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In working with some clients who are in career transitions, I came across a list of critical success factors. The list (from CollegeGrad.com) is of critical factors that employers are seeking in job candidates.

Besides the actual items on the list, two things struck me: First, only a few of the ten factors relate to "hard" skills (see Numbers 2, part of 3, and 6). Most are "soft" or behavioral skills. Second, a person who is competent in these ten factors will likely be successful regardless of what they are striving to accomplish. So there is something for everyone.

Here is the list from the study, with my comments added:

1. Positive attitude (toward work). One of the most important factors in my opinion. We often see a less experienced person with a can-do attitude outperform an experienced person who has a "glass half empty" perspective.

2. Proficiency in field of study. This allows you to "play the game", but not necessarily to excel. One of the few "hard" skills on the list.

3. Communication skills (oral and written). If you can’t convey your point accurately and succinctly, you’ll get left behind.

4. Interpersonal skills. Your personal and professional life will suffer if you can’t connect with others.

5. Confidence. Who knows the answer to every question? No one! So have confidence in what you do know and who you are. Do your best and reap the rewards.

6. Critical thinking and problem-solving skills. The ability to assess a situation, consider alternatives, chart a course of action, and successfully execute will likely place you ahead of those around you.

7. Flexibility. Always an important success factor, but even more so in these economic times. It is one of the attributes that people most appreciate in others.

8. Self-motivation. If you’re not always pushing yourself, who is?

9. Leadership. It means different things to different people. To me, leadership is about being able to achieve intended results, in one’s personal life and at work.

10. Teamwork. People love working with people who they work well with. The level of teamwork can make or break accomplishing a goal, regardless of the level of effort expended, or how well it was planned or funded.

The majority of time, money and focus, of our college and university systems as well as the business world is on the "hard" skills. Yet, the "soft" skills have been proven time and time again to be as important, if not more so, to one’s success.