Continuing her occasional series, “survive and thrive”, Katie Hoare from Careers Network explores a key skill sought after by employers in the post-COVID-19 world. It’s likely that you are already developing and using these highly transferable skills in your research.
During a March 2021 PG Skills workshop, UoB PGR alum Rob Pilbrow provided a useful definition of each of these three inter-connected skills. Persuading is the ability to convince others to take a desired viewpoint or action; negotiating is the ability to discuss and reach a mutually satisfactory agreement; and influencing is the ability to effectively persuade and negotiate.
It is also important to emphasize what these skills are not. Proper use of persuading, negotiating and influencing should NOT be confrontational or antagonistic. It is not about arguing, forcing your will, harassing, pestering or using a power imbalance. Applying these skills should result in a positive, supportive, beneficial and evidence-based discussion, underpinned by an understanding of the person or people being addressed.
Persuading, negotiating and influencing are incredibly useful skills in all aspects of life. With them you can navigate difficult conversations with your boss or supervisor, win research funding, reach an agreement with your friends about which film to watch, and save money on your bills. You can even encourage a potential employer to hire you (during the workshop Rob spoke in detail about how to use these skills in a job interview)!
Persuading, negotiating and influencing are some of the top skills employers are looking for, one or more of them regularly appearing in job adverts for a wide variety of roles across all sectors. Yet employers surveyed by Prospects reported these skills as hard to find, and the QS Employer Insights Report 2020 notes that employers are least satisfied with graduates’ negotiation and leadership skills. Therefore, if you can demonstrate your ability to use these skills you will be a very attractive candidate.
‘Hiring managers value individuals who can explain the “why”’ (LinkedIn), i.e. someone who can convincingly explain the reasons and benefits of a proposal, and back up their opinion with sound evidence. This is useful in a variety of work situations, for example, you may need to convince a potential funder to support a project, or settle a disagreement with a client, or agree which solution to choose to best solve a problem. Mastering appropriate use of these skills can help you succeed.
As a postgraduate researcher you will already be developing your persuading, negotiating and influencing skills, you just may not recognise or be able to articulate it yet. Think back over conversations you have had with your supervisor. Did you negotiate the direction of your research? Or persuade them to support a change or new idea? When undertaking groupwork, which you certainly will have done in your undergraduate degree if not in your postgraduate, did you persuade the others in your group to follow your suggested course of action? Or did someone else convince you, therefore using these skills on you?
By the time you complete your research degree, you will be highly skilled at presenting information with well-researched evidence to back it up. You will have done this in writing, through your thesis, and verbally at your viva. These are both fantastic examples which demonstrate to employers your abilities which can be transferred to and further developed in the workplace.
If you would like to know more about persuading, negotiating and influencing, including theory, key principles, real-life examples, how to influence without authority plus tips for job applications and interview techniques, I strongly encourage you to visit the PG Skills module on the Canvas course.