Soft skills are key to success: They should be called 'power skills'
A recent Harvard Business Review article by author and CEO Jodi Glickman sparked my interest this week (Should new grads take any job or wait for the right one?) because I’m currently going through that annual wave of eager graduates who are approaching me for one of two things, a job or an introduction to someone who can get them that job. It’s this approach that ultimately leads to an impromptu mini mentor session about my career and how I got here.
Jodi’s advice suggests that graduates step back and focus not on landing their dream job right now, but landing a role that will deliver any one of three things:
Is it just young adults that require soft skill training to succeed within media and marketing, or do we need to address it formally across the workforce? And are we valuing 'soft' skills appropriately?
By large, the effort required to land your first ‘dream job’ at the end of your studies is not something anyone prepares you for. Back in my day (yes I’m actually using that cliché), the deafening silence of the phone after the first three months out of study left my courage and my ego deflated.
The clear path to the dream job became a zig zag strategy of what will get me through a door remotely connected to the end goal. There I was, a green unexperienced kid, buying rolls of postage stamps to send my CV to anyone that would open the envelope. In hindsight, what could an entry level CV actually include that carried any gravitas, other than to say ‘I’ve committed myself to study, and I’m passionate about making good use of it’?
Fast forward twenty years, and I’m now at the other end of those CVs. They still come thick and fast. What separates the ones that get a look in or not, is not the tertiary qualification, or even the technical ability of last year, but the demonstration of soft skills required in a modern day workplace. Hard to demonstrate, but when you do, wow are they powerful.
Soft skills are invariably hard to measure because they revolve around empathy and adaptability, communication and creativity. Unlike hard skills which (dare I say it) can expire, the right soft skills can last throughout your career. As companies digitise, automate and change, creating a culture where people can communicate their ideas, collaborate and lead creative thinking is crucial to business competitiveness. Modern day marketers require a combination of right brain thinking (creative design) with left brain thinking (analytics and data) to succeed. Today’s marketing managers are creative designers and analysts rolled into one.
So, is it time universities started including more robust soft skill training into their remit? Are we leaders challenging our own companies to include more formal and consistent training of these skills? Research shows, when these soft skills are honed, individuals not only command higher salaries and positions, but companies see significant increases in productivity and positive staff sentiment. Maybe we should call them 'power skills' after all.