tl;dr: There are great resources out there to help you learn to manage yourself and others, negotiate, network, and more. Use them.
There’s a lot of talk about soft skills lately. It may be that we’ve emphasized understanding STEM subjects to the detriment of working with human subjects. If you google most important soft skills, you come up with a lot of different lists. In my own life the following skills have made a measurable impact. Measurable, because as I have learned them, I have seen my career advance not only in responsibilities but also in dollars and cents.
The reverse is true. In my past I have made some “career limiting moves”. Now that I know better for the most part, I cringe when I see others do these things because they lack soft skills. Six months after telling the boss in public that his idea is dumb, the social cludge wonders why the boss didn’t put him up for a promotion.
Humans are humans. Learning to work and play with humans is pretty important.
With each skill, I make a recommendation or two for reading or viewing. Of course, the best way to really improve is to talk out scenarios with mentors and smart peers.
Managing Oneself This book is a classic and I can see why. It’s short and sweet and helped me to understand my study/work habits and needs, and to quickly understand those of the people around me. This understanding in turn has helped me to figure out how I can both be of service to them and also keep them from getting in my way 🙃.
Never Split the Difference This book has been nothing short of lifechanging for me. I needed repairs to my roof. The roofer gave me his estimate. And with one question, which I learned to formulate by reading this book, I got him to cut his price down from $900 to $450.
How to Win Friends and Influence People is a fairly wordy one, but is good nonetheless.
Never Eat Alone is well received, but I haven’t read it yet. If you read it, let me know how you like it below 👇.
Crucial Conversations does not teach you how to win conversations, but rather how to have them when the subject matter is emotionally charged. It has really helped me learn to keep calm and help the others in the conversation also keep an even keel and hear each other out.
The Art of Strategy: A Game Theorist’s Guide to Success in Business and Life is a fantastic book. It doesn’t just outline strategies. Rather, it goes over, chapter by chapter, key principles and techniques that you can use to put together a strategy fitted to your situation, be it a board game or a career move.
Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity was a real game changer for me. Since reading it, I’ve been able to engage in more projects and activities and feel less stressed than ever before. I don’t use his system fully, because make no mistake, it is a big, hulking system, but I use some of its core principles and I am very glad that I do.
The Complete Plain Words is a classic of clear and productive writing. It is easy and has lots of examples. You probably won’t read it all in one sitting. Instead, read it in bites and let it sink in.
How to Speak, How to Listen is a classic. I haven’t read it though, so let me know if you like it. :D
On Speaking Well by a former presidential speechwriter. I haven’t read the book yet, but this woman knows her stuff. I suspect a lot of the public speaking skills translate, with some tweaking, to small-group or one-on-one conversation.
I also highly recommend the YouTube series Charisma On Command.
Soft Skills: The software developer’s life manual is a good book. I haven’t read it all, but the parts that I read were really good. It covers a lot of the topics above and will be helpful not only for software developers, but for people who sometimes feel awkward. Or who don’t, but maybe should 😊.