For many communications students, the spring semester is a stressful one. Internship and job postings start flooding students’ inboxes leaving them to navigate which ones they might be “qualified” for versus which ones they might not be.
Recently, in my capstone public relations course, my professor asked our senior filled class if we had any post-grad job prospects. Very few students had a job secured, but many were/are in the process of applying. One of my classmates told my professor that he was interested in applying to a job he found online, but felt that he didn’t necessarily match the skills listed and therefore didn’t intend to apply anymore. The first words out of my professor’s mouth were, “But those skills can be learned. Your ability to communicate with people is innate.”
It’s true, skills can be learned. Any skill can be learned technically and developed over time. However, as my professor pointed out, not everyone has the ability to communicate properly, to read the mood of a room, or to understand how other people feel. This is called “emotional intelligence” and in the professional world, having emotional intelligence can be more valuable than any technical skill.
Emotional intelligence is defined in the Oxford dictionary as, “the capacity to be aware of, control, and express one’s emotions, and to handle interpersonal relationships judiciously and empathetically.” Emotional intelligence is the ability to understand the people around you and handle those relationships in the most effective way. As future public relations and communications professionals, this is a key ability to hold.
The world of public relations is built around working with people. Your professional life is spent communicating with coworkers, clients, members of the press, and the general public. Therefore, as future communications professionals, it’s important that we understand emotional intelligence and practice it as much as we can.
One of the first steps to practicing emotional intelligence is to be aware of the people around you. What’s their body language like while they’re talking to you? What about their tone of voice or facial expressions? Are you personally responding in a positive or negative manner, and how do you create a comfortable environment for the other person? Maintaining a conscience gage of these questions is an effective way to practice emotional intelligence. Building your emotional intelligence overnight is a not realistic goal. However, overtime it can help shape the way that you communicate and understand the people around you, both personally and professionally.
The next time that you see a job posting that might not fit your “skills,” take a closer look to see if the desired attributes listed are technical and can be learned. Most of the time skills can be taught, but having emotional intelligence is an innate skill in itself that not everyone possesses.