The Most Important Skill for Getting a Job and Creating a Successful Career

Publication: Industrial and Organizational Psychology (2013)
Article: Employability and career success: Bridging the gap between theory and reality
Authors: Robert Hogan, Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic, & Robert B. Kaiser
Reviewed by: Scott Charles Sitrin

After graduation, getting a job will be my first priority. I want to find one quickly, in my area of study, but beyond that short-term goal, I have a long-term goal: a successful career. What skills do I need to accomplish each of these professional objectives? According to Hogan, Chamorro-Premuzic, and Kaiser, to find a job and accomplish my short-term goal, one of the most important things I need is social skill.

Social skills include the ability to work well with others, to make a positive self-presentation, and to be sensitive to the needs and wishes of others. Possessing these types of skills makes me more attractive to potential employers. In fact, some employers place greater importance on social skills than academic credentials. So, to get the kind of job I want, I need to turn on the charm and make sure my prospective employers find me pleasant to be around. But what next?

Say I’ve gotten the job; step one is accomplished. Assuming that has gone to plan, how do I leverage my newly acquired position into a long and successful career? According to a wealth of previous studies on this topic, there are three factors of particular importance: cognitive ability (i.e., intelligence), education, and personality (e.g., responsibility, independence, persistence, social skills). Given that social skills are important for both getting a job and having a successful career over the course of a lifetime, building my ability to connect with others, paying attention to their needs, and putting my best foot forward are aspects of my self-presentation that I will definitely want to focus on over the long haul.