We hear a lot about communication, leadership, problem solving… and so many other soft skills. And for good reason. Those skills are among the most in-demand by many employers.
However, there are seven soft skills that, while not discussed as often as their popular counterparts, make all the difference. These underrated skills – for those who possess and exhibit them during moments of personal branding, job interviews and, of course, on the job – set candidates apart from other graduates, applicants and careerists:
Some might think of “being influential” as leadership… and sometimes it is. However, in the Social Age, being influential is so much more.
Those who are genuinely influential can not only motivate others to achieve a common goal, they can – sometimes with a single tweet or post – create a different way of thinking; begin a movement or affect a culture. Being influential is more than leading a project or reaching a milestone; it is being a catalyst for change.
There are those who network for personal good, to promote a cause and, yes, to find a job.
Then there are those who live to connect; who, every time they meet someone new, look at that person with nothing but sincerity and say: “You know who you need to meet?” – and then set out to make the introduction. Connectors like Tim McDonald, Steve Levy and Deb Mills-Scofield have taken this to an amazing level; an art form. We would all do well to emulate them… every day.
When I was a young leader, I couldn’t wait to get an to write a 1,000 word diatribe on my newest epiphany or a critique of the newest policy decision by managers. Each email was a War-and-Peace-style rant that, no matter how well written, served only one purpose: burying the point under a mountain of emotional words and editorial opinion.
Perhaps the ability to write concisely comes with maturity. Maybe it takes time to transition from college writing class assignments of 1,000 words minimum. Or maybe we just have to receive a few of these novellas ourselves to understand the importance of brevity. Of making your point in less than 5 sentences, including or asking for some time to discuss… and then shutting up.
We can blame our face-down approach to communicating via devices. We can talk about how social is so much easier than talking. We can say we’re being more efficient; and certainly more concise. No matter our excuse, one thing is certain: we’ve lost the ability – perhaps even the desire – to create and carry on a conversation.
Look around you. Who among your friends, colleagues, influencers and mentors is doing exceptionally well? Who is always the center of attention; an influencer? That person, without fail, is the conversationalist; the storyteller. Want to get ahead in your career? Be THAT guy.
I don’t necessarily mean “public speaking” in a get-up-on-the-podium way (although that is a highly-marketable skill). In this context, speaking in public means being confident enough in yourself, your ideas and your position that you can hold court – in a group setting, among your colleagues, when facing executives and founders… even during a job interview.
Being able to speak well in front of others isn’t just a soft skill – it is how your preparedness, poise and potential is weighed and measured.
A mentor of mine, a dear man by the name of Hank Bera, once said: “Anyone can think of the easy way out; anyone can slap on a Band-Aid that stops the bleeding for a few seconds. It takes someone with guts to stand up and say: ‘Wait a minute… I have an idea…’”
There is a time to stop the bleeding; knowing when to apply a corporate tourniquet is a skill unto itself. If you want to get ahead, however, think about the next step; the long-term solution. That’s what gets you noticed – and remembered.
Displaying Emotional Intelligence
At one time, emotional intelligence, or EQ, was an HR thing. EQ was never discussed outside the hiring or team-building process; it was insider knowledge – it was how you were judged, without ever knowing what it was, or meant.
Now, we know that emotional intelligence is not only a highly in-demand soft skill; it is perhaps the greatest of them all. With a low EQ, we are unable to listen to criticism or ask good questions even when we know it makes us look stupid. We are incapable of working collaboratively with a diverse team. We are reluctant to listen to those with whom we don’t agree, even when they have a solution to the challenge we’re collectively facing. We are closed… and self-important.
Emotional intelligence – or rather the perception of your ability to consistently display EQ is, quite simply, the holy grail of soft skills.
How well have you mastered these obscure – perhaps the most underrated, ever – soft skills? More important, how will you embrace the learning of these skills as you build your career?
Editor’s Note: On Monday, January 13th, the #InternPro community took on the subject of underrated career skills during our weekly Twitter chat. See the recap here!
About the Author: CEO and Founder of YouTern, Mark Babbitt is a serial mentor who has been quoted in the Wall Street Journal, Mashable, Forbes and Under30CEO.com regarding job search, career development, internships and higher education’s role in preparing emerging talent for the workforce. A keynote speaker and blogger, Mark’s contributions include Huffington Post, Bloomberg News, Switch and Shift, and Under30CEO.
Mark has been honored to be named to GenJuice’s list of “Top 100 Most Desirable Mentors,” HR Examiner’s “Top 25 Trendspotters in HR” and CareerBliss’ “Top 10 Gen Y Career Experts.” Mark is currently working on two new books: “A World Gone Social: How Business Must Adapt to Survive (AMACOM, June 2014) with Ted Coine and “The Ultimate Guide to Internships (And Making Your College Years Matter Again)” (Allworth, September 2014). Contact Mark via email or on Twitter!