Soft-skills for success
"THAT SCHEMER! That low-life! How did he manage to get up there? I am better qualified, and have more experience too! " We are not denying that it is very depressing when somebody with the IQ of a particularly dim-witted jellyfish gets to clamber one rung up. But answer this truthfully - is he/she a particularly suave, delightful jellyfish? One with remarkable interpersonal skills, getting along famously with corporate snakes, sharks and sloth bears alike? Ah well, if the answer is even a half-hearted `yes', you have to concede the point. Along with the promotion. For unfortunately (for you) soft-skills are as important as several impressive letters trailing the name and all those fancy certifications in just-emerging-technologies.
Scoff Soft-skills? What on earth is that?
Soft skills are a bunch of intangible, non-technical skills, typically hard to evaluate in a twenty-minute express-interview. But once you land that plum job, the lack of it thereof decides that precious promotion in the jellyfish's favour. Effective communication, which includes active listening as well as excellent language skills, leadership traits and team-spirit (not just limited to party-time), negotiation, responsible risk-taking, assertiveness, and the right amount of diffidence, will make you a `soft-skill'-ed employee, and a very valuable one at that!
Soft-skills only for softheads?
No! They certainly aren't. Recently, a leading magazine chose to expose the reasons why a certain country, growing at an alarming pace, was bound to slow down very soon as their soft-skills were not keeping pace with their remarkably rapid progress in every-which field! Technically, they have an almost unfair advantage over the rest of the world; and as for their prices, nobody can hope to under-cut them. But, apparently, their habit of publicly picking their olfactory passages does not exactly endear them to the clients! Business might just swing by the sub-continent... if we can get our act together, that is.
... but what do we do?
For starters, learn to communicate - successfully! It is not sufficient to have the upper hand technically, and exult when our kids effortlessly say `pfffttt' to every other nationality in maths contests worldwide. Being a technical wizard is second to being able to tell the world you are a technical wizard; it's about making the right noises, and having the grace to look embarrassed and mumble `excuse me' after the wrong ones. It is all about nodding your head, looking interested, smiling politely even as you earnestly wish the bubonic plague on the boss droning well past lunchtime! It also won't hurt to talk sense, when you do open your mouth for something besides eating and yawning! Striking that elusive balance between confidence and arrogance will go a long way to get you noticed. It is a good idea to practise genuflecting if you are getting knighted shortly; if not, a self-confident demeanour is the best bet. Please understand that `negotiation' goes beyond buying a kilo of tomatoes for half the going rate, and business etiquette, often confused with simply choosing the right spoon for soup, is actually quite complicated.
Cultural awareness, and respecting the subtle (and often not-so-subtle) differences will play a crucial role in winning or losing an important client. And while winners are garlanded with several prestigious projects to further prove their mettle, the losers get to dust their pants after a particularly hard landing on the filthy pavement.
Leverage on your skill-sets!
Next time, before you break that bottle of bubbly to celebrate any major win, keep in mind that it is those desirable social graces that can sustain you there.
A small social-gaffe, a seemingly innocuous faux pas, and you are back where you started - berating that half-witted jellyfish.
Remember to complement your celebrated hard-skills with the much-sought-after soft-skills and who knows, you will soon have jellyfish reporting to you!
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