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13 Essential People Skills to Succeed in Your Career

13 Essential People Skills to Succeed in Your Career
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Possessing strong people skills is an incredible asset in your career. They are actually a great resource in all areas of your life. There are many people skills that can help you succeed in your career.

People skills are the various tools we all use to interact and communicate effectively with other people in our lives. You may have heard the term “soft skills“. People skills fall into this category. These are things you can’t measure like how well you score on an excel test. People with strong people skills are able to socialize well and relate to others. They are also known as social skills, interpersonal skills, and emotional intelligence to some degree.

In this article, we will take a look at 13 of the most essential people skills that will help you boost your career. Take a look at your current arsenal of people skills and see what you can do to up your game. The level of success you achieve in your career depends on it.

1. Strong Communication Skills

This one is near and dear to my heart. I am a huge fan and proponent of how strong communication skills can help you at work and in all relationships. Being able to communicate clearly in both a written and spoken manner helps people understand you much better.

When you are able to articulate your points, it’s going to help you in all facets of your career. Make sure you are a strong communicator in both a verbal and a written format. If you think about how many interactions you have with people at work, it’s easy to see how strong communication skills will help your career.

2. Showing Empathy

The ability to show empathy is a very good people skill to have as well. When you show empathy, you have the ability to put yourself in the other person’s shoes. You can see another person’s point of view and that is a great people skill to have. It helps you see other points of view and not get locked into your own way of thinking all the time.

It’s easy to take a tunnel vision approach when trying to get your point of view across to someone. When other people see that you empathize with them, they feel understood. Feeling understood leads to a mutual feeling of trust. And creating trusting work partnerships is absolutely critical in succeeding in business.

3. Being Adaptable and Flexible

You know that saying that the only constant is change? I don’t know about you but, I’ve found this to be true in just about every phase of my life. And it is certainly true about work.

Things change all the time. Another of the 13 essential people skills to succeed in your career is the ability to be adaptable and flexible.

When I am wrapping up my day at work, the last thing I always do is make my to do list for the next day. Many times, I get a large chuck of my to do list done the next day. But sometimes, something urgent comes up at work and I can’t get anything done on my list. This is how we have to be adaptable and flexible in order to succeed.

Things come up, things change. Have the ability to change with them. This makes you someone who can roll with the punches and continue to be productive despite changing priorities.

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4. The Power of Influence

In a job description, you might see something like “having the ability to influence key decision makers”. This is not a piece of fluff to help fill out the job description. It’s an essential people skill that will help you in your career.

The ability to impact and influence people is a key competency frequently identified in top performers. The ability to impact and influence is often the number one competency in service, sales, managerial, and leadership roles. It’s really all about having the skill to persuade and convince others to support an idea, concept, or initiative.

In my current role, I am the Director of Recruiting. Although I am less than 6 months into my position, I am being relied on for my expertise in a variety of areas. The reason being, and one of the main reasons I got the role, was the ability to influence people to a new way of thinking and doing things.

I have knowledge in certain areas and the ability to communicate effectively with business leaders in such a way as to show them that a new way of doing things will yield better results than the previous way did. It’s the ability to influence.

5. A Great Sense of Humor

It’s difficult to find someone who doesn’t like to laugh. You know that nice feeling of a lightened load after a good laugh? The general sense of feeling more at ease and relaxed?

Having a great sense of humor and the ability to make others laugh will gain you friends and colleagues alike at work. Someone who can make others laugh has the ability to diffuse tension and put others at ease. They are able to direct an emotionally charged conversation at work towards a more open communicating style between all parties.

People with a good sense of humor can put others at ease and tend to get more airtime at meetings and have their points of view heard more often.

6. Assertiveness

Some people equate assertiveness with aggressiveness.

Being assertive in the workplace is about standing up for yourself. For speaking out and sharing your opinions in meetings. It’s about telling your manager that you are fine with putting in extra work when it’s needed but you feel working 60 hour weeks every week for months on end is not what you signed up for.

If you see a project getting ready to fire up and you feel like you could add value, tell your manager or whoever is leading the project.

When you see something isn’t going right and you could help out, then by all means, speak up. It’s about ensuring that you get the opportunities that others get. Being assertive about your career is a good way to earn respect as well.

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Take a look at this guide on How to Be Assertive and Stand up for Yourself the Smart Way.

7. Active Listening

Many people forget that half of communication is listening. If you don’t practice active listening in the workplace, you are only hearing half the conversation, your own.

Active listening is the ability to be fully present when someone is talking to you. To show them with your body language that you are hearing what they are saying and are absorbing the information.

