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Soft Skills To Improve Your Career

Estimated reading time: 7 mins

You have a reputation for yourself being the best coder, editor, mechanic, barista or something else, but it actually amounts to very little if you lack the ability of working well with others. Some of the most vital professional skills for employers and workers alike just simply cannot be learnt or taught in a classroom or measured on a piece of paper. These traits are what you call soft skills and they can be much more crucial to the success of your job and overall career than what you anticipate. So what are the soft skills that you should know? More importantly, how do you learn them?  In this blog post, we will try to answer this for you.

Understanding Soft Skills

Unlike hard skills, which can be measured and proven, soft skills are difficult to quantify and usually intangible. Some examples of this include leadership power, communication skills and analytical thinking. It might seem hard to believe but employers these days are more interested in knowing your soft skills than what you have studied in school. Technical abilities like mathematics and reading comprehension, while still hold value, are not as important as problem solving or teamwork.

A reason for soft skills to be so revered is that they allow facilitation of human connections. Soft skills are vital to gaining visibility, building relationships as well as creating better opportunities for advancement. What I mean here is that while you can be the best at what you do, you will be limiting your chances for career success if your soft skills are not cutting it. While some soft skills are compulsory to have under your belt, others are just there to compliment. Let’s look at the most important soft skills below and ways to acquire them.

Written and Verbal Communication Skills

Both, written as well as verbal communication skills are essential in the workplace because they set the foundation for how others perceive you. They are also important in improving your chances of building strong relationships with the co-workers. Good communication skills have direct impact on boosting your performance because they help you extract clear expectations from your management, allowing you to deliver excellent work in return.

There’s a reason why employers look for it – workers tend to be more productive when they know exactly what and how to communicate with their peers. You’ll end up being a hot ticket if you can clearly express the what, who, where, when, how, and why of a project. One tried and tested way to gain communication and presentation skills is to join groups and organisations offering public speaking workshops.

Ability to Work in a Team

Teamwork is a very important soft skill to have. The success of a company is hardly ever dependent on one individual doing all of the tasks himself or herself. Success is the outcome of many people working together toward a common goal. When employees are able to synthesise their varied talents, everybody’s a winner. According to this Gallup poll, having friends at work can also boost your job satisfaction, because of enhanced teamwork.

Employers are looking for team players because they want their employees to build a friendly office culture, which leads to retention of employees and also attracts top talent. Being able to effectively collaborate with your co-workers further strengthens the quality of your work.

To create goodwill, always lend a hand when you see your co-workers in need, especially if you have spare time. Another way to build rapport is to step up and cover for a colleague when s/he is on a vacation.

Being Able to Adapt

In an office environment, things hardly ever go as planned, so instead of digging in your heels, it is important that you are able to pivot ad look for alternate solutions. The secret to a successful leader is that s/he knows how to be flexible when a problem arises.

Employers are looking for adaptability because of the speed of change at work is usually very rapid. Things tend to go haywire right when you are not expecting it. Employers want to hire people who are able to adapt to industry shifts, allowing the company to remain current.

You need to be an early adopter of change. Be open to adapting to new technologies without mourning about what used to hold true in the past. This will make you look like someone who is capable enough to meet new challenges. If you are unsure, you should inquire about training sessions relevant to your career and business and also offer to teach these new skills to your co-workers so that the learning is shared in the company.

Be a Problem Solver

Whenever things go wrong, you have two options – either nag and complain about it or take constructive actions to solve the problem. Doing the latter will get you noticed, for all the right reasons. You can become indispensable to an employer if you have the ability to think on your feet.

Employers look for a problem solver because they need their employees to navigate unexpected challenges. These people have the potential to be called top performers because they can lead a team out of any sticky situation.

You can gain this trust by always approaching your boss with a solution instead of a problem. So whenever an issue crops up, try to sit down and think through how you are going to address it before bringing it to your boss’s attention.

Be a Critical Observer

Data means nothing if you are unable to interpret it. Look for an emerging pattern and the trends that are there in the data. Being a critical observer will help make you a better worker overall and the go-to person to help your management make sense of it all.

Employers look for critical observers because that is the requirement of this age of big data. People who are able to bring fresh perspectives and offer intuitive ideas and solutions to help their company will improve the internal processes and get a leg up on the competition.

To become a critical observer, you will need to be able to analyse information as well as put it to use. A good tactic here is to identify trends and patters of behaviour at work. For example, is your boss already reading sales reports on a weekly basis? What was the reaction to any bad news in the last staff meeting? What is the best time to reach your management with any questions or concerns? Be closely observing the way people respond to constant flow of information, you will be in a better position to understand the critical aspects of refining business operations.

Know Conflict Resolution

It is human nature to be indulged in conflicts with others around us every now and then. Some people are prone to battling it out with colleagues all the time. That is why, being able to resolve issues with your peers at work will greatly help you maintain a good relationship and perform tasks more effectively.

Employers want this trait in you because it is a sure indicator of maturity if you can constructively work through various disagreements with people. It is also a leadership potential, signalling career progression for you. People who can resolve conflicts help promote a healthy and collaborative workplace.

To gain this skill, you will need to address issues directly but delicately. So when stepping in as a mediator resolving disagreements between co-workers, you should let both parties air out their grievances in an environment that is judgment-free and then find the space to work together to find a solution.

Leadership Skills

Finally, leadership skills are an important asset to have. Showing a clear vision and confidence will help you influence your co-workers and also get them to be on board with your ideas and suggestions now and in the future. Demonstrating such leadership skills will help you gain visibility within the organisation, which can then lead to more opportunities for salary bumps or promotions.

Employers want leadership skills because bosses and managers are always looking for employees who can work independently. They are looking for employees with leadership potential so that they can one day be taking over the reins, building on the company’s legacy.

Being a leader is not just about getting people to do all that you want. Leadership also means inspiring and helping other people to reach their full potential. One effective way to do that is to work as an internship supervisor. This will give you the opportunity to manage people, learn how you can motivate them an take on bigger responsibilities.

It is important to know that soft skills are paramount to getting ahead of the crowd in the workplace. They can take some time for you to learn but once you get a hang of them, you will see that your management will start noticing you in a positive way. Do you know any other soft skills that have helped you in your professional life? Share with our readers in the comments below. Do check our other blog post on 10 skills to develop to become a leader at a job that inspires.

 

About the author /


Simon is a creative and passionate business leader dedicated to having fun in the pursuit of high performance and personal development. He is co-founder of Applied Change, a Business Change consultancy based in the UK. Simon is also an Ambassador for Gloucestershire business. Simon is an Associate Member of the Chartered Institute of Professional Development.

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