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“Technical” skills + “Soft” skills = Work and Career Success

After graduating from college, I started my career as a hardware engineer with an aerospace company. On my first day, my manager showed me to my desk, introduced me to the team, gave me my assignment and told me to go to him if I have questions. I did not know about the work environment, the ways things get done, decision process, key people to know and work with, and how to do my job effectively. My boss was inaccessible most of the time and I did not have a mentor and didn’t know enough to ask for one. I had no idea how to get off to a good start, not to mention how to get myself noticed and stand out at work. Worse yet, two months into the job, I was transferred to another department that needed more engineers, and was given a completely new assignment to write code for a digital mapping system. Not only did I not know the lay of the land of the company, I also had to learn how to write software programs from scratch. I was completely lost. I had to learn the hard way through trial and error, and after many months, I slowly found my footing. Looking back, if I had a mentor or a “how to” guide to help me get up to speed, I could have shortened my learning curve greatly, navigated the organizational dynamics better, put myself in a position to be more productive, contributed more to the company and made a name for myself much sooner.


My goal for this book is to share the skills and tools I learned, developed and observed in my career with the young people who are beginning to dip their toes in the professional world as well as current professionals who want to jumpstart their career. This book provides a proven roadmap for you to achieve immediate success and to fast track your career. The soft skills discussed in this book will enable you to get a head start, anticipate and navigate the many changes and challenges in the workplace, and throughout your career. These are the skills not usually taught in school and can otherwise take years to learn.


What This Career Handbook Is About

It is a comprehensive collection of the best practices and skills to help professionals succeed throughout their career. I learned them during my twenty-five year professional career as well as from observing and interviewing successful professionals, from individual contributors to high-level executives. This book covers a broad career spectrum, from starting out after college to transitioning into management roles.


I discuss different situations in the workplace that employees will likely face and suggest ways to handle them effectively. In addition, I cover important skills required to succeed at work and to manage different career phases, including transitioning from an individual contributor to a first time manager.


Although I focus primarily on private industry, many of the skills discussed in the book are also relevant to employees in public sector workplaces such as federal, state and local government agencies. In addition, I focus on specific topics relevant to non-management professionals (individual contributors).


How To Use This Book

I designed this book for you to read any specific topic of interest at any time and to be able to refer back to any topic throughout your career.

  • This book covers a wide range of relevant topics (chapters). Each topic contains specific and practical solutions, and you can read one or more topics of interest at any time without having to read the whole book. 

  • Throughout your career as you encounter different situations, refer back to this book and read the topics applicable to your situations. I design this book for you to use as reference throughout your career.


If you have the time, I would recommend reading the whole book since many topics complement each other and the book will give you a more comprehensive view over your career cycle.


Visit my website for additional and complementary materials to the content in this book – including sample resumes, financial tools for budgeting and analysis, market updates, new topics and insight from the reader community.


Whom This Book Is Written For

  • College graduates getting ready to enter the workforce for their first professional job. This book helps these graduates get a head start in their new career with practical guidance on writing resumes, preparing and conducting interviews and starting their job on the right foot.

  • New employees who recently joined the workforce. This book helps these employees get off on the right foot from day one and deal effectively with potential work challenges and career transitions.

  • Professionals who are struggling and want to be more effective at handling work challenges. This book provides the best tools and practices to help them work effectively with co-workers, manage up successfully and improve their standing in the company.


Why I Wrote This Book

I have found that people have a real thirst for knowledge pertaining to handling different situations at work and managing their career transitions from the beginning to the end. From my seven years of teaching and conducting workshops at colleges, I see many students lack the soft skills needed to succeed in the workplace, such as the ability to work effectively with people to solve difficult business issues.  Students have many questions about work and career, such as “How do I get the job I want?”, “How do I make a good first impression?”, “What typical challenges will I face at work?”, “How do I stand out?”, “What do I need to do to succeed in my job?”, “How do I deal with surprises or unexpected changes at work?”, etc. If you have some of these questions, this book is for you. Colleges, for the most part, focus on teaching students academic and technical skills in their field, and fall short on teaching students the soft skills to complement their academic/technical training. 


While mastering academic and technical discipline is fundamental to a student’s profession, it’s not nearly enough to guarantee them success in their career. According to a previous survey released by Payscale (PayScale, 2016), the majority of new college graduates are not ready for the workplace. Sixty percent of all companies said new graduates lack critical thinking skills, writing proficiency, attention to details and inadequate public speaking ability.


During my management years, many employees and co-workers frequently asked me for advice on how to handle work issues. Moreover, many people coming from other countries are especially at a disadvantage at work due to cultural differences, not to mention the language barrier as well as the nuances of the English language. 


I believe that much of the success a person achieves in their profession comes from the ability to communicate and work effectively with people to solve different challenges. I call these soft skills (whereas accounting skills are hard skills). I have seen many people who only have above average technical competence get promoted repeatedly thanks to their soft skills. I learned this the hard way and it took many years for me to develop the soft skills needed to thrive in the professional world. I spent my time in college focusing on engineering classes and little time on anything else; if I had learned and developed more soft skills, I truly believe my career growth path would have been more accelerated.


After giving this subject a lot of thought, I tested the idea of writing this book with students, colleagues and managers, and to my pleasant surprise, I received overwhelmingly support and endorsement to start this project.


How This Book Is Organized

This comprehensive handbook provides the best practices and skills required to effectively manage various challenges throughout one’s career. I updated the first edition with the current industry information and workplace trends. In addition, I added a new category, focusing on American Business Culture. The book covers a wide range of topics, with each topic covering a particular skill or situation. I organize these topics into 8 categories:

  1. Starting out: writing resumes, conducting interviews, searching for jobs, and starting your job on the right foot.

  2. Communicating: communicating verbally/written, presenting persuasively, and speaking to specific audiences.

  3. Collaborating: facilitating meetings, resolving conflicts and challenges, earning people’s trust, and getting people’s attention.

  4. Negotiating: negotiating skills, negotiating job offer, asking for a raise, and saying no smartly.

  5. Taking care of yourself: promoting yourself, managing time and prioritizing, preventing and managing stress, exercising smartly, and planning for financial independence.

  6. Managing your manager: managing up, working effectively with managers, dealing with difficult managers, working with HR, and preparing for performance review.

  7. Managing your career path: building network, exploring career options, considering management paths, and transitioning to management.

  8. American business culture: this is a new category I added to this second edition of the book. This category includes understanding American business culture, learning business idioms, engaging in small talks, and dealing with workplace politics.


Happy reading!

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