Of course it’s important that you have the practical and technical skills needed for your chosen career. But what employers also look for are good people skills, essentially meaning how well you get on with others.
Also known as interpersonal skills and sometimes soft skills, these are the skills we use to communicate and interact with people. They’re skills that we’ve all developed throughout our lives and might even take for granted, but it’s key to improve them for the workplace. Strong people skills aren’t just needed for customer service jobs – they’re crucial in whatever line of work you choose. So we’ve put together this post to talk you through the most important people skills and how to build on them for the workplace.
Why do people skills matter at work?
At work you’ll come across lots of situations where you need good people skills, whether it’s making a great impression on your first day or listening to others in a meeting. Good people skills mean you can form better relationships at work and will be able to influence people’s decisions.
Watch this video to see what people skills are and how they're used at work:
Interpersonal skills allow you to work well in a team, empathise with others, solve problems together, ensure that you come across in a friendly and professional way, and ultimately be fantastic at your job!
If it sounds complicated, don’t worry. You probably already have lots of interpersonal skills. They might be gained from your experiences at school, your Saturday job, work experience, or even your hobbies.
Communicating with others is probably the most important people skill – and studies have shown it’s the one employers value most. Good communicators speak clearly and assertively, while respecting other people’s points of view. They listen carefully, and take their time to formulate a good response. In the workplace, good communication skills mean you’ll get on well with colleagues and convince others to listen to your ideas.
There are plenty of ways you can improve your own communication skills before you enter the workplace – it could be as simple as responding thoughtfully and articulately when a teacher asks a question, or if you’re up for a challenge, join your school’s debate team. To learn more, read our post on improving your communication skills.
Believe it or not, you say a lot through your body language and posture – non-verbal interactions actually make up the majority of how we communicate with people. During your next lesson, practice a few techniques by sitting up straight in your chair, making eye contact with your teacher, and keeping your arms uncrossed. Check out our guide to body language.
Being able to work confidently in a group is actually the interpersonal skill that employers value second most highly. Think about what each person is bringing to the group and use everyone’s strengths to help the team work towards a shared goal. Try out this people skill the next time you’re playing a team sport.
Good employees will always show respect for others and consider the thoughts and needs of their colleagues. Having empathy and respect also means tolerance for people of different backgrounds. It might sound obvious, but this skill is crucial for being able to cooperate with others and resolve conflicts.
You could improve this interpersonal skill by taking the time to really get to know someone at school. Ask them about their background. What is their experience? How is it different from yours?
Keep an open mind!
Having a positive attitude and an open mind has plenty of benefits in the workplace. For people to respect you and listen to your ideas, they need to know that you’ll consider their contributions in a fair and open-minded way. Try having a conversation with a friend who has a different point of view. Be honest, positive and respectful in how you respond.
Hearing someone and actively listening to them are actually not the same – when someone starts talking, most people think of their response instead of truly listening. Next time your friend makes a point, try really concentrating on what they’re saying, let them finish, and then take your time to respond.
In the workplace this interpersonal skill will help you develop a good sense of judgement and ability to make decisions.