As we write our resumes, build our social media profiles and search for jobs, we hear a lot about the importance of soft skills. Communication, leadership, problem solving and other skills tend to dominate those conversations – and for good reason: hose 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 for many job seekers. These underrated skills – while everyone else sets out to prove what an “effective leader” and “excellent communicator” they are – set candidates apart from other graduates, applicants and careerists.
Here are my top 7 underrated soft skills:
I understand that sometimes “being influential” is considered similar to leadership. 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, to sell their products and services – 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 sincerely 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 ability to connect like-minded people to an art form. And their personal brands benefit a great deal as a result
As 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 written or decision made by managers. It seemed each email was a War-and-Peace-length 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. 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… and then shutting up.
Creating Meaningful Conversation
We often blame our hand-held devices for our failure to carry on a real conversation. Just as often, we talk about how texting, keyboard or tweeting is so much easier than actually 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 meaningful 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.
Although the get-up-on-the-podium type of public speaking is a highly-marketable skill, that isn’t necessarily what I mean here. 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 – in many careers and industries, it is how your preparedness, poise and potential is weighed and measured by those who might hire you.
A dear man by the name of Hank Bera – my first professional mentor – 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, of course. 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 will stop the bleeding from ever happening again. That’s what gets you noticed – and remembered.
Displaying Emotional Intelligence
There was a time when emotional intelligence (or EQ) was an HR thing 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.
Today, we understand 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 reluctant to listen to those with whom we don’t agree. We are self-important and at the same time lack self-awareness.
Emotional intelligence – or rather the perception of your ability to consistently display EQ is, quite simply, the holy grail of soft skills.
How well can you demonstrate these obscure soft skills? More important: As you build your career, how will you embrace the learning of these skills?