Oh great, you're done! Thanks for allowing me to finish my thought. I'll make it quick.
So, where was I? Oh, yes. I was going to mention how soft skills are becoming harder to find in today's economy, but they're increasingly the most important skill employees need on the job.
We tend to think of "smart" as being book smart (i.e., academically talented), but there are different kinds of smarts. There's book smart, and then there's socially smart. Both are equally important (no, really!) and, increasingly, job applicants can't have one without the other to land the very best jobs.
That's because managers in our fast-moving economy can teach a new hire basic work skills (e.g., here's how you perform a basic technique in a STEM job), but they can't teach a new hire basic social skills (e.g., here' why it's important to say "thank you"). Managers simply don't have the time to teach social skills, and quite frankly, it shouldn't have to be a part of their job description.
Besides, nobody (and I mean nobody!) asks for, or cares about, our GPA or SAT scores once we hit the workplace. They are irrelevant to the here and now of getting the work done.
However, our work colleagues care very much if we -- through our tone, wording, body language, attitude and other aptitudes -- manage to offend a client, come to work every day acting like we don't care, lack accountability and initiative, never take an interest in anyone else, seem unable to solve problems on our own, fail to thank customers, think we're too big to fail, and otherwise swear, burp, slurp, never smile or extend ourselves to others.
With so much educational emphasis on book smarts, however, our social smarts have taken a back seat when today's very best jobs require -- no, demand! -- that we bring our best social skills to the table every day. According to an excellent piece in today's New York Times:
Jobs that require both socializing and thinking, especially mathematically, have fared best in employment and pay, Mr. [Harvard Professor David] Deming found. They include those held by doctors and engineers. The jobs that require social skills but not math skills have also grown; lawyers and child-care workers are an example. The jobs that have been rapidly disappearing are those that require neither social nor math skills, like manual labor.So if we want our kids to land the top jobs of the future, then we need to encourage their social skills as much as their academic skills.
Now there are some of us who are so highly skilled technically that our social skills don't matter very much on the job. For the vast majority of us, however, our social skills can make us, or break us, on the job. They can propel us to new career highs, or sink us to new career lows.
The task falls on us to make sure that we're teaching our children proper social skills while also continuing to hone our own at every opportunity so we can set a good example. In the social media age, it's far too easy to grow soft where our social skills are concerned. It seems ironic somehow, but maybe that's just me.
Social skills are our most important workplace asset, hands down. They grease the wheels of human interaction, everywhere we go. Good manners don't take much, but the payoff can be huge -- especially in the emerging job market. Now put the phone down and smile, will you?