Is it me or are a lot of people in the biz world talking about “soft skills?” I just saw another article about it today. Business schools are now teaching these along with the “hard skills,” like accounting, that they have traditionally taught. So what are they and why are they important?
My understanding is that soft skills are focused on the relationship side of business. Don’t be scared, I’m not going to go all touchy-feely, therapist-y on you. Though I admit, I did see the words “sensitive” and “feedback” used to describe soft skills which can conjure up an Oprah moment if you’re not careful.
A job interview which I described in this post, “Extreme Job-Hunting Part II” had a bit too much of the soft stuff. It was a marketing position, but the job was at a psychiatric hospital. Therapists were interviewing me. Let’s just say that the soft skills overshadowed any rational discussion of what the job entailed. It was quite surreal, “So tell us about your marketing background and how do you feel about that?”
Using Soft Skills in the Workplace
It does seem like there is a need to teach business students about interacting effectively with peers, subordinates and clients. You can have all the expertise about negotiating, sales, finance and business paradigms and still flounder when you hit the real business world. Most of the highly successful salespeople I know are amazing in their grasp of the soft skills.
So maybe the biz schools should borrow a page from my clinical training. I understand they are employing more group learning experiences instead of just a lecture format. A great deal of my clinical skill was learned from role-playing and getting group feedback in grad school before I ever worked with a patient.
Now, go practice some on your boss.
This post is from regular Jobacle contributor Nancy LaFever.