Why empathy will help me succeed in my career
I’ve always found myself to be more “in tune” with the emotions of others. I never knew why and I certainly didn’t think it would be useful in my professional life. However, as I’ve honed in on my “dream job” I now realize that my ability to empathize will be the key to success not only in gaining a job but also as an English instructor.
Do you know the difference between empathy and sympathy?
In short, empathy is the ability to assess the feelings of others and put yourself in their particular situation, whatever it may be. Sympathy, however, is a feeling of sorrow or pity for the distress of another person; it’s about how the person feeling sympathy feels and not so much how the person they are sympathizing with feels. We are very familiar with sympathy, but empathy can take some work. Check out this video to learn more.
Can empathy really help you gain employment and succeed in your career?
The simple answer is YES! Here’s how:
- Authentically get to know your potential employer. Upon meeting people, I am often aware of their mood and adjust mine appropriately. If the interviewer is more bubbly and open, I too project that mood, if he or she is more closed off and professional, I am careful to maintain a highly professional manner while also not closing myself off. I feel impassioned by their passion to do whatever it is they are determined to do. This behavior shows the interviewer that I am interested in the company in an authentic manner. It also shows them that I am able to connect with the people they serve.
- Make better connections with people. For my position as a future college instructor, empathy is the key to connecting with my students. In the classroom, it is through empathy we are able to connect to ideas we might not have firsthand experience with. For example, we may not know what it is like for English to be our second language, but we can put ourselves in the place of the students who do. We ask, “How difficult must it be to learn English AND have to write it?” “How can I adjust my lesson plans to be more inclusive?”
- Connect with people who are different from you. Empathy isn’t limited to one particular group; consider the nontraditional student. We ask ourselves, “Why is it important to allow three unexcused absences but also excused ones?” “Is this student struggling with a work-family life balance and if so, how can I help?” Having empathy for your students does not require you to pity them, but it does allow you to put yourself in their position and find ways in which you can allow them the agency to succeed in your classroom. It makes you a more personable, relatable, and trusted leader. This can be said for just about any people-centered career field.
I used to think that being empathetic was a weakness, but now I am confident it’s the opposite. Being able to put myself in the position of another person on an emotional level – their hardships, concerns, etc. – can only make my ability to connect to the world around me even better. How empathetic are you? Take this test to find out.
Dianna is the Pearson Students Blog Editor-in-Chief. She graduated from California State University, Fullerton with her Bachelor of Arts in English in May 2015 and is remaining at the university to complete her Master of Arts in English. Once she finishes her degree she plans on teaching college-level English and literature at a community college. As a mother of three while attending college, Dianna works to balance her school and family life but finds great joy in both. This year she will be writing her book, College Success for Moms, which she plans to publish in 2016.