Updated: Aug 4
By Charlotte Pointeaux, Certified Womxn's Life Coach, Sacred Circle Holder and author of Simply Sacred Self-Care
Interpersonal skills...... you've probably heard of them. Right?
When you start working or applying for jobs, you'll find pretty quickly that you need to have them. School might've mentioned them too - but you might know them as something else - maybe "Soft" Skills, "Employability" Skills, or even "Transferable" Skills...? Or maybe you've never heard of them until now? Then let me explain....
"Interpersonal" skills literally means the skills we use to get along with, work with and communicate effectively with each other - particularly in the workplace.
Similarly, "Transferable" or "Soft" skills relate to the skills we use in our everyday life, especially at school or work, that apply in all kinds of settings.
By contrast, "hard", or technical skills, are very specific skills that you must have to do a job in a set place or industry (e.g. graphic design, being a vet, or making great cappuccino). If you don't have them there's no getting away with it. However, on top of this, it's still important to possess great interpersonal skills otherwise no-one will want to work with you, even if you can do the job.
So, however you look at it, interpersonal skills are needed in all walks of life - mastering them and being able to shout about it is the key to winning at life!!
It can be the the difference between making friends or alienating people, getting on well with a teacher, and definitely, vitally, whether you'll get the job or not.
INTERPERSONAL SKILLS vs GRADES vs EXPERIENCE
But aren't grades and experience more important? Well put it this way. I've worked in recruitment myself - helping students and new graduates land their first proper jobs: some with work experience and a decent resume, and some with average grades and no part-time work behind them.
Experience and grades helped, but most of all, the biggest difference between new graduates getting a job or bombing another job application, was being able to show that you've got the various interpersonal skills needed to focus, work well with team members and clients. NOT necessarily grades or experience.
Seriously, the amount of times my past colleagues have hired the person they liked the most, who they believed would be able to do the job, instead of the most qualified person, I've lost count.
NICE GUYS & GIRLS DON'T ALWAYS FINISH LAST!
The general consensus amongst employers is that they want to hire someone who'll fit in to the existing team, someone they like. So if you're smart, proactive and have a strong work-ethic, and are likeable and communicate well on your resume and at interview, then you're good to go.
Being able to demonstrate that you have good interpersonal skills is really valuable. Employers know that new staff can be trained up on the job to a point, and taught some technical skills. But people don't usually become better team mates, better communicators, or better at managing their time quickly.
So, if the most qualified person appears unlikeable at interview, or unable to compromise, or is known to not pull their weight in a team setting, then they just won't be the preferred person for the job. The nice guy wins instead.
SO WHAT ARE THESE MAGIC INTERPERSONAL SKILLS?
They all boil down to these common skills, which are super relevant to succeeding in school AND at work:
Communication Skills -appropriately using verbal and written communication depending on who you're communicating with.
Time management - not being late, meeting deadlines, multi-tasking.
Presenting and public speaking - confidently reporting or pitching to colleagues + clients.
Assertiveness - Persuasiveness and negotiation skills.
Listening - proper, active listening to understand.
Decision making: don't dilly dally, weigh up options, and make the right choice.
Team working - working together effectively, cooperation, compromise.
Problem solving - alone or in a team. Creative thinking, or analytical solving.
Positive attitude: optimistic outlook, motivating a team (don't be a downer).
HOW CAN YOU LEARN INTERPERSONAL SKILLS?
Well, I'm sure at school there's opportunities everyday - in class, managing deadlines, working with partners on assignments, playing sport, hanging with friends, even.
If you've got a part-time job, even better! You're showing you can really manage your worload and time, you're multi-tasking, working with colleagues, maybe in a team, and maybe with clients too, depending on the job. Working in retail? Then you're probably learning loads of communication skills, assertiveness and peruasiveness ("want to buy any extras with that?").
If you've got hobbies or are into sports, you're probably developing your leadership, team working, communication, creativity and problem solving skills right there too.
The trick is not just to HAVE these skills, it's knowing you have them, being able to include them on a resume, but most importantly it's learning how to demonstrate them with examples of how and when you've shown these skills.
OK I know I've got these skills, but how do I shout about it?
Got the skills? Highlight them on your resume and in applications for University or TAFE.
Got an interview? When asked about your interpersonal skills be sure to describe specific examples of a time when you displayed these skills in a specific setting, and then describe the outcome or benefit those skills gave to the result. Don't just SAY you've got great listening or team working skills - prove it with examples.
Like this "I am a strong team member, and really enjoy working within a team. At school we were assigned a group project where each of us had our own tasks and responsibilities to complete to contribute to the group assignment. The project was and my tasks included [describe now briefly]. I contributed to the success of the team by [organising regular meetings to check progress / made sure that if anyone needed help they received it / supported a team member who wasn't going to deliver on time / whatever else you did]. The result was that [the assignment was completed to a good standard / group worked well together [or didn't!] / delivered on time], OR say what you learnt from the experience and could do better next time, if it wasn't smooth sailing!
Want more guidance?
If you want to discover and develop these skills better yet through fun activities and workshops, AND also learn strategies and great tools to showcase your skills in applications and interviews, then sign up for our Sister Souls Mentoring Interpersonal Skills workshops where we 'll go deep on just that. Interested? Drop us an email and we'll get back to you with more info on this.
Set yourself apart - understand your worth and share it with the world - build those interpersonal skills and shout about them from the rooftop!!
Charlotte Pointeaux is a trained youth mentor and runs personal development and empowerment workshops for girls in their tween and teen years. She holds First Moon Circles - a rite of passage celebration and informal educational session for t(w)een girls for private groups of friends across the Southern Highlands, Sydney, and Illawarra.
For any questions or expressions of interest please contact Charlotte at firstname.lastname@example.org and read more at www.charlottepointeaux.com/mentor