Archives for soft skills

The Most Prominent Employment Issues of 2018

What's Next?

What’s Next?

I attended a task force meeting Friday and there was a lot of inspiration for future blog posts on topics that have and will directly impact both those looking for jobs as well as companies needing talent.

Parties in attendance represented employment news, concerns, and trends from the perspectives of the (Chester) county economic development council, the state (PA) unemployment office, non-profit community outreach, employers, human resources, recruiters, and career and leadership coaching.

Here are a list of the topics discussed that I plan on covering in the coming weeks:

  1. Experiential Recruiting: Evaluating Candidates on a New Level for Better Hires
  2. Emotional Intelligence Training: Solving the Soft Skills Shortage
  3. Don’t Layoff Talent with Obsolete Skills; Train them on the State’s Dime
  4. What Requirements for Years of Experience Really Mean
  5. What Really Increases Employee Engagement; It’s Not Benefits
  6. How Outreach Efforts to Economically Depressed Areas Can Be Augmented
  7. Average Housing Costs Exceed Average Income – Can Employers Solve This Crisis?
  8. The Online Application Process Sucks For Everyone

I would love your input on which of these topics interest you most. Please comment with the number(s) you most want to read about sooner rather than later and follow me if you have not yet already so that you know when it posts.

Also, I know that LinkedIn doesn’t make it easy to search through someone’s previous posts; there’s no effective search feature, and the shelf life of a post is very short, unless engagement somehow spikes after the fact. So, know that you can also subscribe to my blog where you can search by keyword and month and easily see the most previous topics: www.epiccareering.com/blog.

Also, these blogs are shared on Facebook at www.facebook.com/UnveilYourBrilliance. If you prefer using that, like the page so you can be alerted to new posts and videos.

If you are seeking a speaker on any of these or related topics, contact me.

Zoom Beatles – 11 – Do You Want To Know a Secret

Edição comemorativa dos 50 anos do lançamento do primeiro disco dos Beatles – Please Please Me – Faixa nº 11.

5 Ways to Develop Soft Skills Employers Love

Climbing to Success with Life Skills by Bunches and Bits of Flickr

Climbing to Success with Life Skills by Bunches and Bits of Flickr

Have you ever felt like soft skills such as communicating effectively, better managing your time, or building relationships was something you are gifted with, and can not be taught? The belief that soft skills can not be taught is a common misconception and Geek Manager Blogger Meri Williams refers to this belief as the “Soft Skills Fairy.” Many people feel some are blessed with soft skills, while others must languish in their inability to grasp them. The truth is that anyone can learn soft skills, much like learning to program code, cook, or fix a car. These skills can be obtained in a variety of ways including reading books, personal development courses, and life coaching. In “9 Soft Skills Every Employee Needs, Regardless of Technical Skill,” I discussed the skills employers want and how knowledge of these skills are not enough. Honing these skills are vital to your employability and professional growth.

 

  1. Setting Goals

Carli Lloyd, a professional soccer star, did not start out as a winner. She was physically unfit, was not mentally strong enough, and her character needed work. She doubled down and improved herself. Lloyd is now considered one of the most physically and mentally fit athletes in professional soccer, and she is lauded for her character. Carli Lloyd’s coach pointed out to her when she was aspiring to join the national soccer team that athletes at this level work hard to obtain results. They live, breathe, and sleep their big goal. They train mentally and physically from the time they wake up until the time they sleep. It takes extreme discipline, and learning which soft skills to develop also requires discipline. Soft skill development requires awareness at a conscious level, and then to become unconsciously competent requires extreme regimen and consistent awareness, for which external guidance can be pivotal. Becoming unconsciously competent takes place in stages.

Many people have blind spots when it comes to their own soft skills. A skills assessment quiz is one of the best ways to pinpoint where your skills are lacking. Setting goals allows you to track your development. One of your goals can be to identify all of the soft skills gaps that stand to threaten your professional success by either taking a quiz or working with a coach.

