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Many people believe you either have good soft skills or you don’t; it’s that simple. While some people naturally have better people skills—and perhaps an even stronger work ethic than others—most people can build their soft skills with hard work and a hint of self-awareness.
Soft skills are a combination of talents and knowledge used when interacting with people at work and in life. Emotional intelligence, adaptability, time management, creativity, and related characteristics are a few examples. Conversely, hard skills are job-specific, like knowing how to use a program like Excel or operating a machine like a forklift.
In practice, the distinction sometimes needs to be clarified. For example, programming is considered a hard skill, but simultaneously programming requires a soft skill like problem-solving. Indeed, soft skills are equally as difficult to acquire as hard skills. Any salesperson will tell you it can take years to cultivate both soft and hard communication skills.
Finally, employers value both hard and soft skills, which are equally important. Even if you have the best technical skills, hiring managers will only take notice if you can communicate with your coworkers. As with behavioral traits, certain skills fit certain roles better.
Soft skills allow us to stay adaptable; they help make us better at almost everything. It’s therefore no wonder that employers look for them in potential candidates.
When thrown into an unfamiliar situation, such as learning how to use a new tool or beginning a new project, we need skills like critical thinking. Good listening skills help us understand a project’s scope or diminish misconceptions, and leadership skills enable us to delegate tasks and focus on the important work. A positive attitude lets us quickly overcome setbacks by keeping things in the right perspective.
Indeed, soft skills assist us in achieving career success at every stage. Interestingly, when starting a new job, recruiters may disregard a gap in hard skills if they deem your soft skills a good fit. This is because training a person in a new process is easier than teaching an attitude or behavior. Soft skills are even more important when pursuing a promotion. After all, a manager who doesn’t understand teamwork is not a great fit for any organization.
Finally, soft skills are transferable skills. If you’re unhappy in one career, soft skills enable you to pursue something different—what you love—without starting from scratch.
Interpersonal skills are about understanding how people work, not just about knowing how to make your coworkers laugh. Interpersonal skills include active listening, conflict resolution, verbal communication, public speaking, being a team player, among others.
Employees with strong interpersonal skills guide their team members to focus on what’s most important, improving their efficiency and making their whole team shine.
Good problem-solving skills enable you to overcome obstacles by developing novel solutions or new approaches. Undoubtedly, unexpected circumstances will occur, which is why good problem-solving skills is one of the most valuable skills to possess.
At times, making the right choice is challenging, and we may have to deal with unclear or conflicting information. Some employees may need more support to decide, while others with good decision-making skills can make a difficult choice and stick with it.
Decision-making is essential the higher up you go on the organizational ladder. However, even at lower levels, employers regard decision-making as a top soft skill. They believe that even if the end goal is unclear, strong decision-makers can be trusted to get the job done.
Dependability, or grit and determination, is the power to overcome barriers and deliver great results, even when stressed and tired. Dependable employees rarely cut corners and put in more discretionary effort.
If you exude dependability, you will likely sail through the job interview. All employers want to know they can count on you.
Time Management Skills
Can you prioritize which tasks are most important and which ones can wait? Possessing and utilizing good time management skills reflects the ability to get things done in a timely manner as well as realizing when you cannot.
Employees with good time management skills can identify if a project needs more time and doesn’t wait until time runs out to advise their supervisor.
Organization involves both complex and simple skills, such as project management, using your calendar effectively and keeping your work environment clean.
Employers prioritize organizational skills because organized people find it easier to manage time, solve problems, or even make decisions by not needing to rely on intuition but rather on systems.
You may be worried if you don’t have some of the above-mentioned soft skills. Perhaps you need to be more organized, or you get easily discouraged. That does not mean you won’t be able to land a job interview. While soft skills are based partly on personality traits, they’re not set in stone. Even the shyest person can learn to become a better communicator.
Identify Your Weaknesses
You can only improve your soft skills if you know what to improve, so you should take a talent assessment to determine your strengths and weaknesses. Once you have decided what they are, write them down.
Identify Your Desired Strengths
Analyze your strengths and weaknesses against the job or promotion you want. Figure out if you fit the job description or if there are any gaps. Remember that no one is good at everything, so focus on the soft skills that count the most.
Create an Action Plan
Once you know where to improve, start taking tangible steps. If you’d like to be more organized, consider taking an online course in project management. If your social skills need to improve, try to network and meet new people or sign up for a public speaking class.
Get to Work
Soft skills take time and effort to improve; there is no sugarcoating it. However, you should feel encouraged if you see results in the first week or month. Remember that the benefits of soft skills last a lifetime.
Soft skills are the key to career success. By mastering them, no job or promotion is out of reach.
Our team at ALIGN is here to support your career goals. Contact us to find out more.