Throughout school, university and even into first roles, your focus is predominantly on technical knowledge – learning information and being able to apply it. Technical knowledge will always be an important foundation to your work life, but it isn’t enough to help you navigate your professional life and progress your career.
Why does this matter? It’s because we don’t work in isolation – we work with other people. No matter what size of organisation you work in you will need to work with others interdependently, in many cases both internally and externally. This is likely to include colleagues, suppliers, clients and prospective clients as well as other business contacts
For example, if you end up running your own business, building your client base will be essential. You’ll need to build a good network to find direct clients and to get referrals. Once you’ve won clients, managing those relationships positively will be key: retaining clients is essential for business growth and happy clients tell others about you. In time, you may need to recruit people – so understanding how to work with and manage people is important.
If you go into a larger organisation, you’ll need to build great relationships with your colleagues – they will need information from you and vice versa – and you’re likely to need to work on challenges together.
In my new book “Getting On: Making Work Work“, there are three parts – the first one ‘It all starts with you’, the second ‘The relationships you need’ and the third ‘Professional scenarios’. In part two, I cover trust and relationship building in-depth, including my top ten relationship skills – and here’s a sneak peek of the top five:
1. Your personal impact.
Take the time to understand how others could perceive your demeanour, words and behaviour. You impact others in how you engage with them which can in turn affect how they respond. You can’t change others’ behavior, only your own.
This is an important way to show you value someone and that you have taken the time to share in what they are experiencing. It doesn’t necessarily mean that you agree! When people feel you empathise with them and understand where they are coming from, they are far more likely to engage with you positively. As humans, we all want to feel understood and valued.
Very few of us truly listen. In the worst case we can end up responding to what was not said. And at best we can leave someone feeling unheard. You need to be able to really listen and for people to feel you are listening too. This is often a challenge when we all have shorter attention spans than ever before!
4. How you react.
Reacting to new news or feedback that generates a negative reaction immediately is rarely a good idea. If necessary, say you’ll have a think and go back to the person in a certain amount of time. It’s better to go back with a considered response as it may change your response and even if it doesn’t, it shows the other person you took time to consider what you heard.
5. Understanding others’ perspective.
People’s frames of reference, assumptions and beliefs vary. If you are struggling to understand someone’s point of view, consider in what circumstance you might think the same as them. Sometimes you may have information the other person doesn’t to inform your view and vice versa.
If you make time for building relationships with others and working on your non-technical skills in your career, you will reap the rewards – both in terms of navigating your professional life more easily and progressing your career.
Joanna Gaudoin helps bright, knowledgeable people with great technical skills and experience improve their non-technical skills so they can progress their careers and boost their firm’s performance. She runs Inside Out Image and is the author of Amazon bestseller “Getting On: Making Work Work“.