Soft skills are anything but soft

“If there’s one lesson you can take away from the work I’ve done recently on social skills is that you need to have both types of skills. The thing about being a good conversationalist is that lots of people are. So that alone won’t get you anywhere. What you need is to be well-rounded, I don’t mean that in a loose way but in a rigorous way. Try to be good at two things, especially two things that are not that closely related to each other. Two things that it’s uncommon to be good at together. One of them is that most people are really good coders or programmers, a lot of them might be not so socially skilled. So if you can do both those things you’re going to be incredibly valuable because you have an unusual combination of skills and you’re hard to replace. So if you got good technical skills and soft skills you’re like gold to employer. So seek out opportunities to be good at unusual combination of things.”

– David Demming, Professor of Education and Economics at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, giving advice to employees on the role of soft skills in the future of work, on the Future of Work Podcast episode, The Future of Education, Skills, and the Economy.

There’s much to dive into in this podcast: the unbundling of higher education, the role of soft skills with AI technology and who is responsible for teaching those skills, income inequality, and a discussion on what we actually mean when we refer to the skills gap.

I’m also on a mission to reframe soft skills. Soft skills are power skills. If you can build relationships, influence, and communicate your ideas in a powerful narrative with impact, those are power skills. There’s nothing soft about those skills.

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