As an educator, I am often asked to look at someone’s resume and that usually comes with a follow-up question:
“How can I make it look better?”
While the question is fairly basic, the answer is much more complex. I usually start my response with what areas to highlight, how to approach the education vs. work experience sections, and end with some ideas about what they could add and what should be deleted. They rarely listen. Probably, if I’m being honest, they just want me to write it for them.
Here’s the good news, though: Writing a resume is much easier now. In fact, it’s very different from years past when employers wanted to hear much more about transactional achievements and years of education. Now it is much more common to see a person’s strengths, talents, and interests listed on their resume. What changed?
The dawn of wanting an employee with a strong sense of soft skills. (Tech people, I’m looking at you.)
When I was pursuing my PhD, one of the very first topics I explored was the importance of soft skills, and why they are so important in the work place. Soft skills include talents like communicating well, having a positive attitude and a strong work ethic, exhibiting leadership qualities, and more. A person who employs soft skills has learned to utilize their personal attributes and talents to enable them to work effectively and happily with other people. Hard skills such as typing speed or computer programming ability, on the other hand, will often get more attention because they’re easier to prove because they’re easier to measure. This is especially true in the tech field, where people are constantly asked to “show what they know.”. In fact, tech gurus have often learned their trade both through traditional schooling methods and just from the sheer interest of ‘schooling themselves in the industry.’ Their peers can clearly see their technical abilities, as well as what they know and don’t know.
Conversely, soft skills take more awareness of yourself as a person.
For some who have always relied upon being known for their technical abilities, soft skills are often much harder to establish and incorporate into their daily routine because they are more “people-focused.”
This is why some leaders in the tech field may find themselves lacking a bit in this area. They were placed in leadership roles for a variety of reasons. Some have been at their jobs longer than everyone else, others have worked their way up because of their technical abilities, and for others, often there was no other position to move into to justify their larger salary. So quite literally, they fell into their leadership position, without any proper training in the actual field of leadership. This includes knowing how to incorporate soft skills into how these leaders lead, while also supporting soft skill growth for themselves and their followers.
As you continue to work to strengthen your organization, be committed to starting from the inside first.
This really isn’t their fault: It isn’t that they can’t be good at leading, it’s usually that their organization offered zero training on what it means to be a good leader, and they themselves often don’t realize they are focusing on the wrong things If you are reading this and picturing someone this describes, or maybe this is you, rest assured: Soft skills can be learned, and fairly quickly!
Here are some quick tips for what a leader can do to become better at soft skills:
- Listen and take feedback openly and without becoming defensive
- Be confident and collaborative
- Be attentive, through recognizing body language and making a commitment to openly discuss while being free from distractions
- Be courteous to your followers and what is happening in their lives
- Be a critical thinker, even attempting to think outside the box to solve issues among your team members
- Show empathy, especially if you are asking a follower to buy-in to a change you are attempting to incorporate
- Be flexible, honest, and motivated
There are so many ways a leader can successfully incorporate soft skills into their leading, while supporting the development of them in their employees as well. In future posts I’ll outline some quick takeaways you can start implementing right away, easily, in all facets of your business.
So, for leaders in our industry, as you continue to work to strengthen your organization, be committed to starting from the inside first. Practice good soft skills among your employees, and encourage a much more holistic work environment, supporting the personal attributes of all employees in conjunction with the technical abilities they possess. Your employees will thank you.
Samantha Ventura is CEDIA’s Senior Director of Education.