Has your professional training kept you up to date with the skills you need as you progress through your career? You may have undertaken lots of training and be at the forefront of issues and developments within your area of expertise, but highly successful professionals must also possess ‘soft' skills, which are becoming increasingly sought after within most professions.
Many of us worry about whether we will have good jobs in the future. So how does this relate to you? Academic or technical abilities are not the sole means to higher-level opportunities for most people. To climb the ladder you need to be able to clearly and concisely share your professional expertise with your.
If you are failing to recognise the growing importance of soft skills you could be missing out on excellent opportunities, so identify which skills you have by considering what you do well and how you approach certain situations and problems.
What attributes are regarded as ‘soft' skills?
Soft skills can often seem so basic they are overlooked, but employers are increasingly searching for more than a qualification:
These include the ability to lead, motivate and delegate. They are important at every level of organisational responsibility and should always be evident. Being the best in a particular area is not always enough to succeed unless you can combine this with the ability to convince others that what you are doing is important.
Consider a time when you utilised your interpersonal skills to effectively communicate your ideas to others and obtained their agreement, or when you developed a relationship with a co-worker that you disliked in order to succeed for your company.
There are two issues a team must consider as a group. Firstly, and most commonly addressed is the task at hand and problems that might be involved in completing it. The second and most overlooked consideration is the process of the teamwork itself and what procedures will ensure the group works cohesively. By acknowledging both of these issues you will be able to clarify group objectives and enhance your team working capabilities.
Lack of evidence that you can work effectively as part of a team is a sure-fire way to eliminate you from the recruitment process. You can demonstrate your team-working skills by recalling, for example, a successful project that you were a part of, what your role within it was and why the project was a success.
The ability to communicate ideas to others effectively is an absolutely essential requirement for many hiring managers.
Speaking clearly and coherently will allow effective verbal communication with others. Bear in mind that how you speak is more influential to the person that you are communicating with than what you actually say, so think about your body language and tone of voice when you are talking. The ability to present comprehensive written ideas will enable you to put forward professional documentation of your thoughts and is a highly regarded skill.
Communication is a two-way process so listening is therefore an essential aspect. Listening is more than just hearing what is being said. Effective listening encourages others to listen to you and respond to what you say. If communication skills are an area that you feel you could improve on, set about identifying ways in which you could develop them.
How do I identify my soft skills?
Think about which soft skills you use in your current job - what would your manager say were your strengths? These personal traits make you unique. Maybe you never miss a deadline or perhaps you have a great attitude. Ask friends, family or colleagues to write down your good and not-so-good traits and have a look at consistencies in their responses.
Look into the skills and experiences that would be required in the type of job you are seeking. You can do this by contacting a recruitment consultancy that places people in the particular role you are interested in and asking what the fundamental requirements of this role are.
If you are looking to apply for jobs that are a bit different from your previous roles, you may be put off because you feel you have no previous relevant experience. While in the strictest sense it could be true you have no exact experience, there may be aspects of the role you have done in the past, but in a different context. Skills you have learnt and developed in one situation that could be used in a different situation are referred to as ‘transferable skills'. Having identified these skills, you can see which would apply to the job you are considering - transferable skills can demonstrate more experience than you might think.
Providing evidence of your skills
The demonstration of your key skills should be something that you do through your CV initially, then follow on throughout the interviewing process and should then be ongoing through your working career.
Demonstrate your strengths by finding an example of when you used a certain skill. Think about the what's, when's, why's and how's of every situation and this should help to communicate your selling points and enhance your credibility.
Developing new skills
Having identified certain skills that you need to improve and develop to match job criteria, you should then develop a plan, identifying your goal and the steps needed to achieve it. Keep the steps small and manageable and put them in a timeframe, defining how you will know when you have reached your goal to measure your success.
Finally, continue to challenge new soft skill sets. Research tells us that continual learning keeps our brains active and therefore our minds healthy. Few jobs exist that do not require learning new skills regularly and everyone can improve certain areas of their soft skills capabilities.
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