Whatever career path you’re on, there are a number of important “hard” skills you’ll need to master. Doctors need to understand human anatomy. Plumbers need to know pipes and valves. You get the idea.
But in addition, there are many other “soft” skills that will be a great help to you in making a success of your work and your life.
Here’s a brief but far from complete rundown:
Emotional Control: We’re all emotional creatures, but our emotions are not always the central element in what we’re trying to accomplish. Pay attention to what you’re feeling, and why, and learn to tamp down your expressions of negative emotions like anger, jealousy, or hopelessness. Instead, learn to make hay with positive emotions like enthusiasm, team spirit, and joy.
Communication: The ability to communicate is essential in almost every situation. This involves both listening well to what others are thinking, saying, and feeling, as well as effectively and persuasively expressing your own thoughts, ideas, and emotions to others.
Observation and Understanding: It’s difficult to be successful in any walk of life unless you’re good at seeing and making sense of what’s going on around you. You’ll do this better when you become a student of both the details and the larger picture. It’s also important to fit what you observe into your knowledge of how the world works so as to understand what’s important in the current situation, and how you can help to make it better.
Decision-making: Yoga Berra famously said: “When you get to a fork in the road, take it.” This is important because you are certain to encounter a great many major and minor forks in whatever road you are traveling. Hesitation at any of these will definitely slow up your progress. That’s why it’s important to cultivate a strong sense of direction toward your goals, and a readiness to make decisions about the best ways to get there.
Cooperation: Since working with others is crucial to your productivity and success, cooperating well is a basic “soft” skill you can use to skyrocket your level of productivity and success. The key point is to understand the various ways in which helping others reach their goals will induce them to help you reach yours.
Patience: This has been one of my weak points. Over the years, however, I have learned that bigger and better results can more readily be obtained through sustained efforts. Instant gratification is still a thing. But learning to accept and even thrive in an environment with longer time horizons generally can pay much larger dividends.
Scheduling and organization: The more projects and activities you are involved with at one time, the less you can rely on your native ability to keep all your tasks and commitments in order. Even trying to do so absorbs a great deal of your attention and energy. That’s why developing an organized mindset that assigns a suitable time and place to everything on your agenda allows you to grow your responsibilities, authority, and career.
Flexibility: In today’s world, the most significant constant may be change. As a result, strengthening your abilities to roll with the world’s punches, adapt quickly to new constraints and opportunities, recover from unexpected setbacks, and let go of old baggage is increasingly helpful as you move forward in your work and your life.
Each of these “soft” skills could be – and possibly will be – a topic into which I’ll delve deeper in future blog posts. But once they’re on your radar screen, as they are now, you need not wait for me to tell you how to improve them.
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