This is a guest post by Vicky Oliver

When climbing the corporate ladder, what type of person is most likely to make it to the top rung — the ones clambering up without a backward glance, or those pulling others along as they go? Contrary to popular belief, it’s not the dominant, every-man-for-himself types who most often land in top positions. New research from UPenn’s Wharton School Professor Adam Grant has found that “givers” actually fare better at getting ahead in business than “takers.” By givers, Grant is referring to people who are “looking to help others by making an introduction, giving advice, providing mentoring or sharing knowledge, without any strings attached.” This means that the willingness to simply lend your help to colleagues and customers is a huge predictor of success.


Essentially, every business is a people business. Technical skills certainly matter in your rise to success, but if you can hone one soft skill, it’s this: Do what you can to become a people-person. Yes, it’s essential to be good at the details of your job. But it’s even more important to attend to your people skills, including listening, asking smart questions, not interrupting, being attentive and getting along.


Besides giving your own career a boost, cultivating your people skills will make others gravitate toward you. Clients and colleagues will want to work with you. And, even more important, you’ll find more enjoyment in your work, feel more optimistic about your life and find more satisfaction in your chosen field.


Whether or not you’re a natural people person, you can find ways to cultivate the trait, starting with these five tips:

no-01rNotice those around you.

Always hold the door for anyone behind you. Practice your megawatt smile on the crotchety complainer getting on the elevator. Generously tip the people who wait on you. Acts of kindness never go unappreciated, and they can build the kind of social capital important for success.


no-02rInteract authentically.

Any time you meet someone of influence in a business setting, let the focus be about their work and accomplishments rather than your own. Ask about their company’s services and what sets them apart from their competition — essentially letting them pitch you. Oftentimes, you do a better job of selling yourself through your attentiveness and asking smart questions than you would with any hard sell approach.


no-03rOpt for face-to-face meetings when possible.

With today’s electronically connected world, it’s possible to have clients and colleagues across the country — or across the world — with whom you never have the opportunity to meet. But when possible, strive to have face-to-face meetings to build a relationship beyond your virtual one. You’ll find it establishes better rapport and lends a human element to your electronic interactions.


no-04rShow appreciation.

Show your colleagues that you’re grateful to have them on your team. Compliment them on any job well done. If you receive recognition for a project, share the limelight with your co-workers whose contributions helped make it happen. Showing appreciation builds morale and makes talented team members want to stick around.


no-05rCultivate new talent.

You stand on the shoulders of the generous teachers, supervisors and mentors who encouraged your dreams and helped hone your talents. Look for opportunities to offer that same support to protégés starting out in your field. It takes little time on your part to make an introduction or answer a few questions, but your small gesture can make an enormous difference to another’s budding career.


vicky-oliver-bookAbout the guest post author:

Vicky Oliver is a leading career development expert and the multi-best-selling author of five books, including 301 Smart Answers to Tough Interview Questions (Sourcebooks 2005), named in the top 10 list of “Best Books for HR Interview Prep,” and 301 Smart Answers to Tough Business Etiquette Questions (Skyhorse 2010). She is a sought-after speaker and seminar presenter and a popular media target, having made over 700 appearances in broadcast, print, and online outlets.

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