Expertise and empathy — a powerful mix

Needed:?More than just analytical skills.

The latest QS recruitment survey, the TopMBA Jobs and Salary Trends Report from late 2010, shows that demand for ‘soft’ skills has drastically increased in importance for MBA recruiters.

The survey of  5,000 MBA recruiters in 36 countries shows they already have very high expectations of rigorous finance, marketing and e-business or IT skills from business-school graduates. They are now looking for another set of abilities to complement their businesses in today’s competitive economic climate.

The report, which predicts an improvement in MBA recruitment for 2011 in several industries, shows that the big four soft skills demanded by MBA recruiters are: interpersonal skills, communication skills, strategic thinking and leadership.

And around 50 percent of the recruiters that responded are based in Asia; this is notable as MBA students from this region have traditionally been strong in the hard skills and weaker in soft skills.

Mitch O’Brien of Emissary Pharmaceuticals in Australia says, “MBAs represent an interesting pool of potential business leaders with broad business skills; however, they often come with an arrogant expectation of career progression. I would like to see more emotional intelligence taught and realistic career-counseling provided.”

Sean Hewitt, a careers advisor, highlights nine areas as a general guide: “Keep a winning attitude, be a team player, communicate effectively, exude confidence, hone your creative skills, accept and learn from criticism, motivate yourself and lead others, multitask and prioritize your to-do list, see the big picture.”

Whatever role the MBA graduate is aiming for, improving their soft skills will greatly benefit their career progress, if the opinions of recruiters are important. And, as the TopMBA Jobs and Salary Trends Report clearly says, MBA recruiters’ opinions are the most important of all.

Techniques

The following is a list of suggestions on how to adapt successfully to a role and learn a better approach to communication, management and leadership:

1 Get specific feedback from colleagues and peers (and clients if you can) on the qualities that are important for the roles you want or may be applying for. Consider ways of capitalizing on your strengths as well as focusing on areas that need development. And prepare to take negative criticism on board as well as positive.

2 Identify somebody who you think is particularly successful at demonstrating the skills you want to develop. Talk to them/sit in meeting with them and gain an insight into their approach.

3 Think back to a recent time when you weren’t very successful at influencing or convincing an individual. Ask the individual how you came across and what you might have done differently to be more successful. Prepare for bad news, and accept it.

4 Develop the habit of critically reviewing the impact you have had after any meeting. Consider ways to increase your impact and put this into practice. A top tip here? Record your thoughts and refer to them before the next meeting.


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