Thanks to the internet, we don’t need to leave the comfort of homes to shop for clothes, books and groceries, watch the latest blockbuster, connect with family and friends, or even go to work. Yet as our technological advances improve our ability for global communication, there is one drastic downside—the challenge of keeping vital interpersonal skills honed. With less opportunity for face-to-face interaction, the ability to practice appropriate behavioral and situational responses can have negative impact on your career success. And all generations are susceptible.
In order to avoid losing the strength of these muscles, here are a few interpersonal skills you should exercise regularly, especially if you’re in the job market or want to advance your career.
Communication Skills. According to success expert, Brian Tracy, “Your ability to communicate effectively with others will do more to make you successful than any other skill that you can develop.”
Communication is key to a successful and sustainable career. Negotiating, interviewing, selling, persuading, leading, advancing, inspiring, motivating and mentoring all demand solid communication skills. This isn’t news. Neither is the fact that using smart phones as a primary platform of interaction weakens this muscle. Despite the fact that technology has provided advances, it’s forced a decline in responding timely, appropriately and professionally—all attributes of in-demand communication skills. And by relying on texted emotions (smiley face and “lol”) to share our feelings, we are losing the ability to appropriately express and manage them in the workplace. This filter has also forced caregivers to communicate and advocate on their children’s behalf. Yikes!
Despite the (sometimes forced a.k.a. COVID/2020) drop in human interaction, communication skills can be honed through intentional awareness and application. Start by identifying areas where you excel and where you feel you are weak. Imagine yourself in an interview or at a networking event and walk yourself mentally through your own communication. Where do you feel strong in your communication skills and what makes you anxious or throws you off? Consider asking for feedback from others—friends, family, supervisor, colleagues, mentor, coach—as to what they prioritize as important, and even where they believe you need some work. Once you’ve identified what to build on, you’ll know what to work on. Remember, no one is perfect, and we all have weaknesses, but communication is a skill that should always be honed, especially if you prioritize career success.
Graciousness. This may seem like a somewhat antiquated interpersonal skill, but graciousness is required for career and life success. True, if one fails to say “thanks” for a contribution, there will be no visible workplace repercussion, but lack of graciousness could potentially lead to resentment or conflict.
Graciousness also includes giving. While this may be obvious, sometimes it’s a struggle. We all have an agenda and needs—that’s part of being human. But needs are often diminished and yes, met, when we give our time and attention to others. The rate in which we’ve increased workflow and the demand to do more with less cultivates the perfect environment for lack of graciousness. With heavy emphasis on results, graciousness is easily overlooked but a simple thank you, or extension of help, or time to just listen will go far in forging valuable relationships and building your career reputation as a person who others enjoy doing business with.
Self-Awareness. In a society that demands perfection, you may feel that you need to be perfect. But guess what? Imperfection is in-demand. Especially when you own it. People and employers want to engage with authentic and diverse individuals and leaders who are aware of their strengths and weaknesses and are courageous enough to recognize these imperfections. Being vulnerable, recognizing where your limitations lie and being willing to thoughtfully manage weakness does not mean that you are less than someone else. Rather, it demonstrates that you are not ego-driven, and you prioritize personal development and growth.
Professionalism. Albeit this interpersonal skill is quite nebulous and subjective, still it’s mandatory for career success. But thanks to media, we illuminate, celebrate and ultimately reward behaviors that undermine professionalism including, gossip, blame and bullying. There are numerous television shows, movies and videos that celebrate these unprofessional actions and perhaps they are designed so that you can “get your fix” and move on. Who knows? But what you shouldn’t do is skip over the idea that professionalism isn’t relevant. Treating people with respect and bringing your best to every interaction are a few easy and surefire ways to demonstrate professionalism.
Time Management. Arriving late or turning in work past a deadline demonstrates the failure to manage your time effectively. Though time itself cannot be managed, your expectations, commitments, choices and planning for potential obstacles can. Repetitive failures to manage time effectively not only can tarnish a reputation but can lead to termination. Starting at the interview, employers’ expectations for time management are high and this in-demand skill will be queried about somewhere during the session.
While many companies today are growing in a more flextime modality and remote working where employees are not required to be sitting in their offices from eight to five, time management is still required. Failure to manage time typically results in blame—weather, children, traffic, etc.—which ultimately circles back to lack of professionalism, self-awareness and graciousness. That’s a deep hole to dig out of. Just remember, time is money and timeliness shows respect. It’s not unforgivable to be late or miss a deadline, but a pattern of this behavior is costly.
Though each of the skills are distinctive, they tend to overlap and affect one another, either positively or negatively. And employers are looking for these skills in their applicants and in their leaders. Find ways to practice them every day. They are easy to exercise and welcome in all situations. And guess what? They cost nothing to learn. They are so simple, yet incredibly elegant and impactful. And when it comes to career success, these interpersonal skills are mandatory for customer service, collaborative teamwork, successful leadership and a thriving and sustainable career.
How To Be Career Happy? Hone Your Career Success Skills