How to hone your soft skills without MBA?

Generally speaking, A2As are great technically but suffer when it comes to "soft skills." Conversely, MBA Associates (obviously) lack technical skills but generally do well when it comes to "soft skills." As an A2A promote, I am deliberately focused on improving my "soft skills" but have found it difficult to do so while being stuck behind a computer screen for 12-16 hours a day with minimal interactions outside of work. 

I am not someone one would consider "awkward" or notably lacking in social/soft skills; however, my skills in this arena have atrophied significantly over the past 3 years due to WFH, lockdowns, behind a computer screen all day, etc.

I am wondering if anyone has any advice on how one could best acquire the soft skills typically developed through an MBA program, without actually doing one. Realizing it would be impossible to fully simulate an MBA without actually doing one.

My current approach to this is simply (1) engaging in as many social interactions outside of work as possible and (2) reading relevant books (How to Win Friends and Influence People, The Laws of Human Nature, etc.)

Would greatly appreciate anyone's take on this subject, as well as any recommended readings. For A2A promotes who are now VP, MD, etc., how did you work on honing your "softer" skills?

Comments (4)

Most Helpful
May 19, 2022 - 4:01pm
rabbit, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Professionally, the soft skills are really to be able to sell, whether its ideas internally or to clients etc.

A part of that is being perceived as trustworthy and likeable. I think your approach sort of reflects this.

The other part is being a bit more strategic and planning for interactions. I try to always have an outcome or goal in mind for professional interactions, whether it's wanting to be top of mind for a potential client or trying to get buy in internally for an idea. I ask myself what gets this done and how. Am I hitting the decision makers or wasting time with gatekeepers, am I hitting the right notes that resonate with the decision maker. Trying to understand motivation is key e.g., financial vs. ego, that sort of thing. That comes with time, practice, planning and a degree of empathy.

It also requires you to be shameless for lack of a better word, especially when it comes to selling yourself. You miss the shots you don't take, it's not a no until you ask, that sort of thing. This part is a bit harder for the more introverted and those not comfortable talking about themselves.

  • Analyst 2 in IB - Cov
May 19, 2022 - 10:09pm

I feel bad for you if you believe an MBA is needed for the soft skills you want. Win for MBA admission offices though. 

May 23, 2022 - 1:57am
arbjunkie, what's your opinion? Comment below:

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