What is a “soft skill” anyways? According to the Wikipedia page on Soft Skills, soft skills are: “often associated with a person’s “EQ” (Emotional Intelligence Quotient), the cluster of personality traits, social graces, communication, language, personal habits, friendliness, managing people, leadership, etc. that characterize relationships with other people.”
When I read that definition, being a geek, I kind of shake. Personality traits, social graces, communication, language, personal habits, friendliness, managing people, leadership. Have you ever tried mixing oil and water, for instance? That’s what I think of when I think about geeks having soft skills, I immediately jump to thinking how incompatible the mere definitions of both “soft skills” and what I know to be the solid definition of a geek is. I know from personal experience that as a geek all of those things that make up soft skills are extremely tough to adopt and portray as a geek. We honestly could care less about more than half of those things, and we know it. It doesn’t bother us.
One more important contrast to make is the difference between soft skills, and hard skills. According to an article titled “Hard Skills vs. Soft Skills“, hard skills are things like typing speed, computer programming, degrees, certificates, proficiency in another language. While soft skills are things like teamwork, motivation, leadership, business etiquette, listening, public speaking, presentation, communication, executive presence, and writing skills (see image below).
Soft skills have to start mattering for us geeks though, unfortunately. According to an article on Monster.com soft skills were found to be lacking in a lot of entry-level jobs, and employers wanted employees who could exhibit good soft skills. Soft skills are quickly becoming more important to find a job in the workplace. Employers are wanting employees that can communicate. They don’t want to hire someone who can’t return an email or a phone call, or leave a note if they need to. These are prime examples of soft skills in the workplace.
So what are some more examples of soft skills, and how can geeks learn to integrate them into their workplace, and why are they important? Take a peak at the image below, and then I will go into each one of them in further depth.
As an executive, a great soft skill to have would be being present. To show people that you are around, a part of the company, and care about the people and the company itself. In my opinion though, if you are an executive, you probably are better are soft skills than 90% of geeks, so this is probably already on your radar and you’re working on it.
I can’t tell you how many times Deloy has touched on the importance of sending an email, or replying to an email you received. He’s stressed this so much because it is important, it’s a soft skill, and it’s one that a lot of people (even non-geeks) don’t have these days.
For geeks, this is a tough one. We aren’t necessarily bad at presenting, besides possibly being void of emotions, but we don’t enjoy being put in front of people and being required to dumb everything down so that they can attempt to understand even a slight portion of what we’re trying to relay to them. And then probably get criticized for it before they even fully understand it.
Just read the above paragraph on presenting.
Listening is a really difficult soft skill for geeks to learn. We don’t like to listen. But it’s crucially important to be patient and listen to whoever is talking to you even if you don’t agree, and even if they are downright wrong.
This could include things like wearing nice dress clothes or not interrupting someone. Basically, just having good social skills and being business-minded. Things that geeks are not good at and do not like, but are also important.
One of our main topics this semester has been geeks and leadership. We’ve all discussed why it’s hard for geeks to be leaders, but it’s an important skill to have whether you are a leader of a team, or just a leader of the ping pong team.
I think this is probably one of the easiest soft skills for geeks to have. We are motivated beings. However, we are only motivated by things we want to be motivated by. We need to work on being motivated for things that you don’t necessarily like, but are assigned to do. Definitely a really tough one for me. If I don’t like doing something or working on something, I normally don’t do it, even if I need to.
Geeks and teams…can be tough to say the least. Teamwork is another one of the soft skills though that’s important. Working for a company, you obviously need to work well in a team, your skill alone won’t save you all the time.
You should be able to write enough to write an email (see above,) or make a PowerPoint without a million typos. You should be able to write a paragraph or a paper if you need to for a memo or a report without being too much of a geek to write anything.
In conclusion, soft skills are really important for geeks. It’s a great thing for geeks to help round themselves out and not just have amazing skill, but be able to apply that skill in social aspects as well. Enjoy the image below.