Monday, June 8, 2015

Build the Soft Skills

I have tended to assume that most of the people reading this blog are older, established in a career and trying to improve. However there are probably younger readers. There are also probably the stereotype "geek" readers.

I was reminded of that when I read this post from Mike Rowe. It's worth the read, but the part that caught my eye was this quote:

...the biggest under reported challenge in finding good help, (aside from the inability to “piss clean,”) is an overwhelming lack of “soft skills.” That’s a polite way of saying that many applicants don’t tuck their shirts in, or pull their pants up, or look you in the eye, or say things like “please” and “thank you.”

I don't want to debate the rest of the post, or the drug reference above, but I certainly do believe that there are issues with the soft skills that many employers see in candidates. The inability to meet someone's eye, display some confidence, explain yourself clearly, or dress appropriately are signs that you don't treat the opportunity seriously.

I haven't seen a lot of this in my technology travels, but I have seen some. I have interviewed people that looked down or stared to the side most of the time I talked to them. I've met people that dressed poorly for an interview.

Take this seriously. My middle child was looking for his first job recently and when he was called for an interview, I stressed that he needed to be confident, dress well, look people in the eye, and speak clearly. He remembered and texted me before his interview as I was out of town. I reminded him to wear a plain, clean shirt, be sure he showered and projected some confidence.

He got the job. Probably on his own merits, but the thing to keep in mind is that the soft skills are more likely to remove you from consideration than anything else. If someone calls you, they want to hire you. They like your resume. They think you're qualified.

Don't give them reasons to exclude you.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Building Leadership Skills

You don't have to be a manager or an executive to showcase and use leadership skills. In fact, you don't have to be in charge of anything. Leadership is about influence, and that's a valuable skill for any employee.

How can you show leadership? Create some respect wherever you are. I ran across a short piece from Jim Whitehurst, CEO of Red Hat Software. It has some good pointers that you could use no matter what your position is in a company.

Show passion - That's an easy one, and it's infectious. Plus it makes the job more enjoyable. If you don't have passion, perhaps you're in the wrong position.
Demonstrate confidence - Showcase what you know and be decisive. However don't be reckless, and admit when you're wrong.
Engage - Easy to do. You can't lead if you don't ever engage.

As you do these things, pay attention to the places you influence people. Can you get people to work your way, come around to your way of thinking, adopt the habits/skills/etc. you show? You might be surprised how well this works if you're watching.

Collect these stories. Talk about them in interviews and reviews. They might be the difference between you and the next person.