By Jared Morrison
Manager of Benefits Education from the UC Office of the President Hyun Swanson spoke at the Paul Merage School of Business on Wednesday, Oct. 24, to Women in Leadership, a student organization that aims to teach undergraduates of the leadership opportunities for women in business. Swanson focused primarily on the “soft skills” necessary in a professional career.
According the Swanson, soft skills are those that make a person more affable and reliable, unlike the technical skills that may enable someone to crunch numbers or pioneer research.
“You might think it’s all about working hard, just doing the best, just being the person who knows the most, and it’s not about that,” said Swanson.
Swanson began with the skill of communication, emphasizing the importance of effective speaking, writing and listening and explained that something as simple as an email can be a reflection of someone’s character.
“Email is one of the things I judge people on,” said Swanson. “I know who writes the bad emails and who writes the good ones.”
Next, she touched on the impact of enthusiasm and a positive attitude, especially for a job interview.
“What reflects enthusiasm and attitude is someone who has done their research,” Swanson denoted. “It’s the kind of preparation that you pick up on.”
Swanson also pointed out that being able to work with a team is imperative. The key is to find out what motivates people.
“You need to become friends with the people you work with. It is that connection that makes people work well together,” noted Swanson.
She also explained that working well with others is what leads to developing longer-term, meaningful relationships, through networking — another quintessential skill. With no shortage of problems in the workplace, managers expect employees to come up with their own solutions, explained Swanson. She further emphasized that employers are much more interested in the ability to think critically and how someone approaches a problem rather than who is right or wrong.
“Don’t be afraid to fail,” Swanson encouraged. “Don’t be afraid to get something wrong. It’s okay.”
Swanson said putting these soft skills into practice is challenging because they feel unnatural, but that is not necessarily a bad sign. She suggests one of the best ways to learn these skills is to find a role model who has already mastered them. From there, it’s all about practice.