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Question – Should I prioritise personability over qualifications?

Wondering which qualities you need to focus on when looking for work, or just eager to make employment as smooth as possible? Our career coach gives some advice.

Question: What’s more important, qualifications or being personable? Lucy, London 

What a great question.

Do you need qualifications?

Some jobs very explicitly require qualifications. Think of pilots, doctors, scientists, accountants, or lawyers. In these jobs, you can’t make up for a lack of qualifications with a great personality. In fact you can’t even make up for a lack of qualifications with experience.

Formal qualifications are expected. These qualifications are rigorous and often enforced by a regulator.

Many jobs don’t require qualifications, but they are useful to advance your career and establish credibility.

Think about professional qualifications like the CFA in finance, or qualifications you might take as an estate agent, mechanic, or career coach for example. In these jobs, your skills and experience can be recognised and valued without qualifications, but a formal qualification helps.

Some jobs don’t need qualifications. Lots of jobs in retail or hospitality are like this, and many entry level jobs in various industries.

So when you are considering a potential career path, establish what qualifications you might be expected to have.

What about being personable?

One thing we can say for certain. Being personable is always important!

Even for those high-skill, high stakes jobs that explicitly require formal qualifications. Pilots, doctors, accountants, they all work in teams, they all have clients (or patients), they all have bosses, suppliers… I hear that even lawyers have to be friendly and work well with others sometimes.

If you can be personable and develop a high EQ (Emotional Intelligence), you will find life much easier. People will be more willing to work with you, more helpful, and better collaborators.

It’s especially important if you become a manager, and typically the more senior you are, the more important it is.

And it’s not just a good strategy to be effective in the workplace. Being personable should be an end in itself, because the world is just a better place that way.