How your social skills affect your career
Recently, I read a post from a recent college graduate who was struggling with his career prospects and described himself as “socially awkward.” While this wasn’t the only reason he cited for being at a “low level in work,” I’m sure that it played a significant role in his difficulty to obtain his desired job.
Why are social skills so vital to your career? Because jobs are run by people. You’re hired by people, you work with people, and you serve people (your customers or clients). Unlike school, where you can take an exam or write an essay by yourself, jobs require constant interaction with people — so you can never be truly successful on your own.
I’ve already discussed the importance of networking, but there’s also the interview. A job interview can be really discomforting; you have to dress up in your nicest clothes, sustain a conversation with somebody you’ve never met, and answer questions you might not be prepared for.
While you can’t control an interview, you can control the way you appear: how sharply you dress, how well groomed you are. You can also make sure that you’re prepared to discuss your career achievements, and that you’ve researched the company you’re interviewing with.
Social skills are crucial not only to getting a job, but also to thriving in a job. Career advancements aren’t always based on merit; they could also be based on how well you superiors like you.
If you’re sociable to your bosses — if you say “hi” when you pass them in the hallway, start a conversation with them during break time, or take part in company events — it’ll make you stand out to them, and it’ll make them want to ensure that you have a future in their company.
You should also be sociable towards your co-workers. They might not be able to fire or promote you, but you don’t want them looking down on you either. A hostile work environment won’t be conducive to success at your job, especially if your job requires a lot of teamwork. (And you never know if a co-worker of yours could wind up being your boss.)
Those who know me personally wouldn’t exactly call me a social butterfly. It’s not that I don’t get along with people, but I tend to be an introvert and keep to myself most of the time. It saddens me to think that my personality might have kept me from some great opportunities in life, but there are things I’ve done in spite of my personality to be more sociable.
The first is appearance. How you present yourself tells people what you think of yourself. If you’re well-groomed and dressed for success, that tells your employers that you have confidence in yourself and take your job seriously. But if you dress like a slob, it’ll seem like you have no self-confidence — and if you don’t have confidence in yourself, who will?
A second factor is taking pride in what you do. If you’re proud of your work, it’ll boost your self-confidence and make you more willing to engage with your co-workers. Unfortunately, not everybody takes pride in their job, but there’s always some achievement that you can take pride in (for example, getting the job in the first place).
Social skills aren’t the easiest to develop: there’s no course, no textbook, and no defined set of rules (at least none that I know of). Yet these skills are crucial in getting and maintaining a job. While your social skills hugely depend on your personality, they also depend on factors that are more controllable, like your appearance and attitude.