To some, people skills just come naturally. Think of the charismatic, lovable, life of the party. They have lots of friends and never seem to get the jitters in social situations. It isn’t always easy to define what it is about these people; we just know that we like to be around them.
Being a people person is an art, and it can get you a long way in your career. Not only are you better at networking when you have great people skills, but you can also communicate information accurately, pick up quickly on facts, problem-solve, and help people more effectively.
According to a study from America Succeeds, which looked at 82 million job postings over the last two years, 64 percent of job posts requested at least one “durable skill,” which the organization defines as competencies like leadership, collaboration, communication, mindfulness, and others. And, 29 million of the posts requested communications skills in particular.
Let’s talk about what it means to be a people person and how you can start exhibiting some of these admirable qualities in your career search.
What does it mean to be a people person?
A people person is exactly what it sounds like—someone who is great with others. They enjoy socializing and are really good at it. Terms often used to describe these types: outgoing, friendly, warm, good listener, extroverted, gregarious, and approachable. They’re good at asking the right questions, paying attention to what other people are saying, and responding in affirmative ways.
These qualities make other people feel comfortable, seen, and heard. A people person is easy to talk to and fun to be around. Introverts breathe a sigh of relief around them because it’s never awkward. And extroverts love other extroverts with whom they can sustain meaningful, two-way conversations. It’s no surprise that being this likable is how many professionals end up succeeding quickly in their careers.
8 great careers for a people person
Most jobs out there involve some kind of people skills, but some require above-and-beyond communication and interpersonal skills. Here are a few especially great career paths for extroverts:
HR is quite literally dealing with other people. These roles require patience, empathy, and people management skills.
Today’s social media experts are more than great at writing marketing copy. They also need to master online interactions to foster positive brand reputations.
Read more: What Does a Social Media Manager Do?
Politicians must be expert communicators, both understanding and accounting for public opinion.
Selling any type of product or service requires knowledge about what the audience cares about and using that information to persuade and inspire them.
Read more: What Does a Sales Professional Do?
Working in support requires lots of patience and compassion when helping people solve a problem.
The best teachers know how to empathize with their students, and the role requires effective public speaking.
Consultants have to manage multiple client relationships to be successful, and this means mastering communication and networking and a willingness to meet new people.
Therapists, psychologists, and counselors are expert listeners and must exhibit empathy to clients in need.
The bottom line: Extroverts tend to exceed well in people-facing roles. (But that doesn’t mean introverts can’t hang. We see you.)
How do you become a people person?
There are lots of reasons people people tend to succeed in the professional realm, in addition to the social one. They tend to relate better to other humans, and relationships fuel networks. They’re usually better at empathizing and forming strong bonds with others that are often more important than skills on a resume.
Of course, relational prowess doesn’t come naturally to many. Those with social anxiety, for instance, may not have the bandwidth to think so much about other people when they’ve got constant intrusive thoughts coming in about how they’re being perceived and whether they’re responding appropriately.
But, practicing does help, and it may take a fake-it-til-you-make-it mindset until you find your stride. It will, eventually, get easier to come off as relatable and outgoing, even if those qualities aren’t always a reality for you internally.
It’s important to understand that you don’t have to be an extrovert to succeed in interpersonal relationships. In fact, many introverts are better listeners and can empathize more easily than extreme extroverts.
An Empathy in the Workplace report from the Center for Creative Leadership suggests that empathy and listening skills can be learned, and that “giving time and attention to others fosters empathy, which in turn, enhances your performance and improves your perceived effectiveness.”
Practice being a good listener by taking in what someone is saying moment by moment, instead of waiting for your turn to talk. Show you’re listening with affirmative body language and verbal responses. Repeat back what you heard to make sure you understand. Ask follow-up questions.
Practicing public speaking can also be a great way to sharpen your people skills. Take the lead on a project or presentation so you can talk in front of people, even if it’s intimidating at first. You’ll never improve without practice. Once you feel more confident speaking and relating to others, it will become easier and easier. One of the key characteristics of a people person is that it appears to come naturally to them, so you’ll be on your way there in no time.
How do you convey you’re a people person in interviews?
So, maybe you’re either a natural people person or you’ve been working on your people skills and are ready to show them off. How do you indicate such a thing when looking for jobs?
On your resume or cover letter, including that you have great communication or interpersonal skills is a big plus, so you should emphasize how you’ve built them and the roles you’ve had that shaped you in these areas. Get into specifics here, like when you led a project and had to manage several different personality types within a group. Or, maybe you worked in customer service and had to field lots of calls from upset clients.
The key for interviews is to say it without saying it. Be friendly and warm to the interviewer. Pay attention to what they’re saying and maintain eye contact. Let the conversation flow naturally and don’t just give robotic responses to the questions they ask. Practice answering questions in advance, whether with a friend or in the mirror, so you’ll feel more confident and collected.
Another way to think of it: Be curious, rather than forcing yourself to be outgoing. You don’t have to always be bubbly, lively, or energetic just to be liked. Just be attentive to others, stay in the moment, and respond with empathy.