In an ever-changing, technology-driven workplace, there’s a lot to be said for specific skills aligned with your chosen industry. In addition to certifications, experience, and industry expertise, however, are those crucial soft skills. In fact, soft skills are often the glue that molds your hard skills into a career success story. While there are multiple lists of soft skills, focus on honing the following five, and your career may find the boost you’ve been seeking.
A vital skill in every aspect of life, when we’re talking about your career, it boils down to the ability to:
- Identify the issue at stake
- Define your endpoint
- Brainstorm – creating and evaluating potential solutions
- Choose the best option
- Execute your choice
- Re-evaluate the situation
Problem-solving involves both specific issues, such as a delay outside your control throwing a glitch in a project you do control, or general, such as needing to improve communication with your colleagues. There are multiple methods for developing these skills, but regardless of your process, the key to using it effectively boils down to:
- Recognize that you don’t know everything – seek input and listen to feedback
- Understanding the real problem – it’s easy to let side issues detract from the real problem
- Get to the root of the issue – symptoms are just that . . . symptoms.
- Create a picture – graphs, diagrams, etc. of the problem. “Seeing” increases understanding.
- Don’t get caught up in thinking solutions have to be complicated to be good. Many times, simple is best.
You can be at the top of your game – an expert in your field, but if you can’t communicate effectively, you’re standing on feet of clay. Communication skills include multiple angles:
- Many experts claim that listening is the most essential communication skill. It involves giving the speaker undivided attention (yes, that means ignoring your electronics), paying attention to their facial expressions and body language, asking clarifying questions and restating what you think they said to confirm that you heard correctly.
- Engage your brain first. Spoken words can never be retrieved. Speak with confidence, but not at the cost of extending respect to the hearer. Be friendly, personable and open-minded. Be clear and concise. Remember your body language, facial expressions, and voice tone all play a critical part in your communications.
- Written communication. There are many courses/books available to help you be clear and concise in your written works. Correct grammar is essential. Always proofread and if this is a weak area, pay for professional assistance.
Creativity is a soft skill that is quickly becoming high in demand. The best solutions – especially in our high-tech world – are not always the most apparent. Learn to brainstorm – to go beyond linear thinking.
- Develop your imagination
- Cultivate curiosity – keep learning
- Be flexible and innovative in your thinking processes
- Brainstorm with colleagues
In a global workplace with constant changes, the ability to adapt to changing situations, responsibilities, expectations, and cultures is a high-priority soft skill. Be willing to accept surprises – including new roles – with calmness and confidence. Keep asking yourself the following questions:
- What are your career plans, as well as the apparent progression in your current position? What skills should you be developing to help you prepare for future changes?
- How can you improve your interpersonal skills and attitudes to help you relate from a global perspective?
- How can you become a more forward thinker – someone who expects change and adopts a plan for how they will respond.
- How can I rethink my focus and prepare alternative options/solutions when my first suggestions don’t fly?
- Time management – the ability to optimize available time efficiently and effectively ultimately reduces stress levels and increases morale, productivity, and the bottom-line. Of course, it’s a qualifying soft skill. Masters of time-management have learned to focus on time-sensitive tasks and avoid being distracted by non-essentials. They:
- Prioritize – on an annual, monthly, weekly, and daily basis, covering the big, as well as the immediate picture.
- Create a schedule. Maintaining a schedule frees your mind from stressing over what else needs to be done and focusing on the task at hand, confident that the rest of your responsibilities will be covered at their appointed time.
- Invest in themselves. Time managers know that healthy eating habits, sufficient sleep, and regular exercise make them much more efficient and effective when they are working. They have learned both to say “No” and to delegate.
Bring all your skills – hard and soft – to XL Pro. We specialize in connecting talent with the best-fit positions for continued career growth. Contact us today.