You got good grades in school. You have an impressive list of accomplishments. If someone would just give you a chance, you know you’ll do great at the job (or promotion). The problem is that no one is giving you that opportunity.


Before you come up with a laundry list that includes the ailing economy, lack of opportunity, or low availability of jobs in your area, take an honest look at yourself.

What prevents you from succeeding at your job search?

Too often, the answer may come down to a simple, yet crucial factor: your emotional intelligence (EQ).

We’ve all heard about how EQ trumps IQ in the workplace. When technical competencies are equal, greater EQ competencies account for job success in many positions.

  • A study conducted by LeadershipIQ that tracked the success and failure of new hires concluded that only 11% of employees failed because they lacked technical competence. The remaining reasons for failure were due to issues such as alienating co-workers, being unable to accept feedback, lack of ability to manage emotions, lack of motivation, and poor interpersonal skills.
  • In a test on EQ and 33 other competencies, TalentSmart found that EQ is the strongest predictor of performance – explaining a full 58% of success in all types of jobs.In fact, experts argue that IQ contributes only 20% to life success.

This means that the majority of your achievements come from emotional intelligence.

Therefore, mastering emotional intelligence and understanding professional interpersonal relationships in today’s workplace should be considered as much a core skill as technical ability or business acumen.

What Is Emotional Intelligence?

In 1990, Peter Salovey and John D. Mayer defined “Emotional Intelligence” as, “the subset of social intelligence that involves the ability to monitor one’s own and others’ feelings and emotions, to discriminate among them and to use this information to guide one’s thinking.” The concept was popularized in 1995 after publication of Daniel Goleman’s book Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ. Today, Reuven Bar-On’s EQ-i 2.0 is the most widely utilized model. This model is a self-report test designed to measure 16 competencies including awareness, stress tolerance, problem solving, and happiness. According to Bar-On, “Emotional intelligence is an array of non-cognitive capabilities, competencies, and skills that influence one’s ability to succeed in coping with environmental demands and pressures.”

Simply put, emotional intelligence is the ability to be attuned to the people around you— to consider their emotions, and your own, as you make decisions and navigate through your organizations.

The good news is that you can practice and improve your emotional intelligence just like other skill sets.

These 5 components of EQ may be affecting your job search. Check out the strategies for improvement.


Self-Awareness. Self-awareness means knowing what you’re feeling and why, and how your emotions and actions affect those around you. Job seekers with effective self-awareness have a clear picture of their strengths and weaknesses and how they relate to their career. When you know how your skills and background can contribute, you’ll come across as passionate to the people in your network, and you’ll sound a lot more convincing to employers.

Boost your self-awareness:

  • Keep a journal. If writing appeals to you, write down some quick entries about your feelings/emotional state as it relates to your job search. Writing down your thoughts can help you see how your current emotional state segues into specific events and interactions.
  • Learn about your Myers-Briggs® Type and how you can use your personality preferences to leverage your job search.
  • Re-examine why you’re job searching. It’s easy to forget what you love about your career choice. Take some time to remember why you made the decisions you did.

Assertiveness. Assertiveness is your ability to express your needs, thoughts, and opinions, even when doing so invites opposition or conflict. Job seekers with active assertiveness communicate openly and defend their values in a socially acceptable, non-offensive manner. When you tactfully and effectively communicate without going astray, you are able to speak your mind and stand up for yourself.

Boost your assertiveness:

  • Learn to say no. If you don’t think a particular networking event will be useful to you, say no politely. Know that a lack of response or being wishy-washy creates communication problems.
  • Be aware of your body language. Eye contact, posture, handshake, facial expression, and your tone of voice are all non-verbal indicators of how you come across.
  • Identify “cave points.” Identify the reasons why you “cave” when you do. For example – the next time you attend a job fair, research the organizations ahead of time so that you can confidently demonstrate how your background will be beneficial to them.

Empathy. Empathy is your ability and willingness to take notice of and be sensitive toward the needs and feelings of others. It also involves articulating your understanding of another person’s perspective. Job seekers with frequently engaged empathy are attuned to others, easily take others’ feelings into consideration, and have an accurate “emotional read” on people. Rather than practicing the golden rule, practice the platinum rule: treat others how they want to be treated.

Boost your empathy:

  • Put yourself in someone else’s shoes. It’s easy to understand your own point of view, but taking the time to understand others will allow you to gain their trust and respect.
  • Ask questions. Ask others what’s important to them. Then rephrase what they say to ensure you get it right. For example, when meeting someone new, demonstrate genuine curiosity about their career and how they got into that line of work.
  • Watch a pro. Observe the communication style of someone who is empathetic yet an efficient communicator. Note how they balance empathy and diplomacy.

Problem Solving. Problem solving is your ability and tendency to solve problems that involve emotions, and to use emotions as an effective problem-solving tool. Job seekers with effective engagement with problem solving rarely allow their emotions to cloud their objectivity. They understand how their emotions impact the career decisions they make.

Boost your problem solving:

  • Limit yourself. Too little information leaves you uninformed, but too much can paralyze you. Our brains can typically only handle 7 chunks of information at once. If your decision is very stressful, you may want to limit yourself to only 3 options.
  • Set a deadline. If you’re thinking about a career change, setting a deadline can help you stick to an efficient process for doing so. In this way, you’ll be less likely to put off this important decision.
  • Ask for help. Have a friend or trusted colleague follow up with you to ensure you’re on track.

Stress Tolerance. Stress tolerance is the ability to cope with and respond effectively to mounting pressure. Job seekers with active stress tolerance face setbacks and problems in the face of stress and believe they can manage their careers in a positive manner. Most people will be required to change careers or industries at some point. The more you’re able to respond to and manage change, the better off you’ll be.

Boost your stress tolerance:

  • Connect with others. Joining a group for people struggling with job loss, for example, provides support and sharing of best practices and lessons learned.
  • Imagine “worst case scenario.” Think through a logical chain of events and ask yourself, “What’s the worst that could happen?” Often, these “what ifs” are not likely to materialize, and you’ll realize that even if they do, the problem is one you’ll likely be able to solve.
  • Stay active and healthy. Remember that you are most able to tolerate stress when you eat a balanced diet, get enough rest, exercise, and stay connected socially.


To be an effective job seeker, you need to have a solid understanding of how your emotions and actions affect the people around you. Boosting your EQ will help you develop your long-term career potential.