Soft skills hold the key to career success

Left to right: Traci-Ann Byrnes, First Assistant Secretary, Program Performance, CASG, Defence Graduated PSMP 1998 and EMCPL 2010, Maria Navarro, Graduated EMBA 2010 and current PSMP participant, Dr Peter Beven, QUT facilitator.

They’re often unspoken, but you’d be mistaken for thinking that soft skills such as communication, listening and collaboration hold no relevance in today’s modern workplace.

In today’s environment, interpersonal or ‘soft skills’ are increasingly valued by employers. They include the ability to actively listen, collaborate with others, present ideas and communicate with fellow team members. They are fundamental to a productive and healthy work environment.

The great news is that you’re probably already developing and learning the soft skills you need, either through your current role, further study, training or volunteer work. But as we prepare for the future of work, technological innovations mean that most of us will soon share our workplaces with artificial intelligence and bots. The ability to analyse data often utilises basic AI algorithms, but then we still require people to interpret, share and apply the information.

So how can you stay ahead? You can start by adopting a commitment to lifelong learning so you can acquire the technical skills you will need to continue to succeed, and also build the skills that differentiate us humans from AI – creativity, emotional intelligence, decision making, interpersonal communication, and more.

Maria Navarro, Director of Vendor Partnership and Performance in the Department of Human Services, has spent the past decade continuing her lifelong learning with the Queensland University of Technology (QUT). After commencing the Executive Master of Business Administration (Executive MBA) program in 2009 Maria resumed her studies with QUT’s Public Sector Management Program (PSMP) in 2018.

Prior to completing her studies, Maria held positions with the Defence Material Organisation (DMO), now known as the Capability and Sustainment Group. In 2010 she completed the Executive MBA, which enabled her to take her project management and leadership capabilities to a new role, responsible for performing Gate Reviews of large and complex Defence projects.

Aside from the technical and leadership skills, Maria says “the area where I gained the most from the Executive MBA related to the development of “soft and leadership skills”.  The studies provided me with greater confidence for engaging and connecting with diverse Gate Review stakeholders, at all levels, and gain their trust. 

Maria says she was able to deploy strategic and systems thinking methodology, which allowed her to identify and communicate key project risk and issues to senior executives, more effectively. In turn, the likelihood that project outcomes were delivered on time, within budget and to the required standards, significantly improved.

Recently, Maria joined the Department of Human Services (DHS), which is tasked with improving the manner in which Government services are delivered to Australian citizens. Continuing her journey with QUT, last year Maria enrolled in the Public Sector Management Program – a program which is designed in collaboration with the governments of Australia to meet the needs of the contemporary public sector.

“I was motivated to apply for the PSMP, as it would allow me the opportunity to reflect on and learn how I can best contribute to the DHS transformation journey and network with other members of the department.”

Maria is only two units into the program, but she says “to date, I have learned about best practice frameworks for developing evidence-based Government policies and the complexities associated with the effective implementation of Government policies and services across various levels of Government. In addition, I am gaining good insights into progress being made by the APS for the development of a leadership culture that fosters collaboration and high performance.”

QUT’s Executive MBA and PSMP provide a great opportunity to Australian public servants to accelerate the development of technical talents, leadership capabilities, and those all-important soft skills like negotiation, communication, confidence and collaboration.

“My advice to anyone looking at trying to do what I have done is to enjoy the learning by focusing on deep reflection, on how the concepts and tools presented can be applied in a work context; and then developing an action plan, rather than stressing out on seeking to attain the highest level of academic achievement.”

Learning is a unique journey and there isn’t a one size fits all approach, on which Maria added “Of course, if you can do both at the same time (academic achievement and deep reflection), then congratulations and enjoy the journey!”

QUT’s PSMP has a 25-year track record of success and aspiring public sector leaders with the knowledge and skills to successfully manage the business of government and is an excellent pathway to the Executive MBA. The program is delivered Australia-wide and applications for the final 2019 intakes for Brisbane and Canberra are still open.

For more information visit www.qut.edu.au/qutex or call 07 3138 7733.

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