Why contract candidates should harden up on soft skills

The technology boom has opened up many networks online and created real, focused, commercial opportunities, says Barney Ely, a director at recruitment firm Hays.

But in a knowledge-based economy, it’s a high risk strategy for individuals to neglect person-to-person connections.

Email should be no substitute for human contact and, although introductions via technology can be a good starting point, professional relationships are often cemented in person.

So if you want your business to succeed, sooner or later you’ll need to meet the people you would like to turn into clients. Moreover, you should not underestimate the need to get people together physically to create the required trust and common understanding, especially if it is a new group or team.

Hays’ top 5 tips for networking:

Strengthen ‘weak ties’

Candidates should be cultivating their ‘weak ties’ – those individuals encountered casually or unexpectedly who could develop into new and useful relationships. Potential networks are everywhere and not always in work-related places.

Enhance ‘loose knowledge’

Technical knowledge of a job role or organisation is a given in anyone with any professional ambition. But ‘loose knowledge’ – what and who we know outside of work – is also relevant and could also be useful to career development. Such information should be exploited appropriately.

Keep out the green room

The ‘global green room’ – the elite networks that welcome senior people, but remain closed to those further down the professional chain – stifles creativity. Opening up established groups to outsiders and sharing knowledge and best practice on a more meritocratic basis could revitalise networks.

Air out ‘marzipan’ types

‘Marzipan managers’ should be a source of concern for organisations. These employees sit beneath the leadership icing and often feel frustrated and swamped in a sea of email and paperwork. Responsible employers will encourage them to network for their own benefit and that of the organisation.

Be inquisitive

Organisations should aspire to becoming ‘curious corporations’. In order to flourish and succeed, businesses must not be too insular and should be aware of what is happening outside their operation. To achieve this, they must engage with the broader world through external networks and information-sharing to generate new ideas.

Tuesday 29th January 2013