Engineers and programmers are in high demand these days—but technical smarts may not be enough to land recent grads a job.
According to a new paper, by Catherine Weinberger of the Institute for Social, Behavioral and Economic Research at the University of California, Santa Barbara, employers are increasingly looking for workers who also possess “soft” skills, like being able to collaborate on teams and interact smoothly with clients.
In fact, employees who demonstrate soft skills as well as technical talents earn an average of 10% more than those who excel in only one area. Compare that to 30 years ago, when employees with both sets of skills earned just 3% more than less well-balanced workers.
What’s behind the growing wage gap? Perhaps the most important factor is the evolution of the entry-level job. Many responsibilities previously associated with these low-level positions are being replaced by technology and automation. In response, employers are demanding that new workers bring something else to the table, like strong interpersonal abilities.
In the paper, Weinberger looks at two cohorts of white men—one that completed high school in 1972 and one that graduated in 1992. She focuses specifically on the groups’ average earnings seven years after high school graduation. As it turns out, employers in 1979 were perfectly satisfied to hire two employees with distinct skill sets, but later employers required both advanced communication skills and technical knowledge in their fields. Since 1995, when the wage gap hit 10%, the numbers have stayed more or less stable.
If you’re looking to advance your career, consider balancing out your technical expertise by enhancing your communication or leadership skills. Start by learning how to polish up your image in any professional setting.