Why Your Skills Will Never be Good Enough

the importance of emotional intelligence can not be understated when it comes to career success

It may be difficult to accept, but it is the hard truth: your shiny college degree and technical savvy make no promises for prosperity. With more students tossing their caps in the air than ever before, the prestige of a diploma is diluted, and an already stressed job market is stretched ever-more thin with impressive, high-achieving candidates.

The fact of the matter is– job candidates and employees alike cannot afford to rely just on industry know-how, higher education, or a robust resume. Modern-day career success depends on the intangibles.Modern-day career success depends on the intangibles @zimmerbugg Click To Tweet

A recent study in the Journal of Organizational Behavior reveals the incredible importance of emotional intelligence (EI) at work. EI indirectly predicts annual income— even when controlling for salary-bumping variables like age, gender, and experience. Similarly, Yale University President Peter Salovey and colleagues found that emotionally intelligent individuals hold greater company rank than co-workers who showed lower EI.

To be clear, your hard skills are tremendously important. If you waltz into an interview for a software engineering role and aren’t able to reason through basic programming questions, you are not going to be happy with the outcome. I think we can all agree that without at least a baseline of the technical expertise required of the role, you aren’t going to land the gig. And, in order to not get sacked, you definitely need to perform to standard. Still, success comes in varying degrees, and EI is that key factor that separates those who hit a ceiling from their colleagues who keep on climbing.E.I. separates those who hit the career ceiling from those who keep climbing Click To Tweet

So, what makes you emotionally intelligent? EI does not mean being nice all the time, and it isn’t correlated with being extroverted, or introverted for that matterThere are four main pillars of emotional intelligence. Answer the questions below to reflect and take stock of your own emotional intelligence quotient:


Can you identify your own feelings and trace them back to their origins? Do you have a realistic grasp on your strengths and weaknesses? Do you recognize how your values, drives, and actions relate to and impact others? Self-awareness can be tricky, because people who lack self-awareness are unlikely to be aware that they’re unaware (see what I mean? Tricky!). Seek informal feedback whenever possible, and be honest with yourself as you process and respond to it.


Can you rein in your impulses? Can you control or redirect your emotions? Are you able to delay gratification for your long-term best-interest? People with strong self-management skills can usually adapt to change easily. A good start is practicing self-discipline, and sticking to the commitments you make to yourself and to others.

Social skill:

Do you manage conflict proactively– before it escalates? Are you an effective communicator and an active listener? High social skill does not necessarily mean you’re a social butterfly or Chatty Cathy, but it does indicate great collaborators, team-players, and expert negotiators– managing relationships to move people in the desired direction.


Are you able to tune into another person’s feelings and understand how they think about things? Being empathetic requires strong communication and imagination, allowing you to to identify with the feelings of another.

It’s no secret that your skills, education, and IQ are big players in your success, but the importance of emotional intelligence can not be understated. A high emotional intelligence quotient will give you the edge in the job hunt and beyond. The really good news? While your IQ may be tough to change, you have more control over your EQ; with coaching, feedback, and honest reflection, your emotional intelligence can grow.

Photo credit: Al_HikesAZ via Flickr cc

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Christine spreads the Startup Institute magic as Marketing Manager. The lead editor in charge of The Whiteboard, Christine's main goal is that our media hub be a digital reflection of our remarkable community—celebrating lifelong learners, innovators, and difference-makers. An alumna of the full-time program, Christine transitioned her career into marketing after four years of teaching high school English in the US and in Thailand. She is an avid contemporary and jazz dancer, a lover of cheese, and believes wholeheartedly that a life without risk is a life without gain. She is always cold; if you stop to visit her at her desk, she'll have a blanket with her—guaranteed.

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