If you're following the traditional path through life, you can understand why people believe one's college, GPA, and degree are everything when it comes to your future career.

And as the recent college scandal proves, this belief is so ingrained that people will break the law to 'buy' an advantage.

But is success really that simple? I'm not so sure.

Education and experience are important, but I believe it's the softer skills that hold the biggest weight in today's economy. It's why that top of the class GPA or Harvard emblem next to your name won't impress me.

When I'm looking to build my team, I want to know who you are beyond your academic resume. And I'm not the only one who thinks this way. So if you're looking to work for a fast-growing, impact-driven brand (or set up one of your own), cultivate these four soft skills to be above even the Ivy League competition:

1. Make an impression.

The way you show up and introduce yourself can say a lot more about who you are than your resume ever can. It's the small details that count. How firmly do you hold a handshake? Can you make eye contact? How does your vibe make others feel?

Get conscious of what your first impression says about you. Ensure your body language and presence says all the right things. It's the first step to building a relationship that can actually go somewhere.   

2.  What's your story?

Every business is a human-to-human interaction -- whether you're interacting online, through content, or in-person. If you can't connect and communicate with people, you'll always struggle to make your mark.  

Can you articulate what you mean, express yourself clearly, and own your truth? Are you willing to dive deeper into your thinking to uncover deeper levels of self-knowledge so you can show up in business as your best self? We all have a story to tell and if you can share yours in a compelling way, you will stand out.  

3. Figure out your "why."

Money alone will not motivate you to invest the time, creativity, and resilience needed to build a business or succeed in your career. You need to dive a lot deeper than that.

Figure out your "why" and you'll unlock a flood of passion that will fuel you through the tough challenges, the late nights, and the steep learning curve that is business success. It doesn't matter if your why is to take care of your family or to change the world-- the important thing is you're driven by something internal that keeps inspiring you to show up.

Passionate people go the extra mile for the things they love and believe in, which gives you a killer advantage in business and in life.

4. Cultivate self-awareness.

In an era of rapid change fueled by an explosion in technology and digital media, the most successful people are those able to take risks and pivot fast. To do this well, you have to be able to reflect on your experiences, learn from your mistakes, and take extreme ownership for everything in your life.

This mindset isn't easy. It's much easier to blame outside circumstances when things go wrong, but that attitude won't cultivate the success you want. So start a journaling habit, get deeply curious about who you are, and cultivate the self-awareness that'll help you stand out.

I've got a degree in Petroleum Engineering, yet I was still able to build a seven-figure e-commerce business from scratch. I didn't get where I am today solely because of my college degree. Instead, my success is built on my soft skills -- and I believe the same will be true for you too.  

Published on: May 29, 2019
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.