Tuning out distractions and placing your full attention on the speaker is the best way to practice active listening. When you are an active listener, you absorb information better and perhaps more importantly, show the other person that you really care about what they are saying and their point of view.

I’ve mentioned this before but, it bears repeating. When people feel understood, it creates a strong emotional bond. Everyone wants to feel understood. Through active listening, you are showing others that you care about understanding them.

8. Being Supportive and Motivational

Another critical people skill to help you succeed in your career is being supportive and motivational. This doesn’t just apply to being a boss, it’s easy to be supportive to others on your team or in your entire workplace.

I work with a group of 4 other talent acquisition professionals. We are all very supportive of each other. We have frequent quick meetings to check on each other’s workload.

If someone is carrying a far heavier load than the others, we offer to help out in any way we can. When someone has strong success, we celebrate it and motivate each other to succeed.

By being supportive and motivational, you help create a strong sense of team in the workplace and this is huge in your career.

9. Problem Solving Skills

This is also known as creative thinking or resourcefulness. Problem solving skills can be a huge benefit in your career. Think of the person that has to ask for help solving every little problem that comes across their desk. Compare this to the person that other people see as the go to person when they can’t figure things out. Who would you rather be?

Sometimes, the answers aren’t there and we go to others for help and that’s fine. When you do that, learn from it; so you don’t have to keep asking the same question over and over.

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Problem solving skills is also great because when unique obstacles or challenges come up, you are able to look at things in a different ways.

Sometimes, new challenges need new solutions. Be the person that can find new solutions with your awesome problem solving skills. Solving challenges takes pressure off your boss and colleagues which makes it a great people skill to have.

10. Leadership

Having leadership skills doesn’t necessarily mean leading a team or being a manager. Having strong leaderships skills also means you are able to lead others with your knowledge.

If you are a manager, lead by example. You want people to care about their work then you’d better as well.  You want people to be at work by a certain time then you should be as well. Show your team that you care about and support their success. This is a good hallmark of having strong leadership skills.

If you aren’t a manager of people, you can still have leadership skills with your knowledge. You can be the go to person in your area of expertise. People can see you as a leader in your expertise at work and you can be seen as a leader in your specialization outside of work as well. It’s having the ability to share your knowledge with others and the desire to help them succeed and advance their career.

Learn these 10 Management Skills to Become a Strong Leader.

11. Emotional Intelligence

Emotional intelligence is the ability to identify and manage one’s own emotions as well as the emotions of others. In other words, it’s being able to know how you are feeling and managing them in the context of when and where there are happening. It’s also being able to do the same with others around you.

Here’s an example that has happened to me on more than one occasion. An email comes in and I read it. As I read more and more, I get more and more angry until I feel like steam is coming out of my ears. When I am smarter and manage my angry emotions, I will walk away from the email and not respond until I calm down. I have done this. I’ve also immediately responded with a fiery email back. And that goes about as well as you’d imagine.

I’m sure you can also think of a situation where a fellow colleague was upset about something and you knew it. How you handle interacting with that colleague that is upset goes a long way toward showing how emotionally intelligent you are. You can see why this is an essential people skill to succeed in your career.

12. Being a Team Player

Being a team player will be incredibly helpful as a way to help propel your career. Team players are sought out by others. People in positions of leadership always want team players as part of their group. Why? Because they tend to be more productive and are great at helping the whole team succeed.

There’s nothing wrong with being an individual contributor but, you should also be able to get along with other people you interact with. It’s being the person that others know they can get in touch in a pinch. Or someone that will help out when the chips are down.

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When others view you as a team player, they see you as reliable and someone they want to work with. That’s high on the list of 13 essential people skills to succeed in your career.

13. Negotiation Skills

Possessing good negotiation skills is very good for your career. A lot of people tend to think of negotiation skills in the context of hard core, wheeling and dealing with the money hungry businessmen. That’s the image but not the reality.

Examples of negotiation skills in your business life and career happen all the time if you make use of them. Let’s say you get a job offer and you ask for more money. They say no. A good negotiator will ask for an additional week of paid time off or the ability to work from home once a week. Anyone who interacts with vendors on a regular basis like I do knows it’s important to get the best value whenever possible. This makes you look better to your employer.

I recently landed a really great recruit. My negotiation skills closed the gap between what the employer wanted to pay and the compensation the candidate wanted. In the end, we all came to a great agreement that worked for everyone.

Strong negotiation skills are a good people skill to possess. You can take a look at these 12 Tactics to Negotiate Better and Not Be a Pushover.

The Bottom Line

It’s easy to see why these people skills will help you succeed in your career. It’s not common for someone to excel in all 13 essential people skills but it is possible and does happen.

