My phone buzzed and dinged. Seeing who was on the other end made me smile. It was one of my former work colleagues. Leslie Doubleday Heizman was the Director of marketing for Arkansas Surgical Hospital in Maumelle, Arkansas. She was looking for an assistant, or a coordinator of marketing services for the hospital. I had an advertising campaigns class that had just completed an assignment capstone project for this same hospital. Leslie, knowing that I had graduating advertising in PR majors every year asked me if I could recommend an entry-level person for her, perhaps even one of the students who had just worked on our class campaign for the hospital?
I thought about her request for a little bit, and immediately came to mind, a recent graduate Lauren, who had been a public relations major and had switched to advertising. Lauren lived about halfway between my Maumelle and Conway so she lived close to the main facility. Lauren had just finished college in May of 2015, was waiting at home while she looked for a full -time job but had not, as of yet, found gainful employment. I thought she would be a perfect fit.
As I started telling Leslie about Lauren, Leslie asked me about her skill set, “what could Lauren do with her skills that was her most productive way of being in the marketing communications industry?”
I said, “Leslie she can do a lot of things, but before I tell you what she can do for you and the Arkansas Surgical Hospital, let me tell you some things that I know about her that you might want to know.”
I proceeded to tell Leslie five things about Lauren that I thought that she should know that had nothing to do with her actual skill set. They were soft skills if you will. These were things that every employer would want to know about a prospective employee before the interview process.
First of all, Lauren will show up for work, on time, everyday! I never remember her missing a class – ever – and she was never late!
Then I proceeded to tell her that Lauren was an attentive listener. That she would listen carefully to instructions. She always made sure she understood her assignments and never had to use, “I didn’t know about that part” as an excuse.
Thirdly, I said, she will work hard. Not because the work was hard for her but because she always wanted to do put in the necessary effort to excel with her assignments.
Then, as a result of working hard, she didn’t just do the work… she did good work! Everything was always above average, more than satisfactory, even excellent many times.
Finally, she always turned the assignment in on time. She was never missed a deadline – EVER!
Consequently, she received an “A” in every class for which I was her professor.
When I finish talking about her soft-skills, I said, “Now let me tell you what she can do for you…” At that point Leslie interrupted me and said, “I don't need to know what she can do for me. I pretty much know what you’ve been teaching her. But, if she can do what I've heard you just tell me, then I want her. I can train her to do what I want her to do for us.
The next day, on a Wednesday, I sent both Leslie and Lauren an “e-introduction,” telling Lauren what this was all about. The day after that, they talked and scheduled a meeting. That meeting was on Friday. Leslie interviewed Lauren. Then she said, “Let's meet again on Monday. I would like the president of the organization to meet you and weigh in on this hire. The following Monday they met again and Leslie made her a job offer. She encouraged her to think about it. Talk to her family about the offer, but to please give her a call back as soon as she could as the ASH was anxious to move forward with their marketing plans. The next day, on Tuesday, Lauren called to accept the job. It took from Tuesday to Tuesday to meet, interview, re-interview and hire.
I am often asked to give a referral to a student or former student on their possible success or failure. When that happens, I always recall this “Life at Shutter Speed post.”
At your job, there are probably people with more experience than you, more domain knowledge than you, even more skills than you. The same is true about your competition. But there's one place where you can make your mark: your attitude, humility, willingness to work hard and learn more, will put you ahead of the others that are more talented or smarter than you.
You can bring more generosity of spirit, more enthusiasm, more kindness, more resilience, more positive energy, more bravery and more magic to the room than anyone else, at least right now. Because you choose to.
Help others to get what they need! YOU are NOT the center of the Universe!
So, when the question is Soft Skills vs. Talent? I’ll take the Soft Skills every time!
Finally… Have Fun! If you’re not having fun in life and your job… you are doing it wrong!