‘Soft Skills get little respect, but will make or break your career’ – Peggy Klaus
So what exactly are ‘soft skills’? According to the dictionary, Soft Skills are personal attributes that enable someone to interact effectively and harmoniously with other people.
In the workplace, soft skills harness open communication with your colleagues. They relate to what you say and how you say it, how well you listen to others, how you manage yourself in stressful situations, how well you work in a team, how adaptable you are, how you solve problems and how objective you are.
Emotional intelligence intertwines with soft skills. Indeed it is hard to imagine one without the other. Emotional Intelligence is ‘the capacity to be aware of, control, and express one’s emotions, and to handle interpersonal relationships judiciously and empathetically’.
Soft Skills and Emotional Intelligence are the key to a successful career and essential if you want to open doors to other opportunities. Employers are now recognising that, whilst technical skills are necessary in the workplace, it is the soft skills and emotional intelligence that make an employee valuable. Further, research conducted by Harvard University, the Carnegie Foundation and Stanford Research Centre has concluded that 85% of job success comes from people having well developed soft skills and people skills and only 15% comes from technical skills and knowledge (hard skills).
Some of the more important soft skills that employers are looking for according to http://www.nationalsoftskills.org/ are:
Skilled communicators get along well with colleagues, listen and understand instructions and put their point across without being aggressive. They can change their style of communication to suit the task at hand – this can be invaluable in many different situations, from handling conflict to trying to persuade a customer of the benefits of buying a product.
Gathering all the important facts, seeking advice, looking at the big picture, considering alternatives, being aware of repercussions – these are all things that go into making a good decision. Employers seek those who can do these things and are thoughtful and decisive.
Employers want people who are dependable, reliable, enthusiastic and enjoy hard work. Employees that are committed need very little supervision or motivation to do their best and get the job done.
We live in rapidly changing times, so those who are adaptable and flexible will be able to change with the times. It’s a great asset to be able to step outside your comfort zone and try something new. Employers like people who are positive, upbeat and have a ‘can-do’ attitude.
When deadlines are looming, good time management is about prioritising the most important tasks, and then deciding which actions will produce the maximum output with the minimum effort. Are you a good juggler? Can you work on several different projects at once?
Even if you’re not managing staff yet, leadership qualities are valued by employers. They look for people who lead by example, constantly look to improve and motivate themselves. They also want team players who are positive and know when to follow instructions.
Creativity and problem-solving skills
The ability to apply both logic and creativity to solve problems is highly valued by employers. If you are the kind of person who tries to see the solution as well as the problem, you’ll stand out.
Employers are on the lookout for people who take pride in their work, and are confident enough to put their name to it. They also respect people who can hold their hands up when things go wrong and don’t play the “blame game”.
Fortunately, soft skills can be taught and enhanced. They are considered so crucial that they are now built into nationally recognised qualifications such as the Diploma of Leadership and Management. Just as you need to maintain regular exercise to keep your body healthy, you also need to maintain regular personal development to keep your mind and career healthy.