Ask yourself these five questions to make sure you’ll truly be employable in the job market of the future.
BY MOE CARRICK
Are you ready to compete and ensure your vibrant employability in the workplace of tomorrow? While technology advances will continue to speed up our world, people do the real heavy lifting of global commerce. Human-to-human connection is what drives organizational performance, and it’s what makes organizations great or brings them to their knees. So before you add another degree or STEM certification to your resume, consider these five questions. Then, invest in growing your ability to work well with other messy, dynamic human beings — because in tomorrow’s job market, these “soft skills” are the real hard work.
1 // Do you really understand empathy and can you show it to others?
People often confuse empathy with sympathy, but it’s actually quite different. Dr. Brené Brown defines sympathy as feeling for someone, and empathy as feeling with someone. Empathy is an emotional intelligence skill that falls in the social awareness skill set. When we show empathy, we powerfully convey to others that we believe them, that we can imagine the emotions they may be feeling, and that we are simply “there” with them. To be empathetic, we must resist the urge to problem-solve, and rather tune in to the other person’s reality, noticing their nonverbal cues and restraining our own tendency to judge. For leaders, empathy is an essential aspect of engaging employees; for anyone on a team, empathy paves the way for authentic trust. Ask people close to you if they find you empathetic. Notice when others show empathy to you, and what that feels like. Track your empathy effort and notice the results you get in interactions with others.
2 // Do other people find you collaborative and nice to work with, and will they say so?
As human beings, we have an essential need to feel connected to other people. Whether we are introverted or extroverted, we need to feel seen, valued, and appreciated. Margaret Heffernan, author of “Beyond Measure,” describes this essential element of social capital as the mortar that holds the bricks of organizations together and facilitates innovation and results. Spend time understanding the impact you have on the colleagues you work with, and develop the capability to modify your interactive style in such a way that people feel appreciative and positive about having you on their team. Ask people you work with what they see as your strengths on the team. Actively invite regular feedback from people about your strengths and weaknesses with regard to collaboration.
3 // Can you lead and motivate others towards new ideas, even when the way is ambiguous and success is not guaranteed?
If we aim to inspire others to change and follow, it’s critical to learn how to build trust based on vulnerability — meaning uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure. That’s an uncomfortable practice for most of us. Yet Patrick Lencioni, blockbuster author of “The Five Dysfunctions of a Team,” points out that trust forms through acts of authentic vulnerability rather than just the passing of time — and it’s also the foundation of a healthy team. Team members who can say “I don’t know” or “I made a mistake” contribute profoundly to the team’s ability to navigate conflict due to their trust and openness with one another. Practice this in your own behaviors and attitudes with others when the way is uncertain or you feel stressed or uncomfortable. Consciously name your uncertainties, and do not hesitate to own mistakes you make.
4 // Do you spend time and energy building relationships as if your job depended on it?
Employees today stick around and give their all when they feel seen, accountable, engaged, and activated. If you’re neglecting to form relationships at work, odds are you’ll be seen not as a silent genius working away on greatness in isolation, but as toxic and detrimental to company growth. Spend time thinking about the relationships you have with others at work, and invest energy and time in growing and enhancing them. Don’t leave your work relationships to random interaction; instead, take charge of cultivating deeper and productive partnerships.
5 // Are you engaged with others and socially flexible?
This doesn’t mean you have to be an extrovert, as evidenced by Susan Cain’s groundbreaking work on the contribution of introverts to work and the world. But your reputation for flexible, enlivened relationships will pave the way for future opportunities and connections that keep you learning and vibrant. The relationships we form over the course of our careers matter in ways large and small to the introductions people offer us, and to the reputation we each have as a solid member of a team or organization. Putting yourself out there as an engaged and attentive colleague helps others remember you and your contributions. Practice flexibility in your interactions — for example, changing your mind or being open to new ideas. Reduce your tendency to be judgmental by being patient with others and tuning in to their nonverbal social cues.
Today’s fast-moving global economy requires more partnership, collaboration, and creativity with others than ever before. Machines can make production more efficient, but they cannot (yet) navigate the soft, squishy realm of people-dynamics. We are social beings hardwired for connection, and the essential talent of tomorrow’s workforce is self-actualization. Get on the bus by relating well to others, or get left behind.
Moe Carrick is the founder of Moementum, Inc., a leadership consulting business and certified B Corp. She grounds her approach in a unifying and undeniable truth: successful work is dependent upon human relationships. Moe feels privileged to work with clients such as Prudential Financial, REI, Nike, Tech Soft 3D, and many others. Find her at moementum.com or on Twitter @moecarrick.