The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA


March 21, 2014

Career Coach: Technical skills aren't enough in today's workplace

After all this time, some people still don't get it. They still think that hiring is all about just bringing in applicants with strong technical skills.

Of course, these skills are important, but are they enough? In today's highly competitive world, it is often the softer skills that differentiate applicants, and determine who will get hired, who will be successful and who will move up in the organization.

Think about it. You will want the most competent doctor, but if you have several of equal competence, then you would probably pick the one who listens to your concerns, who clearly shares information with you and offers suggestions, and the one who is most empathetic. Likewise, among office managers or accountants, you would want the one who is the most ethical, professional and easy to work with. Would you knowingly pick someone who is arrogant, egotistical or miserable to work with as a colleague? Or someone who has a poor work ethic or constantly interrupts or demeans others? Probably not. Yet we often dismiss soft skills as "fluff" and not needed in the workplace.

Leaders and project managers will quickly tell you that the majority of their time is spent trying to get colleagues to work more effectively together or treat each other with respect. They will note that the "people problems" in their company drain their energy. One study by American Express found that more than 60 percent of managers agreed that soft skills are the most important factor when evaluating an employee's performance.

What are the soft skills employers should be looking for? Some of the most important:

— Integrity. Ethical reputation and honesty.

— Work ethic. Being dependable and hardworking, willing to go the extra mile.

— Team player. Being collaborative and working well with others (i.e., having a pleasant personality and working for the team vs. being a bully, manipulator, backstabber or only caring for your own individual agenda).

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