Today’s world believes they do and die all to success are the “hard skills” acquired as part of formal educations. Many believe that once they receive their diploma, their ticket to success is all but stamped and the road to a magnificent life is guaranteed.
Well, I hate to tell you that’s not really the case; so much of success has nothing to do with “hard” skills.
The most in-demand skills that employers crave are the elusive ”soft skills”–the intangible but important qualities that enable you to work and interact with the people around you effectively.
Having great soft skills can be a huge game-changer as you go through your career and life. It can be the difference between getting people to believe in you or being forgotten, the difference between advancing a project or having it rejected, the difference between getting a promotion or finding yourself in yet another disappointing lateral move. These skills teach you not just to be a better employee but a stellar human being as well.
Yet, I see so many college graduates fail, stay stagnant or get lost because of the lack of their soft skills. So many of them have never worked on the soft skills of life that can help you succeed exponentially when you combine them with a formal education. In many cases, I can’t blame these young adults but the parents who raised them. They don’t spend the time needed to implant these soft skills in their children in the first place.
“The soft skills are the hard skills.” That’s a quote from Amy Edmondson, professor of leadership and management at Harvard Business School. (It appeared in “Has Executive Education Gone Soft?” by Frank Kalman, for Chief Learning Officer.)
It’s a quote that resonated with me because it’s true. It’s not hard to find leaders who know how to accomplish things, push people, achieve bottom line results. That’s how they became leaders in the first place: They achieved results. And that’s a good thing. Results are important, are in fact necessary to thrive or even survive in the current business climate.
But today, it’s the soft skills that set apart the true leader.
As little as 20 years ago, the most important competency was technical mastery (53%), which today doesn’t even crack the top 5. That’s likely a recognition that technical skills can be learned or technical needs change so fast that they have become a secondary concern.
So, here are 10 soft skills that don’t require a college degree, but I believe will set you apart and put you on the fast track to future success:
- Be Enthusiastic
- Be Easy on the Eyes
- Give Me a Good Handshake
- Have a Presence about You
- Be Adaptable/Versatile
- Communicate Effectively
- Be Nice (Manners and Etiquette)
- Be World Class in Everything You Do
- Get Things Done (Self Motivation/Discipline)
According to a Leadership Insights Survey by the Center for Creative Leadership, business leaders say the most important competencies among young workers are:
- Self-motivation/discipline: 44%
- Effective communication: 40%
- Learning agility: 29%
- Self-awareness: 26%
- Adaptability/versatility: 22%
You can improve your soft skills by taking personal development courses, networking with people both inside and outside your organization, working with mentors and challenging yourself to take on new tasks. With a strong set of soft skills complementing your hard skills, the most important paving stones to success will be in place.
Unfortunately, some people believe that soft skills aren’t that important. However, almost every employer I’ve ever talked to about this disagrees. In a world where job roles are changing rapidly, soft skills will be one of the few constants.
And lastly remember this statistic from a Harvard Study, 85% of one’s success is attributed to soft skills and only 15% to technical skills.
So, inventory your soft skills, rate them and go about improving them, because they can and will make a difference at work and in life. Trust me on this one.