Network your way to career success by perfecting these core skills
When you're working in any type of business, social skills matter. No, that doesn't mean you have to mix work and pleasure. You'll be pleased to hear that you don't have to be best friends with Sandra in accounting. You don't have to look after her Cockapoo when she goes away for the weekend, or even join her and the “girlies” for Friday night drinks.
Still, the right skills will help you when it comes to communicating and collaborating with others. Chances are, you rely on other workers to get your job done. Without their help, support, and advice, you might find it tricky to thrive. So, how should you get started? In this guide, we take a look at workplace social skills and why you need to develop them.
What are social skills?
Let's kick things off with defining social skills meaning. In the simplest of terms, social skills are the talents that you use to communicate and work with other team members. There's a lot to be said for the “just be yourself” approach to work. However, if “yourself” would rather hide under a rock than have a face-to-face conversation in the office, that presents a problem.
The good news is that social skills can be learned. If you're lacking any of these important traits, you can sharpen them up and give yourself the best shot at success. As we'll discuss later, there's a rainbow array of talents that fall neatly under this umbrella term.
Why are social skills important?
If you're an out-and-proud introvert, you'll likely prefer a workplace in which you never have to work with others. That's all well and good… but it's not reality. Social skills matter because collaboration is the foundation to any workplace. According to a recent study, more than 80% of recruiters recognise interpersonal skills as “important” when reviewing candidates. With that in mind, here are some of the benefits of having strong social skills:
If you've got a hyperbolic million things to do and no time to lose, efficiency will be your top priority. As we've already covered, you'll likely need the help of other workers to make sure that things go smoothly. When you have a robust set of social skills, you'll find that it's easier to ensure that the workflow runs smoothly. Working with others will be a breeze.
Communication is the key to a serene workplace. While misunderstandings will arise from time to time, your aim is to limit them. It's no good working at cross-purposes. If your manager thinks you're working on one thing but, thanks to some silly miscommunication, you're actually working on something else, it will cause you both issues in the long-run.
You can resolve the issue by making sure that your communication is clear from the offset. By having one, straightforward conversation with your manager, you can ensure that you're pulling in the same direction - rather than pulling each other's work apart.
Let's face it, if you lack social skills, you're set to make a pretty awkward work environment. Offices can be tough enough, but when you fail to tick these boxes, you may find that your coworkers struggle to get on your side. Ensuring that you have the social skills to connect with your colleagues on a professional level makes all the difference.
Put simply, this is about making your life easier. If you head to work and click with your coworkers, you're going to enjoy the workday much more than if you don't. You spend a whole load of your waking life at work, so you might as well make it comfortable.
Top 8 social skills examples
We've waxed lyrical about the importance of social skills, so let's talk about the specifics. Before you can start working on these talents, you're going to want to know what they are. While there's a whole spectrum of skills that may be considered interpersonal, there are some that stand out more than others. Here are eight social skills examples to consider.
Are you paying attention? Active listening means tuning into what someone says to you - both verbally and nonverbally - digesting the information, and then feeding back to the person. It's a skill that you can practise whenever you have a conversation with someone.
All too often, when we're speaking with people, we focus on getting our own point across. You might be waiting for the other person to stop speaking so that you can start. That doesn't make for the healthiest of conversations. When you learn to actively listen and make it a habit, you'll find that it's easier to understand what other people have to say.
Next up, verbal communication is how you get your point across when you're speaking. Do you convolute the topic? Maybe you bamboozle the listener with industry-specific jargon. If you find that people often misunderstand you, maybe you're the problem. Understanding how to get your message across in a clear, concise way is a real pro skill.
Empathy tends to be defined as the ability to feel other people's emotions while imagining what they're thinking. It's essentially about putting yourself in someone else's shoes. In a work environment, having some empathy can be a superpower. It means that you can understand other people's point of view and follow their thought process when discussing ideas.
That leads us neatly onto the next social skills example: cooperation. If you're working as part of a team, you need to club together to get the results you want. It's all about focusing on the goal at hand and doing what it takes to reach it. That may mean divvying up the tasks or helping your coworkers with their side of the project. Of course, it goes without saying that when there's a lack of cooperation, workplaces can fall apart at the seams.
Do you have a good relationship with your coworkers? Creating a sense of camaraderie amongst the team has real benefits. The ability to connect with people on a professional level is highly valued in the working world. If you struggle with this feat, it may be worth working on it and seeing whether you can find common ground with your colleagues.
Rubbing shoulders with the right people can help your career progress too. Forbes reports that between 70% and 80% of vacancies are not advertised and are instead filled through networking. When you make professional connections, it opens up more doors than ever.
Nonverbal communication is everything that is unsaid in conversations. It's all about your body language, tone of voice, and facial expressions, among other cues. Two people can say exactly the same thing verbally, but communicate entirely different messages. Taking ownership of this element of your communication can help you to be clear with coworkers.
Do you have a sunny attitude like Tigger, or are you more of an Eeyore type? If you're bringing doom and gloom to the table, you're unlikely to be everyone's favourite coworker. While you may find it hard to see the good in challenging scenarios, adopting a positive and optimistic approach to your work may make things easier.
Picture the following scenario: Bill, in the graphics team, has a deadline approaching at 2pm. His eyes are fixed to his computer screen, his fingers are tapping furiously, and he's deep in thought. Now, do you think it's a good time to ask Bill what his weekend plans are?
The obvious answer is no. You need to let him do his work and respect his boundaries.
Of course, that's only one example. Respecting peoples' boundaries comes in all shapes and forms. It may mean not asking people personal questions, giving them physical space, and avoiding sensitive topics in the workplace. If you want to work in a harmonious place, ensuring that you have this crucial social skill down will help you along the way.
Developing social skills: what to do now
Okay, you already know what the main social skills are. So, how can you develop them? While it may be savvy to work on each of the individual talents above, there are some general approaches that you can use too. No matter where you're starting from, there are some everyday tips you can use that will help you to sharpen those social skills:
Learn more about social skills. You're off to a great start! When it comes to developing your social skills, the first step is to learn more about them. You've already covered some of them in this guide. However, it may also be worth picking up a book - or two - on the matter of social skills training for the workplace.
Ask for personalised feedback. Want to identify your weaknesses? It can be hard to be objective about your own skills. For that reason, it may be worth asking a manager or coworker for personalised feedback. If they're 100% honest with you, you'll understand the areas where you lack and what to do about it.
Learn from those around you. Is there someone with stellar social skills in your office? If the answer is yes, pay close attention to them. While you shouldn't merely copy their behaviour, taking an interest in how they deal with others could help you.
Break down this task. The fact is, you're not going to completely overhaul your social skills overnight. That's an unreasonable expectation. Instead of wearing yourself out, commit to doing a little each day. That may mean learning about active listening or working on the relationship you have with a certain coworker.
Armed with the right set of social skills, you can conquer any workplace. In this guide, we've covered everything you need to know about these talents, why they matter, and how you can strengthen yours. Now that you have a baseline understanding of them, consider the ways that you can start improving each of the skills today.
Do you want to climb the career ladder? If you're looking for a way to get ahead, submit your CV for a free CV review today - our experts will provide feedback to ensure that you're well-positioned to land your next role sooner.