5 essential soft skills that can help you succeed in the workplace
What are soft skills?
Soft skills are sometimes known as interpersonal skills or transferable skills. Unlike technical skills, are any kind of skill that is related to personality and social behaviour. Technical skills are related to the knowledge needed to perform a job, but soft skills are more about fostering good connections within a workplace.
Soft skills are quite intangible and can widely be described as personal qualities or habits. These are qualities and abilities that employers look for in a job candidate. They reflect your attitudes and intuitions towards the work. We use these soft skills together with hard skills to navigate our work environment, work well with others, and achieve career goals.
They are called “transferable” as they aren’t always fixed to specific occupations. A lot of soft skills are valued for a number of positions, across a range of industries as well. This is especially for graduate programs, where employers often look for these transferable soft skills over professional experience.
Companies can train someone to have the technical know-how for the job, but soft skills have to come from personal growth. That’s where employers can see the candidate’s potential to perform well in the workplace. A job candidate’s soft skills can show that they have a positive and flexible mindset when it comes to work. These skills are valued because of how they can be used regardless of the job position.
Why soft skills are so important in 2020
To cope with the pandemic-induced economic decline, a lot of companies are restructuring their organisations. This brings forward new positions in the workforce that calls for transferable skills. You may find that you match a lot of the desired traits in a job ad even if you’re not that familiar with the responsibilities or the job titles itself.
These new positions on the job market aren’t exactly brand new types of work, think of them as “repackaged” roles that combine the responsibilities of adjacent roles. That’s where soft skills come into the conversation. Adaptability and communication skills are crucial in this new age of change. These skills are particularly in demand today. Companies are changing, and as employees, we have to improve along as well. Sometimes this shift in work can be good too.
Tech and consulting sectors have adopted the human-centered design methodology for better problem solving capabilities. This makes use of a number of soft skills to identify the needs of a client for the right solution. While tech is dominating these days, there is a push for soft skills at the same time.
Having these soft skills are also important when it comes to a career change. Even if you don’t have real experience in another field, you might possess the required traits fit for the role. So when you’re thinking about changing careers, consider what kind of soft skills you have that can help you find your next job.
5 essential soft skills that can help you succeed at work
People who can work well with others are the most sought after. Even if you only need to attend a few meetings here and there, hiring managers look for people who can get along with others. Your workplace can consist of people from different backgrounds and have different responsibilities. Having a certain level of empathy can help you work with others even if you don’t agree with each other.
In any situation that involves teamwork, accepting feedback is key to getting to a solution effectively and efficiently. Learning to respect people and valuing diversity in a workplace is also a great soft skill to have. Not only does having empathy aid with workplace relationships, it also can get you great results in your work.
Empathy can be described as the ability to step into someone else’s shoes. But a lot of it is also about listening more, and being open to new ideas. Empathetic people are truly present and involved with another person’s feelings and intentions. This makes them highly understanding and are able to inspire others.
So we’re listening, but are we also effectively saying what we think? Communication is not always about the words you’re saying, but it’s also about how you’re putting ideas forward. Convincing communication can really help your team get through problems easily. It can also help to minimise certain misunderstandings between your staff.
At most jobs, you will probably need to talk to people who are not only your colleagues. These include customers, clients, vendors, and more. Navigating through this requires a solid level of communication skills in person, on the phone, and in writing. This is particularly true for customer-facing jobs like receptionists and helpdesk support.
3. Critical thinking
The ability to make split-second decisions that are also well-thought out is definitely useful in fast-paced workplaces. By developing this critical thinking skill, you and your team can take action based on all the relevant information you have. By anticipating the possible consequences of all the options you have, the right decision will come to you easy as.
Employers want people who can analyse a situation and make informed decisions. Impulsive and ill-informed decisions might be a quick solution, but acting without weighing up all the options can lead to unwanted outcomes. You need to be adaptive to new environments, whatever the work throws at you. This requires a great deal of logical thinking and a desire to learn. Whether you’re analysing data patterns, or fixing a dead laptop, you need to be able to think critically to solve problems.
Sometimes things don’t exactly go your way and you’re stuck at square one again. Patience is critical when it comes to long projects that are particularly difficult to get through. It also comes in handy when you need to deal with people who are disagreeing with you.
Lastly, hiring managers often look for candidates who can show their commitment to the work and the company. Candidates who don’t show interest in the role during the interview can usually point to their low work ethic.
Showing that you come to work on time, complete tasks on schedule while staying focused and organised is a great sign of your commitment to the job.
How to highlight your soft skills to a potential employer
When you’re applying for a job, your resume and cover letter is where your skills can shine through. Other than highlighting your technical skills that are job-related, you might want to do the same for your soft skills.
While listing them out one by one in the ‘skills’ section of your resume might look enough, you also want to provide proof of your skills. Consider talking about them in the ‘experience’ section instead.
Provide more details of how you used your soft skills to achieve goals. If you worked well in a team setting, or helped customers find a resolution to a problem, you can highlight these achievements as your communication or critical thinking skills. In your cover letter, pick one or two of these skills that are relevant to the job and expand more on them.
If you’re new to work and looking for your first job, you can mention some previous experiences you’ve had. You’ve probably developed a few soft skills from school and volunteering experiences.
A job interview is also a great opportunity to talk about your soft skills. It’s the easiest way to show that you’re a great listener and can work well with people, just by being friendly and approachable. You might also want to do some research about the role and the company before the interview, to show your passion and commitment to the position. Feel free to ask any questions that you may have for the interviewer about the company as well. This shows your initiative and interest in the role.
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