Why your soft skills are your strongest skills

if you feel that you have more to offer, that’s probably because you do.

 WE WERE intoxicated with technological innovation. (photo credit: Marvin Meyer/Unsplash)
WE WERE intoxicated with technological innovation.
(photo credit: Marvin Meyer/Unsplash)

I was a good software engineer… but not amazing. Looking back, I don’t think I could have ever been amazing when I’m comparing myself to my colleagues who enjoyed listening to Java Style Guide audiobooks on their morning runs. It’s not that I didn’t find it interesting, I just found other things interesting as well.

If in order to be an amazing engineer I needed to be “hard rock” I was more like… “alternative rock.” I didn’t have all it takes to go as deep as I expected myself to, but I had so much else to offer that wasn’t translated to my technical work – my soft skills, like creativity, organizational ability and people’s skills. At that point in time, I didn’t think these were actual expertise that should be reflected in my payslip. It was more like the work metadata - some advantages that might help me stand out a little.

And then I became an entrepreneur and I felt I had found my calling. I found that here I could actually be as good as I expected myself to be: 

My organizational ability was expressed in our startup’s work processes and pitch decks.

My creativity was expressed in our first GUI, logo and website.

And my sociability was expressed in our first employees, investors and customers.

To my surprise, these soft skills were exactly what we, as a team, needed to succeed. So why do we so often ignore them? Why don’t we put the right emphasis on the things we are actually good at, instead of trying to get better at what we think we should be good at?

I’m not sure I have an answer to the “why” question, but I do have a few suggestions to the “what can we do about it” question.

 Noa Zilberman (credit: CHECK POINT) Noa Zilberman (credit: CHECK POINT)

1. Aim for a management positionWhat I’m guessing, is the natural path for most. Management positions can shift some of the focus from the hard skills, and make real use of so many of your soft skills, which would make you stand out as a manager. It is, however, important to ask yourself if this is really what you want, or is it just the easiest plan because it may happen because of inertia? 

2. Move horizontally within your industrySearch for a role that better matches what you have to offer. It may seem trivial, but it is important to note that the change doesn’t have to be drastic. Ideally, it should make use of your existing expertise, and should be a role that’s within your industry, or even within your current organization, and is simply a little shift from what you currently do. You should start by learning what type of jobs are out there – in your organization and outside. You’ll be surprised by the great selection of positions you’ve never heard of, each focusing on something slightly different with a need for a different set of skills.

3. Change your job descriptionIf changing your job is too drastic, you can start by changing the way you and your team perceive your role. First, map out your contribution for the company, and don’t forget to include those things you do that might go unnoticed. Then, you should have an honest sit down with your manager about your role in the team and whether you can find a job description that matches your work better. It may seem like a small, technical change, but through this you can make sure everything you do is covered within your official work scope, and you are measured accordingly.

4. Build your brand outside your organizationIf your soft skills are not being reflected in your 9–5 job, you can use them to build your personal brand outside work hours through volunteering work, meetups and social media. You will need your people’s skills and creativity to find that niche where you can stand out as an expert. If you do this well enough for long enough this may circle back to your workplace and serve as that springboard you were looking for.

5. Go soloThis is probably the most drastic option, but also the most rewarding one. If I compare work to a workout, being an employee at a large organization is like doing crunches, working on an isolated muscle, while starting your own business is like doing a plank – all of your muscles are involved. It may not suit everyone as the investment and risk are so much higher, but there is no doubt this is a great way to make use of all your soft skills, hard skills and medium skills – and any other skill you don’t actually have but pretend to in order to land the deal.

If this piece spoke to you I genuinely suggest you take some time for yourself to think things over. Feeling unfulfilled is one of the worst feelings in the world. Think of it this way: If everyone in the world lived up to their full potential, we would have probably cured cancer and found a solution to world hunger by now. So, if you don’t do this for yourself, do it for the good of mankind :-)

Noa Zilberman is an experienced product manager and entrepreneur. She has broad cyber security and networking background from her army service at Unit 8200 and her work as a software engineer at Google. After graduating with honors from her double degree in Math and Computer Science, Noa went on to co-found Odo Security and serve as its Chief Product Officer. Odo, a cyber security start-up in the Zero Trust Network Access (ZTNA) space, was acquired by Check Point two year later. Today, Noa serves as Check Point’s Lead ZTNA Product Manager in parallel to her work as a start-up mentor and public speaker.