Evidence shows that ‘soft skills’ are in high demand.
In a new LinkedIn analysis, ‘persuasion’ was one of the most ‘worth learning’ skills in 2019. ‘Building a general skill is one of the best investments you can make in your career. career, because they never go out of style. according to the study.
After having conducted dozens of interviews for Five stars, my new book on persuasion, I concluded it was time to stop talking about public speaking and the art of persuasion as “soft skills.” A wealthy entrepreneur at Y-Combinator, the iconic investment firm behind startups like Reddit and Airbnb, persuaded me to stop using the term. During our conversation he shouted my mistake.
“Let’s talk about a general skill like storytelling,” I say.
“Soft, tender?” he retaliated. “If an entrepreneur can’t tell a compelling story, I don’t invest. You name it soft, tender. I to call fundamental. “
Warren Buffett would agree. Whenever Buffett is asked about the most valuable skill anyone can develop today, he says public speaking. It even puts a value on it, which I talked about in this article. “The only easy way to earn 50% more than what you are now – at least – is to hone your communication skills – both written and verbal,” Buffett said.
The growing value of changing mindsets
In a world built on ideas, the persuasive – those who can win hearts and change minds – have a competitive advantage. I have spoken to economists and historians like Deirdre McCloskey of the University of Illinois at Chicago. She has conducted an impressive research project to prove that old-fashioned rhetoric – persuasion – is responsible for a growing share of America’s national income.
McCloskey analyzed 250 occupations covering 140 million people in the United States. She created a statistical model based on the amount of time people in each category spent speaking in public and persuading another person to act. In some cases, persuasion has played a more limited role than others (think firefighters versus public relations specialists).
McCloskey came to the following conclusion: Persuasion is responsible for generating a quarter of the total US national income. She expects it to reach 40 percent over the next 20 years. McCloskey’s research was echoed by another Australian economist who came to a similar conclusion.
To understand why persuasion is no longer a soft skill, we need a little history lesson. In 1840, nearly 70 percent of the American workforce worked on farms; today, less than 2 percent of Americans work in agriculture. The share of the manufacturing workforce has fallen from 40 percent in 1950 to less than 20 percent today. Individual manufacturing income continues to decline as robots replace workers and artificial intelligence takes over repetitive tasks once handled by humans.
The main task of the jobs that remain – and the new ones created – is to change one’s mind.
As McCloskey explains, “Nothing happens on purpose in an economy or a society unless someone changes their mind. Behavior can be changed by compulsion, but spirits cannot. “
Even in “hard skills” jobs, persuasion sets people apart. “A coder who only knows technical skills can start at $ 40,000 to $ 80,000 in Silicon Valley. A coder who can talk to the client can easily order $ 120,000 and more,” says McCloskey.
She’s right. I’ve interviewed young professionals in their twenties and thirties whose careers are booming and who are promoted much faster than their peers, largely due to their ability to give presentations more effectively. Here is the key. They are working on it. Public speaking is a skill that anyone can develop.
In Warren Buffett’s office, he exhibits a diploma. It’s not his business degree. It is a certificate that he obtained after taking a public speaking course. Buffett says it’s the most valuable degree he has. To a man worth $ 80 billion, that means something.
Calling public speaking a “soft skill” diminishes its value in a world that cherishes the hard sciences. Speaking in public is not sweet. It is the equivalent of hard cash.