When you see someone who is doing well in their career and is being noticed in the corporate setting, chances are they possess many of these people skills.

I invite you to take a look at how developed your people skills are. If you see some areas where they could be better, take the time to work on improving them. Your career will thank you.

More About Communication

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

More by this author

Mat Apodaca

On a mission to share about how communication in the workplace and personal relationships plays a large role in your happiness

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Last Updated on July 20, 2021

How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)

How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)
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You’re standing behind the curtain, just about to make your way on stage to face the many faces half-shrouded in darkness in front of you. As you move towards the spotlight, your body starts to feel heavier with each step. A familiar thump echoes throughout your body – your heartbeat has gone off the charts.

Don’t worry, you’re not the only one with glossophobia(also known as speech anxiety or the fear of speaking to large crowds). Sometimes, the anxiety happens long before you even stand on stage.

Your body’s defence mechanism responds by causing a part of your brain to release adrenaline into your blood – the same chemical that gets released as if you were being chased by a lion.

Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you overcome your fear of public speaking:

1. Prepare yourself mentally and physically

According to experts, we’re built to display anxiety and to recognize it in others. If your body and mind are anxious, your audience will notice. Hence, it’s important to prepare yourself before the big show so that you arrive on stage confident, collected and ready.

“Your outside world is a reflection of your inside world. What goes on in the inside, shows on the outside.” – Bob Proctor

Exercising lightly before a presentation helps get your blood circulating and sends oxygen to the brain. Mental exercises, on the other hand, can help calm the mind and nerves. Here are some useful ways to calm your racing heart when you start to feel the butterflies in your stomach:

Warming up

If you’re nervous, chances are your body will feel the same way. Your body gets tense, your muscles feel tight or you’re breaking in cold sweat. The audience will notice you are nervous.

If you observe that this is exactly what is happening to you minutes before a speech, do a couple of stretches to loosen and relax your body. It’s better to warm up before every speech as it helps to increase the functional potential of the body as a whole. Not only that, it increases muscle efficiency, improves reaction time and your movements.

Here are some exercises to loosen up your body before show time:

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  1. Neck and shoulder rolls – This helps relieve upper body muscle tension and pressure as the rolls focus on rotating the head and shoulders, loosening the muscle. Stress and anxiety can make us rigid within this area which can make you feel agitated, especially when standing.
  2. Arm stretches – We often use this part of our muscles during a speech or presentation through our hand gestures and movements. Stretching these muscles can reduce arm fatigue, loosen you up and improve your body language range.
  3. Waist twists – Place your hands on your hips and rotate your waist in a circular motion. This exercise focuses on loosening the abdominal and lower back regions which is essential as it can cause discomfort and pain, further amplifying any anxieties you may experience.

Stay hydrated

Ever felt parched seconds before speaking? And then coming up on stage sounding raspy and scratchy in front of the audience? This happens because the adrenaline from stage fright causes your mouth to feel dried out.

To prevent all that, it’s essential we stay adequately hydrated before a speech. A sip of water will do the trick. However, do drink in moderation so that you won’t need to go to the bathroom constantly.

Try to avoid sugary beverages and caffeine, since it’s a diuretic – meaning you’ll feel thirstier. It will also amplify your anxiety which prevents you from speaking smoothly.

Meditate

Meditation is well-known as a powerful tool to calm the mind. ABC’s Dan Harris, co-anchor of Nightline and Good Morning America weekend and author of the book titled10% Happier , recommends that meditation can help individuals to feel significantly calmer, faster.

Meditation is like a workout for your mind. It gives you the strength and focus to filter out the negativity and distractions with words of encouragement, confidence and strength.

Mindfulness meditation, in particular, is a popular method to calm yourself before going up on the big stage. The practice involves sitting comfortably, focusing on your breathing and then bringing your mind’s attention to the present without drifting into concerns about the past or future – which likely includes floundering on stage.

Here’s a nice example of guided meditation before public speaking:

2. Focus on your goal

One thing people with a fear of public speaking have in common is focusing too much on themselves and the possibility of failure.

Do I look funny? What if I can’t remember what to say? Do I look stupid? Will people listen to me? Does anyone care about what I’m talking about?’

Instead of thinking this way, shift your attention to your one true purpose – contributing something of value to your audience.

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Decide on the progress you’d like your audience to make after your presentation. Notice their movements and expressions to adapt your speech to ensure that they are having a good time to leave the room as better people.

If your own focus isn’t beneficial and what it should be when you’re speaking, then shift it to what does. This is also key to establishing trust during your presentation as the audience can clearly see that you have their interests at heart.[1]

3. Convert negativity to positivity

There are two sides constantly battling inside of us – one is filled with strength and courage while the other is doubt and insecurities. Which one will you feed?

