For some people, the phrase “It’s not what you know; it’s who you know” is 100 percent true. Unfortunately, for those select few, it’s usually evident that they have a sweet job solely because of who they knew – not what they know. A successful career is a balance what you know, mixed with the ability to add to who you know.

Your contacts can get you talking to the right person in an organization, they cannot prove that you are the right person for the job. You need the intelligence to actually perform your work. But there’s something to be said for the individuals who possess the right mix of smarts (IQ) and social savvy(EQ).

What is emotional intelligence?

First, let’s look at the key characteristics of emotional intelligence: Self awareness, self management, social awareness, and relationship management.

  • Self awareness is the ability to have an honest and objective sense of your personal feelings, emotions, thoughts, behaviors, typical patterns, etc. Having a realistic perception of yourself gives a right view of strengths and weaknesses and is a helpful tool to track feelings to their real source in your life.
  • Self management is the ability to balance your needs accordingly to others, to delay gratification, and be able to exercise self control over emotions. Self management plays out in the ability to deal with change, manage stress or set/meet goals.
  • Social awareness is the ability to identify other people’s feelings and emotions and adjust to the unspoken cues. Social awareness is also the ability to see and understand the different group dynamics and even relate differently to the unique groups.
  • Relationship management is the ability to work well with others. Relational people manage conflict and communicate well with others. People are more inspired after working with relational coworkers.

To be honest, a truly emotionally intelligent person sounds a bit insincere and fake when you look at all of the characteristics on paper. We all hope we read social situations correctly every time, and we would all love to be great with dealing with change. Then there’s the real world that we live in as imperfect people. While it is impossible to have a perfect EQ, it is important for each of us to grow our own EQ in order to advance in our careers. While there isn’t a one-to-one correlation between salary and higher EQ (way too many variables to count to stake that claim!), it’s not hard to see the impact a higher EQ will have on your career.

It would be great to have a checklist of how to grow your EQ, but there’s a reason why EQ is sometimes referred to as “street smarts” and not “book smarts.” It is common sense when you stop to think about it. Blowing up at management or incorrectly handling workplace conflict will rarely land you a promotion. Unless you work in theater, no one wants to deal with drama at the office. Each time you work to raise your personal EQ, you stand out from the crowd. The more people desire to work with you, the more opportunities you possibly create down the road for yourself or others in your network.

EQ isn’t something you learn in a classroom. Your EQ will grow the more you adapt and understand yourself and the people around you, as well as, how to relate to others. The more your EQ grows, the greater earning power and impact you will have in your career.

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Jillian Hamilton has worked in a variety of Program Management roles for multiple Federal Government contractors. She has helped manage projects in training and IT. She received her Bachelors degree in Business with an emphasis in Marketing from Penn State University and her MBA from the University of Phoenix.