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Interpersonal Skills: A Key to Job Success

January 29, 2020

By Sydney Glass

Interpersonal skills can be described as those that allow you to successfully interact with and convey information to other people.[i] Regardless of our program or degree level, all graduate students can benefit from improving these skills, especially those of us preparing to enter the career world soon. With graduation coming up in May, I am constantly thinking of ways to enhance my resume and set myself apart from other job candidates; bringing attention to my interpersonal skills is a great way to do this. While others may have the same credentials and technical knowledge as you, many may not have these skills, which can lead to more and better job opportunities.

Although there are many, I have decided to focus on three specific interpersonal skills because they are normally high on an employer’s list, and improving them can help develop other professional skills.[i]

  1. Communication
    No matter where you are employed, you will be required to communicate in some way, whether verbally or nonverbally, and it is important that you are able to do so in a clear and concise manner. Having poor communication skills can lead to more problems, such as ineffective leadership, lack of support from colleagues, and even slow productivity, which in turn can create an unpleasant working environment. Some tips that can help improve your verbal communication is to be mindful of your tone of voice, be willing to listen, and — one that can save you a lot of trouble — think before you speak. You want to make sure that you always speak respectfully to others regardless of the situation so that you maintain your professionalism.[i]To improve your nonverbal communication, you should make sure to be aware of personal space and maintain eye contact and appropriate facial expressions when interacting with others. Body language is one of the most important forms of communication because there is often no context given, and you do not want other individuals to misinterpret the meaning behind your actions.[ii] All forms of communication have cultural influences, but you have to be especially mindful of cultural expectations in nonverbal communication.[iii],[iv] You have to remember that not all gestures and expressions have the same meanings in other cultures. In the U.S., we often use hand gestures like the peace sign or thumbs up, which can be considered offensive or have negative connotations in other regions, such as the United Kingdom, Asia, or the Middle East.[v] Thus, when starting a new job, take a moment to learn about the backgrounds of your coworkers and the overall “work” culture.
  2. Collaboration
    Most of us at some point in our graduate program have had to do group projects and/or assignments, and the success of that project or assignment often depended on how well we worked together. Well, I am here to tell all of you, especially those that prefer working independently, that the group work does not end after graduate school. Employers normally look to hire individuals that are responsible enough to handle certain tasks alone, but can also collaborate effectively and efficiently with their coworkers. This means that you will have to know how to get along with diverse groups of people who may have different opinions and/or perspectives from your own. Collaboration is key to the success of any company or organization because it allows for more creativity and critical thinking, leading to new ideas and better productivity.[vi] Some ways to improve your collaborative skills are to identify your strengths and weaknesses at the start of each group task, show responsibility and dependability by producing consistent and quality work, and more importantly, maintaining a line of open communication with your coworkers.[vii]
  3. Empathy
    This skill may come as a surprise to some, but it is essential for having good professional relationships with your coworkers. Empathy can be described as the ability to understand the emotions, thoughts, and experiences of others in order to better relate to them. Being empathic will allow you to build trust and establish a safe space in the workplace. One of the best ways to become more empathic is to try simply viewing the situation from the position of others, which can help you make decisions and respond in a more considerate manner.i Emotional intelligence is another term closely related to empathy that you should know as it deals with the understanding and managing of emotions, which can lead to better decision-making and problem solving.[viii] If you are interested in learning more, the Leadership Education and Development (LEAD) Office addresses emotional intelligence in many of their trainings and workshops.

I hope that you all have found something useful in this post and will continue to look for ways to build your professional development. If you haven’t done so, make sure you check out last week’s throwback post, which features tips on how to gain experience for jobs in your field/industry.



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[i] Alison Doyle, “The Importance of Career Networking,” the balance careers, last modified November 26, 2019, https://www.thebalancecareers.com/interpersonal-skills-list-2063724

[ii] Rose Johnson, “Techniques for Improving Your Nonverbal Communication Skills in the Workplace,” Chron, last modified March 7, 2019, https://smallbusiness.chron.com/techniques-improving-nonverbal-communication-skills-workplace-21411.html

[iii] Vijai N. Giri, “Culture and Communication Style,” Review of Communication 6, no. 1-2 (2006): 124-130. doi:10.1080/15358590600763391

[iv] Marianna Pogosyan, “Non-Verbal Communication across Cultures,” Psychology Today, last modified June 29, 2017, https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/between-cultures/201706/non-verbal-communication-across-cultures

[v] Kathleen Elkins and Mike Nudelman, “The Shocking differences in basic body language around the world,” Business Insider, last modified March 17, 2015, https://www.businessinsider.com/body-language-around-the-world-2015-3

[vi] Pallavi Eswara, “Developing Your Teamwork Skills,” Inside Higher Ed, last modified January 28, 2019, https://www.insidehighered.com/advice/2019/01/28/grad-students-need-improve-their-teamwork-skills-become-more-attractive-employers

[vii] Martin Zwilling, “10 Ways to Enhance Your Team Collaboration Skills,” Business Insider, last modified September 17, 2012, https://www.businessinsider.com/10-ways-to-enhance-your-team-collaboration-skills-2012-9

[viii] Kendra Cherry, “Utilizing Emotional Intelligence in the Workplace,” verywell Mind, last modified August 12, 2019, https://www.verywellmind.com/utilizing-emotional-intelligence-in-the-workplace-4164713