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Why Soft Skills Are Key To EVERYONE’s Employability And Career Progression

The message about ‘soft skills’ has been garnering a lot of support in the press: highly qualified graduates with a string of A*s but who are uncomfortable in face-to-face meetings and making calls. Business is all about building relationships and those relationships just don’t develop via email – people need to go out there and talk to other people and they need soft skills to do it. Mark Rose explains how it can be done.
Why Soft Skills Are Key To EVERYONE’s Employability And Career Progression

The Value Of Soft Skills

Working professionals today need to develop and use soft skills in their work whether it’s full-time, part-time or voluntary. And for people who really need know the basics about soft skills, the good news is that most of us have access to some fantastic activities and initiatives in our local area which in one way or other can add value to our personal and professional well-being as they will all involve in some way or other, the use of soft skills that participants will use instinctively. Staff need to use soft skills automatically and instinctively as part of the way they work. It will impact their employability.

It’s great to hear that McDonald’s is lending its weight to a new campaign to highlight the value of soft skills to the economy and to show how such skills are as important for workers and employers, as academic and technical qualifications [1].

The message about ‘soft skills’ message has been garnering a lot of support recently, which was for me highlighted in a great - if not shocking, when you read the statistics it features - article in the Telegraph this month by Julia Llewellyn Smith, about how they were lacking in so many people [2].

But let’s face it, as opposed to ‘hard’ skills that are indicated in someone’s level of education and their academic qualifications, soft skills cannot simply be learned through books; they have to be acquired through experience. That’s the missing link.

Think ‘out of the box’

For me, the hardest ‘soft’ skill to find in a possible employee is that ‘out-of-the-box’ way of thinking. I find that many young job seekers sadly lack the ability to communicate messages clearly, and so will miss out on being able to connect with the different stakeholders in a company they want to join.

Be genuine

For me, being genuine is also one of the most important soft skills someone can have. As an employer, if I can connect with a prospective employee and connect their personality with the company, well, they have a pretty good chance of working in my company.

So with all this in mind and if there really is a lack of soft skills in graduates, and these skills can’t be ‘taught’ in the classroom, perhaps we all need to start ‘thinking outside the box’?

Let me explain….

Extra-curricular activities: springboards for soft skills for everyone not just graduates

When someone does extracurricular activities in their down-time, be that sports or volunteering, they are great ways to develop some of the essential soft skills that people want to have in the workplace: whether that’s good teamwork and taking responsibility, or proactivity and a competitive spirit.

Graduates, and frankly all working professionals today, need to develop and use soft skills in their work whether it’s full-time, part-time, or voluntary.

And for people who really need know the basics about soft skills, the good news is that most of us have access to some fantastic activities and initiatives in our local area which in one way or other can add value to our personal and professional well-being as they will all involve in some way or other, the use of soft skills that participants will use instinctively. That’s the trick with soft skills – people need to use them automatically as part-and-parcel of the way they work. And looking outside the classroom can be the best way to find them. That’s what I call ‘thinking outside the box’; and that’s the kind of thinking employers want to see.

Soft skills key to people in IT

And for people who work in sectors like IT where technical skills and specific capabilities are essential for virtually every position, even the most hard-core, super-smart IT employee will need to have soft, or interpersonal skills.

Think about it: not everyone is super-savvy when it comes to technology as it may only be necessary at a fairly basic level, depending on the sector in which the company is focused.

In this case, the IT professional needs to be able to work successfully with other members of staff from across all levels – from the CEO to the summer-work-experience-candidate - to communicate sometimes quite complicated ‘tech’ information clearly and in an uncomplicated way. The ability to do this and to show that they can do this on a job application form, or on a CV and then during an interview, will make a candidate with good soft skills stand out from the competition.

And as IT professionals and Computer Science graduates tend to have a finger on the pulse of the very latest IT and technology innovations that will change the way people live and work, the way they think and work requires imagination and creative problem-solving. Employers want to work with the smart tech professionals who can devise incredible IT solutions, but they also need them to be able to convey their ideas clearly and confidently to colleagues.

From my own experience, when I wanted to create an interactive virtual classroom for the Creativedge 90-minute bite-sized courses that would allow up to 100 people worldwide to participate and be able to interact with one another, I knew that I would need a crack IT team! But as I’m not an IT expert, I would need that team to be able to tell me how it would work in a clear, lucid and compelling way. And they would need to have soft skills to do that and convince me they could do the job well.

It’s no different for someone who is a salesman: they key for them making great sales and enjoying strong, long-term business with their customers, so they need to use emotions and interpersonal soft skills when they sell.

The great salesman: soft skills par excellence

The benefits of products or services offered by great salesperson are because they inspire emotion in the prospect: good feelings about having the service or item, bad feelings about, not having it. People only buy for two reasons: it makes them feel good, or it solves a problem. We don’t buy a drill bit; we buy the hole it makes!

A really good salesman knows storytelling is super effective and they will often use anecdotes to show how their product has made a difference.

A really great salesman knows the value of soft skills as his job depends on it as does his chance for promotion and career progression. A great example of this is shown by people like Andy Clarke, the CEO and President, Asda Stores Limited [3]. He started out as a store manager and look him now. He must have been a salesman and store manager extraordinaire in the competitive supermarket retail world. Otherwise, he wouldn’t be where he is now! Soft skills were sure to have played a part alongside his inherent business acumen. It’s a winning combination.

He started out as a store manager and look him now. He must have been a salesman and store manager extraordinaire in the competitive supermarket retail world. Otherwise, he wouldn’t be where he is now! Soft skills were sure to have played a part alongside his inherent business acumen. It’s a winning combination.

References:

  1. McDonald's leads campaign to highlight the economic value of soft-skills
  2. Why 'soft skills' are more important than a great CV
  3. Asda welcomes Andy Clarke as new CEO, replaces Andy Bond
 
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