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People Skills - The Secret to a Successful Career

Khyati Mehta

“Your career success in the workplace of today - independent of technical expertise - depends on the quality of your people skills.”

- Max Messmer Jr., Managing Your Career for Dummies

It’s interesting how we invest so much time and effort preparing ourselves for a successful career. We spend years pursuing specialisations to hone our technical expertise. However, in this pursuit of excellence, we usually tend to forget what lies at the core of a successful future - people skills.

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Contrary to popular opinion, the concept of people skills isn’t just a figment of 21st-century imagination. It has existed since the time humans needed to interact with other humans, especially for business. It became a lot less important when humans were cogs in the giant wheels of industries before machines began replacing them.

However, in today’s times, jobs and roles that require minimal human interaction are all but obsolete. We’re fast moving towards a world where people are the most valuable resources. Working with people is fast becoming the only way to work. Amidst all this, we have only recently become self-aware about how these skills can be of great help, especially professionally.

Why Do I Need People Skills?

You’re probably thinking - ugh, who wants to deal with people? If you’re looking to be even fairly successful in your dream career, you will eventually want to. Right now, it may seem like you’d rather not, but the reality is that this is an indispensable part of working life. No matter which industry you work in, your job will require you to deal with people. Your success will depend greatly on your ability to understand them, convince them and win them over. If you learn to master these skills fairly in advance, you will gradually begin to enjoy them.


Here’s the best part - these skills won’t just help you get job-ready. They can also help you make the most of your college experience. Additionally, these skills aren’t something you can learn overnight. They need time and effort, and what better time to start than now?

When freshly graduated students venture into the real world, they realise just how unprepared they are for their career. Education, as you may have experienced, does not always guarantee the overall development of an individual. There’s a massive disconnect between what is taught and what skills are required in the workplace, which also greatly affects employability. How do you go about inculcating these skills, while also ensuring you have an advantage over countless others vying for similar goals?


How Do I Get There?

Many of these skills come with age and experience. However, you can definitely begin by learning to be great at a few of the basic ones.

1. Hang On To Every Word

If you notice carefully, you will see how most people listen only so that they can construct their own responses. Very few people actively listen to what the opposite person is trying to say. This is extremely important; it helps you understand things in entirety. More importantly, it makes people feel valued.

Image Credit: Jon Bell via flickr.com


2. Amp Up the Interest

Be genuinely interested in knowing others. Ask questions that will encourage them to open up to you. Listen to them when they share something. Learn to be fully present in conversations with people. You will be surprised to know just how effective this can be.


3. It’s All in the Feels

Having empathy is understanding or feeling what someone else is experiencing, especially in the exact context of their experience. Learn to be mindful of someone’s situation and understand what they are going through.


4. Don’t Hesitate; Just Do It

Being proactive is an important part of building great rapport with people. Be that person who is always looking to help people solve problems. People will automatically begin valuing your presence and contribution, and maybe even look forward to them.


5. Constant Vigilance!

Whenever you are in a new environment or with people you don’t know, try to read the vibe of the room you are in and act accordingly. That will help you say and do just the right things. If not, you could end up creating extremely embarrassing or uncomfortable situations.


Let’s be honest - there are no tricks or shortcuts to developing these skills. You need to consciously practice them in different situations and see how well they work for you. You could put them into practice in college, at your internship, or any other practical situation you can think of. It might force you to step out of your comfort zone. However, once you begin to see how helpful it can really be in dealing with the world, it will go a long way in preparing you for your dream job.

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