I found this article a few months ago and reread it often to reinforce what I already know, but what the professional world makes me doubt…that interpersonal skills are invaluable:
We’ve all engaged in job searches where the only requirements mentioned are onerous lists of learnable, tangible skills. For example, a typical list for my role, business analyst might look like this:
- Analyze, define, and document requirements for data, workflow and business processes
- Develop a strong understanding of the business unit’s function and effectively communicate technical issues and solutions in non-technical terms to the business unit
- Design content management deliverables required to support the re-engineered business processes.
- Provide functional and technical support/expertise during development, implementation, testing of complex projects
- Produce detailed functional requirements and/or user stories, including non-functional requirements
- Review and clarify user stories and user acceptance criteria with the stakeholders, and works with development lead/technical architect to layout technical design
While (possibly) essential to the job, organizations behave as though these vocational skills are all that matters. In fact, the intangible, difficult (if not impossible) to measure “soft skills” prove to be much more important in terms of success.
Unfortunately, focusing on easily definable and measurable skills fails to take into account qualities, mindsets and character traits. Soft skills like adaptability, interest in collaboration, authenticity and consistent behavior, quick-wittedness, self-awareness, ethics even when not under scrutiny, influence, innovative problem-solving techniques, diplomacy in difficult situations and critical thinking are even more important than vocational skills when realizing success both at work and outside of work.
Evolving your soft skills will not only amplify the vocational skills you already possess but will also elevate you to a rare group of people whose internal principles are consistent with their external lives and who are thus able to leverage the power of their true selves to the benefit of everyone.
While you’re developing these soft skills, you’ll probably feel like you’ve chosen the more difficult path forward. I know I often feel that way…but I’m going to keep walking that path in hopes of getting there!