This week I read a post on LinkedIn about how Gen Y needs help developing its soft skills and it’s no wonder why with the instant answer-based conversations that occur over texting and social media. We hardly have to talk anymore to know what’s going on with 400+ of our closest friends and professional acquaintances.
The recruiting industry calls them soft skills, you might call them people skills. Regardless of how you label them, if soft skills are becoming extinct, this is a serious problem for technology transfer.
A successful technology transfer professional builds relationships with, and between, stakeholders – researchers, R&D, corporate commercialization people, investors, University leadership, and more. If this generation is lacking the ability to create meaningful professional connections, their career growth will be impeded.
What’s harder about this situation is that unlike knowledge or skills such as the patent process or portfolio management, people skills are harder to teach. Most people learn them outside of the classroom or the laboratory.
Still, all hope is not lost. If you think you need to strengthen your people skills, here are a few suggestions on how you can do that:
Get Your Head Out of the Screen
When you are speaking to someone, give her your full attention. Don’t check the time on your device. Don’t flinch at every email ding you hear. Don’t act like it bothers you that you’re not checking. Make the person you’re listening to feel like she is the only interesting person left on the face of the planet.
Walk to Find the Answer
While it seems less efficient than sending an email or a text, if you need a question answered, make it a point to visit the person who has the answer. This face-to-face interaction cuts down on confusion, builds relationships, and conveys tone better than electronic answers. However, make sure you are respectful of this person’s time. Get your answer and let him get on with his day.
Listen More than You Talk
In professional situations many of us spend half the time formulating our side of the conversation. Our intentions are good – we want to appear smart and earn intellectual respect – but often that preparedness promotes distraction and the person we’re speaking with doesn’t feel like we’re listening to what she is saying.
When job seeking, people will tell you it’s all about connections. While they are important, your ability to make a connection is equally important. If what pundits are saying about soft skills dying is true, developing them could make you soar above other applicants.