Unlike a good caramel candy, an inviting bed, or the perfect sweatshirt, “soft” has traditionally been underrated when it comes to desired business skills. They get overlooked by recruiters, management, and others.
Why is that? Effective communication, personal habits and motivation, emotional intelligence, time management, leadership ability—these are all considered “soft” qualities, and are characteristics of a successful individual.
It doesn’t make sense, especially when you Google “soft skills for business” and the results are populated by leading business publications from Inc. to Business Insider addressing the “top soft skills” needed to succeed in the business world.
A book on my top ten list of recommended reading and one that I frequently refer to when stressing the importance of “soft” skills is The Hard Truth About Soft Skills: Workplace Lessons Smart People Wish They’d Learned Sooner by Peggy Klaus. Klaus shares insights gained through coaching some of the seemingly most capable and skilled individuals who experience a plateau in their careers. The reason for those plateaus? Often a shortcoming in social, communication, and self-management behaviors.
The fact is, soft skills are absolutely critical to the success of your career. Having worked in high-performance cultures such as Bloomberg, an observation about career climbing became evident: no matter what your job is, success will be determined:
- 5 percent by your academic credentials
- 15 percent by your professional experiences
- 15 percent by your natural ability, and
- 65 percent by your communication skills.
The character John Keating, played by Robin Williams in the movie Dead Poets Society, is my role model. He encourages his students to be authentic, innovative, and to find the courage to plot their own career paths. I work to embody the timeless core values expressed by the Keating character, which remain as compelling today as they were when the movie was released in 1989:
- We must constantly remind ourselves to look at things in a different way.
- No matter what anybody tells you, words and ideas can change the world.
- Strive to find your own voice because the longer you wait to begin, the less likely you are to find it all.
Despite evolving management theories, differing corporate cultures, and various product lines, there is one common thread that weaves its way through today’s economy: the top jobs go to the most compelling communicators, those who possess and exercise soft skills that set them apart from the rest.
As a former Wall Street managing director turned executive coach, professional speaker, best-selling author, and faculty member of Columbia University’s Graduate School of Engineering (where I teach soft skills to hard-skilled engineers) I can tell you, without a doubt, your soft skills—or lack thereof—will greatly impact your career.
Learn more about how to cultivate skills that will propel your career forward in my book, A Climb to the Top.