‘What if I mess up this speech? What if I’m not funny enough? What if I forget what to say?’

It’s no wonder why many of us are uncomfortable giving a presentation. All we do is bring ourselves down before we got a chance to prove ourselves. This is also known as a self-fulfilling prophecy – a belief that comes true because we are acting as if it already is. If you think you’re incompetent, then it will eventually become true.

Motivational coaches tout that positive mantras and affirmations tend to boost your confidents for the moments that matter most. Say to yourself: “I’ll ace this speech and I can do it!”

Take advantage of your adrenaline rush to encourage positive outcome rather than thinking of the negative ‘what ifs’.

Here’s a video of Psychologist Kelly McGonigal who encourages her audience to turn stress into something positive as well as provide methods on how to cope with it:

4. Understand your content

Knowing your content at your fingertips helps reduce your anxiety because there is one less thing to worry about. One way to get there is to practice numerous times before your actual speech.

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However, memorizing your script word-for-word is not encouraged. You can end up freezing should you forget something. You’ll also risk sounding unnatural and less approachable.

“No amount of reading or memorizing will make you successful in life. It is the understanding and the application of wise thought that counts.” – Bob Proctor

Many people unconsciously make the mistake of reading from their slides or memorizing their script word-for-word without understanding their content – a definite way to stress themselves out.

Understanding your speech flow and content makes it easier for you to convert ideas and concepts into your own words which you can then clearly explain to others in a conversational manner. Designing your slides to include text prompts is also an easy hack to ensure you get to quickly recall your flow when your mind goes blank.[2]

One way to understand is to memorize the over-arching concepts or ideas in your pitch. It helps you speak more naturally and let your personality shine through. It’s almost like taking your audience on a journey with a few key milestones.

5. Practice makes perfect

Like most people, many of us are not naturally attuned to public speaking. Rarely do individuals walk up to a large audience and present flawlessly without any research and preparation.

In fact, some of the top presenters make it look easy during showtime because they have spent countless hours behind-the-scenes in deep practice. Even great speakers like the late John F. Kennedy would spend months preparing his speech beforehand.

Public speaking, like any other skill, requires practice – whether it be practicing your speech countless of times in front of a mirror or making notes. As the saying goes, practice makes perfect!

6. Be authentic

There’s nothing wrong with feeling stressed before going up to speak in front of an audience.

Many people fear public speaking because they fear others will judge them for showing their true, vulnerable self. However, vulnerability can sometimes help you come across as more authentic and relatable as a speaker.

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Drop the pretence of trying to act or speak like someone else and you’ll find that it’s worth the risk. You become more genuine, flexible and spontaneous, which makes it easier to handle unpredictable situations – whether it’s getting tough questions from the crowd or experiencing an unexpected technical difficulty.

To find out your authentic style of speaking is easy. Just pick a topic or issue you are passionate about and discuss this like you normally would with a close family or friend. It is like having a conversation with someone in a personal one-to-one setting. A great way to do this on stage is to select a random audience member(with a hopefully calming face) and speak to a single person at a time during your speech. You’ll find that it’s easier trying to connect to one person at a time than a whole room.

With that said, being comfortable enough to be yourself in front of others may take a little time and some experience, depending how comfortable you are with being yourself in front of others. But once you embrace it, stage fright will not be as intimidating as you initially thought.

Presenters like Barack Obama are a prime example of a genuine and passionate speaker:

7. Post speech evaluation

Last but not the least, if you’ve done public speaking and have been scarred from a bad experience, try seeing it as a lesson learned to improve yourself as a speaker.

Don’t beat yourself up after a presentation

We are the hardest on ourselves and it’s good to be. But when you finish delivering your speech or presentation, give yourself some recognition and a pat on the back.

You managed to finish whatever you had to do and did not give up. You did not let your fears and insecurities get to you. Take a little more pride in your work and believe in yourself.

Improve your next speech

As mentioned before, practice does make perfect. If you want to improve your public speaking skills, try asking someone to film you during a speech or presentation. Afterwards, watch and observe what you can do to improve yourself next time.

Here are some questions you can ask yourself after every speech:

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  • How did I do?
  • Are there any areas for improvement?
  • Did I sound or look stressed?
  • Did I stumble on my words? Why?
  • Was I saying “um” too often?
  • How was the flow of the speech?

Write everything you observed down and keep practicing and improving. In time, you’ll be able to better manage your fears of public speaking and appear more confident when it counts.

If you want even more tips about public speaking or delivering a great presentation, check out these articles too:

Reference

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