COLM O'REGAN: Opening Lines

IT WAS tough on Joe McHugh last week. Not a wet second into the job and already people were questioning his abilities.

As someone who was once a manager and often not had a clue what people were saying to me, I sympathise with his predicament in being the Gaeltacht minister and being less than fluent in Irish. No doubt he’ll have meetings where fellas in flat caps will be leaning on sticks in corners hurling excoriations at him from Dinneen’s dictionary. When he asks them what they’re saying, they’ll just say “I was only saying that it was a grand soft day minister”.

I do have a partial solution to make Joe feel a little better: LinkedIn. LinkedIn is the business social network. A bit like Facebook, except you have connections rather than friends. If Facebook is a rowdy shebeen full of shouty, needy people, LinkedIn is the chaste bottle of sparkling water in the hotel-bar after a conference. Professional, but no crack. It does, however, have one feature that gives the spirits a little boost.

Endorsing. Your connections can tick a box to say they endorse your skills. Ten people have endorsed me for the skill of journalism even though clearly this isn’t journalism. Last week, someone endorsed me for event management and I don’t even endorse myself for that.

One skill goes conspicuously un-vouched. Java. The computer language. Having a hard skill is very gratifying. We all seek out that tangible ability, especially if you work in one of those millions of slightly vague jobs that appeared once we stopped working the looms or down the mines.

When I started my consulting career, Java was the skills to have. The techies picked it up with no fear. You languished at your computer being stupid, they came along, fixed it and walked away whistling. Their skills gave them confidence, their confidence meant they learned quickly, didn’t worry and made less mistakes.

If it was the TV series Game of Thrones, those with the techie skills would be one of the guild of assassins — the Faceless men, like Jaqn Hghar. While struggling to get my Java code to work, I was Samwell Tarly, the portly exile stumbling through the snow. Sensitive and empathetic but prone to freezing when the time came to wield a sword.

Back in consulting, after a few years us portly terrified Samwell Tarlys were guided gently but firmly towards the softer skills — planning, status reporting and worrying. Soft Skills are important, but the people who were good at them were also good at the hard stuff too — because of the confidence they had. A proficient swordsperson can be an effective negotiator.

When you’re facing a client in the IT industry there will always come a moment when you have to admit — look I don’t know, let me ask Jaqn Hghar — he’ll sort it out. No questions asked.

Back to LinkedIn, using the soft skill of research, I’ve found that Joe McHugh has a LinkedIn Profile. As soon as he starts his refresher course, he should add conversational Irish as a skill. And I’ll endorse him.


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