Archives for soft skills

What’s Easier – Hire For or Train On Soft Skills

Technology can be intimidating, but it isn’t going anywhere. Before technology was a mainstay in corporate America, loyalty, knowing your job really well, and working hard were top values. Now working smart is how people get more done in less time. Loyalty isn’t something expected or given; companies spend billions of dollars in hopes of engaging and retaining their talent. And just when you get to know your job, new technology implementations and process improvements are sure to come along and change how your job gets done.

Change is a constant, and the qualities employers value most is reflective of the accelerating pace of change. Making the top qualities list are things like emotional intelligence, accountability, adaptability, resilience, and entrepreneurial skills, but what does all that mean and how do employers identify and evaluate talent for these?

It’s no secret that no one’s figured out how to do a perfect job of finding, recruiting, hiring and onboarding talent. It’s one of the many broken systems we keep looking for technology to fix. In fact, HR tech is already an $8B market. Much like every other space, it’s struggling to keep pace with evolving workforce demands and technology.

No algorithm has yet been developed to help companies pluck emotionally intelligent, resilient, entrepreneurial, adaptable talent from databases filled with résumés that barely have the right keywords let alone the right evidence of such qualities.

So, companies, for the most part, are stuck pre-screening for years of experience, minimum education requirements, and hard skills that may or may not be success indicators and probably will evolve and change over the next few years anyway. Then they evaluate a smaller pool of candidates for such qualities in the interview process, probably leaving some really great candidates completely out of the process.

Why are soft skills more valued than skills these days (according to 57% of leaders on LinkedIn)?

Emotional intelligence is a frequent topic of Epic Careering blogs. That’s because a more emotionally intelligent workforce means fewer brand-breaking headlines, less emotional toxicity in the workplace, and limited money and time spent on employee relation mitigation. It also means more client-focused solutions that are marketed and sold better, increased collaboration for faster innovation, and a better ability to foresee how decisions will impact people, planet, and profits in the long-term.

Resilience hasn’t made many of the lists I see published, but it is something that I have had many leaders articulate to me as a highly valued skill, especially in a high growth and/or start-up environment. Defined as meaning an ability to recover quickly from difficulties. Sometimes companies lose key clients, have to downsize, get acquired, and have new leadership take over. Resilience doesn’t mean having no emotional response to such change; it means quickly getting over the emotional reaction and restoring the mindset for performance and problem-solving.

Change management is a growing field, which reflects that there is a greater awareness that change can have adverse impacts on performance, morale, and even health. It reflects a recognition that human beings, by nature, are resistant to change. However, some people, the more adaptable ones, find change easier, even exciting. A more adaptable workforce means less time and money spent on mitigating the impact of change on an organization. Having influential change enthusiasts at various levels in the organization will make it easier for the organization as a whole to move forward. Regardless of the chaos that change can create, adaptable people will find opportunity.

Accountability is huge! I have seen interview coaches goad job seekers into believing that recruiters ask certain questions as traps to get candidates to disqualify themselves by asking about negative experiences and bad choices. Mistakenly, these candidates will try to avoid telling any negative story and evade the truth. This is an awful interview performance tactic. Not only does it shift a person’s non-verbal communication from confident to defensive, it also shifts the interviewee-interviewer relationship from potentially collegial to adversarial and precludes this candidate from demonstrating accountability – taking responsibility for mistakes, and even more importantly, learning and growing from them. Failure is necessary to innovate. Cy Wakeman has also accurately asserted that if employers try to be accountable for each employee’s happiness and engagement, you get an entitled workforce and no improvements in engagement. Not only will a company waste less time on emotional toxicity if everyone took accountability for their own mistakes as well as their own happiness, but it will also nurture a more self-managed culture. I know many great leaders who feel their efforts to enhance working conditions and engagement have been taken for granted and fear that their teams, especially younger team members with little “real world” experience, think that perks, good benefits, continued training, and flexibility are standard and the minute unfavorable conditions exist it’s time to find greener pastures. What the leaders know is that good leaders are definitely NOT a dime a dozen, but if they let their team members find out for themselves, right behind them will be more entitled workers, because accountability for one’s own happiness is so rare.

