Keywords: Jobs, Soft Skills, Communication, Critical Thinking, Punctuality, Teamwork, Emotional Intelligence, Leadership, Observation, Computer Savvy - Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Internet, Email, Other Software, Organization, Creativity, Persuasion - Sales, Mentoring
The most important skills are those that are not easily replaceable. These are hard to find. Easy to miss. But their absence makes them all the more important. At the workplace. And in life.
Most employers worth their salt look for these in prospective jobseekers. At entry level. At middle management. And most importantly at CXO levels.
Oh, who needs them? Everyone. Especially when there are critical tasks. Tensions. Deadlines. And irate customers. Irritable clients. Not-so-easy-to-please officer. Or boss! It can be a frustrated employee. Or co-worker. Someone unwilling to learn. To retrain. Or simply refusing to follow the company policy.
Without much ado, let’s dive straight into them.
What does one see when you first enter a room? Your persona. How you dress. Your hairstyle. Your shoes. The fragrance you wear. How you carry the files or the bag or the laptop. Good style never goes out of fashion. It’s what you appear outside, will leave the first impression. It can be lasting too! So better make it deep. And superb.
Good personality does not depend on the perfect body shape. Better be fit for your own sake. The skin-tone is immaterial as well. You can always have a charming personality. A pleasant demeanor. And a sunshine smile.
Dress according to your body shape. But not too loose or too tight. Even a small wardrobe can be handsome. Dress for the occasion. Or setting. For girls - loud lipstick or big danglers are big no for the office. For boys - T-Shirts only on casual days, without the slippers! Please!
Axe body-spray is for clubs. So are deep backs and low waists. Don’t wear a wind chime as an accessory. No one’s interested in your clinging belts. They are a distraction. Too high heels reduce mobility. And cause real back pain. And please, have that mint after smoking!
It is said that light travels faster than sound. That’s why some people seem pleasant until they open their mouths! Jokes apart, a good communicator can do wonders - with a team, with clients, customers, and even higher-ups. Remember the ‘Woh 70 Minute’ speech by SRK in Chak De India! He was fantabulous.
Or our Prime Minister Mr. Narendra Modi. An orator par excellence! He has led his party to two straight majorities in general elections after all. And many major state elections.
Communication needs active listening. Considering. Taking interest. Responding. And taking action. A commitment without follow-up action will make you the boy who cried wolf!
Communication can take many forms - verbal / non-verbal; oral / written; via tone, gestures & body language; using colors, pictures and figures, etc. In one-on-one conversations, tone, gestures and body language play the most important part. They tell the listener “How do you feel”! And emotions matter in decision-making. An honest conversation can seal the deal.
3. Critical Thinking
Connecting the dots. Assimilating knowledge. Doing research. Keen observations. Rational and pragmatic approach. These are the most in-demand skills in any field aside from good communication.
If you can’t think, you’ll parrot. And every parrot is caged someday. Reason. Ask questions. Seek patterns. Draw conclusions. Present your findings. Be open to counter-facts. You are not a stone.
“When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do, Sir?”
~ John Maynard Keynes, Economist
Don’t stop at finding first-order causes and effects. Go and find the secondorder causes and effects. Repeat the process to get to the root cause. To predict the ultimate effects. Identify errors, anomalies, biases and deviations. Link learning from different disciplines. Many of the world’s most successful stock-traders have been physicists?
What do most clients want? Or bosses? Or for that matter anyone? Even you? To be treated with respect. To be not taken for granted. To be given a little more courtesy. The best way to show respect is to show up! In time. Always.
Whether at office. For a meeting. With a deadline. For a site visit. If you show up it means you take your work seriously. Give it respect. And thereby you respect your clients, co-workers, and superiors.
You are not hiding. You are responsible. Dependable and reliable. Being on time says you are confident, prepared, organized and thorough. Punctual is synonymous with meticulous and painstaking! Literally!
There may be times when you are genuinely going to be late. You are not God or something! Then inform. Timely. So that the person at the other end knows you mean well. Can draw alternate plans. And be ready to receive you with an open heart and mind again.
Nothing, about teamwork, can be said more than what one the greatest industrialists of all times, Mr. Ford had said. You all have heard that story. Where a farmer gives stick to his young kids to break them. And they all do it. Then he makes a bundle of those very sticks and none could. United we stand divided we fall, the Aesop’s tale told us. So did jataka tales and every other folklore.
