Bernard Salt: soft skills; Ruth Ostrow: de­featist catchcries; Mys­tic Me­dusa

The Weekend Australian - Life - - FOOD & WINE - BERNARD SALT Bernard Salt is a Mel­bourne cor­po­rate ad­viser, key­note speaker and au­thor; [email protected]­

I have this sud­den urge to give ad­vice to oth­ers

THERE comes a time in life when you get all re­flec­tive. When you get all "the youth are our future" type of thing. I must be get­ting to that time of life. It must start in the mid-50s. It's prob­a­bly pro­grammed into the DNA: find part­ner in the 20s; have fam­ily in the 30s; fo­cus on ca­reer in the 40s; give ad­vice to oth­ers in the 50s; go on a Euro­pean river cruise in the 60s.

And as I am sit­ting squarely in my 50s I have this sud­den urge to give ad­vice to oth­ers.

What are the skills required by a 20-some­thing to en­sure ca­reer and/or busi­ness suc­cess? There are two an­swers to this ques­tion.

The first thing you need is train­ing. A univer­sity de­gree or ap­pren­tice­ship is a must. Low-skilled, let alone un­skilled, work is be­ing outsourced to de­vel­op­ing economies. I wouldn't want to be a 20-some­thing ap­proach­ing the 2020s with­out an ac­cred­ited set of skills. I know it in­volves hard work and com­mit­ment in the late teenage years and the early 20s but you must do it. No ifs, no buts.

The sec­ond thing that is required is less tan­gi­ble. It isn't a course, cer­tifi­cate or ap­pren­tice­ship. It's a set of qual­i­ties. This is a bit like the dis­tinc­tion between mil­i­tary power and soft power.

A univer­sity de­gree or some­thing sim­i­lar gives you the tech­ni­cal hard­ware to com­pete in the work­force but it is other softer, less tan­gi­ble skills that truly de­liver ca­reer suc­cess. To the ex­tent that well de­vel­oped soft skills can off­set the drag-ef­fect of less-than-pres­ti­gious tech­ni­cal skills.

And do you know where th­ese pow­er­ful but oh-so­rare soft skills are ac­quired? Not at uni. Not in the work­place. Not through ac­cess to some whizz-bang men­tor. I think th­ese skills are ac­quired in the home dur­ing the child­hood and teenage years. Do you have the ver­bal and writ­ing skills to ex­press your ideas? Are you nu­mer­ate? I don't mean are you a math­e­ma­ti­cian; I mean can you look at a set of num­bers and see what is out of kil­ter? The best chief ex­ec­u­tives I have seen do that. They don't know they are do­ing it. It's in­tu­itive.

Are you con­fi­dent enough to project your ideas? Or do you ques­tion your right to oc­cupy the mind space of oth­ers?

And then there's the killer soft skill that I reckon comes from deep within the core per­son­al­ity. Are you re­silient? Can you brush aside the snide re­marks of com­peti­tors? Do you have the emo­tional ma­tu­rity to have a dif­fi­cult con­ver­sa­tion and to not carry a grudge?

Do you have a sense of fair play? Can you form re­la­tion­ships eas­ily? Are you dili­gent? Are you pre­pared to work hard? No, I don't mean have you worked hard since Fe­bru­ary. I mean are you pre­pared to work hard year af­ter year? And are you fun to be around? Do peo­ple like work­ing with you? Do you build and re­tain good re­la­tion­ships?

Th­ese are soft skills. Th­ese are killer skills. Th­ese are ca­reer-lever­ag­ing skills. They can future-proof a ca­reer. No mat­ter what new tech­nol­ogy or what com­pany takeover should tran­spire, it is those with the best mix of soft and tech­ni­cal skills that will sur­vive and pros­per.

Soft skills are like a flota­tion de­vice for nav­i­gat­ing trou­bled wa­ters. That's my grand ca­reer ad­vice to oth­ers. And to be frank I am pretty pleased with it. Now, can any­one tell me about the Rhine River cruise? The brochures make it look ab­so­lutely lovely.

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