Most everyone recognizes the value of hard, bottom-line-oriented training. People flock to sales seminars, product training, computer workshops, and graduate school to earn their MBAs. All are rightly accepted as career advancement steps.
Often overlooked, however, are “soft skills.” These are intangible skills like meeting new people confidently and speaking, writing, and listening effectively. Strengthening soft skills can pay big dividends, not just in your personal life, but in your paycheck, too. The hard facts about soft skills are that without them, you’ll shortchange career advancement opportunities, reduce your contributions, and limit success.
Soft skills training opportunities abound. Here are just a few:
Toastmasters’ worldwide network of clubs exists solely to help members improve their public speaking and communication. Membership fees are low, the atmosphere supportive, and the training top-notch. Members range from first-time speakers to polished pros. Visit the Toastmasters website for a list of clubs in your area. Attend a few meetings at different clubs in order to find the one that suits you best.
The world-famous Dale Carnegie Training provides a wide range of courses for business and personal development, including live online classes. Visit their website for more information.
Example: Richard, a talented electrical engineer, often found himself awkwardly and unsuccessfully trying to explain his innovations. He felt frustrated that others didn’t understand. Through Toastmasters he gained poise and confidence and received valuable feedback on speaking clearly–and added $4500 to his paycheck.
A number of organizations offer training that delves deeply into how people manage relationships and life. Participants often report new levels of intimacy in relationships and greater confidence and clarity about where they are going.
Just a few are: The ManKind Project (for men); Woman to Woman (for women); and training in Emotional Intelligence. Adventure training like Outward Bound also offers growth opportunities through outdoor physical challenges.
Example: During one such workshop, Jill, who had always stuffed her anger, finally expressed it at her deceased father. Later she was amazed to find herself standing up for herself appropriately in office dealings. She settled issues in the moment and moved on without holding a grudge. The fact that her colleagues found her more approachable and pleasant to work with contributed to her promotion a few months later.
Still another type of soft skills training is personal and career coaching. People attain greater effectiveness with a coach who helps them define and accomplish goals, improve personal communication skills, and live more purposefully, to name a few objectives.
Example: Kerry’s efforts on a major project increased company revenues by two million dollars, but she received only a token bonus. When the owner sold the company Kerry lost her job. Coaching showed her how to negotiate her next position so she would earn equity in the company and receive not just a salary, but part of the profits, too.
Soft skills training can be among the most lucrative, profitable, and career-advancing training available: All business comes down to conversations, and conversations succeed or fail based on communication skills. The next time you’re in a store, for example, consider that all the merchandise is there because manufacturing reps held conversations with buyers. Other conversations moved goods from the factory, to truckers, and into the store. The salesperson’s conversation with you completes the chain.
Although the Internet has reduced, and even eliminated, some human business interactions, it will never replace them. In fact, the Internet makes human connections even more important.
Learning from the deeper insights we uncover about ourselves can help us be more successful in our careers. The best, though, is that these experiences are valuable in their own right. Any resulting career advancement boosts the return on your investment!
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A Creative Startup Tackles a Social and Career Problem
Saint Louis Public Radio’s recent story, “Startup Wants to Help Diversify Us” is worth reading and following. The new website and app, which will go live on Jan. 19, Martin Luther King’s birthday, is designed to help employers and individuals who want to widen their circle of relationships find each other.
In the words of the website’s landing page: “Too often our eyes lead us to pursue connections with others based on only the most superficial factors. Soon DiversifyUs will help you to expand your networks by seeing below the surface.”
I’ve just signed up for updates at DiversifyUs.com and look forward to broadening my network and outlook. I hope you do, too!
Consider a CAP (Career Action Planning) Session if you:
> Feel stuck or stalled in your career
> Are worried about a layoff
> Wonder if it’s not just a new job but a new career you need
> Have been looking for work but not getting results.
In this 90-120-minute meeting, we can get to the root of your career problem and come up with a plan to solve it.
For more information call me at 314-752-1373 or use the comment form on my website.