When we think of skills that set us up for career success, things like efficiency, the ability to multi-task, and proficiency in technical or specialized equipment might come to mind. But, based on the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ list of occupations expected to add the most jobs over the next 10 years — home health care, nursing, retail, and service — a very different set of skills will be in high demand. Can you guess the common denominator for these occupations? If you said social skills, you’re right.
Even if you’re not employed in one of these fields, social skills are becoming an in-demand qualification. Employers in STEM fields are showing an increasing preference for applicants with “high social skills,” not just technical skills. Even business professionals need to be able to communicate with other departments, anticipate customers’ desires, needs, and reactions to formulate effective marketing strategies, interact with suppliers, and secure funding by building rapport with investors. Finally, if you’re an entrepreneur, financial success hinges strongly on the social skills needed for building a network of investors and customers.
The Social Skills You Need for Financial Success
There are at least six areas of social skill that can impact your career and financial success:
- Perception/Empathy – accurately reading and relating to others’ perspectives and emotional reactions.
- Making good impressions – not necessarily brown-nosing or being fake, but knowing how to act in a way that pleases others, regardless of what you think of them.
- Persuasiveness – being able to convince (not manipulate) customers, coworkers, or employees to take a certain action for their own good, or to believe that your services will meet their needs.
- Confidence – to persuade others, you first need to believe in yourself, as well as your product or service, to come across in a way that communicates assurance, especially in positions of leadership.
- Adaptability – the skill to roll with the punches when co-workers and customers’ needs, desires, and reactions change, quickly adopting a new tone or strategy to accommodate it.
- Expressiveness – the ability to show enthusiasm, genuine concern, and motivation that inspires others as opposed to anger, unresponsiveness, or indifference.
How to Gain These Lucrative Social Skills
Some of us are naturally better at these social skills than others, but that doesn’t mean you’re out of luck if you don’t have them. They can also be learned by doing the following:
- Practicing in comfortable settings. When the pressure is taken off, you can learn naturally. Start by practicing the skills you need to work on with friends and family in relaxed social settings where judgment and risk will be minimal.
- Taking social risks and stepping out of your comfort zone. It’s easy to interact with the people you know and like, but putting yourself out there to meet new people will stretch your ability to relate to the myriad of people types and situations you’ll encounter on the job. Start by volunteering, going to networking events, and putting yourself in situations that are at least slightly uncomfortable.
- Modeling others with good social skills. Are there people you admire for their social skills? Pay attention to what they do and say, and follow their lead. You might even want to ask them for advice and feedback on your own skills.
Next to technical skills, “high social skills” may soon become key qualifications employers look for when hiring and promoting. Taking the time to improve these social skills now will benefit not only your relationships, but your career and your future financial success.