Soft skills for a successful career
Soft skills are personal attributes that enable someone to interact effectively and harmoniously with other people. It is a term associated with a person’s emotional quotient (EQ). Soft skills are collective traits of personality such as social graces, communication, language proficiency, expressiveness, personal habits, friendliness, and buoyancy that characterize relationships with other people.
Whereas Hard Skills are specific, technical abilities those can be defined and measured. Examples of hard skills include accounting skills, mathematical ability, software, hardware, written ability, typing, project management etc. Hard skills are essentially, any skills that can be measured in a test. Most aspects of administrative, technical, and accounting knowledge involve hard skills. Career choices are based on hard skills.
When it comes to choosing professional services of a doctor, an accountant, a lawyer, an architect or a copywriter whom do we prefer choosing? Think about it. If you are looking for a doctor, you will certainly want the most competent doctor, but if you have quite a few of them with equal competence, then you would most likely pick the one who listens to your concerns patiently; am I right? You would prefer a doctor who obviously shares information with you and offers suggestions, and above all the one who is most considerate. Likewise, among lawyers, accountants, you would look out for somebody who is the most ethical, professional and easy to work with. None of us would knowingly pick someone who is arrogant, self-centered or miserable to deal with. It’s a ‘No-No’ for someone who has poor work ethic, someone who constantly interrupts or demeans us.
Like us, business organizations also are cautious and over concerned while hiring employees. Of course technical skills are very important, knowledge is very important but, if a candidate is accompanied with soft skills besides the knowledge and technical background he/she will surely get picked up. In today’s highly competitive world, it is often the softer skills that differentiate applicants, and determine who will get hired, who will be successful and who will move up in the organization. One survey conducted by American Express found that more than 60 percent of project managers and leaders in organizations agreed that soft skills are the most important factor when evaluating an employee’s performance.
So which are the most important soft skills a person should have?
Communication Skills: Its one of the most importantskill to succeed in life. Being able to communicate effectively helps one stand out in crowd. Whether it is spoken, written, visual or non-verbal communication one needs to constantly learn and improve the art. You don’t have to be a great orator or writer, but certainly you need to express yourself clearly in your communication. Whether it is a personal or official letter, a memo, a presentation, or a casual note the message needs to be coherent and logically presented. While speaking the tone, pitch and selection of words do matter. And in non-verbal communication body language says it all. So many times we communicate many a things which we haven’t spoken or written.
Be a good team player: Know a little bit about your coworkers; this will keep your going with them, make an effort of familiarizing others about you. Isolation from other does not help you or others and certainly not the organization. You cannot always be leader in the team; learn to sometimes be a follower. Pitch in that small information which you are aware, share it if it’s going to make a positive change. Be reliable. Offer constructive help to others. Don’t be afraid to speak up and give your thoughts during group sessions or meetings. Offering your thoughts will keep you an active helper in the decision-making process and prove you have an interest in the team. It’s very important to respect others. Don’t gossip or ridicule about your coworkers behind their backs. By gossiping you only spoil the work atmosphere.
Be adaptable: it is one of very important qualities to survive in today’s hyper-competitive and fast-paced work place atmosphere. New technologies, changing corporate structures, downsizing, outsourcing, ever changing business priorities require one to be adaptable. With such rapid, unpredictable and disruptive change all around us, it calls for patience and a spirit to react coolly in the troubled situations. It is again not important whether you emerge as a winner or loser; it simply counts on whether you can take change in your stride or not. Responding positively to change not only enables you to deal with the new and untried, but paves the way for career success, growth and satisfaction too. By being flexible and adaptable, you can move up the ladder, build new skills, increase productivity and achieve your goals. What’s more, it makes the work appealing and gratifying too. In the ever-changing workplace, this basic skill even becomes the key to survival.
Problem Solving: Problem solving is again a key skill, and it’s one that can make a huge difference to your career. At work, problems are at the center of what many people do every day. You’re either solving an internal problem or external problem, by supporting those who are solving problems, or discovering new problems to solve. The problems you face can be large or small, simple or complex, and easy or difficult, stuck or unstuck to solve. Please understand this, our brain cannot find solutions if we only focus on the problem. This is because when we focus on the problem, we in fact feed ‘negativity’ which in turn activates negative emotions in the brain. These emotions block potential solutions. Don’t ignore the problem but, find workable solutions by remaining calm. It helps to first acknowledge the problem and then move focus on creating a mindset to think practically. Stop lingering on what went wrong, who created the problem, what intentions the problem maker has, whose fault is it etc.etc. Instead think what approach to assume, view the problem neutrally, think laterally, stop using negative self talk, and simplify the course of action.
Creative thinking:It’s not enough to be able to collect data and manipulate it. You must also be able to analyze and interpret it. It’s important to make yourself creative and evolving as a better person at each juncture in life. It’s in your best interests to help improve the creative performance of your team. Creative meetings are a great opportunity to spot gaps and close them. There are many creative ideas which might not have struck you, but when confronted with others who are passionately arguing for highly creative yet hardly strategic concepts, some idea might strike. Creativity is not only your domain; learn to spot the creativity in others around you. It’s perfectly alright to accept other’s ideas and shape them. Don’t forget to give credit to the person whose idea you are utilizing.
Negotiation skill:Negotiation is a method by which people settle differences. It is a process by which conciliation or agreement is reached while avoiding argument and dispute. Negotiation is inevitable in life. It has to be adopted from time to time. Conflict and disagreement will arise as the differing needs, wants, aims and beliefs of people change. Without negotiation, such conflicts may lead to disputes and resentments resulting in one or all of the parties feeling disappointed. The point of negotiation is to try to reach agreements without causing future barriers to communications. In any disagreement, individuals understandably aim to achieve the best possible outcome for their position, or an organization they represent. However, the principles of fairness, seeking reciprocated benefit and maintaining a healthy relationship are the keys to a success. Therefore the negotiation skill is vital.
Leadership: The ability to lead effectively is one of the most important skills. This skill can boost your career in effect. It involves dealing with diverse people with diverse cultures, diverse ideas, and diverse personalities. The leader has to be people’s man/woman. The leader should create a motivated and enthused team of people to archive organizational goals and objectives. A leader is the one knows the way, goes the way and shows the way. Leaders establish the behavioral realities at the workplace. They establish and embody the real values of the organization and, by extension, its relationships with customers, suppliers, competitors, policy makers, government, and to environmentalists – to all out there. A leader’s canvass has to be large enough to support the details, objectives, methodology, scope and the goals to be achieved. He is required to provide true perspective. He should create a picture of future with lots of colors in it – making it striking for his followers. Because if the picture of future is absurd no matter how he convinces his subordinates, they will start searching for the truth. Each one believes what is seen. There is no other powerful shaper of behavior in the organization than the leader of it. In an organization the leader is considered an archetype. Therefore, practice what you preach.