The campus placement had left a trail of gloomy and cheerful faces behind. While some were rejoicing at the prospects they had got others were not so enthusiastic about it. Abhishek Arora, one of the brightest and most intelligent chaps, was looking disheartened. He had landed a job with a not-so-known company and had to be content with an average package.
Cut to another scene, Manish, an average student, who no one ever thought of highly, was beaming with joy. Reason: He had bagged the highest package and was taken up by a blue chip MNC. What more he was to be posted in New York.
Sounds bizarre! Right? But it is true. There are numerous stories about the underachievers outperforming the stalwarts and the like but this is a different case. To put it more precisely and in HR terms it was the presence or for that matter absence of SOFT SKILLS that (softly but surely) stood Manish in great stead but proved to be Abhishek’s undoing.
Soft Skills or soft power is the ability to win others to your way of thinking. It refers to interpersonal skills such as communication skills, conflict resolution and management, personal effectiveness, creative problem solving, strategic thinking, etc. Rashmi Datt, life skills facilitator and CEO of Dialog Services says “Soft Skills is the ability to get along with people, lead them, motivate them and most important of all it is the ability to work with people you dislike.”
In a highly competitive world where how you do as important as what you do, hard skills (part of a person’s IQ) alone do not help. It is soft skills, which, when, complemented with hard skills produces excellent results.
Lack of Soft skills is a big issue nowadays. What else can justify the popularity of numerous self-help & motivational books whose writers are making millions dishing out recipes on ways to acquire these soft skills? On the other hand every organisation worth its salt is conducting workshops to induce and enhance soft skills in its employees.
Blame it (lack of soft skills) on a stressful lifestyle, lack of awareness or our inept education system which is all about rote learning and scoring 90+ percent. Personality development has taken a back seat. David Ogilvy, advertising executive who has been called the ‘Father of Advertising’ was once asked in an interview, ‘What do you look for in young people that suggests leadership potential?’ He replied ‘The only thing that may be true is that people who have been leaders when they were in school quite often turn out to be leaders in mature life.’
This explains the importance of co-curricular activities, which, unfortunately, have been relegated to back stage in order to produce students who can score 99 above by sheer dint of mugging up data. They are very significant in developing leadership and other interpersonal skills in students that go a long way in shaping his/her life and career.
“Education is the ability to meet life’s situations” is what Dr. John G. Hibben, former President of Princeton University had once said. But going by the scenario presented above does it fit anywhere? What is the use of such an education that does not lead you to a position that you desire and makes you feel cheated at the most vital juncture of your life?
However, this does not mean that you have lost the battle and reached a point of no-return. Soft skills are just skills and a skill can always be learnt and acquired. Acquiring soft skills requires one to become more pro-active and observant in one’s daily life because they are just behavioural competencies. By constantly introspecting and asking one the question-‘What did I do well? What can I do better next time? Will it help me evolve into a person who can face the world and deal with it in a win-win manner.
According to Rashmi, the realisation that one has a shortcoming paves the way for improvement. Once you become aware of yourself, your ability to face negative feedback increases. The moment this is done, learning and tolerance also follow suit.
Attending workshops and reading books on soft skills are also helpful. But the real success lies in how effectively you put into practice what you learn from them. And as the old adage goes practice really makes a man perfect. So be it that way. Practice hard till you get soft (SKILLS). :)
(With inputs from Rashmi Datt- Life Skills Facilitator and CEO of Dialog services)