The Success Ratio

I’ve been thinking about the speech John McDonough recently gave at Loyola University Chicago (which I summarized yesterday).  The underlying theme is the importance of people skills in having a successful career. Early in my career, I thought that professional success was based overwhelmingly on how well you did your job. I thought of the people side of the equation as ancillary to professional competence. If I had to break it down into a formula, I would have said professional competence accounted for 90 percent of one’s success and that people skills made up the remaining 10 percent.

Boy, was I wrong.

I now believe the formula is at least 50-50 and probably closer to 40-60, with people skills outweighing strictly “professional” ones. I’m not saying you can be an incompetent charmer and survive (although there are probably many examples of that). What I am saying is that one skills set complements the other. And if one doesn’t consciously work on being strong in both areas, you’re at a huge disadvantage.

Bottom line: people like doing business with people they like. With the economy being what it is and with lots of folks out there who have the base-level professional skills, review McDonough’s bullet points and pass them on to someone whose future matters to you. You’d be doing them a favor.

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  • This blog entry seems to presume the reader has a job. But the stereotypical college grad is seeking a job to start his/her career. “People skills” in the employment market is basically “suck up to everyone above you in the power structure.” Employers invite grads to apply for “entry-level” jobs in their fields – then require successful applicants to have 5 years on the job with some other employer. Most employers now limit applications to those submitted via their online templates. They drain out all your humanity and reduce you to digital information – to make it easier to eliminate as many applicants as possible, ASAP, depending on computer programs to begin the sorting. Employers want you to respect everyone – except yourself and your own knowledge and experience. We’re not allowed to have the courage of our convictions without the approval of our superiors. And that’s not courage. With so much workforce advancement depending on how brown employees’ noses are, it’s no wonder there are so many people in the wrong places both in & out of the workforce.