The irony about soft skills is that they are a hard solve; nearly as hard as getting an allotment in an IPO. The minute’s hand would shy away if I could count the number of times, I sat myself down and defined what soft skills actually meant. Their definition is ever-changing. So, I stretched out my limbs and got cracking with some fact-findings.
Tracking down the origins pointed out that they dated back to the U.S Army in the late ’60s. Simply put, it was any skill that did not house the use of any machinery and pushed the envelope towards other important tasks like winning on the battlefields, positively influencing fellow soldiers and taking active initiative to lead groups. These traits, although not catalogued, were hard to acquire too.
After thorough research and study, it was in 1972 that the U.S. Army initiated their first training manual and coined the term “soft skills” and negatively remarked it as those activities about which very little is known.
The willingness to impart these skills were negligible back then. Objective competencies to perform job functions took precedence for employment. The only way towards success was holding a sound educational background. Basic know-how about the nuts and bolts of the work was necessary.
Gradually, the jobscape turned over a new leaf by accepting the meaningfulness of soft skills.
Firing workers at the drop of the hat was not an option anymore and this is where the seeds of soft skills sprout. Studies by OECD also endorsed methods to measure these skills through behavioural surveys, psychological assessments and anchoring vignettes.
It’s no surprise that the rising importance and need to upskill these skills has become a major concern for educators worldwide.
When developing a soft skill you want three things: 1) variation ; 2) repetition ; and 3) feedback.
But the question is — How do you evaluate them?
Working on team projects helps in developing the skills but how do you measure them?
As a matter of fact, these skills demand on-going effort and time. It belies the training required by its counterpart as it doesn’t solely depend on you. It requires active involvement of other factors like your environment and your readiness to accept behavioural feedback.
Welcome to the age of machine intelligence. What do you think where will most of the benefits go?
Using economic reasoning, one of the scarce places in the global economy is — Quality labour with unique skills. As machines become more powerful, the people who benefit will be those who are adept at working with computers and with related devices while leveraging their soft skills.
The ability to mix technical knowledge while solving real world problems will beat the “go with your gut” situational industry.
Knowing your limits are more important than it used to be. So, ask the right questions. Find the right tribe. Increase the velocity of skill development in every sphere. Make mistakes and reflect on them.
Rinse and repeat.
Over and over again.
The erosion of your future is in your hands.
You probably don’t want to do this level of work with every skill but if you recognize the ones that won’t just make you listen to machines and give you leverage; putting the work will make you better.