Emotional Intelligence in Career Planning

Have you ever noticed that some people just seem to understand you better? These people know when a friend is down, even if they haven't said so, or know that their parents had a hard day at work. They're generally easy to get along with and don't pick fights with others. What makes them so much fun to be around? They may have well-developed emotional intelligence (EI).

There are many different ways to define emotional intelligence. In general, it refers to a person's ability to manage their emotions and work with the emotions of the people around them. Emotional intelligence is important when we plan our careers and build relationships with others.

Glenn Geher did some of the first research in the field of emotional intelligence. He earned his PhD in psychology at the University of New Hampshire in 1997. Geher's advisor was Jack Mayer who, along with Peter Salovey of Yale University, came up with the theory of emotional intelligence.

Geher is now an associate professor of psychology and director of evolutionary studies at the State University of New York at New Paltz. He explains the concept of emotional intelligence: "Emotional intelligence has to do with how our thoughts relate to our emotions. Some people are better at thinking about emotions than others. For instance, someone with high emotional intelligence may be able to tell if a friend is really stressed out. That ability to read someone else's emotions is an important part of emotional intelligence.

"EI relates to several psychological abilities -- such as the ability to know how others are feeling, the ability to modify your own mood, and the ability to manipulate the moods of others (such as making someone who's sad feel happy)."

Emotional intelligence can be an important factor in anyone's career success. However, many schools tend to focus on marks. Students who don't get straight As sometimes feel like they aren't as smart. It is important to realize that although grades on a report card show part of the picture, there's more to the story than can be recorded by marks on assignments and tests.

It's hard to measure EI. However, we all know people who didn't excel at school, but who went to the top of their field. Emotional intelligence may have helped them get ahead.

"EI is famous for showing the world that 'intelligence' is much more than book-smarts," explains Geher. "There are so many people out there who can really understand the emotions of others, but who can't understand geometry or science. These emotionally intelligent people often succeed greatly in life -- largely because they're so good at making others feel good about themselves. EI is just as important as 'book-smarts' intelligence in the game of life."

Well-developed emotional intelligence is important in many careers. In fact, most research suggests that EI predicts career success in any field. "People high in EI are more likely to end up in leadership positions than others -- and when they do end up in leadership positions, they often make others in the work environment happier overall," says Geher. "Some jobs that really are good for folks with high EI are teachers, salespeople and doctors. Pretty much, any job where you're working closely with people will benefit from EI."

Neil Baldwin is a career counselor at a college. He helps people make decisions about careers.

"Effective career decision-making has a lot to do with accurate self-perception," he explains. "The better you know yourself, the better you can decide on work that matches who you really are. Or, as I say to the students, career planning is like using a map -- it's difficult to get somewhere if you don't know your current location.

"Emotional intelligence helps students get a realistic perspective on who they are, their strengths and weaknesses when it comes to soft skills. Emotional intelligence is unique: part personality, part ability. It is something not measured on other types of vocational assessments, yet it is an important piece of the puzzle."

Baldwin also uses emotional intelligence to help students build their employability skills. Those are the skills that employers look for.

"In addition to career planning, EI is also useful to college students because they can use it to enhance their employability. "Emotional intelligence attributes, being partly personality and partly abilities, are not fixed. They are trainable. If someone gets a reading on where they stand in terms of various EQ [Emotional Quotient] traits, they can set and prioritize goals for improvement. This will inevitably help them retain work and advance in their careers.

"When it comes to career planning, it can be the missing piece in terms of self-assessment," adds Baldwin. "When it comes to job search, a resume may get a person into an interview, but it in most cases it is their soft skills that will win them the job. And when it comes to maintaining a job, it is usually emotional intelligence factors that can derail a career, sometimes with lightning speed, so it is worth being clear on one's EI strengths and challenges,"

The next time you're upset about something, see who comes forward to help you to feel better, and you may see someone with high emotional intelligence. Or if you're the one who always has an idea of how other people are feeling, congratulations! Be aware of your strengths in this area and use them in your search for a rewarding career and in your search for happy and healthy relationships.