We, here at Consulting Network, often get emails asking us whether it is advisable to pursue course XX or attend program YY to break into consulting. Though response to that question is dependent on various other data points such as brand value of school, focus of the program, networking opportunities, career opportunities etc, what’s surprising is that we rarely get any queries on how to improve “Soft Skills”.
Most of us are too busy chasing “Hard Skills” – Skills that can get you an interview that we don’t focus on rather important aspect of recruitment – “Soft Skills” – Skills that help you get and then keep the job. Soft skills are so important that if you become a sound practitioner, they can significantly enhance your career growth.
Recently, I came across an article that mentioned “60 soft skills” as defined by “The Workforce Profile”. According to the study, these skills were defined as “personal traits and skills that employers state are the most important when selecting employees for jobs of any type.”
Personally, I don’t quite agree with the entire list. In fact as Lei Han, a popular career coach and a Wharton MBA, pointed out, some of the items on the list were quite baffling. However, the list serves as a useful starting point for further analysis. I’ve listed these skills below and I’ve tried to offer some insight on each of these skills.
1. Math. – Ok, is Math really a soft skill? Not in my opinion at least. I think I’d classify math as a “Hard Skill” and definitely an important skill. Essentially all businesses boil down to math, consulting is no different. While being a math whiz is in no way a pre-requisite to a consulting job, a consulting job does require a thinking individual who is comfortable with numbers and can analyze simple data points and reach a conclusion. 2. Safety – Safety? I have no idea what the employers who participated in the survey meant when they put “Safety” as #2 on the list of essential soft skills.
3. Courtesy- “Courtesy” is an essential soft skill. Simple things such as readjusting to accommodate another person on the lift, or say, helping out a coworker in resolving issues with his or her laptop count a great deal. While the above examples relate to interactions with people you meet at workplace. Courtesy towards your clients is also an essential skill in Consulting. Sending a thank you text/email to a client for sending “Data” on time
or following up with a client long after a project is over are some of the other examples of Courtesy.
4. Honesty. – I’d rate “Honesty” very high on my list. I enjoy working with honest individuals. The rule is simple, Be Honest and If you mess up, own up. Credibility is the byproduct of being honest. A credible person gets approximately 20-30 percent more opportunities than an equally capable individual with a questionable credibility.
5. Grammar – Can be/cannot be classified as a soft skill. When it comes to crafting consulting reports, I’d classify grammar as a hard skill. I don’t want a client to point out a silly grammatical error in a report. At the same time, I’d classify grammar as a soft skill in routine email interactions. Occasional typos are acceptable but when bad grammar in emails becomes a common practice, it can have adverse effect on your career growth.
6. Reliability – Again, I’d rate “Reliability” very high on my list. If you can become an employee that your manager can rely completely on, so much so that when he or she allots you work, he or she can be sure that the work will get done in the most efficient and effective manner – you become a highly valuable asset. Reliable employees are a rare commodity. If you find one, keep them.
7. Flexibility – Definitely an essential soft skill. A lot of people get comfortable with what they know. It is essential to try new things, be flexible enough to try different projects out of your area of expertise.
8. Team skills – #1 on my list. I do not enjoy working with people who are not good team players. The job almost always gets completed in half the time when people work well in a team. It is no wonder that most consulting companies such as Mckinsey, Bain and BCG rate teaming skills very high on their list of requirements in potential hires.
9. Eye contact. – Has it ever happened to you that someone shakes your hand while they are talking to someone else? Annoying isn’t it? – Eye contact is all about paying full attention to the individual you are interacting with. However, i would not recommend sustained eye contact with a good looking co-worker.
10. Cooperation – Similar to Team skills (#8).
11. Adaptability – Similar to Flexibility (#7)
12. Follow rules –is following rules a soft skill? Not exactly.
13. Self-directed – “Self Motivated” perhaps would have been a better option here. It is essential to carve your own path and set your own goals. It’s important to reflect on your aspirations.
14 Good attitude. – Byproduct of skills at #3, #6, #7 and #8
15. Writing skills – Same as #5
16. Driver’s license. – Really? Not a hard skill or a soft skill. I have no idea what “Driver’s license” is doing on this list.
17. Dependability. – Same as #6
18. Advanced math. – “Hard skill”
19. Self-supervising – Definitely an essential skill to have. You don’t want your manager to keep checking in on you every few hours to track progress. A manager appreciates an employee who can take on a job and finish it end to end without any real supervision.
20. Good reference –. Not really sure what “Good Reference” is doing here. 21. Being drug free – Not really a soft skill but yes it’s a desired quality. You can’t advise clients if you are buzzed out half the day. 22. Good attendance – Not exactly a soft skill.
23. Personal energy. – Everyone enjoys working with happy vibrant individuals. Definitely a desirable quality.
24. Work experience – Not a soft skill. 25. Ability to measure – Not a soft skill.
26. Personal integrity – I’d rate “Personal Integrity” very high on my list. People who are honest and having strong moral principles almost always are very likeable in an organization.
27. Good work history. – Not a soft skill.
28. Positive work ethic. – Same as #26
29. Interpersonal skills. – Culmination of #23, #3, #6, #7 and #8
30. Motivational skills. – Definitely a top contender. Its not just enough to motivate oneself but also other members of the team.
31. Valuing education. – Not a soft skill 32. Personal chemistry. – Not a soft skill. Perhaps it is same as “Team Skills”
33. Willingness to learn. – Absolutely vital skill. One must be willing to go beyond what one has mastered and must be willing to try new things.
