Monday, June 2, 2014

The Immeasurable Value of Soft Skills

Perhaps you’ve heard of the term Soft Skills but, like a lot of terminologies floating around out there, they are subjective in nature and so most people don’t pay much attention unless or until it becomes a buzz-word, which suddenly gains importance when the boss or management makes it so. However, I know and I can tell you that Soft Skills are a big deal and in addition to being a qualified job seeker, if you possess them or seek to develop them, you’ll have a clear advantage in the current market. Sadly, a growing number of people, especially those under the age of 35, are more likely to be lacking in this area at a time when senior company managers have rightly begun to recognize this deficit with respect to their hiring processes.
After more than 20 years of recruiting and placing many different kinds of people, my personal opinion is that I don’t care how much money you have spent for your college degree, or how much technical expertise you may possess, if you cannot communicate as to why an interviewer should choose you over someone else; if you cannot articulate how they will benefit by selecting you instead of someone as similarly qualified as you are, you’re going to get beat out by someone who can – and this is when Soft Skills count.
Lately, there is more and more evidence that companies have worryingly recognized the lack of Soft Skills among applicants and current employees and they are beginning to put increased value and focus on them. The reason is simple: without soft skills salespeople can’t effectively sell, managers cannot manage to their full potential, teams can’t optimize their efforts as one nor interact, which affects their bottom line of profitability and competitiveness. In short, it has an inevitable dumbing-down effect across the societal and economic spectrum.
So just what are Soft Skills? Read this from Wikipedia:
“Soft skills is a term often associated with a person's “EQ” (Emotional Intelligence Quotient), the cluster of personality traits, social graces, communication, language, personal habits, friendliness, and optimism that characterize relationships with other people. Soft skills complement hard skills which are the occupational requirements of a job and many other activities. They are related to feelings, emotions, insights and (some would say) an 'inner knowing': i.e. they provide an important complement to 'hard skills' and IQ.
Soft skills are personal attributes that enhance an individual's interactions, job performance and career prospects. Unlike hard skills, which are about a person's skill set and ability to perform a certain type of task or activity, soft skills relate to a person's ability to interact effectively with coworkers and customers and are broadly applicable both in and outside the workplace.
So don’t let anyone tell you this is no big deal and it goes to the heart of all the advice and methods I advise people to consider and work on because this is the stuff that transcends a nicely-prepared resume. It is what gives your resume horsepower; it’s the second part of the one-two punch that elevates you beyond most others competing in the same contest – it is what makes the difference.
Technology and the convenience it provides us is a good thing, but growing dependence on it has an unintended crippling effect. You may find my perspective extreme and dystopian but, as people become more and more connected virtually and digitally, they are more disconnected in reality. That face-to-face disconnect of the physically interactive world on social levels is being replaced with the digital unreality. In the best case, those who lack soft skills will continue to be frustrated when their job search efforts continue to result in a dead end. At worst, we’re on track to dividing into two distinct social strata, between those who can function and obtain for themselves good employment and the rest; incapable of finding decent work thus reducing their career options to the most menial of tasks; a self-imposed virtual caste system. Of which group will you and your family be a part?
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