Soft Skills Matter
Posted December 13, 2018 by Pedro Gonzalez
- Director of Career Management for the Graduate & Executive Education Programs - Haslam College of Business, University of Tennessee in Knoxville
How we develop and strengthen our soft skills is arguably the most important long-term indicator of success for any career path. The accumulation of our own set of strong soft skills over time evolves into our professional persona.
With the approach of each new academic semester and the millions of university students globally preparing for graduation and job searching, my peers who work in the career services profession brace for another cycle of multiple recruitment activities and constant streams of career sessions with students. This is what is visible on the surface, but the real value is what happens with the students we assist in developing their self-awareness to optimal soft skills proficiency which, in turn, leads them to employment success.
The superior job search assistance provided to college students in this era far surpasses what was offered to previous generations. Things have changed for the better because the career services profession has evolved and technology has introduced incredible economies of scale and breadth of job and career planning information. In all my conversations with employers across different industries and my own direct experiences as a talent acquisition professional, it is clear that once the technical skills have been validated, the skills that keep you in the running for a job are your communication skills. Culture fit within the company is also important, but not a skill as much as it is a subjective assessment of how well candidates mesh with the team, the boss, and the values and management style of the company.
The need for strong to excellent communication skills (verbal and written) is present in all professional job functions and career paths. For example, in the MBA world, communication is paramount for employers because of the hyper competitive selection process for roles that are coveted by many qualified MBA job seekers.
The GMAC Corporate Recruiters Survey, provides a succinct summary of the hiring trends present in the global graduate business degree job market. I look forward to this annual survey because it provides an authoritative reference point on the prognosis of MBA and specialized business master’s employment outcomes. Among the many data sets provided in this report is one that captures the attributes most sought after by companies that are recruiting MBAs. These attributes change slightly over time with some skills being ranked higher or lower year to year and some new skills making a debut like “Ability to value opinions of others.” I use this survey to present each year to MBA candidates on what they can expect of the job market and how they can use this information to develop their career roadmap.
In summary, I encourage all job seekers, but especially those MBAs who are seeking highly coveted leadership roles or consulting jobs at prestigious consulting firms to constantly seek to improve their soft skills. In particular, the three below:
1. Verbal Communications Skills
Be able to speak concisely about your background, your relevant skills and your career aspirations during an interview or a networking conversation. Also, be able to speak with confidence during presentations and with persuasiveness as needed during meetings.
2. Listening Skills
Be open to constructive feedback and seek it from people who possess skills you wish to strengthen for yourself. Also, before making a decision or taking action on business matters, listen to what others are saying and develop an understanding of any common themes for a possible solution path.
3. Mental Agility
Be willing to adapt your thinking for various types of problems and situations. Know when to use analysis and when to end it to get to a decision. Learn how to prioritize information for optimal problem solving.
Strong communicators are sought after in any organization. Upcoming graduates who have learned and developed soft skills during their graduate business program have the advantage to position themselves as high performers and valued leaders for prospective employers. But much long after the job search, strong communication abilities with our soft skills is what advances our careers.
Pedro Gonzalez is Director of Career Management for the Graduate & Executive Education programs at Haslam College of Business, University of Tennessee in Knoxville. He has 20 years of work experience in the professions of university admissions, MBA career services and corporate talent management