Sharpen Your ?Soft Skills? for Career Success

Ellen JuniousDoes this sound familiar? You?ve known since you were a child that you?d be a huge success.? You were at the top of your class in high school and worked hard to get your degree and several other professional credentials.? Yet many years after graduation while you?re good at what you do, you?re not exactly setting the world on fire.? In fact you can?t see a glimmer within sight.? You think it might be the glass ceiling phenomenon yet you know of many African American men and women in high ranking positions.? So what can it be, you ask yourself. Why am I not progressing in my career??

What are ?soft skills??

Professionals who find themselves facing this dilemma would be well advised to take inventory of their ?soft skills? to see if perhaps there is a weakness in these often overlooked areas.? According to Ellen Denise Junious, certified life coach and author, it takes more than a degree and specific job skills to forge a successful career.? You must also master time management, decision making, problem solving, organization, social etiquette, communication, interpersonal and other people skills.??

In other words there are a host of competencies that might only be indirectly related to your job, but are intrinsically connected to your success.

The acquisition of soft skills is so important that Dr. Cecilia A. Conrad in The Black Worker in the 21st Century Volume 2 states that ?success in the labor market clearly requires more than competence in the technical aspects of the job.? Further Dr. Conrad reports that some business schools are incorporating soft skills training into their MBA? programs.? ?DeVry Institute, a commercially operated chain of vocational schools, requires electronic technicians to take courses in human relations and teamwork,? writes Dr. Conrad.

Reason for leaving

Junious, who is also a business professor, said she realized that a lack of soft skills was a problem for many professionals after conducting a number of speaking engagements in the corporate arena.? When she?d ask the question ?how many of you get along with your boss?? only half of the participants would raise their hands.? This is when she realized that most changes in organizations occur when a professional relationship with a colleague?most likely a supervisor?goes bad.?

?What that says to me is that we have a challenge in terms of how individuals relate to [each other] on the job, particularly people who are in leadership and management supervision roles,? Junious said in an interview with If you dig deeper Junious says people leave companies because they don?t like how they are talked to or if they don?t feel that their work is appreciated.?

?The solution is better development of those soft skills,? she said. Junious emphasized the need for better communication skills. ?As a life coach one of the key challenges that individuals come to me for is to help them with their communication within their relationships,? she said.

Don?t get angry, get the facts

One technique Junious shared with is what she calls ?validating assumptions.?? ?Oftentimes when we?re communicating with individuals they are sending a message to us and then we in turn are sending messages to them. We are processing these messages through our mental filters.? We might make assumptions, but don?t validate the assumption,? she said.?

Instead say: ?this is what I?m hearing you say?am I getting this?? and repeat back the message as you understand it.? Junious says you should use this technique particularly if the message you?re receiving creates or generates some sort of negative emotional response.??? ?Often times we go off.? We get upset. We complain.? We shut down, but we do that?without having all of the facts.?

Junious says she practices this technique herself.? ?If I am charged emotionally I will go back to that person within that moment and be very clear about what I?m hearing so I don?t go off without having all of the facts straight,? she said.

Junious is the author of Unleash the Power of Personal Advantage, and founder of Personal Advantage Resource Group, a coaching and consulting firm based in Sugar Land, Texas. She?s been recognized by Who?s Who in Black Houston and Fort Bend Literacy Council. Junious earned masters in Management and Computing Systems from Houston Baptist University, and a business degree from the University of Houston.

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