Soft skills can’t be proven with a certificate or diploma. They’re a complex blend of personal verve, sensitivity, intelligence and diplomacy that enables smooth communication with others. They facilitate negotiation and are the magic ingredients that accomplished professionals are often missing but really need, yet many in today’s tech society are making the mistake of putting all their eggs in the hard skills basket.
Aren’t hard skills the most essential?
It may seem like acquiring the tech skills that drive our data-filled lives is the bottom line for those planning to quickly jumpstart lucrative careers. Those who have already achieved expertise in complex fields such as data mining might feel that what they do doesn’t depend on being a great conversationalist. Without soft skills, a career trajectory can be greatly inhibited, however. You want to be able to take advantage of opportunities that rely on more than simply managing the tasks at hand.
How versatile does a professional really have to be?
The answer depends on how far you want to take your talent. Today’s diverse global work landscape demands that you have a broad set of contributions to bring to a company. Cultural sensitivity is one example. Being able to give and get information in more than your native language is another. A career can become paralyzed if you’re not someone who can communicate diplomatically with others in a team environment. Having honed an intricate talent a company needs may seem sufficient. Possessing the charisma and gift of gab to lead a meeting or speak at a conference is ultimately what will separate you from the pack, however.
Who’s the candidate that companies dream of?
Read the opinions of the top thought leaders in business and the high regard for those who’ve gone beyond just doing what they do, can be found time and time again. Mark Cuban, the highly successful owner of the Dallas Mavericks echoes similar sentiments when he states that soft skills are more important than coding.
“I know that great individuals are not only more valuable than legions of mediocrity, they are often more valuable than groups that include great individuals,” entrepreneur Jeff Stibel wrote in an issue of Harvard Business Review. Such bold declarations may go against the commonly ingrained belief that the nail that stands up gets hammered down but should be taken seriously when spoken from some of the world’s most savvy thought leaders and investors.
Why is it so difficult to find talent with both soft and hard proficiencies?
Higher education tends to separate the acquisition of different types of knowledge into tracks. Students pursuing degrees in business or tech related fields will have limited exposure to world literature, critical writing or art history. Those doing more creative coursework won’t get the opportunity to develop hard or “power” skills either, which results in a deficit of multidimensional talent.
A poll conducted by Harris Insights & Analytics shows that over 60% of students aged 14 to 23 select their college majors based on the level of financial reward they can expect. Research continues to support the observation that just focusing on the bottom line can make you indistinguishable from others, however. The most valuable addition to a company will bring a blend of hard and soft attributes, so those who don’t narrow their education down too much and nurture their inner growth can look forward to higher salaries as well as career longevity.