I focused on academics during my college career and wanted to go down the academic/public policy analysis/research route. However, after 1.5 years at a think tank and 1 year in a Ph.D. program, I decided to switch things up. I am currently at a niche consulting firm in pharmaceuticals. I would like to succeed in this career. One thing I continuously hear is that social skills are important in this industry. As my background suggests, my social skills were not refined. How does one go about improving their social skills? Would Toastmaster’s be a good thing to try? People I have talked with really haven’t given concrete advice. They primarily say that “you are introverted.” That may be true, but I would like to improve them.

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3 replies
  1. Penelope Trunk
    Penelope Trunk says:

    If you have poor social skills now it’s not because they are “not refined” or because you’re an introvert. It’s because you’re deficient in learning social skills the way everyone else does.

    Most people do not need to be taught social skills. They pick them up intuitively as their brain is forming. By the time people are in their early 20s they know what they need to know. How they use them is another story, of course, but most people can pick them up easily.

    This is true of introverts as well. Introverts are not people with poor social skills. They are people who feel a loss of energy from being around people. Extroverts, on the other hand, are energized from being with people. So introvert/extrovert labels do not refer to competence, they refer to energy levels.

    If you have not learned social skills at this point in your life, it is a learning disability I know because I have the learning disability and so do many people in my family — it’s genetic. You probably have people like this in your family, too. You should get help from someone who specializes in coaching adults in social skills. You can find this by googling asperger’s, therapy, adults.


  2. A
    A says:

    You’re used to academia, so focus on your strengths. Read the research. You can start with things like Cialdini’s Influence, or the classic How to Win Friends & Influence People. Concrete, specific advice.

  3. Albert Okagbue
    Albert Okagbue says:

    I agree with you, but I would emphasize that if you can afford it, a one-on-one coach is best. Books are written for mass audiences…if you are not familiar with an area, they might not help because you won’t know where YOU should start….

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