7 Must-have Career Skills for the Social Age

Soft SkillsWhen we shared “The 7 Most Underrated Career Skills… Ever” this past winter, several readers asked two questions:

  1. “How much will this change in the next few months, or years?”
  2. “What impact will social media have on this list?”

And at that time, we promised to answer those questions with a follow-up. After all, we were curious, too; we wanted to know what skills employers would come to value most as we moved away from Industrial Age thinking, and dove even deeper into the Social Age.

As anticipated, skills from the original list – being influential and connecting others, to name just a couple – apply even more now. But there are soft skills no one even talked about five years ago that we simply must pay attention to as we strive to compete well in today’s job market.

Without further delay, here are seven must-have soft skills for the Social Age:

Relentless Giving

In the Social Age, the idea of “give before you take” has become a truism. Nearly everyone (well, except for the spammers and trolls) has learned that putting the needs of others before ourselves – at least until we’ve built a cache of social karma – is a major key to personal success.

Taking this theory to a whole different level: the “Relentless Giver.” This person rarely even discusses their personal or professional goals, their immediate needs or their requirements of others. Nor do they keep tabs on who they’ve done favors for; a karma scorecard is never necessary. They simply know that to give, give and give some more means that when they finally do approach their networks with an ask… the answer from those they have relentlessly helped will be an enthusiastic “Yes!”

Social Leadership

The leadership model, as we speak, is getting turned on its ear. Gone are the days of blustery autocrats who command respect based on a title and who spew little gems like “You’re just lucky to have a job!”

In the Social Age, leaders will be judged on how well they motivate others toward completion of a common goal, rather than how efficiently they manage others. They will be measured on their ability to mentor, teach and inspire… rather than how well they play sheriff. And they will be expected to communicate through digital means as they collaborate, perhaps globally, with diverse team members.

Due to the rarity of the social leader, in our new book, A World Gone Social, Ted Coine and I refer to them as “Blue Unicorns.” As rare as they may be now, however, these Social Age leaders will be in high demand, very soon.

Leading Without Permission

One level above the social leader: those – regardless of experience level, the title on their business card or their pay grade – who are willing to lead when the situation demands.

As we leave Industrial Age best practices behind, the norm is becoming small, nimble teams capable of quickly solving a problem, developing a new product or exceeding customer expectations. In these flat teams (“flat” meaning little or no formal management), every member is expected to not only contribute, but – when their expertise or innovation demands – to lead their team.

In the Social Age, everyone is a leader.


In our current workforce, simply putting in your time and going through the motions isn’t enough. Today, those with extraordinarily successful careers find themselves serving as unabashed ambassadors for their company, brand or team.

These ambassadors are easy to spot: whether online or face-to-face, they wear their passion on their sleeves; they are never too cool to go “all in” when solving a crisis; and they exude humble confidence when challenged by a momentarily unhappy customer or a pack of trolls. You can also spot these brand ambassadors one other way: they are almost always the go-to person on the team; they are the ones others respect – and count on – the most.

Enthusiasm for Technology

Since the Great Recession, there isn’t a company on the planet that isn’t trying to do more with less. For many, that means knowing your way around an internal network, graphics programs – and perhaps even some basic coding skills – will be in high demand.

Even more important: grasp of mobile and open source technologies, analytics, crowdsourcing, CRM and the theory behind – and practical use of – big data. Those with these skills will thrive; those without are dinosaurs, doomed to extinction.


Nearly every resume we see still offers some version of “I’m a team player” – yet few seem to understand what that means in the Social Age.

Those who get that working together in an open, collaborative environment means we can achieve so much more than we can working in “lone wolf” mode – and those willing to set ego aside while ensuring an organizational culture free of divas and drama queens – are going to develop amazing careers.

Insatiable Curiosity

Those small, nimble teams that work in a collaborative manner without formal leadership… are occasionally going to run into a knowledge barrier. They – despite all their collective genius – are going to discover what they don’t yet know.

When that happens, the insatiably curious – rather than saying “Not my job” or “Sorry, not my thing” – will reach out on Google, Khan Academy, MOOCs, mentors, their personal networks, Coursera and myriad other resources to learn, grow and contribute.

Those who never stop being curious… who never stop learning… will find themselves perpetually employable.

As a young careerist, how ready are you for the Social Age workplace? How many of these skills can you claim on your resume now? More important, how will you master these skills between now and the time you really need them?


Mark Babbitt AuthorAbout the Author: CEO and Founder of YouTern, Mark Babbitt is a serial mentor who has been quoted in the Wall Street Journal, Mashable and Forbes 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.

AWorldGoneSocial 3D ThumbnailMark’s new book, A World Gone Social: How Companies Must Adapt to Survive (AMACOM), with Ted Coine comes out September 17, 2014. The Ultimate Guide to Internships: Everything You Need to Know to Get Hired Before (and AFTER) College will be available through Allworth New York in January 2015. Questions? Contact Mark on Twitter.


Image courtesy of pinpoint.jobs. Thank you!



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