Two phrases that will get you far in the corporate world: Please and thank you
We all know that to excel at any job you need to have a range of technical skills. While job hunting in college some time ago, I came across a career development website that presented several thought-provoking analogies on technical skills versus soft skills (a foreign concept to me at the time) that I often reflect upon. Just like financial advisors need to know how to prepare and analyze financial records, dental hygienists need to know how to clean teeth, and IT technicians need to know how to save you from that ominous black screen appearing on your monitor in the middle of a deadline.
But which financial advisor do you go to? The one who is kind and takes time to talk things through with you, or the one who makes you feel meager in comparison to the high net worth individuals he or she manages? Which dental hygienist do you visit? The one who is careful and gives you undivided attention, or the one who is yelling to a coworker across the room while halfheartedly stabbing the inside of your mouth? And which IT technician do you retain when times are hard? The one whose attitude is positive and respectful, or the one who is inflexible and impolite?
These analogies reflect how much people skills, more technically known as emotional intelligence or soft skills, play a pivotal role in the corporate world. Wikipedia defines soft skills/emotional intelligence as “the cluster of personality traits, social graces, communication, language, personal habits, friendliness and optimism that characterize relationships with other people”… qualities that don’t relate to intelligence at all. Unfortunately the importance of traditional interpersonal skills is often undervalued in the workplace, and in an age where social circles consisting of Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Instagram relationships is becoming increasingly important, it’s easy for those soft skills to become lost in the cloud.
PR professionals are in a unique type of workplace where we must balance virtual relationships with tangible ones. The acts of listening, offering ideas, resolving conflict, showing appreciation and support for others, communicating effectively, managing time, being polite and maintaining proper decorum while on the job are skills that not only open many doors, but are skills that our clients value (often more than our knowledge of their business, although that knowledge is crucial too). In fact, as communications professionals, more often than not we are retained by clients specifically for our ability to bridge soft skill gaps by helping them communicate with the stakeholders they are having trouble connecting with or persuading.
We are fortunate to be in an industry that shapes us professionally, allowing us to acquire and apply knowledge across a wide variety of sectors, from healthcare to technology. But let us not forget to hone our emotional intelligence, which is the skill that has the power to make us truly stand out from the rest.
Thank you for your time.