Are soft skills overrated?


When travelling the world, looking for MBA talent who’s profile matches with what MSM has to offer, I always ask the question “Why do you want to do an MBA” to the potential candidate. Answers vary from “I want to break the glass ceiling” and “I would like to learn about management theories” to “I would like to start my own business, and need more business knowledge”. In the end though, when you analyze the answers, it all comes down to career development and/or growth in one way or the other.

The beauty of an MBA is that it helps entrepreneurs and managers to understand the bigger picture of business and management, both in knowledge and skills. It provides people with the tools necessary to make sound business decisions, based on carefully analysis and understanding of the whole situation, rather than on “gut-feeling”.

But what is essential in an MBA to make it truly impactful?
At MSM we believe that a balance is necessary between the “theoretical” knowledge and “hard skills” and the “practical” experiences and “soft skills”. Finding this balance is done through curricular activities such as case studies, simulation games and company visits, but also through extra-curricular workshops provided via the MSM “Career and Personal Development Track”.

Here are some of “why’s” and “how’s”, MSM puts an emphasis on “soft skills” during the MBA journey.

Soft-skills are required in all careers to make hard skills valuable
In the past, MBA programs existed mainly out of the so-called “hard skill” courses such as finance, accounting, entrepreneurship and marketing. But, in recent years, it has become increasingly evident, as per the article in the FT “‘Touchy feely’ courses are as valuable for MBAs as number crunching”, that soft skills are even more important? Some might overlook the value of these “touchy feely” courses, however, a graduate who has soft-skills as well as technical, strategic and financial knowledge is of high value in the workforce.

A truly good manager or leader needs to know how to interact and influence other people, at all levels of the corporate ladder. At your (future) job, you have to communicate, influence people, solve problems, work in teams, prioritize tasks and build relationships. In many jobs, technical skills alone are not enough to get the job done. You can have the best knowledge of your product or service, it will be hard to bring it to a good end without good interpersonal skills. You can say that soft-skills are required in all careers to make hard skills valuable.

Soft skills are teachable
At MSM we see it as our responsibility to teach you the skills that matter most. And soft-skills aren’t only very valuable, they are teachable. Hence, why we have incorporated a special program in our curriculum that focusses on the development of our students’ soft-skills. We have developed the Career and Personal Development Track (CPDT), a program where students are challenged to develop skills in the area of intercultural communication, team leadership and collaboration, critical thinking, creativity, problem solving, self-awareness, personal branding, resilience and time management - in a setting where students come from more than 21 nationalities to not only learn about business but also to improve their soft skills.

Workshops on career development, group dynamics, elevator pitch and a peer group development session have helped me to identify my strengths and build my personal brand. With these insights from the workshops, I courageously now get involved in presentations that I initially shy away from. Tracking my progress in personal development through peer reviews has helped me build on my confidence level to freely speak my mind.” - Alice Drazuru, MBA35

How to improve soft skills
Although they might be called soft-skills nevertheless they are the hardest to learn. But it’s not impossible! In comparison to hard skills, soft skills are more difficult to learn because they are very personal and linked towards someone’s character rather than knowledge. It takes a lot of practice and commitment to improve your soft skills through self-development. MBA35 student Aneesha Singh who is taking part in the CDPT is reaping the benefits of the workshops and shared her experience;

“During a workshop Dr. Rene showed us the mirror where we could see our strengths, weakness, opportunities and areas that are challenging. This is something one subconsciously knows but never accepts. After that session, I knew where I stood and where I can improve. So suddenly, my weaknesses became areas to improve. I started looking at my characteristics in a positive way. Which is very important, if I have to sell myself in a job interview then I need to know myself the best.

In my opinion, these sessions are shaping me to be a better person and a better manager. These sessions are making me more effective in interacting with my colleagues, self-mindfulness and more importantly the impact my actions have on others.”

More about MSM’s Career Services and Personal Development Track
During the CPDT track at MSM you will be immersed in:

  • Individual self-awareness and self-development coaching,
  • Holistic life balance trainings,
  • Business challenges, company visits and guest speakers,
  • Networking events,
  • Collaboration with regional corporate partners that are looking for international students
  • Workshops on CV and motivational letter writing, presentation skills, LinkedIn and video resume, elevator pitch.

In addition:

  • A CV book will be published by MSM for our corporate partners to facilitate the recruitment of our students.

MSMs MBA program is designed to prepare students to be effective leaders and decision-makers. As an MBA graduate you will leave Maastricht School of Management better equipped to handle tough situations in business.

Do you also want to follow an MBA which highly contributes to the development of your soft skills? Get in touch with us and learn all about the benefits of the MSM MBA program.

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