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Soft skills key to promotions

It’s not good enough to be good at your job, you need people to notice your talents.

How do talented people get overlooked when it comes to job promotions? It’s not always the person with the best work performance who is the person who gets the endorsement. This reality can lead to frustration for some who feel they are being left behind in the ranks.

After I spoke at a bank conference for 200 people, an attendee approached me for some insight on this dilemma. She came to the networking event because she was expected to, but felt that her talents alone would — or at least should —determine how far her career would climb in the bank. “Why do I have to do this networking, shouldn’t my skills speak for themselves?”

It’s not the first time I’ve heard this question, but it’s the first time I saw that degree of disappointment when she realized the answer. After investing so much time and effort to learn how to do her job to the highest standard possible and hoping someone would take notice, the light went on and she realized that, if she wanted to grow her career, she was going to have to connect with people — not just numbers.

In order to get promoted, you need to be on the radar screen of people who are doing the promoting. The larger the company is, the larger the talent pool from which decision makers have to choose. If you haven’t taken the extra step to connect with those who can influence your career and promotions, then it’s difficult for them to choose you over your coworkers.

In business the bare minimum expected from employees is that you will do your job and do it well, so that on its own isn’t always enough to get the promotion. It’s the soft skills that will make the difference.

Your ability to connect and network with the leadership at your place of employment will help from two perspectives.

First, the boss needs to know who you are and that you want to progress in your career. Second, as the leadership makes decisions about whom to promote, they are looking for people who can interact well with others and lead teams. The higher your position in a company, the more your role will morph into managing people. By networking with them, you’ll be showcasing your “people skills.”

If you want the next promotion, then it’s your job to let people know you want it, and that you are capable of doing it — both from a technical perspective and from a people management perspective.

It’s not enough to be good at your job — you need people to take notice of your talents and that’s where networking plays a role.

— Allison Graham is a business networking speaker and author of Business Cards to Business Relationships: Building the Ultimate Network. To submit a question, comment on the article or to contact Allison, visit her blog at or her website,