Monday, January 16, 2017

Why Soft Skills are So Important to Your Career

Perhaps you've worked very hard to learn the technical skills necessary to get the job you want or succeed in your current position.

Despite your diligence, however, you don't get the job or the promotion.

What just happened? Was someone else really more qualified?

When you ask the hiring manager or your boss about why you didn't get the job, you get a vague answer. There are some references to someone else being a "better fit." Or, other team members weighed in and favored the other person.

Sometimes it's not a matter of your technical expertise that loses you a new job or a promotion, but rather something that managers can't seem to explain. To them, it's hard to really define why your technical expertise just wasn't enough.

But often the reason you just don't "fit" is not because of your hard skills such as technical abilities -- but because you lack the soft skills that just make you "click" with others.

This may seem truly weird to those who are considered very talented in the hard skills area. After all, soft skills -- such as listening, body language and collaboration -- are all just fine, but hardly get the job done.

Or do they? Could having a soft skills such as being able to tell a story really be more important than coming up with a new system to manage client accounts?

On the surface, a manager may say "no." But more research shows that it's these soft skills that play a key role in helping people get jobs or advancing a career.

So, it's time to think about some key soft skills you need to get better at now:

  • Interacting. The next time your boss brings a client through the office, don't hide behind your laptop with your headphones on. Instead, stand up and greet the person as he comes by -- even if it's a "Hello! How are you?" kind of statement. Always have some questions prepared to ask someone you're meeting for the first time. "What brings you in today?" "Where are you from?" This may sound like a trivial interaction, but it's these efforts that demonstrate to the boss that you're capable of interacting with people you don't know, and presents a professional demeanor to others.
  • Talking to people that make you uncomfortable. It's pretty easy to talk to people who think and act like you. But if you're in IT, when was the last time you asked someone in marketing what they thought of a new project? Do you regularly talk to those in sales to ask what problems their customers complain about the most? You may find it difficult to relate to what sales or marketing do, but the more you ask questions and seek their input, the easier it will become. This kind of collaboration between departments is becoming more critical than ever, and you need to show the boss you get it.
  • Giving compliments. Sometimes it may not even occur to you that a colleague needs a pat on the back. But compliments go a long way toward establishing better relationships with co-workers, a critical skill when it comes to advancing your career. Also, good relationships with co-workers mean that when you need a job reference or help in meeting someone, this colleague's positive impression may be critical in helping you. These compliments don't have to be overblown or feel false. Something small such as "I liked the point you brought up in the meeting about customer experience" or "I appreciate you sending me that report so quickly -- it helped me meet my deadline," are a good start.
  • Being positive. This may be one of the most important soft skills you can develop because being positive is catching. Research shows that your positive attitude can affect others, and your upbeat attitude can make you more likable -- and it can actually help you feel better about yourself and your job. Try mindfulness to become more aware of the many ways your life and your job have meaning and give you a sense of satisfaction. The first step can be simply smiling more -- it will affect how you feel and how others perceive you.
What other soft skills do you think are important to career success?

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