“Soft skills” has become something of a buzzword in our industry, and it has certainly been buzzing recently, with the release of GMAC’s new software program, Reflect.
Designed with MBA students in mind, the program assesses personal and professional strengths, with the goal of “helping you understand you and how others perceive you”.
Released mid-February, Reflect has sparked excitement, discussion, and even some anxiety.
Here’s what you need to know.
The GMAC software is not intended for the admissions process
MBA students hearing of the GMAC’s announcement, especially those trapped by the brevity of Twitter, might experience panicked visions of personality tests killing their admissions chances.
If you have had such visions, you can relax. Previewing the new software, GMAC VP of Product Development Andy Martelli said that, although the project started as a way to measure soft skills for the admissions process, the team decided, “such assessments are coachable and not appropriate for high stakes testing”.
Good decision- with that worry aside, students can take the test honestly and focus on real improvement.
Soft skills offer an important competitive edge
Though Reflect is not being used for admissions, you should not underestimate the importance of soft skills in both admissions and hiring decisions.
Considering the large pool of talented students with high tests scores and lots of work experience that you are competing with, your soft skills can provide a make-it-or-break-it edge.
Given two comparable students, admissions officers and employers will typically choose the student who can build conscientious relationships, who can engage and inspire others to work towards a goal- in other words, the student who has shown proven soft skills.
Soft skills are not automatic- they must be honed and practiced
At this point, some of you might be worrying about a lack of soft skills, especially if you have ever struggled under the “shy” label.
Too often, we assume that leadership or charm is a sort of genetic skill- you either have it or you don’t. Also too often, we let the label of “shyness” prohibit us from aspiring to such skills.
While leadership or relationship-building might come more naturally to more outgoing personalities, those traits can be achieved by anyone with the courage and discipline to practice them on a daily basis.
Strive each day to strengthen the relationships you engage in. Take that first step, start that conversation, voice that plan you have been thinking about- each time you do so, it becomes a little more natural.
It still boils down to personal branding
Finally, the buzz around this technology reinforces what I have always seen as the core of MBA admissions success.
Here at Expartus, we call it personal branding, and what we are talking about has a lot in common with the GMAC technology.
It’s about finding out what your strengths are and playing into those strengths. It’s about identifying your weaknesses and working out strategies for improvement.
It’s about exploring what you want, from your career and from your life in general. Essentially it is about nothing less that truly discovering who you are, in some sense, the most important discovery we are challenged to make.