Often, the top questions we receive on @WeAreCisco Instagram Live takeovers are around obtaining a job at Cisco, how to apply, and what technical certifications and schooling is required.
The truth is that it varies from position to position, and while these skills are all very important – I have a little secret to share: often it is your soft skills (also sometimes referred to as your “people skills”) that will land you a job.
During a recent @WeAreCisco Instagram Live takeover that I was on with Shivangi Sharma where we shared our typical “Day in the Life” as Software Engineers at Cisco, I responded to questions from potential job-seekers, and most of the discussions hovered around certifications and technical expertise required, but there was barely any dialogue on the importance and necessity of soft skills.
I’d like to take the time to share with you now what I wish we could’ve talked more about during that Instagram Live.
Your soft skills include communication, presentation, critical thinking, problem-solving, time management and teamwork to name a few. To develop these skills, it becomes essential to have exposure to real-world scenarios within a professional environment.
We’ve all likely had to consider this very scenario when choosing a teammate – would you want the amicable team player that is always willing to help and is ready and excited to learn? Or the candidate who is extremely technical, but lacks the ability to work within a team and makes communication difficult? The answer to this should be a no-brainer as most of us would prefer to work with a friendly team player.
Most organizations have also started giving heightened importance to these “culture fit” interviews that tend to focus more on how a candidate will adapt to the workforce and a particular team. Yes, those technical/hard skills are important and may get you through the first round of interviews – but as you near the final rounds, the secret ingredient to success lies in how well you showcase your personal attributes.
These skills are the ‘extra something’ that make you shine. They’re the elements that share who you are, what personality you have, and how well you will blend with a team and a culture – and employers are looking for this unique set of skills that are all your own!
You can teach an individual the missing technical concepts, but there is little to no training on how to be that special team fit.
Here are a few tips I’d like to provide to help you on your search for a career at Cisco, and how your hard skills – and, yes – your soft skills should be considered:
1. Your credentials should always be the sum of your professional experience. Share how this experience has improved your attitude based on the failures and difficulties you have faced. Your portfolio and real-world experience counts way more than just a certification or a one-time test.
Soft skills are imperative for building human relations and getting the necessary visibility on your team paves a path for advancing in your career. Strong soft skills ensure a productive, collaborative and healthy work environment – all of which are vital attributes for organizations in an increasingly competitive world.
2. Develop and Demonstrate your skills. How does one go about doing this? The first step is to be introspective and identify areas in which you need improvement. An excellent way to do this would be getting honest feedback from close friends and colleagues. It is crucial to surround yourself with people who are experienced and exercise excellent soft skills.
Having professional interactions on a plethora of topics has not only helped me improve my skills but has also given rise to newer ideas for projects and accomplishing tasks efficiently. Having a mentor has also been fruitful as they can help to model appropriate skills to acquire and steps to take.
3. Be wholly present. Writing and listening are two other ways that have helped me sharpen my overall professional career. Being wholly present when someone is speaking helps in critical thinking. The three-step methodology suggested for critical thinking are to identify the purpose, thinking from the perspective of your biases that may include your customer or your organization and finally understanding the implications it will have on others.
Such a process in turn helps cultivate leadership qualities. Being enthusiastic, optimistic, cooperative, and flexible to other’s needs can help others begin to view you as an effective leader. Showing up, being present, and having one another’s backs also helps to enhance these qualities.
Does this mean hard skills take a sidestep? Not at all! Hard skills are as necessary as soft skills and should not be undermined.
But soft skills are usually undervalued and overlooked, so there must be a conscious effort to build on them. They must go hand in hand and you must find the right balance between the two to find what I like to call ‘hybrid skills’.
Cisco has given me plenty of these opportunities in improving my soft skills and realizes the importance of BOTH skillsets working together in unison to cultivate the best employees and grow the best teams.
My goal, as I hope it is yours, is to look back at each point in my career and see an upward trajectory in my overall personality and skillsets. I want my future-self to see all the ways in which I have evolved and how my career has grown so that I can not only learn from my mistakes, but so that I can also say “well done” for all my accomplishments.
It is not hard skills alone that can do this, you must not forget those ever-powerful soft skills as well.
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Good post, Jaimin. Brings to mind the premise of Daniel Pink's book , "A Whole New Mind":
“We are moving from an economy and a society built on the logical, linear, computerlike capabilities of the Information Age to an economy and a society built on the inventive, empathic, big-picture capabilities of what’s rising in its place, the Conceptual Age.”
As someone who works on Cisco's hybrid collaboration technologies, I particularly love the concept of 'hybrid skills'!
Very well written blog Jaimin. Nicely captures the importance of how the soft skills add the "extra something" that is important in today's work environment.
Good job! The early we realize this , the better we are as person and as engineer .keep doing this, you will be happy and flying person.
Nice post, Jaimin. Very well written. Thanks for sharing your ideas.
I have seen your soft skills in action. It is a real pleasure to work with you.
Wishing you all the best in your career. Keep blogging 🙂
Nice sharing, Jaimin. You are the one with both hard and soft skills!
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