The number one skillset Canadian employers are looking for
If you want to get ahead in your career, you must have incredible people skills.
A recent survey of Canadian CEOs found that people skills are by far the most desired attributes in potential hires.
“Attitude always comes first,” said one CEO. “Recruits must be passionate about learning, contributing and fitting into the company’s culture.”
The great news here is that people skills are among the easiest to develop. Here are the top ten to concentrate on and how to hone them.
Listening: Humorist Fran Lebowitz once wrote, “The opposite of talking is not listening. The opposite of talking is waiting.” This is true for so many people, and it’s terrible. If you’re letting other people talk, you might as well listen to them. You’ll be amazed at what you learn. Experts on interpersonal relationships are always pointing out that people like you better when you listen to them than when you talk. After you have a conversation with someone in which you do most of the listening, I guarantee they’ll walk away thinking you’re the most fascinating person they’ve met all day.
Communicating: Learn to express yourself and get your ideas across efficiently and without losing the thread. Speak clearly. Don’t use too much slang. We all use some colloquialisms. That’s expected these days, but not, like, too much. Know when to make eye contact and how to arrange your thoughts. A club like Toastmasters can help you develop your communications skills in a fun and friendly atmosphere.
Sharing: It’s the first interpersonal skill we learn as children. Don’t hog the toys. Share them. In our adult lives this extends to snacks, space, joy, credit and blame. Don’t hog the credit on the big project. Share it. Don’t shirk the blame when the team messes up. Share it.
Cooperation: Another one of the first things we learn about as kids. Projects get done faster and are more fun when we all work together! This means doing your part and always doing your best. But it also means not being a control freak and allowing others to do their part without interfering, being able to take constructive criticism and suggestions, and being able to offer the same in a palatable manner. It means listening, and communicating. Say it with me: cooperation!
Good manners: These aren’t the only career tips that you learned before you even hit puberty (see more here). What are good manners? Say “please” and “thank you.” Say “Hello” and “How are you?” Shake hands, smile, pay attention, be respectful. Listen when people talk (is this starting to sound familiar?), don’t interrupt, don’t talk with your mouth full, don’t correct people in public, laugh when appropriate, don’t put your feet on your desk, hold doors and elevators…you know this stuff already.
Being interested: Show an interest in your work, your company and your co-workers. Be eager, not just willing, to learn. Be interested in what people have to say and the things they are interested in. If you work with a bunch of hockey fans and are not a hockey fan yourself, it would certainly not hurt your career situation to try to develop an interest in hockey, so you can bond over stats and games and get excited when the players score touchdowns and baskets or whatever.
Awareness of body language: It’s important to be aware of how you come across with your body language. Read books on the subject – it would also be useful to learn to read micro-expressions – to learn how you are perceived, and how you make others feel. Sample tips: when someone is happy to see you, their pupils will dilate. If they are not happy to see you, their pupils will constrict, maybe briefly. When their torso and feet are turned towards you, that means they like you, so when you turn your feet towards someone, you convey that you like them.
Patience: You need that report done NOW! You need to talk to our boss NOW! You need your computer fixed NOW! I get it. I think I am the most impatient person I have ever met. (Note to self: take own advice) And how many stupid times have you had to show the stupid person how to use the stupid internal software? Be patient. Impatience puts pressure on people and they will associate that pressure with you. Maya Angelou famously said, “At the end of the day people won’t remember what you said or did, they will remember how you made them feel.”
Trustworthiness: People should feel that they can trust you, to tell the truth in a diplomatic manner, to keep your word, to do what you say you will do, to have their backs and to be there when they need you. If you let someone down even once, this will colour the way they see you for the rest of your relationship.
Conflict resolution: The ability to resolve conflict – whether you are involved in the conflict or not – is extremely valuable. This skill requires staying calm, recognizing both sides, defining the problem and negotiating a solution. It’s important to always be flexible and be willing to compromise. When it comes to your own involvement, it’s naturally preferable to avoid conflict in the first place, something you will find easier to do when you have mastered all of these skills.