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Social skills vital to succeed in business

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According to research done by trade union Solidarity, nearly 60 000 South Africans have been retrenched over the past year, and it is believed that the actual number could be substantially higher.

This has led to working environments becoming increasingly competitive as individuals navigate their way to ensure that they secure their place within a company. Courtenay Carey, co-founder and director at The School of Etiquette, has seen this tendency attribute to high stress levels, anxiety and sleepless nights for her clients.

“The reality is that people that enter the workforce today are most likely to have had over ten different jobs by the time they retire. The lack of job security that is experienced by today’s workforce is something that almost everyone must face at one time or another, and learning how to cope is essential to being successful and keeping stress away. So, how do you deal with this uncertainty?”

In a study done by Harvard University, the Carnegie Foundation and the Stanford Research Institute, all three found that 85% of job success related to getting, keeping and advancing in a job is connected to people skills, leaving only 15% to technical knowledge and skill.

“As businesses mechanise and automate to take advantage of technological advancements, they also seek to re-mobilise human resources which are more easily adaptable to this new market,” Carey says. “This means that to stay ahead and be in the forefront of being the preferred candidate or service provider you must outshine the competition by being likeable and socially adept within diverse environments. Being arrogant, shy or distant can only serve as a one way ticket out the door.

“Further, instead of hiding behind your social media avatar and personal brand, have the courage to be your genuine self. Focus on building relationships in the real world. Listen to what people have to say and trust your instinct as that is the only way to genuinely relate, make connections, and understand people.”

She warns that although someone may be qualified for a particular job, fit to lead a team, and even entitled to a promotion because they have extensive experience and highly developed technical skills, this might not happen.

Carey believes it is imperative that people also have world class social and interpersonal skills for that competitive edge which sets them apart from colleagues and defines their path to success.

“The question to ask yourself is: in a country with one of the highest unemployment rates in the world, averaging 25,27% from 2000 until 2015 (Stats SA), can you really afford not to be at the top of your business skills game?” she asks.