The Importance of Soft Skills


The value of soft skills and asking questions, with Miller Ink’s Allie Longo


Having the proper technical skills is essential to getting any job. At the same time, hiring managers overwhelmingly stress the importance of soft skills. We recently sat down with Allie Longo, Miller Ink’s Account Executive, to discuss what soft skills are, why they’re important, and how moving to a foreign country for a year helped her sharpen these skills for herself.

How long have you been at Miller Ink?

I started at Miller Ink in March 2020, right before the pandemic started. That week, there were three people left in the office because of the “Stay at Home” orders. I remember that no one really knew what was going to happen.

What is your professional background?

I’ve worked in a number of roles in the communications, marketing, and branding space. In one of my main roles, I managed celebrities on high level branding partnerships and licensing deals. Basically, I was the liaison between the client and the licensing partner or manufacturer. If a celebrity had a book deal, for example, as their brand manager I worked on the legal writing for licensing deals and oversaw the entire process from signing a contract to go-to-market.

It was the biggest learning experience of my career to that point because I wore a lot of hats. I worked with the PR and marketing teams to make sure everything was on brand with the client’s voice, message, and value propositions. I worked on the design side, contributing to the creative ideation, SKU selection, mood boarding, and market research. I worked with the legal team to push the creations and prints through. Essentially, I made sure everything had quality control and everyone was connected and aligned. When that was done, I also attended go-to-market previews, press previews, and in-store launches.

When I left that job, I was at a crossroads in my career. At the time, I was focused more on my personal life and my spirituality, so I moved to Israel for a year. This helped me take a step back and reevaluate my goals, both personal and professional. I went to Israel on a Masa program where I taught English in Israeli schools and did a few fellowships. I also worked internally with Masa on their branding, which allowed me to put on my professional hat. Together, we developed a tagline, a branding concept, and an identity. It was a fun side project while I was living there, and it taught me a lot because it was different than my regular career path.

Living anywhere abroad teaches you a lot of soft skills that are invaluable. The data even shows this: Seventy-seven percent of employers believe that soft skills are as important as hard or technical skills, and 67 percent of HR managers would hire a candidate with strong soft skills even if hard skills were weak. You can teach people to do a lot of different things technically, but you can’t necessarily teach soft skills. As I say, being “comfortably uncomfortable” in a new environment is important to learning how to thrive and be resourceful.

What are top soft skills you learned while living abroad?

I learned how to be nimble, which is big within Miller Ink. Every day our work can look different. You may have set tasks and priorities that you need to tackle and then a PR crisis or a new deadline will come up. Whatever it may be in our line of work, things move at a fast pace. Knowing how to pivot, take what you’re given, and move it forward are important soft skills.

Another soft skill I learned is how to connect and communicate with people who aren’t like me. It seems pretty basic, but at a strategic communications and PR firm, communication is at the core of everything we do. Learning how to work with and learn from people who don’t always have the same processes as you is important whether you’re working with an intern, an associate, a vendor, a client, or a stakeholder. You have to understand that everyone’s experience is subjective and based on his or her knowledge and background.

A soft skill that I improved upon in Israel is being proactive and resourceful, which is something any employer or employee wants from their colleagues. You can drill it into their heads, but someone is either going to be resourceful or they’re not. It’s just a factor that sets people apart. Being solutions driven is another ethos at Miller Ink. We all have an understanding that it’s okay to ask questions and not have all the answers, but when we have a problem, we are expected to tee up a solution. Being solutions oriented shows people that you are self-aware and thinking about how to move the ball forward.

What is your role within Miller Ink?

I am an Account Executive but I have many roles within the firm. I manage my clients from the non-profit sector to for-profit including lifestyle and footwear brands. I ensure my team is adhering to deadlines and completing projects whether they be executive communications, internal communications, social media, PR, or website copy. I also do a lot of creative work in my role, and have become one of the go-to people at Miller for creative direction and graphics. I do a lot of one-pagers, marketing materials, decks and presentations as well.

I am also in charge of our summer intern cohort. I onboard them, host weekly team building meetings, and teach them about the company and our field. On top of this, another part of my portfolio is business development. I work with the CEO, managing director, and marketing manager on internal SEO, content development, strategy, and internal communications.

What is your specialty at the company?

People come to me most often for creative marketing materials, decks, one-pagers, and graphics. I have a little more of a creative hand than other people, but my overall specialty is juggling a lot while keeping my clients happy. I also specialize in PR placements from op-eds to articles.

What is your favorite thing about working at Miller Ink?

It is the responsibility and accountability given to us as employees. I have autonomy over my work and have to make sure that what I give to a client is quality. I don’t have someone over my shoulder checking on everything. I have a lot of roles from client facing to business development, and having that level of responsibility is what I enjoy most.

I also enjoy the variety of tasks I get to do on a daily basis. A lot of firms specialize in just PR or social media or digital marketing, but Miller Ink offers a broad scope of work for our clients. I love that I get to put on a strategic hat one day and a creative hat the next. I am free to become an expert in so many different fields that will benefit my career forever. We also have a really high standard when it comes to our work. We’re very results driven whereas at other firms it’s mostly about just doing the job no matter the result. Having that ethos and those standards distinguishes us and sets all of us up for success.

What do you like to do when you’re not working?

I love to cook for others and myself. Though I don’t have a specific favorite dish, I do have a famous eggplant recipe. I have a little Maltipoo named Kate Moss who I love to play with.  I also love thrift shopping and interior design. I’m looking to remodel my current apartment and am into designing spaces and finding beautiful vintage Italian secondhand pieces. Creativity and aesthetics are at the heart of who I am, from how I dress to how I decorate my home to how I make my food.

If you were a punctuation mark, which would you be?

I’m going to choose two: the question mark and the exclamation point, or what I call “the excited question.” I love learning and asking questions, and would consider myself a lifelong learner. Learning is at the core of being human so I think at any stage in your life, asking questions is important, and especially in our line of work. If a client gives you a project, to achieve an optimal result you must ask the critical questions. For example, if my client tells me they want to reach a particular audience, I will ask them why they want to target that group.

I added the exclamation point because I ask questions and learn in an excited way. Whether in your work or personal life, it’s always important to ask questions, read labels, think critically about what someone says or what someone is doing and why. This is especially important today with so much information in front of our faces. When you stop asking questions and stop being excitedly curious, you are at a significant disadvantage.

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