Archives For Careers

This piece comes to us via a daily email I receive from Wells Fargo.

Employers are struggling to find workers with soft skills, such as critical thinking, empathy, and the ability to get along with colleagues.

The Wall Street Journal cites a recent LinkedIn study that revealed 58% of 291 hiring managers believe the dearth of soft skills in the job market is hindering their firms’ productivity. Meanwhile, 89% of 900 executives polled by the Journal in 2015 said finding candidates with soft skills has proven very or somewhat difficult.

As the labor market tightens, businesses are spending more money and time on methods for screening and discovering candidates who possess skills that range from engaging customers in small talk or taking the initiative to lead a firm-wide project that requires reaching out across the invisible boundaries that sometimes divide teams.

According to the Journal, companies are saying they’re less inclined to provide training that could ramp up employees’ soft skills as they would with training for topics such as technical skills or industry licensure. In turn, this could be a driver behind the country’s high number of unfulfilled job openings, as reported by the Labor Department.

LinkedIn crunched data from its users’ professional profiles to find out which soft skills were most prevalent among users who successfully landed jobs they’d applied for. Here are a few of the leading attributes:

  • Communication
  • Capacity for teamwork
  • Creativity
  • Adaptability

To some, these skills might seem like a given. They’d ask, “How could you not know how to hold a conversation or engage in critical thinking to build an informed judgement?” But it’s not that easy for everyone. Some workers may be well-intentioned and interested in the success of their employer and would sincerely like to feel engaged with their peers—but the attributes required for these things need cultivation or awakening in order to shine through.

This requires critical (and new) thinking by employers. Technical and industry skills are essential; but how can you shift the priority so soft skills are factored into professional development plans and goals? In addition, traditional workplace training methods—such as webinars, workshops, or courses—can be convenient and effective. But if your goal is to bring out the best in your workers’ more nuanced traits and personalities, what’s the best method?

Here’s a good approach: According to Learning & Development, executives at British Gas view volunteering as a positive indicator of a job applicant’s soft skills. In fact, the company encourages its employees to take two days of paid leave to volunteer in their communities. Not only is volunteering a great thing to do, British Gas sees it as a way to develop soft skills, such as the ability to relate to customers.

If you can’t tell already, I’m a big proponent of the development of soft skills in the workplace. A major influence on my career came from my years of training in Boston’s improv comedy scene. While there’s no memorizing lines for an improv comedy show (scenes are 100% created from scratch), there are countless exercises, games, and practice sessions that stimulate the mind and enable new skills. In terms of soft skills, improv training enhances the ability to listen completely, present new ideas fearlessly, and think on your feet in high-pressure situations. And above all, it shows you the importance of creating and maintaining a culture of support within your team.

Much like British Gas’ focus on volunteering, these exercises bring about attributes that are good in the workplace and good in life.

John D. Natale

Dear College Kids

April 10, 2016 — 5 Comments

I read this piece in today’s Houston Chronicle about an incident that occurred during a talk that H-E-B’s president of the Houston region, Scott McClelland, gave to some business students at the University of Houston.

“About 20 minutes into his talk, he [Scott McClelland] spotted one student leaning back in his chair, sound asleep and ‘sawing logs.’

“‘I asked the student sitting behind the sleeping student to tap him on the shoulder. When he sat up, I told him that he looked tired and he needed to leave. He just sat there, so I told him again that he needed to go,’ McClelland recalled. ‘The whole class looked on (as the student left). I think they were surprised someone would actually address what probably is tolerated in other classes they attend.’

“McClelland said he didn’t plan on doing anything that dramatic, but in that moment he saw a teaching opportunity.

“‘When you are at work, or school, you need to bring your “A” game, because people are always watching,’ he said. ‘A year from now, the students in the class won’t remember the slide that I showed them on how we partnered with Whataburger to develop a retail package for ketchup, but they will remember that a kid fell asleep in class and the H-E-B guy didn’t tolerate it.’

“McClelland said doing nothing would have made him guilty of ‘the insidious acceptance of the B grade.'”

Well, one of the students who witnessed the exchange took to Twitter to call out McClelland. They said that McClelland was out of line and that he humiliated the student.

Wow. You cannot make this stuff up.

Here is a man who is probably earning $250K + per year, taking precious time out of his very busy schedule to impart his wisdom to a bunch of college kids who will be looking for jobs in the not so distant future. And here is a student sleeping during his lecture. So much for a good first impression.

The problem I have with today’s kids is that they don’t seem to understand that there are consequences for actions and those consequences may not be pleasant. You fall asleep in class, the lecturer calls you on it and asks you to leave. If you don’t want to be called on it, then don’t fall asleep during class. Instead, this person blames the problem on the lecturer. It doesn’t and shouldn’t work that way.

This is such a small issue that I feel silly even writing about it. Welcome to 2016.

Mike Rowe on Jobs

October 30, 2015 — Leave a comment

I caught this video today and thought it was worth sharing. I’m a Mike Rowe fan. He has common sense, which seems to be a rarity these days.

He said a couple of things that stood out to me:

“…when you’re going to be a digger of ditches, be the best damn ditch digger there is.”

“There’s a trap out and it’s so easy to forget, but there is no such thing as a good job. There is not such thing as a bad job. There’s work. And what you bring to the work, how long you decide to stay on the job, and whether or not you use it as an opportunity, a destination, or something through which to pass, is up to you.”

Agreed.

Morals and Business

May 16, 2013

Watch this when you get a chance:

“Character can be taught.”

Of course it can, but most leaders and employees don’t think that way.

