If you think hard skills are the key to success – think again

The other day I was speaking to a colleague from my Stroke Survivors group. I mentioned that I was developing a web-based business in basic compter and soft skills training. I noted that I am focusing on soft skills or people skills, since these are generally the most important aspect of getting and keeping a job. He said he didn’t need any training. He is a highly skilled computer programming professional. However, he is having problems getting a job becauseof his Aphasia, which blurs and slows down his speech; and he believes employers perceive him to be less capable as a result.

Could brushing up on people skills such as confidence building, relationship building, and communications help my colleague? I think so. He can prove he is brilliant at his trade. Now, perhaps he should work on proving that despite his disability, he is brilliant with people.

I learned how important this was years ago,when I worked as a senior training officer in Ottawa. One of my responsibilities was hiring. On one particular occasion, a colleague and I were conducting an  interview for 2 new training officers. After going through a whole bunch of candidates, we settled on 2 people, a young man in his 20’s and a lady in her 30’s. The young man was barely out of school, and had less than one year experience in training. But he won us over with his personality. He listened with interest, he was great at problem solving, he was excellent at engaging us in dialogue, and he had a keen interest in learning. The lady had more experience than I had. She passed every technical test we gave her. Yet, I couldn’t quite put my finger on it, but I didn’t want to hire her. She was not at all engaging and did not seem to offer more than her technical abilities. Not having any concrete information to put my finger on, I allowed myself to be over-ruled, and she was hired.

The young man became a flourishing part of our team for several years. The lady barely lasted a month. she was brilliant but her personality stunk. She was horrible at:

  • interpersonal communication
  • engaging in dialogue with her colleague and seminar participants
  • building relationships with others in the workplace
  • dealing with conflict (if things went wrong, she went crazy)

As is the Canadian way, everyone was nice to her, but no one seemed to enjoy being around her. If I knew then what I know now, I would advise her to get some training in conflict management and relationship building, or just work on these people skills in some way.

To my colleague, I say, yes employers discriminate against the disabled. You can fight this or you can help change it. If you really want to be hired, plan on blowing employers away with your people skills. You don’t have to attend classroom training, or live web-based training, such as the ones I will be offering. There are plenty of other options. The one I would suggest for now is BNET, discussed on the Top Talent page. Sign up and access their library. Such a move could change your life.

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