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Managing Editor, Network World Fusion

Assuring your career success, Part 2

Jul 29, 20033 mins
Data Center

* Soft skills make the difference in today’s job market

Last week, management expert Don Andersson told us we need to shift perspective to stay competitive. In today’s economy, there’s no such thing as job security, so you better start treating yourself as an entrepreneur – a freelancer – if you will. Sure, you work for the same company 40 hours per week, but you need to continue to hone your skills and learn new ones to stay employed.

In order to remain (or become) a valued resource for your employer, Andersson says mastering soft skills are key and will differentiate you from colleagues and competition.

“Soft skills are where it’s at today – the ability to listen reflectively, ask questions without raising defensives and work with others,” he says.

Technical skills are rarely the reason people fail.

“They fail because they don’t have the interpersonal or team skills they need to be successful, and organizations rarely look at that,” Andersson says. “Because you’re a star in an organization is no guarantee you’ll be able to shine in another one. Think of the hires you’ve had that didn’t work out? How many were for lack of technical skills? How many were soft skills?”

Soft skills are just one area you should be thinking about, according to Andersson. He points to the example of professional athletes, who pay for personal coaches, nutritionists and others to keep them at the top of their game because there’s always another person waiting to take their place.

You need to think the same way, but before you start improving you need to determine what you need to improve, Andersson says: “You really have to do things to discipline yourself and say, ‘What are the skills I’m really good at and what do I need to keep honing? What kind of game plan do I have for my career this year and how much have I set aside to invest in my career?’ ”

Andersson advises you first conduct a self-assessment. Ask yourself the following:

* What are my technical skills?

* What are my interpersonal skills?

* What are my teamwork skills, and which need further sharpening?

Next, ask: What gives me the competitive edge over others?

“My assumption is [people] haven’t even thought of that question and if they have they’re not sure how to respond to it,” Andersson says.

Start to begin to think of yourself as a resource, he says. “In a buyer’s market, which we have today, the buyer can afford to be very picky, and you better be prepared.”

Andersson offers a great, free resource, “How to Assure Your Career Success,” on his Web site: