Top five soft skills to excel in your career

In today’s job market, employers are looking beyond your qualifications, years of experience and knowledge. They are becoming increasingly aware of your soft skills.  

Soft skills are character traits that are orientated mainly around your interpersonal abilities and overall personality. Soft skills are usually what a hiring manager will pick up on in your interview. Most soft skills work hand in hand, so once you’ve mastered one or two the rest should start to fall into place.

In this article, we have listed the top five soft skills you typically need to succeed in your career. 

Communication

In most jobs strong communication skills are vital. Being an effective communicator means that you’ll tailor your message and tone depending on the situation or who you’re speaking to. For example, when working on a team project, you may need to communicate a strong opinion or an idea. Finding a way to tactfully disagree with colleagues without causing conflict is an important skill that an employer will value. Or you may need to negotiate a contract with a difficult client in which you’re more authoritative. This will show your employer that you don’t shy away from problematic situations.

Effective and strong communication skills come with experience, the more people you deal with, the better communicator you’ll be.  

We would recommend exposing yourself to a wide range of people. You can do this by attending networking events or volunteering in a people orientated charity.

Problem-solving

Employers highly value people who can resolve issues quickly and effectively. That may involve calling on industry knowledge to fix an issue immediately as it occurs or taking time to research and consult with colleagues to find a scalable, long-term solution.

To improve your problem-solving skills, you need to start being analytical and critical of any problem you come across. Start pulling the problem apart, who does it involve, who is at risk, how long have you got to solve this problem. Then start listing solutions including how long it will take to action, who will need to be involved, and any financial implications.

After a while, you’ll start to do this automatically, and you’ll be able to instantly think on your feet when there’s a problem.

Don’t be afraid to ask your employer if there are any problems they would like you to research in your own time.

Initiative

When you show initiative, you do things without being told; you keep going when things get tough; you spot and take advantage of opportunities that others pass by. It’s about being proactive instead of reactive.

Initiative comes with confidence: the confidence to talk to people to get the answers and the confidence in yourself to make the right decision. To become more comfortable with taking initiative you’ll have to come out of your comfort zone, ask questions, think outside the box and get involved in tasks that challenge you. 

Set yourself a goal of implementing something each month using your own initiative; perhaps a new process or a piece of data analysis and discuss with your employer at your monthly reviews.

Critical thinking

We are all exposed to data and are expected to interpret it, question it and look what to do next.

Critical thinking involves the evaluation of sources such as data, facts, and research findings.

Good critical thinkers can draw reasonable conclusions from a set of information and distinguish between useful and less useful details to solve a problem.

Companies look for critical thinkers because they are people who bring a fresh perspective and offer intuitive solutions and ideas to help the company progress.

Critical thinking is important as it allows you to find solutions to common problems and make decisions about what actions to take next. Understanding problems and analysing the situation for viable solutions is a key skill in every position at every level.

See if you can take time out to analyse some routine data in a different way to find a pattern or trend or do some online research into a particular market or sector and feedback to the business.

Teamwork

Almost regardless of what level or type of industry you work in you need to be able to work well with others.

A good team player is respectful, a good communicator and is aware of what their team is wanting to achieve.

Teamwork also helps you with the social part of your job: making work friends. By joining in with others, you are socialising and opening yourself up which could lead to a valuable network of contacts as well as friendships with people you simply enjoy spending time with.

One simple way to be more supportive within your team is to offer help on a big project. Another way is to offer training to your team on something that could help them with their work or add another string to their bow. For example, offering negotiation training to a sales colleague, design training to a marketing co-worker or excel training to a non-financial employee

 

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