Soft Skills

A person’s soft skill “EQ” (Emotional Intelligence Quotient) is an important part of his or her individual contribution to the success of an organization. Screening for personal habits or traits such as dependability and conscientiousness can yield significant return on investment for an organization. For this reason, soft skills are increasingly desired by employers in addition to quantifiable and measurable abilities.

For a generally shy person, I feel very fortunate that I’ve been able to develop and use effectively the following soft skills:

  • I possess superb written communication skills, whether my audience is an end user, a competitor, a coworker, or an executive manager. I create appropriate visual and oral presentations for one-on-one sessions, small– or large–group trainings, sales calls, or even keynote addresses at conferences. I am also very experienced at speech writing for myself, my colleagues, and my supervisors.
  • I use my creativity to solve vexing problems. During my career, I’ve learned to let the situation “percolate” in my brain. I am often able to provide an unorthodox but functional solution to many issues. It takes patience and self-assurance to be comfortable with such uncertainty.
  • Few things frustrate me more than the inability to find a workable solution for an architectural or a design problem. I have the determination and strong work ethic to continue working on an issue past “regular business hours” or on my own time. I also maintain the flexibility to try multiple courses of action or unusual methods in problem solving. However, in the event a solution eludes me, I’ve learned new opportunities often arise.
  • I am detail oriented and conscientious. I repeatedly check my work and offer to do the same for my co–workers. I’ve found many software bugs after an application has gone through rigorous quality–assurance testing. My past colleagues and even some vendors enjoyed betting on how many such errors I could discover. [One vendor, upon being told that we accepted a new release, jokingly asked, “Yes, but has J. approved it yet?”]
  • I strongly believe there are several particular skills often lacking in today’s “me first” business culture: listening, team work, and negotiation. In my opinion, too many employees are willing to take credit they may not deserve as a means of advancing their careers. I couldn’t disagree more with this philosophy (or poor work ethic). After 25 years in both the public and private sectors, I’ve learned the value of team work and a shared vision. My active listening skills are quickly appreciated by my colleagues and supervisors alike; I truly hear what a person has to say (and don’t “talk over” him or her). Often I hear not only the frustrations but the fear underlying a particular situation. By talking through—or even negotiating—these issues, we often find both a solution that works for everyone and an increased trust among the team members.
  • My most satisfying moments come from mentoring and teaching. My classroom rules apply equally to my daily work environment: everyone deserves respect; no question is stupid or should be ignored; enjoyment and professionalism are not mutually exclusive; and learning should be a fun and rewarding activity for both the teacher/mentor and the student/mentee. Being a professor, both online and in the classroom, has helped me grow so much as a person and, I’m told, been a life–changing experience for some of my students. I am very humbled by the entire process.

Recruiters often say that hard skills will get you an interview, but you need soft skills to get—and keep—the job. My references will provide detailed examples of how my soft skills have added value to my employers and made the working environment a more fun and productive atmosphere for my peers.