Soft Skills

What are the requirements for career success?  Practical experience is certainly necessary, as is likely academic training.   And yet, as acknowledged in this Forbes article, a lack of leadership and communication skills can be just as destructive to a business as not having the best products.  What is reflected here is the importance of soft skills, the abilities and characteristics that you may not necessarily receive a degree for studying but which are nevertheless invaluable in the professional world.

According to a 2016 LinkedIn Study, the following ten soft skills are highly sought by employers:

  1. Communication skills, including the ability to actively listen
  2. The ability to organize and plan
  3. Teamwork
  4. Functionality
  5. Critical thinking
  6. Sociability
  7. Creativity
  8. Adaptability
  9. Interpersonal skills
  10. Friendly personality

This study reflects other findings that while academics and hands-on workplace experience are important, they alone do not necessarily equate to long-term career success.  As Tim Sackett, head of staffing firm HRU Technical Resources, discussed in the February 2018 Fortune Magazine article Ready, Set, Go, “The reality for many positions across most organizations is that education has no influence on actual performance.”  Rather, “one of the qualities employers most value now is called grit – the fortitude, insight, and ability to adapt on the fly that  often comes from overcoming adversity or disadvantage in life.”

Similarly, Google spent three years studying its employees to determine what skills resulted in the most success.  As they confess, they set out with the belief that academic indicators were key in predicting future workplace success, but discovered otherwise.  As their HR department later reported, “We were hiring on the wrong criteria – SAT scores, schools, majors.  [Our study found] those were not predictive of job performance.”

In the end, their study found five factors that would predict the success of teams at Google:

  1. Psychological safety: can team members take risks without feeling insecure or embarrassed?
  2. Dependability: can the team count on each other to do high quality work on time?
  3. Structure and clarity: Are the team’s goals, roles, and execution plans clear?
  4. Meaning of work: Does the team view the work as personally important?
  5. Impact of work: Does the team believe that our work matters?

These five factors cannot necessarily be learned either in a classroom or on a job site.

Of course, none of this is meant to imply that traditional academics and workplace education is irrelevant.  Doctors, engineers, and a host of other career fields obviously require high levels of academic and hands-on training.  Just keep in mind, however, that education should be a life-long endeavor, not merely something you complete early in life and then never revisit.

Similarly, as the CEO of Goodyear Tire Rich Kramer stated in the above Fortune article, there is much value to be found in transferable skills.  Marketing skills, for instance, are vital in any industry and can be used throughout your life in a number of fields.  Circling back to the focus of soft skills, the ability to effectively communicate, adapt, empathize, and other like soft skills can prepare you for success in your professional careers.

If you’re reading this post, then there is a good chance you already have a plan for your continued personal and professional growth, ideally involving reading.  Take some time to research soft skills, and read books and articles on how to improve them.  You can start with these articles listed below:

From Monster.com – Soft Skills You Need

From MindTools.com – Why Soft Skills Matter

From CNBC – 5 Soft Skills and How to Learn Them

jeremiah

 

Jeremiah Clark, M.A., is a healthcare IT consultant with six Epic Systems certifications.  He is also the co-owner of Appalachian Digital, a website development agency.  You can contact Jeremiah at JeremiahSethClark@Outlook.com or connect with him on LinkedIn at Jeremiah Clark.