34. Common sense. – Absolutely vital. Enough has been said about having common sense. So I wont probe further.
35. Critical thinking skills. – I’d rate it high on my list. As a consultant, you are constantly pushed to connect random information and reach a conclusion.
36. Knowledge of fractions. – Same as math skills. Not exactly a soft skill.
37. Reporting to work on time. – A desirable quality.
38. Use of rulers and calculators. – No comments
39. Good personal appearance. – As a consultant, you need to dress well. It’s a prerequisite.
40. Wanting to do a good job. –Covered above somewhere.
41. Basic spelling and grammar. – Same as #5
42. Reading and comprehension. – Same as #5
43. Ability to follow regulations. – Same as #12
44. Willingness to be accountable.– Same as #26
45. Ability to fill out a job application. – Not relevant. 46. Ability to make production quotas. – Not relevant 47. Basic manufacturing skills training. – Not relevant 48. Awareness of how business works. – Relevant to consultants, but not exactly a soft skill.
49. Staying on the job until it is finished. – It boils down to accountability. You need to accountable for the entire job and not only your allocated portion of work.
50. Ability to read and follow instructions. – Not relevant. 51. Willingness to work second and third shifts. – Why not just get a sleeping bag to work? Not relevant.
52. Caring about seeing the company succeed. – A vital quality.
53. Understanding what the world is all about. – Not relevant. 54. Ability to listen and document what you have heard. – Not a soft skill.
55. Commitment to continued training and learning. – Absolutely vital for growth.
56. Willingness to take instruction and responsibility. – Same as #49
57. Ability to relate to coworkers in a close environment. – Same as teaming skills.
58. Not expecting to become a supervisor in the first six months. – Not relevant. 59. Willingness to be a good worker and go beyond the traditional eight-hour day. – I’d rather prefer my juniors to finish the work in allotted 8 hours and enjoy their life.
60. Communication skills with public, fellow employees, supervisors, and customers. – Absolutely vital. Yet it has turned up at #60.
As you can see, many of these “soft skills” are not actually relevant. So I searched for a list that is perhaps slightly more relevant and Lei Han had the perfect list
She has brilliantly classified soft skills in two broad categories – Self Management and People Skills. Her list is so comprehensive, that I don’t think there is any need to add any more items.. I am pasting that list here (without any modifications). You can read the complete post on her blog here.
Soft Skills – Self Management Skills
- Self awareness – knowing what drives, angers, motivates, embarrasses, frustrates, inspires you
- Emotion management – being able to control unexpected emotions like anger and frustration so you can think clearly and at your optimum.
- Self-confidence – those who believe in themselves have access to “unlimited power” (wisdom from KungFu Panda)
- Stress management – Being able to stay calm and balanced in stressful, overwhelming situations
- Resilience – Ability to bounce back from a misstep in your job or career
- Skills to forgive and forget – Ability to move on without baggage from a past mistake or something in your career that wronged you
- Persistence and Perseverance – Ability to overcome challenging situations and obstacles and maintain the same energy
- Patience – ability to step back in an emergency to think
clearly or the ability to pause and wait when you are in a rush or want to rush others.
Soft Skills – People Skills
- Communication skills – general skills to listen and articulate your ideas in writing and verbally to any audience
- Presentation skills – ability to maintain attention and achieve your desired outcome from presenting to an audience
- Facilitating skills – ability to coordinate and solicit well represented opinions and feedback from a group with diverse perspectives to reach a common, best solution.
- Interviewing skills – ability to sell your skills as an interviewee or accurately assess other’s ability or extract the needed information as an interviewer
- Selling skills – this is not just for people in sales. This is the ability to build buy-in to an idea, a decision, an action, a product, or a service
- Meeting management skills – at least 50% of meetings today in corporate america are a waste of time. This is the skill to efficiently and effectively reach productive results from leading a meeting
- Influence / persuasion skills – ability to influence perspective or decision making but still have the people you influence think they made up their own mind.
- Team work skills – ability to work effectively with anyone with different skill sets, personalities, work styles, or motivation level
- Management skills – ability to motivate and create a high performing team with people of varied skills, personalities, motivations, and work styles.
- Leadership skills – ability to create and communicate vision and ideas that inspires others to follow with commitment and dedication.
- Skills in dealing with difficult personalities – Ability to work well or manage someone whom you find difficult
- Skills in dealing with difficult situations – Ability to stay calm and still be effective when faced with an unexpected difficult situation.
- Ability to think / communicate on your feet (under pressure) – ability to articulate thoughts in an organized manner even when you are not prepared for the question or situation you are in
- Networking skills – ability to be interesting and interested in business conversations that motivates people to want to be in your network.
- Interpersonal relationship skills – ability to build trust, find common ground, have empathy, and ultimately build good relationships with people you like or in positions of power/influence.
- Negotiation skills – ability to understand the other side and reach a win-win resolution that you find favorably, satisfies both sides, and maintains relationships for future dealings
- Mentoring / coaching skills – ability to provide constructive wisdom, guidance, and/or feedback that can help others further their career development
- Organizing skills – ability to organize business gatherings to facilitate learning, networking, or business transactions
- Self-promotion skills – ability to subtly promote your skills and work results to people of power or influence in your organization. This will build your reputation and influence.
- Savvy in handling office politics – office politics is a fact of life. This is the ability to understand and deal with office politics so you can protect yourself from unfairness as well as further your career.
So how many of these 28 soft skills do you possess? Let us know through the comments tab below.
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