The Mid-Career GPS Podcast

231: Your Soft Skills Are Your Competitive Edge

March 12, 2024 John Neral Season 4
The Mid-Career GPS Podcast
231: Your Soft Skills Are Your Competitive Edge
Show Notes Transcript

Some managers have told you that you need to work on your soft skills, while others have told you that they are great and valued. 

Are you the calming presence at work? Are you known for flying off of the handle? Have you been told you are abrupt or aggressive? 


How can you make your soft skills more tangible and results-based so that you can share them on your resume or LinkedIn profile, especially when you are networking or interviewing? 


In this episode, I'm going to help you turn those soft skills into fantastic, tangible skills that your organization wants and value, so you can leverage them at your next job interview or promotion conversation. 

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John Neral:

Hey there, let's talk about your soft skills. We all have them, but some people may have told you that you need to work on yours and others have told you that they're great and they're valued. Are you that calming presence at work? Are you known for flying off the handle or being overly abrupt and aggressive? If you're looking to work and develop on your soft skills, the goal here is how can you make them more tangible and results-based so you can share them on your resume or LinkedIn profile, especially when you're networking or interviewing for that new job? I've got some answers and I'm gonna help you turn those soft skills into fantastic, tangible skills organizations want and value, and it's all coming up in this episode. Let's get started.

John Neral:

The Mid-Career GPS Podcast. Hello, my friends, this is the Mid-Career GPS podcast. I'm your host, John Neral. I help mid-career professionals find a job they love, or love the job they have, using my proven four-step formula. Before we get into today's episode, I wanna invite you to subscribe to my free mid-career GPS newsletter. This is my twice weekly leadership and career newsletter to help you figure out whatever is next for you and your career. You can subscribe by visiting my website at https://johnneral. com. You can check the show notes or visit the featured section on my LinkedIn and join my email community and let me help you figure out whatever is next for you and your career.

John Neral:

Soft skills I've been told mine have been pretty good. In fact, they were a huge aspect of how I've been able to navigate my career path, and it's one of the things I see from my mid-career coaching clients, where they either don't know how to leverage them particularly well or they've been told they need to work on them. So to help us ground this conversation, soft skills are your behavioral and interpersonal skills that relate to how effectively you interact with others and handle situations. It's gonna show up in ways that you demonstrate your empathy, how good of a listener you are, how powerfully you communicate, what your feedback style is, how you lead and also how you are flexible, especially when things seem to be a little chaotic at work. But if your soft skills are good and they're strong and they're valued, you can leverage them and contribute to a positive work environment and the success of the people who are reporting to you, as well as your fellow leaders and colleagues. One of the ways I see this happen is that you create safe spaces for all employees. People may find you as that calming, yet firm and reassuring presence about when they need a little reset at work. You may be known for helping people set up accountability structures and what follow-up is going to look like, and you may have even been told that there's safety on your team because you give permission for people to fail successfully, that they learn from their mistakes and they move forward because of what they're able to do. Not everybody is great at soft skills, and that's okay. You may not be that kind of person where those kind of interpersonal skills and traits are easy for you, but you may be phenomenal in other ways that are valued and acknowledged by your organization or future organization. That's great. I will share with you that.

John Neral:

I recently connected with somebody who has been in my network for a while and they reached out to me because they were looking for a new position and one of the things I remember about them early on in their career was that anytime I had to go to them, particularly for an IT question, they were always patient. They were never dismissive. They never made me feel like I was stupid. If you've ever had somebody make you feel stupid or they talk down to you because like, oh how did you not know that you feel kind of badly, like you don't want to approach them. I always felt there was a tremendous amount of professional respect and safety with this person, that if I ever had a problem I could go to them and they would help me. And I remember sharing that with them when we were on the call and they were so appreciative of that.

