Technical Skill Expertise Secures a Job. Soft Skill Expertise Elevates a Career.

When an employer has a position to fill, the first line of thinking is naturally around the subject matter expertise or technical skills required to get the job done.

And as a job seeker, when we interview for a new position, we talk about our technical skills successes and experiences to demonstrate our capabilities.  These functional abilities help us to secure a new job.

But once we are on board, how our performance is judged shifts almost immediately.  A portion of our performance is, of course, measured on our technical expertise.  However, the more closely watched and heavily weighted measurement of our performance shifts to our actions, how we think and behave.

How do we communicate, our approach to problem-solving and effectiveness, whether we are critical thinkers, how we negotiate or persuade others, are we empathetic, humble, a team player?

The language bandied about to describe these capabilities is “soft skills.”  Although they are anything but “soft.”  They often demand deep, honest self-reflection to gauge our competency level, or ability, of each accurately.  And they require dedicated time and attention to develop, just like the investment in our technical skills.

Employers are leading the conversation about the importance of and desire for employees with powerful soft skills.  The top-ranked soft skills desired by today’s employers include:*

Individuals who are asked to take on additional responsibilities, are offered the opportunity to lead new projects, or receive promotions achieve these career growth milestones thanks to the strength of their soft skills.

Individuals who possess strong soft skills effectively communicate fact-based opinions, actively listen and respect the views of others, successfully analyze problems and potential opportunities, attempt to understand different perspectives versus dismissing an idea simply because it is different, persuade others to take action, and more.

Behaviors & Attitudes

Individuals with strong soft skills also exhibit specific behaviors and attitudes, including staying positive, even in the face of problems, managing their emotions during stressful times, focus on developing corrective actions versus wallowing in self-pity if they make a mistake, pitching in to help co-workers when their workloads increase, encouraging and celebrating the successes of co-workers, just to name a few.

Positive Unintended Consequences

Investing time and effort in the development of our soft skills can lead to positive unintended consequences in the form of new career opportunities. A stark example is when someone, without the required technical skills, is asked to lead a strategic project or a new team.  Leaders make these types of offers to individuals who have a strong work ethic, think deeply about opportunities or challenges, and who demonstrate curiosity and desire for continuous learning.  These leaders understand the importance of soft skills and are confident the individuals they have tapped for these opportunities will learn and develop the required technical skills.

As the workplace evolves from the information age to the experience age, we are sure to see more of these situations where it is the strength of our soft skills that will help secure an exciting new job, not just our technical expertise.




*Wall St. Journal Executive Survey, PWC Global CEO Annual Survey, LinkedIn Job Listing Analysis