 

  1. Self-assessment

After completing the quiz and setting goals, take a moment to sit down and decide which skills you need to develop. Prioritize the skills you will develop first, and create a list reasons why you want to improve these soft skills. The list of reasons can range from “I am having trouble connecting to my co-workers,” to “I want to become a better leader.” Whatever your reasons are, they are personal and unique to you. After you have created your list, share it with a coach, mentor, or friend to help keep you accountable. An accountability partner can keep you on track and serve as support.

All of the planning in the universe is useless without a solid plan of action. Once you know where you need to improve, and you have a method of accountability, it is time to put the task of learning soft skills into motion.

 

  1. Work with a coach

The use of a life coach can be another method to identify the blind spots in your soft skills development. People often need someone else to angle the mirror correctly to see what they cannot see in themselves to improve various aspects of their lives. A coach can provide this mirror, a path to move forward, and the ability to push you harder on that path. The development of soft skills is similar to learning physical skills. Unless you exercise those skills, they will not grow. You can also think of a good coach as a captain helping you to navigate the waters of personal and professional development. You could complete these tasks on your own, but arriving at your destination will take much longer.

 

  1. Reading materials

Reading books on how to improve your soft skills can be a great source of encouragement and insight. Additionally, reading can provide a useful road map on your journey to develop your soft skills. Here are ten great books to help you start the journey:

 

  1. Dr. Travis Bradberry- Emotional Intelligence 2.0
  2. Stephen Covey- The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change
  3. Dale Carnegie- How to Win Friends and Influence People
  4. Dale Carnegie – How to Stop Worrying and Start Living
  5. Andrea Gardner – Change Your Words, Change Your World
  6. Dan Millman – Peaceful Warrior
  7. Daniel Kahneman – Thinking, Fast and Slow
  8. Allyson Lewis – The Seven Minute Difference
  9. Carol S. Dweck – Mindset: The New Psychology of Success
  10. Susan Cain- Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking

 

  1. Practice, practice, practice

Once you have begun to develop your soft skills, it is time to put them into practice. You would not expect an athlete to go into their first game without practicing, nor would you expect a programmer to release code without extensive testing. In the same manner, you can practice your soft skills. You can join associations or hobby-related clubs. If you really want to put your newly acquired skills to the test, attend a soft skills training workshop. Take and graciously accept feedback, as it will help you keep track of your development progress and help you target areas of weakness. Practicing your soft skills will allow you to sharpen them outside of the workplace. As you continue to put your soft skills to use, recalling them will become easier and will feel more natural.

 

We often think soft skills can not be improved, or are notoriously difficult to develop. In truth, like any area of your professional and personal life worth developing, the development of soft skills is not an easy path. The good news is that anyone can learn and improve these skills if they are willing. As I said in my previous article, technical skills are what employers notice, but soft skills are what help you land and keep you employed. Taking the time to commit to learning soft skills can improve your employment situation by making it easier to land, to constantly grow, and to take your career to new heights.

 

 

9 Soft Skills Every Employee Needs, Regardless of Technical Skill

Business Team by Penn State on Flickr

Business Team by Penn State on Flickr

A brilliant scientist was hired at a pharmaceutical company and was let go six months after landing. He was challenging throughout the qualification process, and I thoroughly coached him during the interview process. He ultimately lost the position because no one could work with him. His brilliance could not be properly leveraged to create value for the organization. Because of his failure to succeed, I was unable to place him anywhere else. Unfortunately, there are a lot of brilliant technically skilled people whose potential for creating value in this world is inhibited by their lack of ability to integrate and collaborate with others.

Soft skills such as time management, relationship building, and communication allow employees to effectively leverage their technical skills and knowledge. These skills are the unsung heroes of the working world and can make or break a job search. A lack of soft skills can cause an otherwise talented employee to lose a job. A good grasp of soft skills separates an above-average employee who constantly brings value to their company from an average employee who only performs their day-to-day tasks. There are numerous soft skills, but I’ve narrowed down the list to nine of the most important skills employers demand:

 

1. Time Management

Effectively managing time allows you to take other people’s busy schedules into consideration.

