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Soft Skills to Pay the Bills  

By Larry Sloan 

There’s been a lot of talk lately about Emotional Intelligence (EI). I’ve blogged about it (here and here), co-presented a webinar on it, and was honored to lead a session on the topic at the recent Women in IH Summit in Minneapolis. While I do not consider myself an EI expert, I have been asked to present at future local section events, including the upcoming Utah Local Section event in October. 

EI is just one element of what are commonly referred to as “soft skills.” These are non-technical competencies that we all need to master if we want to succeed in our jobs and (one can argue) life in general. Soft skills are personal attributes that enable someone to interact effectively and harmoniously with other people. These include such elements as teamwork, active listening, conflict resolution, and assertiveness. Our members are highly interested in soft skills, but we currently do not offer many resources in this area. Developing these skills is a crucial element for personal and professional success, especially for early-career professionals and students entering the profession. 

Over the past months, I’ve seen increasing emphasis being placed on soft skills, ranging from postings on LinkedIn to featured sessions at various conferences. (At AIHce EXP 2019, a session on EI drew a packed room.) 

To this end, three AIHA committees—the Student and Early Career Professionals Committee, the Career and Employment Services Committee, and the Leadership and Management Committee—worked together to propose the development of new educational materials and resources that promote the importance of soft skills for successful IH/OH professionals. The proposal was quickly reviewed by AIHA’s Content Portfolio Advisory Group and approved by the Board of Directors. The U.S. Department of Labor’s Mastering Soft Skills for Workplace Success will serve as a fundamental idea for this project. 

Our hope is that this new set of educational materials will: 

  • positively impact the way in which future AIHA volunteer leaders (across the Board, committees, and local sections) engage and lead their respective groups 
  • improve both efficiency and the “social climate” of how AIHA committees are managed, which may attract new “next-generation” leaders 
  • positively affect membership retention (and attract new members) if the AIHA volunteer network reflects a more professional behavioral norm 

How have you personally learned about soft skills on your journey to becoming a successful IH/OH professional? What specific topics do you think should be included in this new offering? Please share your stories in the comments. 




Larry Sloan is AIHA’s CEO. 

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