Three soft skills you need to succeed

Online Training

Technical proficiency isn’t the be-all and end-all. If you want to succeed in this challenging job market, you’ll need to boost your hands-on know-how with a range of softer skills.

There’s no doubt that the automotive industry is built on a breadth of technical knowledge that has helped it flourish over the years. But if 2020 taught us anything, it’s that technical skills also need to be supplemented with a softer, people-focused approach. Here are three skills that could help you accelerate your career…

1. Drive

Motivation and enthusiasm are important, particularly if you’re able to top up your own levels. “If you’re a people person or an extrovert like me, it was hard to be at home on your own day in, day out and keep high levels of motivation,” says Jimmy McLoughlin, former Downing Street Business Director. His lockdown solution was to introduce “water-cooler chats”: 15 minutes with three random people from across the business to talk about what you’ve been up to. It’s a simple way to help refuel your own and your colleagues’ motivation levels.

Remember that everyone’s driving motivation at work will be different, whether it’s paying the bills, helping customers or making career progress, so it’s important to be authentic and let your passion shine through. Not everybody will be like Belu Water CEO Natalie Campbell, who knew that she wanted the top job from the age of 15. “When you make that sort of decision so young, everything about your career and the jobs you do is with that intention in mind,” she says. It’s a powerful force to harness.

2. Absolute focus

Soft skills are not just big-picture, cuddly stuff. Enthusiasm, purpose, vision and big ideas need to be put into practice, and for that to happen, we need to be focused on the details.

Rita Clifton, former chair and CEO of branding consultancy Interbrand says: “There are visionaries who have the ideas, but in order to make amazing things happen, you have got to be close to the detail. And now more than ever, we need this to happen on a much grander scale and we need to make sure that we embed that focus and bake it into the way we get back to work.”

3. Creativity

Don’t forget that creativity is a key soft skill. According to Lord Karan Bilimoria, founder of Cobra Beer and current President of the Confederation of British Industry: “We are all creative. Throughout my childhood I was told that I wasn’t creative because I was useless at art and couldn’t sing. It was only when I started my business that I realised anyone can be creative. It’s a great asset.”

However, he says, there are two things you need to do in order to let your creativity blossom. “You’ve got to be determined so that the creativity can get to work and for the solutions to form. And then you have got to switch off. You think, think, think about a problem, you work at it, research it, discuss it and then you have to do something different. Suddenly it falls into place. I come up with some of my best ideas when I’m out for a walk.”

This is an edited extract from IMI's new MotorPro magazine, received free as part of IMI membership. Time to find out more about becoming a member of the most influential community in UK automotive…?