soft skills, hard skills…

November 4, 2009

A very simple exercise designed to get a group of currently under-employed professionals to identify their current skill set generated a very interesting finding today. The first part of the exercise, conducted in private, yielded a skill set readily identifiable as a list of job related attributes – capacity to market, network, people manage etc. The second part of the exercise, conducted in pairs, set about inquiring further into the taken for granted skills that we often forget to mention. If something comes naturally to us we tend to think it’s simple and not that important. Other stuff we have had to labour over and ‘learn’ tends to make it to the top of the list as something we’ve earned. In pairs, the participants interviewed each other, inquired further into fascinating stories and extended that list of skills. The extended list consisted of a broader and richer list of attributes – soft skills, interpersonal and relational expertise, in short – unrelated (in an obvious way) to a particular job but ultimately a compelling list of transferrable skills that can be used across a wide range of entrepreneurial activity.
The question it raised for me is why does an invitation to think about skills immediately evoke our last job as distinct from life skills and what we learn outside of that 9 to 5 existence?

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