By Carmine Gallo:
The hard data show that "soft skills" are in high demand.
In a new LinkedIn analysis, "persuasion" was one of the top skills "most worth learning" in 2019. "Strengthening a soft skill is one of the best investments you can make in your career, as they never go out of style," according to the study.
"Let's talk about a soft skill like storytelling," I said.
"Soft?" he shot back. "If an entrepreneur can't tell a convincing story, I'm not investing. You call it soft. I call it fundamental."
Warren Buffett would agree. Whenever Buffett is asked about the one most valuable skill that anyone can build today, he says public speaking. He even puts a value on it, which I wrote about in this article. "The one easy way to become worth 50 percent more than you are now -- at least -- is to hone your communication skills -- both written and verbal," Buffett says.
In a world built on ideas, the persuaders -- the ones who can win hearts and change minds -- have a competitive edge. I've spoke to economists and historians like Deirdre McCloskey at the University of Illinois, Chicago. She conducted an impressive research project to prove that old-fashioned rhetoric -- persuasion -- is responsible for a growing share of America's national income.
McCloskey reached the following conclusion: Persuasion is responsible for generating one-quarter of America's total national income. She expects it to rise to 40 percent over the next 20 years. McCloskey's research was taken up by another economist in Australia who reached a similar conclusion.
To understand why persuasion is no longer a soft skill, we need a short history lesson. In 1840, nearly 70 percent of the U.S. labor force worked on farms; today fewer than 2 percent of Americans work in agriculture. Manufacturing's share of the labor force has dropped from 40 percent in 1950 to under 20 percent today. Individual income from manufacturing continues to fall as robots replace workers and artificial intelligence takes over repetitive tasks once handled by humans.
The main task of the jobs that are left -- and the new ones created -- is to change minds.
As McCloskey explains, "Nothing happens voluntarily in an economy, or a society, unless someone changes her mind. Behavior can be changed by compulsion, but minds cannot."
Even in the "hard skills" jobs, persuasion sets people apart. "A coder who only knows technical skills might start at $40,000 to $80,000 in Silicon Valley. A coder who can speak to the client can easily command $120,000 and up," says McCloskey.
In Warren Buffett's office, he has one diploma on display. It's not his business degree. It's a certificate he earned after completing a public-speaking course. Buffett says it's the most valuable degree he has. For a man who's worth $80 billion, that's saying something.
Calling public speaking a "soft skill" diminishes its value in a world that cherishes the hard sciences. Public speaking isn't soft. It's the equivalent of cold, hard cash.
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