By Esmée Hardwick-Slack
Up until our early to mid-twenties, many of us spent most of our time in education earning a degree or qualification that went on to help us achieve the career we wanted. These qualifications or ‘hard skills’ can be very specific to your job and are important to have if you are to do your role effectively. However, these days employers are looking for more than just qualifications and are putting greater importance on ‘soft skills’ – non-technical, personal attributes that enable you to interact well with others.
It’s easy to believe that if you are in a role that primarily deals with numbers or one that keeps you behind a computer screen, why would you need to put importance on things like communication, creative thinking, flexibility and conflict resolution? Well, the truth is that your future could depend on you being able to work on and develop your soft skills. The world of technology is moving forward at an alarming rate, in a few years it may have the ability to eliminate certain job roles. We’ve already seen an increase in self-service check out machines, self-driving cars and a factory in China has alreadyworkforce with robots.
So why isn’t every industry jumping at the chance to bring in a robotic workforce? It’s because machines, technology and software lack personality. That’s why soft skills are so important. They can make or break a business, becoming the difference between helping a company to grow and succeed, or stagnate and go out of business because their staff don’t have the communication skills to listen to and understand the customer’s needs. At the end of the day, customers might be happy with the product supplied to them, but it’s the service that they will remember, and it’s about the creation and continuation of that relationship that really matters.
Hard skills aren’t necessarily hard to acquire either, meaning they can be easily taught, learned and perfected over time. Soft skills are more challenging to develop, as they have nothing to do with knowledge or expertise, but are more closely linked to your personality. It takes a conscious effort, ongoing practice and commitment to self-development to improve on your soft skills.that 75% of long-term job success depends how well you’ve mastered soft skills, while of 25% rely on technical knowledge, but how do you develop these skills?
Communication is key, and is the backbone of all soft skills. Whether it be through emails, phone calls or face-to-face, you need to be able to communicate clearly and efficiently to your colleagues and peers. Some ways to improve these skills include:
- Make eye contact and acknowledge everyone’s presence when you enter a room.
- Be aware of your body language, try not to appear distracted by tapping your feet or twiddling your thumbs.
- Actively listen to what’s being said to you; always pay attention and listen closely.
Professionalism is a skill that will set you up for success in any field. It’s the driving force that will help you to advance in your career. Developing this skill will demonstrate to your employer that you have are self-motivated, resilient and have a great work ethic. Ways to work on your professionalism include:
- Consistently finish projects on time or ahead of schedule.
- Take initiative and go the extra mile in every aspect of your job, whether that be on a project or helping out a colleague.
- Demonstrate attention to detail and catch any errors early.
Leadership & Management
Demonstrating that you have good leadership and management skills is incredibly important if you’re looking to move up in your career. Good management skills allow you to work with a team of people who have different personalities, skills and styles. It shows that you are a good problem solver with skills in research, problem solving, critical observation and conflict resolution. Ways to demonstrate your leadership and management skills include:
- Successfully leading projects.
- Delegating responsibility effectively throughout your team.
- Identifying difficult problems and implementing innovative solutions.
- Overseeing different projects and campaigns.
It’s important to demonstrate adaptability in order to progress in your role as those who do tend to be more understanding, reasonable and a strong leader. Being adaptable will also increase your ability to communicate with others and build stronger relationships with your colleagues. Some ways to improve these skills are:
- Being open minded and actively listening, without judgement, to your co-workers when they come to you with different ideas.
- Thinking creatively. You can do this by regularly brainstorming with your team and surrounding yourself with creative people. It’s also good to make sure you’re well rested to get those creative juices flowing!
- Accepting and learning from criticism. This can be difficult but it’s important to remember that those who are giving you feedback often have the best intentions and are trying to help you improve.
How important do you think soft skills are in the workplace? Which do you look out for in your recruitment process? Let us know in the comments or join the conversation on Twitter.