Okay, so you’re a whiz kid, a real natural at whatever you choose to do. New technology is instinctive to you. The tasks required in your chosen field come easy to you.
But guess what? Being adept at your job and valued by your employer also require skills not necessarily taught in the classroom. You should also refine these if you want to have a successful career with opportunities to rise through the ranks.
Skills that are not technical or task-oriented, often referred to as “soft skills,” are important to a productive career. Examples include:
Effective communication (including writing skills)
Strong work ethic
ppreciation of diversity
According to a job outlook survey by the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE), communication skills and honesty/integrity are among the most important skills and qualities for job seekers to possess. The survey also reported that motivation and initiative, along with strong interpersonal skills and a strong work ethic, are key attributes of top employees. Employers are looking for people with soft skills obtained through work experience, internships or cooperative education programs.
The survey found that people often lose jobs not because of lack of skill, but because of many other factors, including:
Not taking responsibility
Poor time-management skills
Not being tactful
Weak communication skills
Showing a lack of motivation
Not having a strong work ethic
Some people are naturals at soft skills. To better understand where you rate with your soft skills, ask yourself some behavior-based questions. Behavior-based questions are designed to highlight examples of previous behaviors and help predict future behaviors. Many of these questions are often asked in interviews. Examples include:
Describe a difficult boss or employee you had to work with and how you handled the situation.
Describe a time when you worked with a team and how your contributions contributed to the team’s success.
How do you prioritize your time and activities?
Discuss a specific time when you had your calendar set for the day, then something came up and you had to change your entire schedule.
Make a list of your soft skills. If you have work experience, jot down some specific situations where you used soft skills. Have you ever had to handle a difficult customer? Were you successful in making the customer happy? Have you settled a dispute between co-workers or helped get a team project underway? If so, you used several soft skills, such as listening, understanding, leadership, motivation and compassion. These are the skills that make things run smoothly and get you noticed.
Thinking about the times that using soft skills produced successful results will help prepare you for interviews and will help you apply the same skills to new situations in the workplace. And if you can combine top-notch technical and performance skills with a masterful demonstration of soft skills, then you are on the way to evolving from a whiz kid into a rock star in your chosen profession!
Develop your people skills to implement soft skills in your workplace:
Read “Living Well, Working Smart” by Sue Mackey and Laura Tonkin or “People Skills: How to Assert Yourself, Listen to Others, and Resolve Conflict” by Robert Bolton