The following question was published in this weekend’s WSJ:

Dear Dan,

I don’t care about cars, never have. But I’m a sales executive, and people tell me I should own a nice car (BMW, Mercedes, etc.) to enhance my credibility to both my customers and sales team. I can afford either but would rather save the cash and buy a Honda. Does it matter?

—Cody

I’m curious what your thoughts are on this.

Here are mine:

I suppose the answer depends on the circumstances (what are you selling?). I, however, would gravitate to the one I wanted and not worry about what other people think. So, if I wanted a Honda, I would go for the Honda. There’s nothing worse than a flashy, cocky, salesperson. That’s my opinion.

Thoughts?

I get a weekly email from Harvey Mackay. I thought I would share this one that I found in my inbox (it’s from January):

Napoleon Hill, one of my favorite authors, devoted twenty years of his life to study what made people successful. His mentor, steel magnate Andrew Carnegie, helped Hill by giving him introductions to some of the most successful people in business, including Henry Ford, Theodore Roosevelt, Charles Schwab, George Eastman, John D. Rockefeller, Thomas Edison, Clarence Darrow and many others.

What Hill discovered is that all these individuals realized the importance of surrounding themselves with people smarter than themselves.

I couldn’t agree more. All of us together are a lot smarter than any one of us. Which leads to some of the best career advice I can give you: Networking is a skill you must develop.

If I had to name the single characteristic shared by all the truly successful people I’ve met over a lifetime, I’d say it is the ability to create and nurture a network of contacts. A network replaces the weakness of the individual with the strength of your network. You don’t have to know everything as long as you know the people who do.

A network can enrich your life. It can help you help others. A network improves your job security. If you build a network, you will have a bridge to wherever you want to go. So if you are ever up the proverbial creek, if you have a network, you always have a paddle.

Just remember, the more you exercise your networking muscles, the stronger they get and the easier networking becomes.

What other career advice can you benefit from?

You can’t forget the most important five-letter word in business – TRUST. How about integrity, reputation and treating everyone with respect? I might add that you have to continue your education, because you should be in school all your life. I’ve written extensively about all these topics, and will continue to hammer them home because they are the difference between a job and a successful career.

And because I follow my own advice and continually study the brilliant thoughts of others, I thought I’d share words of wisdom from some of the world’s most successful people:

Steve Jobs, co-founder of Apple Inc.: “When I was 17, I read a quote that went something like: ‘If you live each day as if it was your last, someday you’ll most certainly be right.’ It made an impression on me, and since then, for the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: ‘If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?’ And whenever the answer has been ‘no’ for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.”

Michael Dell, founder of Dell Inc.: “Try never to be the smartest person in the room. And if you are, I suggest you invite smarter people, or find a different room.”

J.K. Rowling, author of the Harry Potter novels: “Had I really succeeded at anything else, I might never have found the determination to succeed in the one arena I believed I truly belonged.”

Carlos Slim Helu, telecommunications magnate who is considered the world’s richest person: “I don’t want to live thinking about how I’ll be remembered.”

Warren Buffett, chairman of Berkshire Hathaway: “I don’t look to jump over 7-foot bars: I look around for 1-foot bars that I can step over.”

Mark Zuckerberg, co-founder of Facebook: “If we want to have the biggest impact, the best way to do this is to make sure we always focus on solving the most important problems.”

Cathie Black, president of Hearst Magazines: “Most people see taking risks as opening themselves up to unnecessary,

Richard Branson, founder and chairman of Virgin Group: “My mother always taught me never to look back in regret but to move on to the next thing. The amount of time people waste dwelling on failures rather than putting that energy into another project, always amazes me. … A setback is never a bad experience, just a learning curve.”

Mackay’s Moral: They say a word to the wise is sufficient, but I say a word from the wise is a gift!

Harvey Mackay is one of my favorite authors. You can check out Harvey Mackay’s Amazon page*. My favorite book of his is Dig Your Well Before You’re Thirsty: The Only Networking Book You’ll Ever Need*.

*Affliliate Link

I’m not sure how Salary.com can call a job overpaid or underpaid. I thought these issues were based on supply and demand. Anyhow, their list:

8. Overpaid: Research veterinarian (Median Salary: $95,521)
Underpaid: Pest controller (Median Salary: $27,959)

7. Overpaid: Hotel manager (Median Salary: $95,698)
Underpaid: Police officer (Median Salary: $50,193)

6. Overpaid: Financial associate (Median Salary: $108,732)
Underpaid: Security guard (Median Salary: $28,695)

5. Overpaid: Meteorologist (Median Salary: $90,715)
Underpaid: Lineman (Median Salary: $58,024)

4. Overpaid: Actor (Median Salary: $50,733)
Underpaid: Public school teacher (Median Salary: $50,506)

3. Overpaid: Set designer (Median Salary: $45,824)
Underpaid: Army private (Median Salary: $17,848)

2. Overpaid: CEO (Median Salary: $729,379)
Underpaid: Nurse (Median Salary: $66,095)

1. Overpaid: Pilot (Commercial Airline) (Median Salary: $117,407)
Underpaid: EMT (Median Salary: $30,287)

They conclude with this:

It’s true that many dirty, demanding jobs seem to draw lower salaries. But as long as the supply and demand balance remains the same for these jobs — as long as there are plenty of people willing to do them — don’t expect salaries to skyrocket. Some people choose their careers based solely on money, never realizing that when you focus on doing what you love, contributing to society, and being proud of what you do, you are rich regardless.

So, if supply and demand is a factor, how can they say a job is overpaid or underpaid?