriented, you are thorough, observant, and notice small details. For example, your coworker schedules a meeting for Monday, March 6th. You check the calendar and notice that March 6 is a Sunday, so you ask your coworker to update the meeting information.
Precision is an important skill for any job, but small errors can have minor to major consequences depending on the job.
Book editors fix mistakes such as incorrect page references. Not catching this error can result in a minor inconvenience for the reader. An incorrectly typed line of computer code can result in the program not working for the user. A mistake on an invoice could mean an incorrect payment. Marking the left leg and not the right leg for surgery can have disastrous consequences.
An employer trusts that a worker with close attention to detail will be accurate and careful, and not likely to make mistakes. That worker won’t need to be constantly monitored, and their work checked and rechecked.
Detailed oriented people work effectively and accurately on each task. Their meticulousness will save the company embarrassment from careless errors that may harm its reputation or finances.
Is attention to detail a skill?
People list “attention to detail” as a skill on their resume or describe themselves as detail oriented during interviews. However, unlike other skills such as reading, writing, listening, and speaking, attention to detail is rarely tested as part of the interview process.
Attention to detail, as mentioned already, affects a worker’s independence. A thorough and accurate worker is more likely to be given additional responsibility and more likely to be promoted. Employers trust that a detail oriented employee is careful to do each task correctly the first time.
Paying attention to detail also has social impacts at work. This skill improves customer and coworker relationships. A coworker who remembers the name of your kids, asks about the restaurant you decided to check out on Saturday, or wonders if your sprained ankle has improved is someone you’re more likely to remember and like.
Similarly, the ability to remember small details improves customer relations and increases the likelihood of getting the customer’s business. Customers like to be remembered. It’s a great feeling, for example, to walk into a business and say you’ll get “the usual” and the staff knows exactly what you’re looking for.
Does attention to detail increase your income?
Those who are highly detail oriented are more likely to be in supervisory positions or have jobs with independence. These workers have shown that they are conscientious when doing their work. They can be trusted to check other people’s work and manage projects to complete them correctly and on time.
Attention to detail can help you get a high-paying career, particularly for jobs in which accuracy and human lives are at stake. Here are some jobs in which attention to detail is extremely crucial:
- Anesthesiologist assistants
- Family medicine physicians
- Proofreaders and copy markers
- Camera operators, television, video and film
- Computer programmers
- Court reporters and simultaneous captioners
- Cytogenetic technologists
- Inspectors, Testers, Sorters, Samplers, and Weighers
- Nuclear Power Reactor Operators
- Obstetricians and Gynecologists
- Physician Assistants
- Skincare Specialists
- Watch and clock repairers
The income range for some of these detail oriented jobs ranges from $70,000 to $187,000 (averaged income for each career). If you thrive on the details, there are jobs in which your sharp focus is highly valued.
How to pay attention to detail at work
Like any skill, you can improve attention to detail over time, starting with short exercises and repeated habits.
Fun exercises you can try at home to improve your attention to detail skills include:
- Listening to ocean sounds or jungle sounds and paying close attention to the range of sounds that you hear
- Studying a pair of compare/contrast pictures and listing the particular differences between the two pictures
- Looking at a diagram and deciding whether it is the top, side, or bottom view of an object
- Studying a picture or series of images, numbers, or letters to memorize patterns
- Complete crossword puzzles
- Count using a specific pattern, such as multiples of five, or looking at a page of text and counting every second word without the aid of your finger on the page
While at work, create habits that encourage you to become detail oriented:
- Organize your desk and your emails. When you are organized, you can track deadlines and files better, and you’re less likely to forget to answer an email.
- Write to-do lists. These lists will help you remember all the tasks you need to complete before their deadlines. You can also keep not-to-do lists, such as cutting down on TV time and spending more time on reading, exercise, or skills improvement.
- Create checklists. If you notice that you frequently make mistakes when writing emails, keep a checklist that you must complete before you send the email. For example, remind yourself to check the spelling of the recipient of your message and check a word you constantly misspell. You can also keep a checklist for procedures to make sure you complete all the steps before you hand off your part of a project.
- Practice active listening. When you are the listener, don’t just stare into space until the speaker finishes. Nod or say, “um hm” or “yes” to show you are listening. Summarize or repeat what the speaker said to demonstrate that you heard the details.
- Take notes. When you’re at a meeting, jot down important details about your tasks. During the meeting, take notes to keep you focused on details. After the meeting, these notes can become your checklist for what you must do.
Attention to detail is a valuable skill. People who are detail oriented are trusted with more responsibilities on the job because they complete tasks accurately and thoroughly. A careless mistake can cost a company their reputation and a person their job. Careers in which attention to detail can mean life or death are lucrative. You can become more detail oriented by creating habits at work that focus your attention on details.
How detail oriented are you? The next time you enter a room, take a look around for a few minutes, then close your eyes and try to remember as many details about the room as you can!
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