by Sunny Simon

While interviewing a client during a resume writing session, I suggested we talk about his soft skills. Shooting me a quizzical look he said with a smirk, “But I’m an engineer.” I laughed getting the joke. He typically didn’t want to talk about what he considered “touchy-feely” stuff, however, Joel was starting to warm up to the session and surprised me by relating this joke. “How do you tell the extravert engineer from an introverted engineer? The extraverted engineer is looking at your shoes. The introvert is looking at his own.”

Okay folks, don’t get excited, I’m not picking on engineers, nor am I writing a column about introverts. My point is, success in business is not solely dependent on technical skills and expertise. In order to be hired and retained by an employer, individuals must cultivate a host of other attributes referred to as soft skills.

If you are wondering what exactly is a soft skill, think attitude, communication, leadership and conflict management as a start. For example, one of the best engineers I’ve ever met was a man named Andy. During his career he rose through the ranks to the vice president level due to a combination of both technical and  soft skills.

Andy knew to fit into a work group, and be perceived as a leader, he needed more than an master’s degree in engineering. Andy developed an eye for talent and learned how to create winning teams. He became an astute problem solver who could navigate his way through dealing with thorny situations and difficult people. Andy never took himself too seriously, admitted to his mistakes and learned to develop a good sense of humor. The key words here are learned and developed. In fact, my engineer friend once admitted to me that early in his career he would listen to comedy shows and practice telling jokes to his carpool buddies on their way to work. (Wish I’d been in that car pool. They laughed all the way to the office.)

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The good news is, soft skills can be learned. The objective is behavioral change. Ready to begin? Start by creating a list of the characteristics you need to improve upon. Want to hone your decision making skills? Create some “what if” scenarios and work through them. Arrive at a logical bottom line decision by thoughtful process and some research. All it takes is focus and practice. You can do this! I’ll be waiting for you to use your soft skills on me.  Sunny Simon is the owner of Raise the Bar High Life and Career Coaching and the author of the blog www.lifeonthesunnyside.net

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