A young man recently called in to Barbara Corcoran's Business Unusual podcast with a seemingly straightforward question. Her answer was surprising, but spot-on.

Should he finish his degree in computer science, he wondered, or quit college? He felt he could learn the same knowledge much faster on his own, outside the classroom. 

Corcoran called the guy back to ask a few follow-up questions. If he wanted to be successful, she told him, he had a lot of work to do. He was lacking one critical skill that Corcoran believes in crucial for success in any career. 

Corcoran explained that she looks for two qualities in any job candidate, no matter what their position: a winning attitude and the ability to communicate well and clearly

Having the right attitude

Corcoran only hires people who bring a winning attitude to work. They truly have to want to do well. She looks for people who exude positivity. Negativity is infectious and can drag entire teams down. 

Complaining doesn't fly in Corcoran's book. She even has an interview question to weed out complainers. Corcoran admired the caller's ambition and attitude. That wasn't his problem.

Developing strong communication skills

Corcoran felt the caller had a long way to go with his communication skills. He spoke quickly and bounced around to different topics. 

"I don't think you're going to get to where you want to go in life unless you become a much better communicator," she told him bluntly. "When I say communication style, it's usually a replica of what's going on in your head." Fast talkers, for example, aren't taking time to think things through. And if you lose people in conversations because you switch gears too frequently, it may be hard for you to stay focused on a problem or task at work. 

Is getting a college degree still worth it? 

Corcoran eventually answered the caller's question about getting his degree. Her advice: Stay in college. Suffer through the computer science classes to get the degree. Employers care about degrees.

Her advice didn't end there. She also advised him to take as many English classes as he could to improve his communication skills. When he graduates, he'll not only have an impressive degree to put on his résumé; he'll also have a more solid foundation of soft skills that will help him grow his career. ​

Published on: Jan 29, 2020
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