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Shah: Are you chasing a dollar – or pursuing a career?
Navin Shah
Navin Shah

Let me share a secret that can help you achieve greater business success. 

This is a way to get better job offers, raises, and promotions.  To earn the appreciation of your co-workers and customers.  To be more valued by your employer -- or if you’re self-employed, to grow your business. 

Yes, you are hired for your professional skills – because you have specific experience and expertise.  Perhaps your knowledge is computer technology or the construction trades.  Perhaps it’s accounting or administration.  Perhaps you’re in sales or support services, in education or in engineering. 

However, here’s the secret: your “soft” skills are as important, if not more important, than your “hard” skills. 

“Soft” skills are those personal qualities and values that you demonstrate during an employment interview or while doing your job every day.  Typically, it is these personality traits that will eventually guide your career and determine your level of success, certainly in business and probably also in life.

So exactly what are some of the “soft” skills that can give you a huge competitive advantage?

·         Comfortable confidence – this means being confident, without being cocky.  Being persistent, not pushy.  Being focused rather than feisty.      

It’s the ability to work effectively with all types and all levels of people, with minimal supervision.    

It’s also the ability to be self-motivated and self-reliant; to stay in control even when problems come up; and to adapt as needed when circumstances change. 

·         Listening and learning – strong writing and speaking skills are essential so you can convey your ideas clearly, but also important is being a good listener. 

Why?  Because you should always be looking for better ways to do things – and that means never being afraid to ask for fresh advice, for more information, or for different perspective.    

I like to say I have strong opinions that are loosely held.  In other words, I am ready to change my mind if the facts change – and I always keep asking the kind of questions that try to identify new facts.  You can do the same.      

·         Dependability, loyalty and honesty – be reliable and be responsible for your behavior.  A simple but significant example is being punctual for meetings, for conference calls, and for project deadlines.  Being “on time” is a sign to others that you respect them and that they can count on you to fulfill your obligations – properly and promptly. 

Other examples of going “the extra mile” include giving attention to details; committing to common goals, not just personal ones; and finding solutions instead of finding blame.    

“Honesty” includes not stealing from your employer.  Most of us would never think of taking home money or equipment, but studies show that as many as 75% of employees have stolen office supplies – including toilet paper.

In fact, the U.S. Department of Commerce reports that the “sticky fingers” of employees costs companies $50 billion a year.  That’s a lot of people stealing a lot things – and the impact directly reduces what a company can spend on salaries and employee benefits.

·         Looking good – recent studies show that what we wear at work affects the way we think, the way others think about us, and ultimately the way we perform. So select a wardrobe that is comfortable and appropriate for your position, while also allowing you to be polished, professional, and productive.  A good example: avoid “athleisure” clothes on-the-job.  

Work is hard.  Some days can feel like your nose is to the grindstone, your shoulder is to the wheel, your eye is on the ball, and your ear is to the ground – all at the same time.  That’s when you may be tempted to think the grass is greener in some other job at some other company or in some other city.    

My experience is that every business has problems and challenges.  By displaying “soft” skills and personal qualities such as those outlined here, you can literally turn stumbling blocks into stepping stones.

In the process, you’ll do more than just make a buck – you’ll make a difference.  For your company, your co-workers, your customers, and especially for yourself!

Navin Shah is Chairman of Royal Hotel Investments, which owns and operates two hotels in Covington and one in Conyers.  He is also Vice Chairman of Embassy National Bank, a community bank in Lawrenceville that he helped establish in 2007 and has become one of the leading SBA lenders in the southeast.