Soft Skills that employers value – Abhijit Bhaduri

If your resume is not on LinkedIn, it is harder for you to be seen in the job market. More than half a billion (562 million if you are one for precision) people have joined LinkedIn. India is LinkedIn’s fastest-growing and largest market outside the US. It is also a great place for employers to find the talent they need. Because of this LinkedIn can really get to know what kind of skills the employers are looking at and the ones they find hardest to fill.

As Algorithms start becoming more commonplace you can see the demand for people who have done courses in Machine Learning & AI Foundations: Value Estimations, Machine Learning & AI Foundations: Decision Trees, Machine Learning & AI: Advanced Decision Trees

Soft Skills are Harder to Find

The skills market changes constantly. So it is important to know what kind of skills are being paid the big bucks in the job market. Seth Godin describes these as vocational skills when he says,

“Hiring coders who can’t code, salespeople who can’t sell or architects who can’t architect is a short road to failure.”

The skill that you may spend your time and money acquiring may have no takers. The data for 500 million members that LinkedIn has was used to identify in-demand courses in 2018 that employers were finding hardest to fill. Cloud and Distributed Computing courses were in demand. With Amazon’s growing clout, it is no surprise that one of the most in-demand skill was Amazon Web Services: Storage and Data Management

There are other courses that are prized in the job market like Data Mining; SVN for Java Developers, Git Essential Training, Learning Software Version Control.

Soft Skills Take Time To Build

But every leader agrees that soft skills are harder to find. They also take much longer to acquire. In hard skills the skill of the teacher matters. They can be learned by doing online courses. Soft skills depend more heavily on the learner. It takes coaching and feedback from an expert to build.

Soft skills are used in tandem with “hard skills”. For example being able to create visual representations of data is a hard skill. Courses are offered that teach you how to do this. You could take Learning Data Visualization, Data Visualization: Best Practices, Learning Graphic Design: Presentations But the ability to have those graphs is one thing but being able to get insights (not conclusions) is a soft skill. Even more complex is the ability to tell a story with data.

Soft Skills that Matter

  1. Leading without formal authority: Being able to lead without formal authority would be an important skill. Too many people struggle in a matrix organization structure. Unless they have someone who they can reward and punish by way of increments and promotions, most people are at a loss how to manage such colleagues.
  2. Giving and receiving developmental feedback that is hard: Tough messages can inspire people to improve. Since most leaders do not know how to keep the relationship after telling a team member that their work needs improvement.
  3. Listening: Being able to listen for feelings and being able to identify nuances of emotions is what we look for in our colleagues and customers. This is an underrated soft skill. Are you listening?
  4. Building business relationships: As more and more people join the gig economy, they need to learn how to build business relationships. Even those who are employed in organizations have to learn to work with not just other functions but with ecosystems. (here’s more)

Imagine what happens when someone with great soft skills is your manager. As Seth Godin says:

Imagine a team member with all the traditional vocational skills: productive, skilled, experienced. A resume that can prove it. That’s fine, it’s the baseline. Now, add to that: Perceptive, charismatic, driven, focused, goal-setting, inspiring and motivated. A deep listener, with patience.

Soft skills will become more and more important as a lot of our “hard skills” or vocational skills get done by algorithms. The people with soft skills will be in demand – everywhere. Globally.

But first, let’s stop calling it soft skills.

(The writer is an advisor to organizations on issues of leadership. [Courtesy: ToI])