Demonstrating it in the interview: Give answers that stay within a reasonable limit of time for the details asked.

Demonstrating in your past experience: Promote your ability to deliver assignments or projects on time, even in challenging circumstances.

 

2. Communication

Communicating effectively allows you to connect interpersonally with others via written and verbal means.

Demonstrating it in the interview: Plan and practice what you will say before the interview. Speak clearly and concisely, and listen to your interviewer.

Demonstrating it in your past experience: Provide examples of written material you created, such as a memo.

 

3. Relationship Building

Good relationships are built on trust, positivity, and communication.

Demonstrating it in the interview: Listen and be respectful of your interviewer, and ask questions in order to build rapport.

Demonstrating it in your past experience: Talk positively about your previous employers and provide examples of teamwork.

 

4. Attitude

Your attitude consists of a positive frame of mind that exudes hopeful optimism, and is focused on creating solutions.

Demonstrating it in the interview: You are positive and upbeat throughout the interview.

Demonstrating it in your past experience: Discuss how your positive attitude raised morale, allowed you to easily participate in teamwork, and helped provide solutions.

 

5. Confidence

Confidence is the belief in your own skills and the ability to take on new tasks.

Demonstrating it in the interview: Give your interviewer a firm handshake, make eye contact, and maintain good posture.

Demonstrating it in your past experience: Promote your achievements, especially the successful completion of tasks that were new or difficult.

 

6. Leadership

A good leader is constantly motivated to improve and acts decisively, even if you are not managing others.

Demonstrating it in the interview: Provide examples of how you faced a challenge and acted decisively to create a resolution.

Demonstrating it in your past experience: Quantitatively speak about your accomplishments. How much money did you save the company with your actions?

 

7. Flexibility

Being flexible allows you to adapt to a variety of circumstances and people, and work through unexpected events.

Demonstrating it in the interview: Give your interviewer examples on how you quickly adapted to changing circumstances in the workplace.

Demonstrating it in your past experience: Discuss how you used your flexibility to step out of your comfort zone and to take on new tasks.

 

8. Creativity

A creative employee offers suggestions or ideas on how to improve workflow, or increase work value.

Demonstrating it in the interview: Explain how you solved a productivity problem and how your solution benefited the company.

Demonstrating it in your past experience: Promote the value you added to a company by introducing a more efficient work method.

 

9. Problem-solving

Effective problem-solving takes into account how you encountered a problem, and how you persisted until the solution was found.

Demonstrating it in the interview: Walk an interviewer through your problem solving processes.

Demonstrating it in your past experience: Discuss how you solved a particularly difficult problem and how it positively impacted your employer.

 

Why soft skills matter

Employers use hard skills as criteria to ensure a candidate meets a job’s technical requirements. The interview determines a candidate’s soft skills. I spoke to Guy Fardone about how Evolve IP, a cloud services company, primarily hires candidates based on their emotional intelligence and aptitude. Questions the employer asks are “Do they look me in the eyes, and are they able to listen and then respond appropriately?” “Can they build rapport?” People who come in the door already having a baseline understanding of how to build relationships with people are going to be that much more successful in their career.

 

Many employers rate the importance of soft skills just as highly as technical skills. Your technical skills may open the door to interviews, but your ability to manage time, problem-solve, build relationships, and your creativity are what enable you to land and keep the job. Emphasize how your use of soft skills has to led success in the workplace, and how they can help you bring value to a potential employer. Successfully leveraging your soft skills and your technical skills can set you apart from other job seekers, and enable you to land faster.

Use Keywords With Care or Beware

Accessibility Cloud by Itjil on Flickr

Accessibility Cloud by Itjil on Flickr

Annemarie Walter, President of My Career Transitions, a local job search support group and valued LinkedIn connection, sent to me a LinkedIn post regarding 42 IT keywords to share with TPNG, the Technical Professional Networking Group, which I co-chair.

