Social Presence is about putting your best foot forward… but you need to know which foot that is. Only when you are clear on what skills you possess can you really paint a good picture of yourself online.
Today we are going to talk about the two types of skills that are critical to your success in business, your HARD and SOFT skills. Your Attitude Adjustment Homework will help you hone in on both so that you will be able to highlight them in your online profiles.
I find that people tend to define themselves more by the technical and business hard skills that they have, rather than the strengths of their personality that are defined by the soft skills. They lead with their business titles, not with their strengths.
Human Resource people say “it may be your hard skills that get you the interview, but it is your soft skills that get you the job.” (SearchCIO). So let’s start with the easy stuff and look at your hard skills.
Hard skills are learned. You are taught them in school or from books. They are a way of doing something; a procedure, a best practice. They usually refer to training and knowledge that a person has in a specific skill set. Hard skills are usually what you spend hours and hours learning in school. First you take the basic courses, then you move on to the more advanced.
Using me as an example, I am a project manager. Project management is my hard skill. I took many IBM courses in project management, earned Masters certificates from both George Washington and Stanford Universities, passed my Project Management Institute (PMI) Exam to become a certified Project Management Professional (PMP), and also passed the internal IBM certification process. Though life experience was important in completing these milestones, it was the hard skills, that were being assessed.
Hard skills take smarts, they are about using your brain (in particular the left side of your brain). They are about your ability to perform a certain task. Careers that rely heavily on hard skills are Physicists, Mathematicians, Computer Programmers, Statisticians, etc. What are your hard skills?
Attitude Adjustment Assignment #1: Identify Your Hard Skills
Take out your notebook and write down all the skills you can think of that relate to you.
I am an expert in (specialty): _____________.
People come to me (I am the ‘go-to’ person) for: _______________.
I am known for the following skills: ___________________________________________________
Soft skills are more difficult to quantify. These skills are personality qualities, habits, attitudes, and even social graces. Unlike hard skills, which can be evaluated by a logic intelligence test (IQ), soft skills tend to use your heart, and conversely would be evaluated by an emotional intelligence test (EQ). This is ‘right brain’ stuff. Some examples of soft skills would be: anticipating risk, motivating others, teamwork, innovating, listening, communicating. They are things that you learn, hone, and improve over a life time of trial and error.
People skills, management skills, communications, leadership, politics, are all soft skills. You can take classes in how to develop these skills, but it is your innate personality that will ultimately determine which ones you excel in and your ability to apply what you have learned to different situations over time. Unlike hard skills where the rules pretty much are static (for example, the Waterfall Application Development Method), soft skills are dynamic and change based on the situation to which they need to be applied. For example, you could do a great job communicating technical status to your team, but a poor job communicating project progress to your executive management. When the audience changes, your must change how you are communicating accordingly.
What are your soft skills?
Attitude Adjustment Assignment #2: Identify your Soft Skills
Look at the list of 28 soft skills below and pick out 5 or 10 that you feel are your top soft skills. Put them in an order from strongest to weakest.
(The list is adapted from: List of 28 Soft Skills – Business Professionals, June 2, 2011, Career Success – Ask A Wharton MBA)
- 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.
- Communication skills – skills to listen and articulate your ideas in writing and verbally to any audience in a way where you are heard and you achieve the goals you intended with that communication. This is also known as interpersonal communication skills
- 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 in corporate america. This is the ability to understand and deal with office politics so you can protect yourself from unfairness as well as further your career.
Once you do your homework, we will take a look at how you can change-up your online profile to show off who you really are.
Keep up the good attitude. See you next blog.
(All the Social Butterfly’s views are her own)
9 thoughts on “2 Steps To Understanding Your Hard and Soft Skills”
I am happy that Bruce Kneuer pointed me to your blog on Twitter – I enjoy your posts and have started following your blog!
My experience – as an IT expert and engineer – is that you sell yourself based on your hard skills, but customers will remember you (and contract you again) based on your soft skills. I was often hired as the technical expert initially, but actually worked as the unofficial project counselor.
This works great if you “rely heavily on hard skills”.
What kind of strategy would you recommend to freshly minted humanities graduates who rely on soft skills mainly, but who seem to have a hard time currently to land jobs based on these skills (as I learned from conversations on WordPress)?
Elke – Thanks for your question. I am wondering first what Hard Skills the humanities graduate actually possesses: good writing, strong communications, word processing, research? Everyone has an inventory of technical/hard skills, along with the soft. These are things that they are good at. But, not everyone knows how to write them down.
It is hard to believe someone would get through 4 years or more of college without truly having amassed hard skills. I recommend taking a piece of paper and writing down every thing that he/she has done since High School. The jobs, the community service, the classes. This is just for the graduate, not something to be shown to others. The graduate should start to circle the actual skills used to perform the tasks. For example, if you assisted with feeding the poor: did you make schedules, drive the bus, order the food, cook, etc?
Skills are hidden in the details of our lives and sometimes we have to see the details in front of us to pull out the key words.
Also, what type of job is the graduate trying to get? There are no jobs that I am aware of that don’t require being good at some skill. If you are not a match for that skill, you will not get an interview. Entry level positions rarely are looking for soft skill experts that just graduated from college, they want someone who knows how to do ‘X, Y, and Z,’ it is your interviewing skills that close the deal, but they don’t get you the interview.
I do hope that helps. – Lorian
Thanks, Lorian, for the detailed reply. Probably the “solution” to this is related to the fact that some of the hard facts you have listed – writing skills, communication skills… – are classified as hard skills.
I would have tagged them as soft skills – shame on me, but I usually associate hard skills with technical terms and three-letter acronyms.
Probably it is important to point out to potential employers that these skills that graduates in humanites do have (and prove in an impressive way in their blogs BTW) are really hard skills.
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Thank you for writing such useful blog. I didn’t think from this perspective, specially highlighting soft skills. In fact that’s something, what the employers tries to find during interviews, since that’s usually not easily measurable. I am following-up your blog and will read your other interesting posts in the weekend.
Keep up the good work!
Thanks for the nice compliment. Yes it is your hard skills that get you the interview, but your soft skills that help you communicate and close on the deal.
Thanks. That’s very well said.