What Are Intrapersonal Skills and
Why They Are Important for Any Job
Is it possible to reach the top of the corporate ladder without a deep knowledge of who you are and what you want?
Can anyone perform well at work and disregard negative feedback?
Is it possible to lead others without leading yourself first?
These are just some examples of intrapersonal skills in the workplace. It is not enough just to have good communication skills and extensive expertise in a professional field to excel at a job. Introspection and self-management are required too. Or to put it another way, hardly anyone can achieve great professional success without being in touch with one’s inner self.
People used to put all their time and energy into their professional development, leaving inner growth to off-duty hours. However, now that it is increasingly more difficult to distinguish between work and leisure, thanks to electronic gadgets and social media, companies have realized that it is time to turn the extracurricular activity of self-motivation into a selling point.
Considered as soft skills, intrapersonal skills are the most important characteristics of effective job performance in modern-day high-tech companies. For example, top employer Google values soft skills above hard skills: “Of the eight most important qualities found in its top employees, technical expertise came in last. All of the top characteristics were soft skills”. And as Forbes puts it, “If soft skills can provide the competitive edge at one of the world’s most innovative tech companies, imagine what they can do for your organization.”
What Do Intrapersonal Skills Mean?
By definition, ‘intrapersonal’ means ‘inside a person’. Being part of intrapersonal intelligence, intrapersonal skills refer to any emotional or cognitive activities that an individual has of self. The way you see yourself, deal with stresses, handle your emotions, dreams, frustrations, etc. helps you develop a set of skills that will later be of use when you build your relationships with other people.
To discuss the meaning of introspective skills more deeply, get a list of intrapersonal skills, and receive some tips on how to develop intrapersonal skills, we refer you to the more detailed article what are intrapersonal skills.
Our task here is to take a closer look at some of the intrapersonal skills that are relevant in any job. We start with self-awareness as a base for the development of intrapersonal intelligence.
People who have dipped their toes into practice of mindfulness (which is one of the practices for awareness) know that conscious awareness takes very little of our attention during waking hours. Most of our daily activities are done on autopilot mode. However, improved awareness enables us to improve our reaction, enhance cognitive functions, initiate change, and engage with people.
Self-Awareness in Day-to-Day Activities
Here are a few things that you do using awareness:
- Feel good after lunch
- Concentrate on reading a blog post despite noise and distractions
- Detect displeasure after you did something you did not like
- Take notice of an intuitive thought that would later turn out true
- Notice a pause in a conversation to make a remark
It seems simple, but do we really need awareness in the workplace? Definitely. For one, it helps your concentration and focus on work tasks. Also, increased awareness is instrumental in reducing stress, burnout, anxiety, etc. and increasing the quality of life.
If your self-awareness is well-developed, you will notice signs of approaching burnout at your job and take measures to prevent it. If you are well-aware of your capabilities and your boundaries, you will not take on jobs you hate or assignments that are far beyond your expertise. If you know that a work-life balance is crucial for your mental well-being, you will do your best to arrange it for yourself. And on the contrary, if you feel that you can afford to be a workaholic for a short time while striving towards a higher goal, you can pursue this work tactic to your own benefit.
Self-Awareness in Leadership
Successful leadership is impossible without self-awareness. How long can anyone move up the ladder without a reality check? If you cannot acknowledge your mistakes, take responsibility without fear, and refrain from overacting after you notice that pattern, you will find it difficult to achieve career development.
In an interview with The New York Times, Charlotte Beers, former chairwoman and C.E.O. of Ogilvy & Mather Worldwide, stated that her ability to watch herself and pay attention to feedback contributed to her professional success. Early in her career, when she was in her 30s and held a junior management position, she found out that one of her peers had referred to her management style as ‘menacing.’ She had been totally unaware of it, as she had viewed herself as “a friendly, gentle Southern belle.”
However, as a self-aware person, Beers did not ascribe it to gender prejudices and stereotypes (that is where you should do your best to distinguish between your desire to shirk off an opportunity for introspection and genuinely prejudiced jabs taken at you). Instead, Beers examined her behavior around her employees and scrutinized her communication habits. Here is what she learned: “I realized that I did end meetings on a threatening note. I created urgency when there was none... I had to self-correct about talking too much and interrupting other people. Now that trait can be very helpful when you have to make a decision, but I also interrupted the process and discussion in meetings.”
Beers believes that power can bring out some negative traits in individuals and it is up to them to either turn on all their senses and weed out anything that dampens their work performance OR turn a blind eye and a deaf ear to rational criticism and act on their utter infallibility.
This obviously does not mean that you must rely on what other people think of you. Don’t let others tell you who you are and what you should be; that is the main rule of self-reliance and strong self-esteem. But you certainly must learn to distil feedback and comments from your peers into little prompts of how well you are doing your job.
Self-Awareness in Candidates
Having used their introspective insights for their own professional growth, some CEOs and high-power headhunters look for at least a promise of self-awareness in candidates. CEOs need to know the weaknesses of the people they hire to make sure they are a good fit for a role.
Beers says that if a candidate answers with some buzzwords they picked up from Internet job hunt articles and generic anecdotes like “I’m a workaholic and everyone hates me for it,” it is a red flag that the candidate has probably nipped their self-awareness in the bud or has not learned to use it work-wise. Beers explains, “I’m asking for a real sense of revelation and personal understanding of their capacities, because then they won’t be blindsided.”
Further Reading from Skills You Need
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The Bottom Line
Self-awareness is just the beginning of an endless list of intrapersonal skills. By being conscious and aware of yourself, you will notice whether or not you are good at keeping your focus, observing attentively, setting your own goals and achieving them, prioritizing and discerning important things for yourself, mastering your emotions and behaviors, and many other aspects of your inner life.
Even if the notion of intrapersonal skills in the workplace is totally new for you, you can already sprinkle a handful of intrapersonal skills into your cover letter and resume. As you can see, introspection, mindfulness, concentration, self-motivation and others are already part of our daily life to some extent. However, if you start developing introspection and self-awareness right now, your job prospects and work performance will only gain from it.
However, your awareness of the importance of intrapersonal skills is not a magic bullet. It does not imply that your leadership automatically becomes more effective. Leading people requires many capabilities, including an intricate mix of intrapersonal skills and interpersonal interactions. Keep an eye on your inner movements but remember the social context as well.