 

Before I passed it along, however, there were three important disclaimers about the author’s advice that I wanted to make sure were passed along with it based on my experience as an IT recruiter and my specialized experience in IT résumés and career management. I want to cover them all in detail, but want each to be equally important, so this is part 1 of 3 regarding this post. I thank the author, Greg Lachs, for his list, as I find it to be a very good resource for IT professionals who have been struggling trying to find suitable job opportunities by searching for a title online.

 

Part 1 – I want to make sure that no job seeker takes these keywords and “dumps” them into a résumé or LinkedIn profile in hopes of being found and qualified.

 

Part 2 – How to refer to yourself in your LinkedIn headline and your résumé headline when your title has many variations.

 

Part 3 – Keyword searching for opportunities should occupy less than 10% of the time allocated to your job search. So, what are you doing with 90% of your time?

 

(Follow me now so you know when Parts 2 and 3 come out – share this with an IT job seeker you know.)

 

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It is true that the keywords in this list are probably the same keywords that recruiters are using to identify and search for talent. However, since job boards became popular resources around the turn of the millennium, many tactics have been employed by job seekers to rise to the top of search results, including dumping keywords. Eventually, these tactics backfire.

 

For clarity, dumping means including long list of arbitrary skill sets with out putting them in the context of your actual experience and achievements. When I was an IT recruiter, there were even some sly job seekers who would include lists of keywords in white text so that they were not visible on the copy, but would be stored in a database. Upon searching the actual document for the keywords, however, if the only place I found a keyword was in a list, I considered that candidate under-qualified and moved on, and if it was hidden in this manner, I also deemed them sneaky and blacklisted them – YES, recruiters blacklist candidates. More on that in another post.

 

I could easily distinguish a professionally prepared résumé from an amateur resume. However, what frustrated me about many of the professionally written résumés was the focus on functional details or vague achievements that did not explain the scope of a project or job and lacked context around technical skills.

 

In order to present a candidate competitively against other candidates, I had to be able to substantiate the depth of the candidate’s experience with the technical requirements of the job. There were several ways to do this, including a table or skill summary, but the best way to do this was to include within the professional experience demonstrative details of how that candidate applied technologies to complete a project or perform their job. I often had to procure these details through a phone screen and then coax the client into including them within their résumé. This was challenging for most of them, so if they were presentable enough, I would take it on myself. I happened to enjoy it and was very good at it, hence was born my career as an IT résumé writer.

 

Here is my “secret recipe” for gathering all of the anecdotal evidence necessary to fully substantiate the value of technical skills, as well as soft skills.

 

> Situation – the conditions that existed that necessitated a change or some kind of action

> Challenge(s) – what made this an impressive feat

> People impacted and the impact – who was experiencing the conditions AND who was engaged to address it

> Decision made – and who made it

> Actions taken – and by whom (“we” is not specific enough.)

> Skills, talents applied – “hard” and “soft” skills

> Tools used – technical tools, as well as approaches and methodologies

> Results – what outcomes did the actions produce in as many measurable terms as possible. Think about the PROOF that the action was taken or that it was successful

> Impact – how that trickled down to other people

 

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How to put these details into succinct two-line bullets, well, that’s the REAL challenge. I find that techniques I’ve learned through nearly a decade of experience are much harder to teach, even to those with innate writing talents and highly developed writing skills. If you have an interest in learning, I’d be happy to evaluate adding you to my team, though most people writing this post would probably prefer letting someone else do it, because in the time it would take you to master it, you could have been earning a great salary doing what you are really good at.

 

Here is a hint, though: Start with an action verb conjugated in 1st person and refer first to the the result or impact in measurable terms

 

Stay tuned for Part 2: How to refer to yourself in your LinkedIn headline and your resume headline when your title has many variations.