Success in your career requires a solid education and training of the specific role as well as a foundation of interpersonal skills. These are commonly referred to as ‘soft skills’, although there is nothing soft about how impactful they are when used correctly.
Interpersonal skills are what separates similar applicants from each other in the competitive recruitment process. While there are no textbooks or exams when it comes to mastering interpersonal skills, they can still be learnt and improved.
What are interpersonal skills?
Interpersonal skills is a broad term for a wide range of personality-based skills which revolve around how you communicate, relate, and work with others. These skills include empathy, communication, leadership, active listening, teamwork, responsibility, conflict management, and negotiation, to name a few.
In our current job market, almost all careers require you to work constantly with the same people, whether that be colleagues, customers or executives. Interpersonal skills count as the most valued skills in new hires, as they aren’t as easily attainable as technical skills.
How to develop interpersonal skills?
You’ll find that upon reflection, you possess many interpersonal skills already, as they tend to develop naturally over time. However, making sure they’re as strong as can be is vital for career success in the workplace.
Working on your interpersonal skills can come in many forms, both informal and formal.
Informally, you can work on your leadership and teamwork skills by taking on roles at work, home, joining a sporting club or helping on a volunteer project. Brush up on your active listening by removing distractions during conversations and focus on asking relevant questions based on what the other person is saying.
Your sense of empathy is strengthened by taking the time to consider another person’s situation before rushing to conclusions. You can practise this both at home and in a work situation.
To ensure your conflict management and negotiation skills are sharp, choose a task you’ve been putting off and decide this is the day to tackle it head-on. It could be asking for a better interest rate from your bank or talking kindly to a family member about something that’s bothering you about their behaviour.
Formal actions can be to attend workshops or training sessions to help you work on your soft skills. Another option is to complete a diploma from a trusted provider which focuses on the interpersonal skills you need to improve your workplace readiness. Look for diplomas that offer interpersonal units, such as managing relationships, dispute resolution, teamwork and more.
There is a wealth of expert information online about interpersonal skills and human behaviour. The more you’re aware of the skills required, the easier it is to put them into practice on an everyday basis.
One set of skills, countless applications
The advantage of building upon your interpersonal skills is that they are highly transferable and valued in any setting, whether that be at work or home.
Strong interpersonal skills help you to get ahead in your career and work effectively with your colleagues, but they’re also useful outside of work. The payoff is that you’ll find that your relationships improve and that you’re better equipped to manage problems as they arise. Increased rapport and better work-life balance are the side benefits of getting on better with your colleagues.
If you’re confused about the direction you’d like your career to head, strengthening your interpersonal skills is a great way to stay on top of your personal and professional development while you decide on your next career move.
Climbing the career ladder
If you’re looking to get ahead in your career, either by moving into a management role, a senior position, or changing careers entirely, an investment in your interpersonal skills is a smart decision. Managers want to promote employees who understand the nuances of a role and can relate to others effectively, whether that be by managing a team or communicating with external stakeholders.
More specifically, focusing on the interpersonal skills, which are key to leaderships roles will ensure you’re considered a high-quality candidate in your next interview.
While arguably all interpersonal skills are essential to be considered an effective leader, the most applicable ones include teamwork, motivation, communication, active listening and dispute resolution.
If your focus is on getting ahead in your career, upskilling with a diploma gives you a wider knowledge of the technical skills required for the role, plus important social and leadership skills.
Interpersonal skills are essential for effective leaders
If you think about the world’s most famous leaders, you’ll find that they all have one thing in common – great interpersonal skills. Effective leaders such as Richard Branson, Simon Sinek, Tony Robbins, Oprah, and Barack Obama all work in a variety of industries that require different skillsets and knowledge.
The reason these people are all performing at the top of their respective fields is because of their ability to create quality relationships. Interpersonal skills allow leaders to motivate teams, understand and solve problems, and communicate effectively. It’s simply not enough to ‘be good at your job’. These leaders prove that possessing important soft skills are essential to becoming an effective leader.
How to get ahead at work
At work, it’s important to consider all facets of your skillset, both the technical and interpersonal ones, to ensure you’re giving yourself the best chance of success. While some interpersonal skills come naturally to us, they can still be learned and strengthened through practice and education. Just like staying up to date with changes in your industry, it’s important to keep on top of your interpersonal skillset too.