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Jenny Clark
Ten key reasons why building empathy is important for career success

A number of images in this article were taken pre-COVID-19.

Empathy is an important ability to have for career success, because it improves your capacity to communicate with others, to be part of a team, and to better your leadership skills.

Building one’s ability to empathise is quickly becoming one of the most important tasks of the twenty-first century

Further reading: One skill every twenty-first century student should have and how to get it

Empathy is an emotional skill that’s built through understanding others. One way to improve your ability to empathise with others is by working with people from backgrounds different to your own. 

A great way to do this is to go abroad to work with people on a project, internship, or service-learning expedition. You’ll learn how to work with people across cultures and gain other skills associated with leadership, teamwork and intercultural competency, which are crucial for our global workforce.

Further reading: Three key reasons why international experience is a career must


Build up your empathy by volunteering with children in schools

What is empathy?

Empathy is largely understood as the ability to understand another person’s feelings and to consider another person’s perspective. By building empathy, you can broaden your worldview.

Practising empathy also helps you to relate more to others. When we’re in tune with our own emotions, we can relate to other people’s emotional reality more readily and effectively. This is especially significant in settings where there’s diversity among individuals. 

Further reading: Six ways to deepen your travel experiences


Practising empathy helps you relate more to others.

Why is empathy important for working abroad?

Going abroad presents challenges in many ways. We all have our own perspectives, values, backgrounds and cultural understandings that make us who we are. 

When we mix these things together, especially in a new situation or cultural context, we stretch our ability to understand and empathise with others.

Building empathy is valuable if you want to have a career in learning and interacting with new cultures. It’ll help you be more understanding of others, which will create more collaborative workspaces and learning environments.


Becoming a volunteer teacher is a great way to make an impact and build up empathy


These qualities are also increasingly important to employers, as they search for workers who can demonstrate critical thinking, and the ability to adapt to new learning or situations quickly.

Here are ten key reasons why empathy is important to your future success.

1) You’ll better understand the needs of people around you

If you express empathy towards the people you work with, you’ll be able to understand what they need from you, and how you can treat them the way they want to be treated.

2) You’ll more clearly understand how you affect others

By understanding another person’s viewpoint, you can evaluate more clearly how your words and actions affect or influence them.


Reflecting is a good way to build understanding and empathy from other peoples perspectives.

3) You’ll get to grips with non-verbal cues

By focusing on your intuition, you’ll be better equipped to understand unspoken communication with others. This means you’ll be able to improve your interactions with others in the workplace and in social spaces.

4) You’ll be better at your job

Besides better knowing and understanding your colleagues, empathy will make you a more efficient and effective provider to your clients. You’ll be better able to read, or anticipate the needs of your clients or customers at work.


When you work with other people, you have an opportunity to learn conflict management skills

5) You’ll be better equipped to deal with interpersonal conflict

Engaging with another person’s perspective will help you in both your personal and professional relationships. It’ll make it easier for you to resolve any potential conflict.

6) You’ll more accurately predict people’s behaviour

By focusing on what motivates people’s behaviour, you’ll be better able to understand how to interact with the people you work with or are close to. You may also be able to predict their actions or reactions.


Your authority as a volunteer puts you in the position to inspire and motivate those around you

7) You’ll be better able to motivate the people around you

If you know what motivates others, how they want to be treated and what they want to achieve, then you’ll be better equipped to inspire and motivate them.

8) You’ll more effectively convince others of your point of view

If you’ve established yourself as a good listener and a caring co-worker, people will be more likely to listen to your viewpoint.


Learning how to empathize makes it easier to understand other peoples viewpoints and enhances your ability to work together in a team

9) You’ll learn to look at the bigger picture

When you incorporate several different perspectives or worldviews, you’ll be able to see the bigger picture of an issue or concept.

10) You’ll become a better leader, worker and friend

Empathy will help you understand your coworkers, family and friends better. You’ll be in a better position to effectively lead and inspire others, as well as develop more caring and compassionate relationships.


What better way to build up your ability to empathize than going on a team trek in Nepal with GVI


Empathy is a valuable attribute that enhances overall cooperation, respect and understanding. By cultivating empathy, we are better equipped to make connections across cultures.

Feel ready to start cultivating your ability to empathise? Find out more about GVI’s international, award-winning programs and internships, and work with people from around the world on sustainable development initiatives.