4 Soft Skills Millennials Need to Create Greater Career Building Opportunities
By Billy Arcement—The Candid Cajun
An August 3, 2016 article in Wall Street Journal caught my attention. Entitled Hard to Find: Workers with Good ‘Soft Skills,’ I found it especially interesting. For 36 years, as part of my training activities, I’ve been advocating to leaders the importance of having good soft skills. In my private sector management career, I found soft skills to be my best asset. Mastery of soft skills is one of the most overlooked pathways to greater career opportunities today. Here are the four skills discussed in the WSJ article followed by my own commentary on each. OK millennials. This is for you!
Soft Skill # 1: Communication: Today, we live in a society that sends text and email messages rather than calling on a telephone. Individual video games further isolate people from each other. Even politicians cannot create messages without running polls. Communication, or a lack thereof, has become the black hole of social and business environments. Such isolation diminishes empathy, manners and the ability to hold a cordial conversation. It is also contributing to the high cost of hiring and training employees. Companies that find millennials with great soft skills, are quick to bring them in. They are also the most likely to get that early promotion.
Communication starts with caring. It starts with the ability to craft a sensible group of words that are understandable. It starts with validating understanding has taken place. It starts with being able to mix and mingle with people. It starts in the home, throughout schooling and in every social setting. It starts by changing the individual isolation activities overtaking our world.
Finally, the most significant business communication skill is the art of listening. It’s often the “forgotten” part of the communication process. We spend time speaking and writing but we don’t practice listening. Good listeners build trust, relationships and create culture. It is a learned skill that helps you know what the heck is going on in the workplace. It’s a skill that can make you a winner!
Soft Skill # 2: Being a Self-starter: When you are a self-starter that means you don’t need oversight of your actions. You have enough confidence and ability to get the job done. Self-starters have a built-in desire to succeed and need little or no supervision. There is the great quantity of discipline in their character and for them, failing is not an option. They will do what it takes to get the job done with integrity, on time and in a successful manner. When initiative and motivation are present, leaders can always take another step. Quitting is not an option for these leaders. Outstanding athletes display that extra surge of energy to maintain superior performance. Such individuals use personal discipline and desire to overcome their fatigue. Their discipline takes them the extra mile with their effort and desire to make positive things happen.
Managers must define their job expectations and train employees to a proficient level. Once done, there is no need for a manager to hoover over employees to be sure they do their work. Strong workers create momentum. Strong workers fuel their ambition with self-motivation.
In my private sector management career, I looked for the next potential opportunity to grow my career. But, I also looked for ways I could enhance my effectiveness and that of the organization. It proved to be a winning formula and a sound strategy that produced rapid career growth.
Soft Skill # 3: Problem Solving skills: Without the ability to resolve problems, our career growth becomes limited. That should be a sobering thought for the millennial generation. Managers are not wanting to hire people that don’t have this skill. Such employees tend to go more often to their manager with issues they cannot solve on their own. This is not a good scenario for a young employee wishing to display independence.
The workplace is always producing problems requiring employees to solve. So, what can an individual do to grow this skill? Here are the classic problem solving steps that always have value. (1) Get a clear definition of the problem. (2) Collect all the information available about the issue. It’s the foundation of the solution. (3) ID potential barriers and/or obstacles to overcome. (4) Create a list of possible solutions. (5) Review options and pick one. (6) Measure results. (7) Confirm results that support a solution. (8) If necessary, make adjustments. Review data collected again and look for any missing information. If new data surfaces, start over. No one said this was simple!
Soft Skill # 4: Relationship skills: No person is an island. We all need others to live our best life. Even Jesus needed the Apostles to spread his vision of leadership! Now, if Jesus asked for help, why do we feel we can do it alone? Become a people-focused leader. Seek to create productive working relationships with everyone in the organization. Yes, you will encounter some difficult people. But relationship building leaders understand and practice professionalism as part of their leadership style. If a task will benefit the organization, they take a professional approach. The Pro works with everyone involved to produce a successful conclusion. Never burn a bridge. You may not cross that bridge too often but don’t take it down. You never know when you might have to cross it again. Relationships are bridges helping us get from one place to another. Keep relationships sound and retrievable and you will never find yourself on an island with no boat or bridge.
Everyone reacts well to a positive relationship. When we expect good things from people, we get good results. Leaders with a positive outlook expect workers to produce good work. They are able to get people to help them resolve challenges. With such a positive approach, the odds of failure diminish and the strength of leadership goes up.
Prepare employees for the job with sound training and positive encouragement. When done this way, outcomes can easily exceed expectations. This makes for a more profitable and successful enterprise. This makes a happier group of employees and opens the doors for accomplishing even greater challenges. Expecting good things is a good thing. And, creating positive relationships is the start to achieving positive outcomes.
Billy Arcement—The Candid Cajun, offers in-person and virtual leadership training and consulting services to his corporate, government, and education clients. Preview his website, www.SearchingForSuccess.com and Contact him at 225-572-2804