Lifelong learning is an important part of remaining not just employable but also promotable. Most people who know this tend to focus on improving the hard skills they need for their jobs. For instance, a software developer may try to learn a new programming language. While this is important, you should focus on how to improve soft skills too.
Some employers might argue that soft skills are even more important than technical ones. This is because they determine how well you work with others, mesh with customers and blend into the organizational culture.
What Are Soft Skills?
Whereas hard skills are job-specific, soft skills focus more on your personal attributes and interpersonal skills. Some common soft skills you may see listed on job descriptions include the following:
- Willingness to give and accept constructive feedback
- Excellent written and verbal communication skills
- Flexibility to adapt to various positions at work
- Empathy in customer service roles
- Ability to work well in groups
Why Are Soft Skills Important to Employers?
Many people think it’s a stretch to assume that soft skills are as important or more important than hard skills. In fields where specific hard skills are difficult to come by, employers may put up with some eccentricities in workers to fill a role. However, whenever there is competition, soft skills tend to provide the differentiating factor. After all, wouldn’t you rather hire someone you believe you’re more likely to get along with if you’re the boss?
Forbes believes that soft skills play a critical role as businesses become more interconnected, dynamic and agile. It also cites a study stating that 92% of businesspeople view soft skills as a top priority. These skills help to define organizational culture, improve leadership and boost employee retention. Forbes also believes that problem-solving skills, a sense of purpose and emotional control are the most important soft skills to cultivate.
How Can You Improve Your Soft Skills?
Some people are born with certain skills seemingly written into their DNA. Others may have been raised in environments that allowed them to hone their abilities. These people are often viewed as social butterflies and excellent leaders. However, everyone has soft skills they need to work on. Here’s how to tackle the items on your list.
Start With an Evaluation
There are workers who have the self-awareness necessary to do an honest evaluation. Still, it’s better to get someone else involved. Pay attention to the content of your performance reviews or remarks colleagues have made about you in the recent past. How true are these statements and which one of them would you like to change? Tackling them all at once may prove futile, so prioritize the most important one or two first.
Find a Partner
You’re unlikely to be the only person trying to improve your soft skills so get someone else on board. For instance, maybe you received feedback that you’re resistant to change and trying new things. A manager may have used more diplomatic words by telling you that you tend to be set in your ways. Ask a friend to motivate you to try new things. In fact, you can try things that are new to both of you together.
Work With a Coach or Mentor
Good mentors and coaches are not easy to come by. Still, when you find them, they can help to make a lot of things more clear. By getting to know you, they can also provide a more in-depth evaluation of your work persona and the soft skills you need to excel in your field or even the specific company. Sometimes a mentor or coach may be within your organization. Other times, that person may be someone you connect with on LinkedIn and never meet in person. Find the approach that works best for you.
Take an Online Class
Some soft skills are a bit more straightforward than a willingness to try something new. They may even border on hard skills. These include project management, leadership and negotiation skills. Online classes may help you to improve in these areas. Before paying hundreds of dollars to online companies, check out training opportunities at work. Many businesses have online training material in areas that may benefit you. These are offered at the best price ever: free.
Take a College Class
College classes are not just for hard skills. There are many courses that can help you to improve soft skills instead. Some common classes businesspeople often take or sit in on for this purpose include psychology, mass communications, decision science and even history. You may notice a trend here. Most of these classes are in the social sciences and liberal arts. Isn’t it interesting that these courses often get a bad rep as useless to college students? This is far from true.
How Can Soft Skills Training Benefit You?
You now have a better understanding of the benefits of soft skills in the workplace and to employers. You also understand how this prioritizing of soft skills could provide upward mobility for you if you possess them. Still, at the end of the day, these benefit the organization. How does soft skills training benefit you as an individual?
Picking up soft skills help people even outside of their work, in their everyday lives. Say, for instance, that you struggle with getting organized. After completing a training course on organization, you take some of what you learn home with you. This helps you to spend less time looking for missing items, such as car keys. You also kick the habit of spending the last 10 minutes trying to make your home presentable when someone asks to come by.
How Can I Highlight Soft Skills on a Resume?
The role soft skills can play in your personal life highlights one of their best aspects, and that is transferability. If you decide to change careers later in life, your hard skills may lose significance or become outdated. Soft skills remain relevant for a lifetime. This can make them an invaluable addition to your resume, but how?
One way many people add soft skills to this important document is to simply create a “Skills” section. Here, they may list the skills they believe are most relevant to the job they’re applying for. You may also word the professional summary of your resume to include some soft skills. Finally, you can elaborate on these skills by working them into the accompanying cover letter.
Are you looking for new opportunities to match the soft skills you cultivated? Recruit.net helps workers all across America to find jobs that match their skills. Find your dream job out of 11 million available positions across the country today.