“Change is invigorating! If you don’t accept new challenges, you become complacent and lazy! Your life atrophies!” Calvin (from Calvin and Hobbes)
We’re all strangers in a land becoming increasingly less strange – that of the virtual workplace. Yet however we meet, the core skills required for business success remain unchanged. These skills are known as soft skills – they are valued across industries and are said to account for 85% of success in business. Let’s look briefly at three critical ones.
Your ability to use the written word will play a large role in determining your effectiveness and overall career trajectory. A survey of executives at 120 major American corporations employing nearly eight million people found that writing is a “threshold skill” for both employment and promotion of salaried employees. Executives emphasized, “Writing ability could be your ticket in… or it could be your ticket out,” “All employees must have writing ability,” and “You can’t move up without writing skills.”
The higher you go, the more your writing ability matters. You will be held to a higher standard because your writing will be seen by more people, including colleagues, potential clients, investors and others outside your organization, and because you’ll be editing the writing of others. With few exceptions, those at the top know how to write and know good writing when they see it. They expect their people to write well.
That many people don’t write well, while thinking they do, poses an opportunity for you — but only if you agree that your writing skill matters and if you work to improve it. Each writing assignment is an opportunity to show that you’re a competent writer and that writing well is another skill in your arsenal.
Employers consider presenting an essential skill. In a study of four hundred employers, “Oral Communications” was ranked as the most important business skill. In a study of company directors, 63% believed that presentation skills are more important for career success than intelligence or financial aptitude. Over one-third of these directors felt that poor presentation skills had hindered their career. Warren Buffett told MBA students, “You can improve your value by 50% just by learning communication skills — public speaking.”
The higher you go, the more you will be called upon to speak. Indeed, your ability to present will likely impact how high you go. One Fortune 50 executive sums up what is true in most companies: “Almost no one [attains] an executive position without being an excellent presenter.” To further your career, you want opportunities to present. It means you’re in the game and visible.
Given that most people don’t like to present and don’t do it well, public speaking provides an opportunity for you to affirm your value and further differentiate yourself. Keep this in mind when you’re asked to deliver financial results, discuss how your team can support other teams, or kick off a project. Perfect your skills and you will further your career not only when you speak within your company, but also when it’s your turn to present at a company conference, raise capital, or speak to those in your industry.
Selling your ideas
As you progress and better understand your job, you’ll see opportunities for improvement that translate into ideas you want to propose — first, perhaps, to your manager and then, if your idea gains traction, to others. If you’re running your own business, the burden likely falls to you to generate ideas that add to your bottom line.
For those ideas to become reality, you must convince colleagues and third parties to agree with and act on your point of view. How could you be a difference-maker otherwise? This ability to move others to action through non-sales selling is an essential business skill. The CEO of a leading sales training firm says, “Our biggest audience now is not professional salespeople, but other kinds of businesspeople who want to get attention for their ideas without seeming pushy.”
Where do you turn – right now – to develop these skills quickly and efficiently? Here’s suggesting Look Out Above! The Young Professional’s Guide to Success. Learn how to write, present, pitch ideas, lead, and advocate in the manner valued in the workplace. All to the end of increasing your contribution, your compensation, and your job satisfaction. The soft skills you hone will serve you well throughout your career, wherever you go, and whatever you do.