John Neral:

Your soft skills are an asset and a value. I have a few mid-career coaching clients right now who are in executive leadership roles within their organization. Their success is predicated solely on these factors. They are incredibly talented, they are visionary thinkers and leaders, and they are great leaders of people. They invest and are willing to spend the time. They leverage their soft skills in ways that allow the people on their team to grow and thrive. But just because they are great at their soft skills does not mean they are pushovers. In fact, I would say that both of these people who I'm immediately thinking of right now they are anything but pushovers, but they also communicate that in how they show up and in how they deliver their soft skills. So you may be sitting and listening to this and going okay, john, this is all great, but how do I make this tangible?

John Neral:

First, I wanna acknowledge that there is a challenge in demonstrating the value of your soft skills in a tangible way. When we deal with applicant tracking systems and we try to attach metrics to how effective our soft skills can be, this can be difficult. In fact, you may have a challenge in navigating the perception of your soft skills with upper management or your direct reports, simply because how do you? How many check-in meetings do you have to have? How do you communicate? How well you listen? So you need to find ways that your soft skills directly impact any KPIs or project outcomes, kpis or key performance indicators that you may be seeing on your job description.

John Neral:

Look at your job description and see where you can directly tag where your soft skills are making an impact. How are those soft skills valued inside of your organization? How does it directly align with the mission or vision statement of your organization that you demonstrate on a daily basis? And if you're actively interviewing for a job, I wanna offer you that this is where your stories need to be tight, especially when you are describing how you are leveraging your soft skills. So you might get an interview question that sounds like.

John Neral:

Tell me about a time when you had to deliver difficult feedback to one of your team members. Tell me about a time when you had to talk to a colleague who wasn't performing to their fullest potential. Tell me about a time when you had difficulty with a superior or a leader above you, and how did you quote unquote manage up? You can attach a metric to that, but you can attach a powerful story Once you get to the interview, or when you're networking and you're telling people. That is where it comes out, so you've got to find a way to document it. Whether you're preparing for an annual performance review or you're coming up on a promotional conversation or you're ready to step out of your organization and go somewhere else, you should have a file or a folder somewhere where you are documenting on a weekly or monthly basis where you have demonstrated and showcased your soft skills and what the results were. Because of it, you will be able to take those experiences and infuse them into your resume, your cover letter, your LinkedIn and your stories when you're interviewing for a job.

John Neral:

Okay, I always found value in keeping a file or folder like that for myself, because it just was a great reminder of where and why I was so good at my jobs and it was also a reminder when I needed to work on something or improve on something. Look, I'm not perfect. I never have been, never will. I have my flaws, just like you, and there are certainly times when I have felt like my soft skills didn't help me or measure up, or they weren't received in the way they were intended. That was an opportunity for me to go back and clean that up the next time around. So think about where your soft skills are valued, and I want to leave you with this.

John Neral:

Before we wrap up today on this shorty episode, I want to leave you with this thought when people ask you what's your greatest strength? Why should we hire you? Why are you the best candidate for the job? And you say something like my communication skills are exemplary, it doesn't mean anything. The hiring manager is going to look at that or hear that and go. So what, who cares? But when you say my communication skills are exemplary and I've demonstrated this several times by saying my communication skills are so good, people ask me to have the difficult conversations at work that they don't want to have. Now your story can start generating some interest and as you take greater control and command of the narrative. You will paint a picture of why your soft skills are needed, why your skills are valued and are essential for you in your role and any future role you will have.

John Neral:

So until next time, my friends, remember this you will build your mid-career GPS one mile or one step at a time, and how you show up matters. Make it a great rest of your day. Thank you for listening to the Mid-Career GPS podcast. Make sure to follow on your favorite listening platform and, if you have a moment, I'd love to hear your comments on Apple podcasts. Visit JohnNarrowcom for more information about how I can help you build your mid-career GPS or how I can help you in your organization with your next workshop or public speaking event. Don't forget to connect with me on LinkedIn and follow me on social at JohnNarrowCoaching. I look forward to being back with you next week. Until then, take care and remember how we show up matters. You.