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Early in my adulthood in Paraguay, I had the opportunity to work for a Japanese telecom corporation for more than a decade – which taught me how my upbringing as a Baha’i helped me succeed in that multicultural environment.
In 1989 the Japanese company was expanding its business into my country. As a Customer Service manager, I oversaw almost half of the employees in the company. Also, I helped the marketing department with the strategies and the development of new products and services.
It took me a while to fully recognize how the spiritual principles of my Faith helped me gain the trust of higher management, employees, and customers. The success I achieved, I gradually learned, was based on educated instinct and intuition – and that in turn, was based on what I absorbed as a child from the Baha’i teachings.
My job entailed hiring hundreds of employees, mostly young people, and training and coaching them. After doing that for a few years, I intuitively developed a sense of why so many of them were or were not hired, and why they did or did not get a promotion – the unsuccessful ones didn’t know their true inner selves and thus, comprehend they were supposed to behave.
After that experience, I decided to create a workshop on Personal Marketing – how to market oneself – to help students from high schools and universities learn “soft skills,” the good interpersonal and business practices that would help them get hired, stay employed, and succeed in their professional lives. The format of that workshop involved teaching the importance of knowing our true selves – of becoming familiar with our personal, inner spiritual qualities and how to focus on further developing them. As Baha’u’llah, the prophet and founder of the Baha’i Faith wrote: “True loss is for him whose days have been spent in utter ignorance of himself.”
My learning journey helped me understand how people can better know themselves, and what that has to do with people becoming successful at work.
Our soft skills are all rooted in our inner strengths or virtues, I found. These spiritual qualities are our superpowers. Developing our inner virtues – trustworthiness, compassion, altruism, helpfulness, kindness, etc. – brings us wider vision, increased skill, more muscle, heightened emotional intelligence, and greater insight. These soft spiritual skills give us an edge in the hard job of being human, and lead to success in all realms of life.
In his writings, as evidenced by these two examples, Baha’u’llah taught the unquestionable power of the importance of this matter: “All that which ye potentially possess can, however, be manifested only as a result of your own volition. Your acts testify to this truth …” and “… man should know his own self and recognize that which leadeth unto loftiness or lowliness, glory or abasement, wealth or poverty.”
My experience hiring and managing people convinced me that developing the inner virtues naturally brings success, happiness, satisfaction in our work, and yes, promotions. This not only helps each individual, it helps companies, other employees, and customers. If we could all understand these concepts, and take the time to know ourselves, it would be easier to see what our strengths are, and which ones we need to improve.
I could cite hundreds of examples of how our soft skills – our business and life skills – are related to our inner spiritual qualities, but I’ll stick to a few of the most important ones:
- The ability to work without close supervision – a skill every employee needs to master – really comes right down to basic trustworthiness and integrity, both spiritual attributes.
- All employees – and their employers, too – need to be able to finish the tasks they begin. The spiritual virtue necessary for that completion is commitment.
- We can all benefit from having the courage to admit our mistakes and take responsibility for them – which reflects the virtue of honesty.
- The best employees have an innate desire to learn, which comes from the spiritual attributes of curiosity and the independent investigation of the truth.
- Don’t we all love to see enthusiasm in the workplace? It comes directly from the inner qualities of radiance and gratitude.
- Good customer service skills can make or break an employee – and a company. They require the inner virtues of humility, helpfulness, and love for humanity.
After I developed my course in soft skills, and moved to the United States, I had the chance once again to work in Human Relations, Employment Outreach, and as a Recruitment Specialist at a community college in Oregon. My main tasks: to invite professionals from underrepresented communities to apply for our jobs, and to help the college employees become increasingly inclusive and welcoming of a more diverse workforce.
When attending a statewide conference for community colleges in Oregon, I learned that companies really needed quality employees in business and industry – and actually, that they were willing to pay for a young person’s education if they at least had the soft skills listed above.
This serious need motivated me to offer my workshop on Personal Marketing in colleges, universities, and high schools. Eventually, school districts in Central Oregon began to organize special sessions on this topic, not only for students but for their parents as well.
Now that I live in a tiny town in Texas, with a population of about two thousand people, I have opened my home to high school students to give them a safe space to talk, share, and learn. Most of all, I want them to have faith in themselves and develop their inner strengths – those spiritual qualities of our true selves. They are learning that their inner virtues will help them navigate life with hope, optimism, and success. We began with three participants and in less than two months, there are twenty-nine.
Youth aren’t the only ones with a thirst to learn these inner qualities and skills. Parents, children, and communities are thirsty too. We need more safe spaces where meaningful conversations and respect for the opinion of each participant can occur. This forms the true foundation for successful businesses, communities, and individuals.