It's easy to get lost in the details of technical qualifications when trying to map out your next career move. While technical management training courses and other diplomas are a great way to help you stand out to employers, they're just one dimension of your overall CV.
Employers care about more than just your qualifications.
When you're being considered for a promotion or new role at a different company, employers will be looking for other skills and abilities that can support your qualifications. For example, what you have learnt in project management training is one piece of the puzzle, but how you will apply this knowledge and interact with other team members is becoming just as important – if not more so.
This is where the term soft skills comes in. Broadly speaking, it refers to your abilities that exist outside of your qualifications. While they can't be assessed in the same way as technical knowledge, your proficiency with soft skills such as face-to-face communication, teamwork and reliability will quickly become apparent in job interviews and in the role itself.
What soft skills do hiring managers look for?
The shortage of technical skills across various industries has been well-publicised in the past, but there's a great epidemic employers are dealing with as well. Not only are they struggling to find talent with the right technical skillset, many have also found that when they do find the right person, they're lacking the desired soft skills.
Recruitment company Robert Half noted that this was a particular challenge for businesses in the accounting and finance industry to manage. The organisation defines soft skills as those that mean a candidate is a good fit for a certain role beyond their qualification. This includes leadership potential, efficiency and general culture fit.
Robert Half advised people applying for new roles or promotions to ensure that any soft skills or personal attributes they listed on their CV could be backed up in an interview. As it's likely that many of the applicants will be boasting similar qualifications and academic backgrounds, being able to stand out with soft skills can make all the difference.
Will soft skills still be in demand in the future?
The most important thing for jobseekers to note is that this demand for soft skills is not a passing fad. In fact, research financed by McDonald's found employees who are able to balance soft skills and technical qualifications are in danger of becoming a rare commodity. If organisations and individuals don't make a concerted effort to encourage the development of soft skills, more than half of the workforce will be negatively affected by 2020.
The good news is that employers are taking notice, so the power is with candidates to prove how they can meet these demands and integrate with new teams. In fact, more than half of the businesses McDonald's surveyed reported that communication and teamwork skills can actually outweigh academic results and qualifications.
For employees and jobseekers, this means they'll need to substitute knowledge they gain from business training with other more general skills and abilities as well. However, the same survey found that more than half of respondents (54 per cent) have not added their soft skills to their CV.
Project management success depends on this balance
While soft skills are applicable to roles in almost any industry, there's a particularly strong focus on the balance between hard and soft skills in project management training. This is because not only are project managers in charge of the technical details and goals of the project, it's also up to them to ensure the people and teams involved are able to succeed as well.
This means being able to lead individuals, communicate goals deadlines and strict requirements, and – perhaps most importantly – be a strong source of motivation.
Leadership skills are important for successful project managers.
When analysing the top 10 reasons why projects fail, researchers from Brandeis University found that each reason involved hard and soft skills in a different way. For example, projects often fail due to a mismanagement in expectations, where people fail to set goals and guidelines for what they expect to achieve. According to the researchers, this failure can be blamed equally on both hard and soft skills, as it means project managers failed to prepare for all eventualities and then communicate them to the rest of the team.
On the other hand, leadership errors that lead to failure are almost completely down to a lack of soft skills. In these cases, project managers may have the technical abilities necessary to succeed in their role, but a lack of soft skills means they are unable to communicate this vision to others.
For people to succeed in the competitive job market, the technical qualifications they receive need to be supplemented with soft skills that allow them to integrate with new teams and roles. By combining management training with these abilities, it's much easier to stand out when seeking that all-important promotion or career change.
Published by: LMIT