A young friend was talking to me about changing her job to something more interesting and more challenging. Currently, she works as an executive assistant to a high-powered entrepreneur.
She does a little of this, a little of that. She keeps the business running smoothly, but she told me, “I just don’t really know how to do anything highly skilled.”
I couldn’t agree less with her self-assessment!
She works efficiently in a fast-paced, high-pressure environment for a temperamental boss with a large ego. (Her current boss raves about her. Their clients rave as well.) She is a clear communicator and willing to say what she thinks. She is willing to take on new challenges, and a quick study.
She is highly skilled indeed. Perhaps she can’t develop a new software or rewire your house, but she’s highly proficient in the soft skills one needs to succeed. And she’s willing to learn what she doesn’t know. She’s the type of person I’d want in my business.
Job descriptions now list various soft skills right alongside the tech skills needed -- at every level of employment, even including temp jobs. Here’s an example from Craigslist:
Long-Term Temp -- 4 months or more (Downtown)
Medium-sized downtown insurance defense/construction defect law firm, is seeking a long-term temporary paralegal with a degree and at least litigation experience (experience in construction defect defense a bonus). The perfect candidate possesses a team player attitude, is detail oriented and enjoys a challenge. The position requires strong written and oral communication skills, legal research, scheduling and maintaining client files. Document management such as Summation a plus.
I’ve highlighted the hard skills wanted for this position in bold, and the soft skills in italics.
What exactly are they talking about when they ask for strong communication skills? Well, remember, the basis of business is relationships. For most professions, you won’t need to be a brilliant orator or writer, but, you are required to express yourself well, in coherent office memos, lucid phone messages, clear and concise business presentations, etc.
And if you have an issue with your boss, your co-worker, or your client, can you communicate well enough to calmly resolve the issue and maintain the relationship?