Every endeavour since time immemorial from discovery of controlled fire, invention of wheel, agriculture, the light bulb, steam engine, to modern computers is an example of teamwork’s success. Even the biggest celebrities, sports stars, and business icons owe their success to everyone in their lives and teams.
6. Emotional Intelligence
Emotions play havoc with our plans. Remember that outburst with a friend. Or at a teacher. With parents. When we don’t handle the situation with self-restraint, we lose friends. That comes with self-awareness. When you understand more about yourself, your own moods and their effect on others.
Self-regulation helps you too control, manage and redirect negative energies to your own benefit. Empathy will bring you closer to others. And make them really understand your point-of-view.
Emotions can make us do great things too. Motivation. Love. Brotherhood. They really make the world go round. Great social skills allow you to navigate complex webs of anonymity and make you a star. Your networking and relationships need investment from you - of your time, concern and dependability.
When you don’t panic in adversity, you generate confidence in your team. When you are calm in the midst of a disaster, you can give support. When you don’t lose your temper, you ensure respect.
Imagination - let it go wild. Be Creative. Be curious. Ask questions. Seek answers. No matter how ridiculous they may sound at first. As Albert Einstein has famously said, “Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world.”
Every single breakthrough is imagined once. Every single discovery was a fantasy once. The dreamers shape the world. Today’s Don Quixote will write the story for tomorrow. Before it becomes a reality on ground, it is in the imaginations of an artist.
Once you start being creative, take a fanciful flight. Our beloved Missile Man, ex-President, Late Sh. A. P. J. Abdul Kalam has told
“Dream is not that which you see while sleeping, it is something that does not let you sleep.”
So, dream on. And work hard to realize them. Dreams will tell you where to go. Work will take you there. And anyone can dream! To be the next Bill Gates. Or Warren Buffet. Or Virat Kohli. Or Dutichand. Or J K Rowling. Or Zakir Khan. You just need to find your calling.
8. Power of Persuasion
Recall how your little sister could get anything she wanted. The priciest of dresses! That stupid doll. Even a vacation trip to Ooty! You, on the other hand, had to fight for everything with your own parents! You never had it your way! You were given, instead, sermons, lectures, budget lessons. She was also the favorite of her teachers at school!
She was selling her ideas. She was persuasive. She knew which buttons to press and when. On whom and how much. Persuasion means the ability to sell your idea as the best one. The path of least resistance. Win-win for all.
Persuasive people tend to me more influential. They close deals. Sell more. Earn fat cheques. Have more friends. Better connected.
Never disagree outright. It hardens people. Give a soft blow. Choose your target audience correctly. Find the alpha in the group and convert her/him. Get the best balance of information sharing/hiding ratio. Informational manipulation - limiting the quantity, compromising it quality, stating irrelevant info, presentation - can help. But it has consequences.
Prime up your subject. Circle the main idea, until it is more receptive. Always return favour. No one forgets and forgives someone who doesn’t. Create scarcity. FOMO - fear of missing out - makes people do stupid things.
Start from a position of weakness. Let the other person lose their defenses. Underdogs are mostly favoured. Being attractive is always helpful. Sell a dream, not the product. People love to dream.
It’s not coaching. Neither is it training. It certainly isn’t tutoring. It is much less than them and much more than them. A mentor shares her knowledge, skills, and experiences with the mentee. There is no judgement, no bar to jump, no grade to achieve. Unconditional sharing and guidance.
It arises from the urge to give back. What we have received aplenty. Mentor focuses on the future. The path may not be clear, as they don’t give one. They tell how they reached a place on the map. The excitement of journey, pitfalls, roadblocks and moments of exhilaration.
They don’t preach. Never demand. Never pass comments. When you are stuck,they tell you where to look - but you’ll have to look yourself. They open windows, when doors close.
Seek mentors who are ahead of you. And become one for those taking the road after you. Mentoring will force you to be honest. Have compassion. And a broader worldview. And reignite your own fire everyday. Afterall, like laughter, imagination is also highly contagious.
10. Tech Savvy
You don’t need to be a wizard. There’s one for your every need! Your Mac, PC, Laptop, iPhone, Android device all have virtual assistants to make your life simpler. To make your work-life simpler you need to be one yourself.
Knowing computers is as important as having nice and clean clothes. Preliminary knowledge of Office tools - Word, Excel, PowerPoint, using Email and Internet is a must. Most companies will train you in their own internal systems.
Additional skills in these tools will make you stand out when you’ll be the only one to solve a problem. Or write a report. Or make and give a presentation. All very professional. So, join an online course on Coursera or Edx. or hit a YouTube channel. Ans start practice now!