The art of small talk, no matter how scary it may seem, could be your most useful skill when it comes to advancing in your career.
If you are anything like me, you dread small talk. You may not care about your boss’s kids, or what your coworker caught while fishing this weekend. Alternatively, you may love small talk. I, personally, just want to be able to sit and do my work. However, even I can tell you that small talk can be the key to your success if done right.
Let me clarify on the phrase, “if done right.” If you are trying to “fake it ‘til you make it” with small talk… it shows. Small talk must be genuine and sophisticated, which takes practice. To practice, you have to start somewhere, which means making small talk with your coworkers and supervisors.
Small talk provides one massive benefit for your career: it builds connections. I’m sure you’ve heard of networking, right? Small talk is your greatest networking tool. On the most basic level, it helps people connect your name to your face. The more people you talk to and get to know on a personal level, the more they’ll remember you. For example, if current coworker Jim eventually goes on to own a company that you’re applying to, he might remember who you are and pay a little closer attention to your resume.
Speaking of chatting with your coworkers, it certainly doesn’t hurt your career to be friendly with them. Many employers encourage it, as close-knit coworkers lead to a much happier and more productive workplace. Being a team player can help you stand out to your boss and may be a factor in future promotions or letters of recommendation.
When it comes to getting jobs and internships in the first place, small talk can still help you succeed. Talking with people in the grocery store, the doctor’s office, the DMV, and so on will expand your networking and give you a positive reputation. My mom used to drive me nuts when I was a kid and she’d spend 15 minutes talking to the cashier about their kids, but you never know when your connections may come in handy.
The most important reason to practice small talk, though? For yourself. Yes, small talk can help your career in tremendous ways. I’d be so bold as to say it’s one of the most important skills in career advancement. But the relationships you build in and out of your work will bring you greater emotional fulfillment, which is just as important as career advancement. You’ll have people you can trust to have your back or at least people you can count on for a good chat on a Monday morning. You’ll be less isolated, which can also help your job performance.
Small talk can be intimidating, yes. But when done well and genuinely, it can open doors for you in your career. You’ll build connections and prove you’re a team player, an important skill to have in the workforce. Overall, small talk can help you build relationships and improve your work performance. It’s time to pull on your “adulting” pants and start talking to people. Trust me; it’s a lot easier than it looks.
This article was written by Caitlin Wiles.
Caitlin Wiles is currently working on a B.A. in English at Maryville University. Beyond studying, she also enjoys reading, writing, baking, and taking care of her stepchild. Caitlin is passionate about mental health awareness, gender-neutral parenting, LGBTQ+ rights, and finding the perfect chocolate chip cookie recipe. In the future, she hopes to find new ways to help people through writing and become a teacher.