Soft skills are personal qualities and non-technical skills that enable you to work more effectively with other people.
Some soft abilities, like leadership, might have to be acquired through experience, while others, like the ability to stay focused, are about discipline. While hard skills, such as computer programming, can be gained through straightforward learning and assessed with simple tests, soft skill levels are harder to acquire and evaluate. However, that doesn’t mean they’re any less critical. In fact, employers are more aware than ever of the fact that soft skills are highly relevant in today’s workplace, and they can’t be replaced by automation.
According to a recent study by the online learning platform Udemy, the following five soft skills are ones you should consider mastering, ideally before your next job interview:
1) Ability to Grow – Those who are willing and capable of learning new things will be more able to ride the wave of constantly-evolving technology.
2) Creativity – Automation and robotics are well-suited to repetitive tasks, but we have yet to come up with a software program that can develop unique solutions. Creative individuals are also adept at improving on existing processes and long-held ideas.
3) Concentration – With brilliant electronic devices and the constant allure of social media, it can be hard to stay focused these days. Those who can maintain their concentration are more likely to get ahead than those of us who are easily distracted.
4) Communication – More than just writing and public speaking, communication skills include active listening and the ability to see what others are really trying to say by observing their body language. Good communicators are also able to organize their thought to make compelling arguments and narratives.
5) Cultural Awareness – In the modern workplace, company culture is everything and people who can effectively navigate a culture are well-positioned to succeed.
Developing Your Soft Skills
It’s very easy for anyone to look at the list above and tell themselves that they are proficient in any one or all of the skills listed. For instance, how do you know if you’re a creative person or a good communicator?
Developing soft skills requires a bit of desire and a lot of honesty. Talk to trusted friends, co-workers and even former supervisors about what they think are your strongest soft skills. While this is a good way to find out what you may not be so good at, you also may even find out things about yourself you didn’t know. For instance, if you think you’re bad at staying organized, but everybody you speak with mentions your organizational abilities as a strong point, you may want to reconsider that self-perception.
Once you have identified the skills you need to work on, you must figure out how to work on them. Online courses, mentoring programs and joining professional groups like Toastmasters are all very effective ways to hone your soft skills before walking into your next interview.
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