Develop Your Soft Skills For Workplace Success

Soft skills, including interpersonal communication and conflict resolutions, are becoming increasingly important in the workplace. In a study by CareerBuilder.com, they found that 71 percent of employers say they value emotional intelligence over IQ. In order to understand why soft skills are important, how to develop them and how to tell if your skills are lacking, I spoke to Peggy Klaus. Peggy is an executive coach who works with leaders from top companies including American Express, Oracle and Goldman Sachs. She is the author of two best-selling book, including BRAG! The Art of Tooting Your Own Horn Without Blowing It and The Hard Truth About Soft Skills: Workplace Lessons Smart People Wish They’d Learned Sooner. She contributes to the New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and Fortune.

Why are soft skills so much more valuable than hard skills in today’s working world?

Until very recently, Hard Skills were the only things that companies looked for when hiring and promoting their employees.  However, now that multiple studies have shown the importance of soft skills on job performance and the bottom line, recruiters and HR have jumped on the soft skill bandwagon, demanding that candidates encompass both. Once hired, employees are measured for promotion, assignments, salary increases and bonuses on their soft skill quotient. So, your ability to get along with others, sell your ideas, manage your time, bring a project in under budget and  create an enjoyable workplace environment is now as important- if not more so- than your technical expertise.

What are some ways to go about developing your soft skills?

The first thing you have to do is to get to know yourself. I know that sounds very new-agey and simplistic, but it’s true, and, once you start the process, you’ll find there is nothing warm and fuzzy about it. A good way to start evaluating your social, communication, and self management behaviors is to take my Soft Skills Quiz, at peggyklaus.com. After you have more information as to  your strengths and weaknesses, then you can begin to develop your skills through books, classes, a coach or a mentor.

Managers complain that millennial workers have a lack of soft skills because they are Internet addicts. What advice would you give to millennials?

Millennials bring to the workplace a terrific combination of boundless energy, optimism and technical skill. However, they cannot afford to ignore their soft skills. Many studies sight employers complaints around their lack of professional etiquette, verbal communication, political savy, abilitity to take critical feedback and self presentation (among others), so they must begin to develop these skills so that they won’t stall or derail in their careers.

Do you believe soft skills are more important as you move up the corporate ladder? Why or why not?

Soft skills are important at all stages in your career, but as you take on bigger jobs with greater visibility internally as well as  externally,  the corporation(and the public) expects their leaders to have these soft skills.

How can you tell if your soft skills are lacking? How do you go about getting feedback?

Ask. Even if it’s uncomfortable and embarrassing, ask your boss, colleagues, friends and family to give you specific, positive and critical feedback. If they say things like “You’re intense, or You’re friendly,” that’s much too general and ultimately not helpful in helping you to figure out how you come across. Instead, ask them to describe the specific behaviors that make you appear intense and friendly, which will give you a clearer idea of exactly what you do so that you can address it, specifically!


Dan Schawbel

Dan Schawbel is the managing partner of Millennial Branding, a Gen Y research and management consulting firm. His new book, a New York Times best seller, is called Promote Yourself: The New Rules For Career Success (St. Martin's Press) and his previous book, Me 2.0, was a #1 international bestseller.

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