Likability is the #1 key to succeeding in any position at any company at any point in time. After I graduated with my Masters, I was headed into the working world and felt that I needed to prove myself. That didn’t mean proving that I was a good person and could do good work — it was about proving how smart I was and how much better I was than everybody else.
It took me a while to understand this, but the most important part of an interview is to simply be likable. It’s not about coming up with the right answers. It’s not about acing whatever test you get before or during the interview and acting all pompous about it.
You’re going to be interacting with people who don’t know your quirks. These people are going to be looking at, first and foremost, who you are and what you’re like.
It’s your job to come across as a person that your interviewers want to work with. Then, it’ll come down to how much you know and how you say it.
In general, I’ve found the following ideas to be incredibly helpful in ensuring my own success in both interviews and during work:
1. Don’t be afraid to admit you don’t know something
In an interview, you may get a question at some point that you have absolutely no clue how to answer. Maybe you even spend a few seconds thinking (an underrated interview skill) and still can’t muster up an answer. At this point, it’s insanely better to say “you know, I’m not sure. Here’s the path I was going down, but…” (or similar) rather than make up some bullshit answer that will make you feel more awkward and nervous.
Don’t mistake humility for stupidity. If it’s something easy that you don’t know, maybe this isn’t the right position for you! If it’s something hard, being able to admit that you don’t know and are bound to consult Google or a colleague is pretty alright.
2. Network at work
This is meant less for interviewees and more for people working this very moment.
Do you know most of the people at your work? Would you say there are people at your work who do? Are they generally well-liked? Why is that?
These are rhetorical questions you should reflect on.
Introduce yourself to that familiar face at the watercooler. Ask a stakeholder or two if they want to grab coffee after the next meeting. Add people you work with on LinkedIn.
Having allies at work is extremely important. At the end of the day, unless you’re self-employed (and even then you should be networking with clients), you’re human. Humans are social by nature! Building those bonds makes you more confident, more self-aware, andhappier! If it doesn’t, you’re lying.
3. Make friends and keep them
Making friends as a new employee can be a daunting task. The easiest trick to making friends is to treat someone as if you’ve been friends forever. Then… keep treating them that way. And continue.
Eventually, your friendship will stick and you’ll consider this person as a “friend” or “really good friend”. And if it doesn’t stick, then great, you’ve got a new acquaintance.
Why is this important?
Friends are like work allies that you can stand being around even after work is over!
Also, don’t be silly. You know why friends are important.
4. Keep quiet and care less
What? Care less? Keep quiet?
Guess what, there are times when your opinion is incredibly valuable, and times when it is incredibly disruptive and unsolicited. I now work for a company where this isn’t really a thing anymore, so I’ll have to get used to it… (!) but other companies all seem to be the same with this.
Work is work.
DO: be passionate about your work and do your best.
DON’T: stay up for 24 hours tidying up an Excel sheet or getting so deeply invested in a project that you forget to feed your cats.
The key takeaway here is to invest in your work/life balance. It’s important and it goes a long way in making you a better person to work with.
The next big takeaway when I say “care less”, is realizing that choosing your battles is extremely important. You don’t want to lose your job over a disagreement. Take a step back and decide, at each crossroads in your time with company X, what makes more sense — staying quiet, speaking to your manager, or taking even more serious actions. Remember that everything has a consequence — passivity, apathy, or aggression.
5. Smile and be nice
It is someone’s job to clean up the bathroom facilities you use.
It is someone’s job to vacuum the office you work in.
It is someone’s job to cook that delicious food that you have catered into the office.
Be kind to these people. Greet them. Thank them.
Be a better person because it’s better for all of us, not just you.