Why These 6 Soft Skills Still Matter In The Age Of Generative AI

What, exactly, are soft skills? And why do soft skills even matter, when generative AI seems more skilled than most workers today? Soft skills are things like interpersonal communication, work ethic and other “non-essential” abilities for employees. For example, if you are an architect, hard skills might include working with design software, understanding how air conditioning systems work in large buildings, and being familiar with the fundamentals of earthquake regulations in California. These are hard skills: j0b-related technical knowledge and abilities. Soft skills, like empathy, creativity, integrity, and adaptability might not be as obviously important in your job, they are actually mission-critical for your career. And these skills can’t be outsourced to artificial intelligence, because these soft skills exist inside of you.

In a recent survey, 70% of Gen Z employees report an eager desire to land in the C-Suite, according to Insider. But the path to leadership starts with soft skills. Ambition without effective personal interaction is called “frustration”, as your desires and abilities are not in sync. Instead of wondering what’s missing, access your soft skills – and advance your career in the process.

Soft Skill 1. Learning to Listen

There are three ways to listen. The first is to “listen to affirm” – in other words, so that you can tell someone what their conversation sparks inside of you. Typically, this means referencing something that you’ve learn, read or experienced. This type of listening can be a version of “waiting to talk”, so you can affirm what you already know. The second way to listen is to “listen to defend”. That’s the way that lawyers listen, in a courtroom. When you take a position that’s contrary to what’s being said or offered, you can cut yourself off from possibility, as you wait to counter-punch. Are you really hearing what’s being said? The third way to listen is to “listen to discover”. Discovery points toward what you might learn, gain or uncover inside a conversation. From the standpoint of connection and career advancement, which way do you think is best?

Soft Skill 2. Presentation Skills

Have you seen a presentation with more “um’s”, “uh’s” and “likes” than you might like? Attention to detail is important in a presentation, which means you have to choose the words that will help you most (and drop the ones that don’t). One key principle of communication: the simplest message is the strongest. Your ability to present your ideas will teach people how to treat you, how to pay you and how to follow your ideas. “Communication,” says Virgin founder, Sir Kenneth Branson, “is the most important skill any leader can possess.”

Soft Skill 3. Resilience and Adaptability

Bouncing back after a challenge is called resilience. Fortunately, for all of us on the other side of the pandemic, we’ve experienced (and accessed) our resilience. Remember the hard times you’ve been through, and notice that you’re still standing. The past reminds us, but it does not define us. We all have the ability to adapt and change. Even when life wasn’t easy, you found a way through. And you can do it again – that’s how adaptability and resilience works. Resilience is remembering. Accessing resilience starts with a reminder: you’re still here. Resilience is inside of you, right now, no matter what you are facing. When we remember that we are often capable of more than we think, we take the first step towards resilience – and away from resistance.

Soft Skill 4. Emotional Intelligence (EQ)

Joanne Frederick, a licensed professional health counselor in Washington, DC, explains what emotional intelligence is: “The ability to use, understand and manage one’s own emotions in a positive way, and to manage stress, communicate effectively, de-escalate issues, problem solve and empathize with other people.” That’s a powerful list of soft skills! Emotions are part of the package of human experience, and managing our emotions is really just a question of focus. Where are you putting your attention, in the midst of challenge, and is that the most intelligent choice you can make right now? Sometimes accessing emotional intelligence is as simple as knowing where to look – and learning what you need to ignore.

Soft Skill 5. Nonverbal Communication / Body Language

How’s your non-verbal communication? Your body language is key to your ability to connect with other human beings – and that connection is important to your career advancement. Body language is used for alignment, confirmation and connection: to see if you really mean what you are saying. Body language creates trust, and that soft skill is key to credibility and connection.

Soft Skill 6. Observing Role Models / Learning

The missing piece, when it comes to soft skills, is having a good role model. That’s according to an article in the Wall Street Journal, called New Grads Have No Idea How to Behave in the Office. Recruiters point to the importance of mentorship, coaching and guidance, so that everyone can understand the nuances of connection, visibility and office politics. Soft skills can’t be outsourced to AI. Machine learning is big, but learning from others is bigger (when it comes to advancing your career). Who’s in your corner, when it’s time to for your promotion? Maybe that’s a career model you need to generate.

Soft Skill 7. Access Accountability

During the pandemic, deadlines slipped and shifted. Flexibility was the name of the game, as work from home initiatives took center stage. Now, deadlines matter more. Getting into the office is often a requirement. Showing up on time and at your best means holding yourself and others accountable. What would be one thing you could change, to keep a promise to yourself, and become more accountable?

Moving forward in your career is about keeping promises – another soft skill that goes by the name of “integrity”. These promises aren’t written in your job description, but they are carved into the way you move forward in your career. Keeping your promises to yourself, and to others, is a soft skill that we all possess. As companies outsource hard skills to AI, investing in soft skills just might be promise of the future. Because there’s no generative AI that can make you keep your promises. Your potential is still your responsibility, and your gift to the world. Promise yourself to access the soft skills that define your talents, your contribution, your integrity… and your humanity. Some things – like your career – don’t need to be outsourced to generative AI.

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