Just last month I moderated a career panel for an IT group. All of the panelists were IT execs and we discussed several topics about how you move up. Of course there's the usual training and certifications, learning new skills and keeping up to date on the latest technology and happenings.
But one of the things they heavily emphasized? Soft skills.
What are soft skills anyway? They are your non-technical skills: communication skills, listening skills, people skills, time management, and so on. Maybe you might include emotional intelligence, too.
One of the execs, who's a VP of IT, said that many times it's easier for them to teach technical skills than soft skills. If you already know how to relate to people, how to listen, how to communicate, and you're teachable then you can learn technology and grow.
What do you think—have your soft skills helped you?
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Fundamentally I would say soft skills are critical in any position. Soft skills determine the experience your employees have when you are in management, the experience your customers have when interacting with you, and the experience your co-workers have as well. All of those experiential moments that you share with everyone shapes their perception of you which not only opens and closes doors, drives business, etc, but also shapes your and their emotional experience in working with each other.
Both inside and outside the workplace I've found that soft skills have benefited me greatly. Being able to walk into a workplace when I was younger and walk out with a job was due to soft skills. Promotions come as much from skill and hard work as they do with the relationships with your management team.
In my experience, being a pleasant person to be around makes people want me around. As a result I've been given promotion opportunities when others have been working in a position for much longer than I have. It's helped with the blowback of implementing change when working with people who are frustrated with a recent change in the technology that we use to accomplish a task. It has made my day and the day of people I interact with more pleasent, helping prevent burnout and fatigue when frustrations are high.
It's pretty much played a role in every aspect of my life inside and outside of career. They are worth developing for yourself.