Sure, you might have formal training and on-hand experience in the field you’re working in, but can you communicate clearly, work well in a team and bring the right attitude? All three are soft skills — intangible qualities employers are increasingly considering when reviewing job candidates.
“’Soft skills’ are another way of saying non-technical skills,” says career coach Amanda Rose. “The thing is — that terms make it look like that skill set isn’t valuable when, in fact, it can be more important than technical skills. If you can’t relate to people, you most likely won’t be able to advance your career.”
As for why employers are increasingly recognising their value, Rose says it’s because they’re realising people proficient in soft skills are often high in emotional intelligence. This means they are able to relate to people, can understand unspoken signals and can prevent situations of conflict or tension.
“They are the glue of a team or organisation,” says Rose. “This takes the pressure off employers in needing to intervene regularly to ensure people are ‘getting along’.”
Having employees with good communication skills helps avoid miscommunication, explains Rose. Good communication can then lead to successful teamwork and projects.
Interestingly, for some workers, some soft skills are innate. “[They’re] personality traits that make someone a naturally good communicator or analytical thinker,” reports BBC. “But for others, developing and honing soft skills can be more challenging. Yet it is possible for every worker to develop and hone these characteristics as well as learn how to show them off.”
Rose says the key to learning soft skills is in accepting you’re in need of help in whichever area you’re lacking — something, she says, those with pride issues struggle with.
“Watch those who handle situations well and learn their ways,” she says. “Join workshops and even secure a mentor who can assist with this.”
Ahead, Rose shares some soft skills current employers are seeking out, as well as how to better develop them.
Being able to work with people with conflicting personalities is a skill few people possess, says Rose. Should you work on developing it, it’ll give you a competitive advantage, and also identify you as a potential leader.
Hesitation when making a decision is a sign that someone is not confident in their ability or feels pressure to change their minds from external influences, says Rose. In saying that, though, she notes that decisive decision making is only a good skill to have provided it’s aligned to the brand and vision of the organisation.
“Practice with smaller decisions — make them quick and don’t overthink them,” she says. “Then don’t overthink the decision and move on to the next one.”
A person who can avoid or who can defuse conflict with respect has high emotional intelligence and an understanding of empathy and strategy, Rose says. An employee with good conflict resolution skills helps keep the workplace neutral, and also shows others how to handle difficult situations.
“Again, watching others is key, as well as making sure you yourself aren’t causing or starting conflict to begin with,” says Rose.
Finally, it’s essential to work on having a good attitude at work, says Rose.
“Your attitude walks into the room with you,” she says. “If it is negative in nature, then that is how you will be addressed. If it is positive, then you will attract positive people. It sets the mood, tone and your day.”