Speaking of self-managed, entrepreneurialism is a quality that many companies are still feeling out. Consensus among those not yet in management is that management could use improving. Across the board, managers can do better at managing. However, there is an implication that if you are entrepreneurial minded, you won’t need oversight or supervision. This can be mistaken for not needing mentorship and leadership or even communication. I believe when companies say they are looking for someone entrepreneurial they might mean they want someone who will deliver promptly without prompts, someone who will be resourceful in solving problems, and someone who can keep track of multiple functions or balls in the air.  An entrepreneurial person is someone who will offer no excuses. They’ll make it work, like Tim Gunn. Workarounds aren’t ideal for sustainable innovation, but they are often critical for helping emerging industries and technologies survive while new designs are tested. All companies have to be wary of making the temporary workaround the permanent procedure, as it leaves room for disruption and obsolescence.

Almost every leader will tell you that talent is one of their biggest challenges – finding, training, keeping and engaging it. On one side, there are leaders who will tell you that they can train on skill and would rather hire someone with the soft skills to succeed, while others have not figured out how to find talent if not for qualifying on hard skills and then further qualifying for soft skills.

Either way, the challenge will remain, talent pools will remain small, even in times of high unemployment, as long as people without the right combination of strong soft skills are excluded from consideration. For instance, Sally is a charming, persuasive storyteller, but she is unreliable.  She rarely shows up to meetings with clients on time and is often late in delivering what is promised. She is as much a liability as an asset. Can she be trained to be on time and better at time management? Yes! She and the company would be exponentially more successful if she were trained/coached.

Frustrated job seekers everywhere are scratching their heads… How could it be that so many companies struggle to find the right talent, but when you are talent, you get passed over and dismissed so frequently and seemingly trivially?

There are a lot of things that could be done better to connect talent with the companies who need it (much of which Epic Careering is taking on, as it’s our mission to bridge this gap.) Candidates can take it upon themselves to develop better soft skills, but it’s not as cut and dry as to where and how one should go about doing that. Would enough talented corporate rising stars do this to widen the talent pool? It could happen, but it would take quite the campaign. You can help by sharing our blogs related to soft skills, like this, or inviting us to speak.

The other thing that companies can do is to make soft skills development as much a part of their training and development budget as upgrading technical skills. Employees at every level would benefit from soft skills development, and the company would see a vast improvement in multiple metrics categories, though some short-term fall off of uncoachable employees would be expected.

Wouldn’t it be great if in the next 5 years employers could qualify potential talent based on whether or not they successfully completed and applied soft skills training? Then the pool can be further qualified by hard skills. Or, to keep the candidate pool wide when necessary, companies can hire for soft skills and train on hard skills. A workforce trained in soft skills by ways of certain mindfulness trainings also enhance the learning state and help develop neural pathways that make learning, retention and recall even better. This workforce will be even more willing and able to learn and apply new breakthroughs and technologies as they become available.

Until then, the workaround is to offer soft skills training to your workforce related to these primary qualities in conjunction with hard skills training.

If you are interested in evaluating this kind of soft skills training, book a consultation with us today.

We’d love to know how your company has worked around the soft skills shortage.

Jerry Whitman – Too Bad You’re Crazy

The Ending Song From April Fools’ Day (1986).

Karen Huller, author of Laser-sharp Career Focus: Pinpoint your Purpose and Passion in 30 Days (bit.ly/GetFocusIn30), is founder of Epic Careering, a corporate consulting and career management firm specializing in executive branding and conscious culture, as well as JoMo Rising, LLC, a workflow gamification company that turns work into productive play. 

While the bulk of her 20 years of professional experience has been within the recruiting and employment industry, her publications, presentations, and coaching also draw from experience in personal development, performance, broadcasting, marketing, and sales. 

Karen was one of the first LinkedIn trainers and is known widely for her ability to identify and develop new trends in hiring and careering. She is a Certified Professional Résumé Writer, Certified Career Transition Consultant, and Certified Clinical Hypnotherapist with a Bachelor of Art in Communication Studies and Theater from Ursinus College and a minor in Creative Writing. Her blog was recognized as a top 100 career blog worldwide by Feedspot. 

She is an Adjunct Professor in Cabrini University’s Communications Department and previously was an Adjunct Professor of Career Management and Professional Development at Drexel University’s LeBow College of Business  She is also an Instructor for the Young Entrepreneurs Academy where her students won the 2018 national competition and were named America’s Next Top Young Entrepreneurs.

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.