When applying for a job, getting through an interview or climbing the ladder in a corporation there are certain hard and soft skills criteria you need to meet in order to succeed.
Early schools as well as universities mostly focus on the hard skills which quickly change with the massive development of technology and rapid changes in the world. The soft skill requirement has remained relatively stable – yet interestingly there is only a little focus on these skills in the education system.
“Strengthening a soft skill is one of the best investments you can make in your career, as they never go out of style. Plus, the rise of AI is only making soft skills increasingly important, as they are precisely the type of skills robots can’t automate.” – says Paul Petrone, the Head of Academic and Government Marketing at LinkedIn.
Although we have seen action taken by business and government to address the required changes in education, there are still gaps that need to be filled to ensure that people do not lose out while the education system has a chance to catch up.
In my time at IBM, I spent on average an additional 9-12 months of on the job additional training to bring successful graduates up to the required standards that our clients expected.
Based on my experience as well as data I collected, the top soft – or so called people – skills you need to possess in order to promote your future employability and a shorter path to leadership positions are:
The need to resolve problems in an effective and efficient way for clients is what makes you stand out from the crowd. In a world of information overload, understanding what information can be trusted as fact can be challenging. Non-standard problems require non-standard solutions and your ability to think outside of, or even remove, the box requires you to be creative.
There are numerous ways to boost your creativity: try solving puzzles, attend training that covers the 6 Thinking Hats or R.E.D. critical thinking models or simply be curious enough to learn how other industries solve problems and adopt the most applicable methods to your own industry.
High performing teams produce excellent results over a sustainable amount of time. Individuals within these teams know how to work together to maximise individual strengths, ensuring that they excel at meeting changing needs of their clients.
Playing a team sport, requesting feedback from your colleagues and learning more about communication styles will help strengthen your collaboration skills
The need to adapt and change to the demands of business is nothing new, the difference today is the speed in which it needs to happen. Being able predict and also to adapt to ever changing market and client needs can mean the success or failure of any organisation. Building change and adaptability into organisations requires a confident leadership skill based on a set of principles that help ensure that change is successful and maintained.
Learn more about change and adaptability here.
In addition you can further strengthen your skills by attending virtual or face to face training and then seek out opportunities to put your new skills into practice.
The most in demand skill for 2020 – Emotional intelligence is about being able to recognise, evaluate and respond to your emotions as well as the emotions of others. People with good emotional intelligence levels more easily form strong relationships that are essential in business.
Developing your Emotional intelligence can be done by attending a formal training, improving your communication skills and reading up on this book: Leadership: The power of emotional intelligence by Daniel Goleman.
Persuasion along with influence are key elements of negotiation – essentially a way of communicating that concludes with an agreement. Both are skills that leaders and hiring managers LOVE to have in their team members. If that’s not enough inspiration to get you learning, imagine having the confident ability to get the things you want in life e.g. agreeing salary expectations during an interview or a discount on that item you’ve always wanted to buy.
To become a better negotiator, influencer and persuader, read up on different tactics employed in Negotiation 101 by Peter Sander, MBA, and attend formal practical training as well as practice with your colleagues.
Earning the trust and respect of your colleagues takes dedication, effort and consistency. Being able to lead yourself will enable you to lead others far more effectively. Knowing, understanding and applying a framework of values and principles in everything you do will help you understand yourself, relate to other people and situations more easily. Best of all you’ll know the correct course of action to take in any situation.
Learn more about values-based leadership in this book by Harry M. Kraemer: “From Values to Action – The four principles of values-based leadership”. Further strengthen and apply the knowledge by attending training that allows you to practice in a safe environment.
Culturally intelligent individuals and teams make the most out of the multiple perspectives that a multicultural organisation brings to the workplace. Individuals who embrace the different perspectives, experience and resources that exist are more creative, able to innovate more easily and best of all, can form more meaningful and close working relationships with their colleagues and clients.
This is the practice of being able to resolve disagreement in a sensible, respectful and efficient manner. In every stage of team and personal development we will encounter different opinions, working styles and personalities that will present us with conflict that needs to be resolved in order for us to be successful.
Learn more about conflict management styles and how to apply them by attending training, doing a conflict management questionnaire and seeking feedback on your reactions from colleagues or friends.
Knowing how to connect and communicate the “why” in relation to activities or idea’s means you will more easily persuade colleagues or clients to follow you or your idea’s. Promoting that mindset in your team means that energy and effort is focused on things that really matter for your client and your business, leading to higher staff motivation and better results for everyone.
Strengthen your communication by being curious to understand why tasks you do are done and who benefits from them as a result. Attend training or get a mentor that encourages your thinking, or simply take the time to read “start with why” by Simon Sinek.
Being able to craft a set of information around a compelling story should be the basis of every presentation, avoid delivering what’s known as “death by power point” by learning how to incorporate your key messages into a compelling story.
Take a look at this article about 10 ways you can improve your presentation skills and to further strengthen your ability to minimise stage fright or anxiety, attend some training and seek out opportunities to practice.
I highly recommend you to assess your skills in relation to the list above. If you are job seeking or already employed, you can still benefit from defining which skills to acquire or which of the existing ones you want to improve.
As a job seeker, highlight your skills on your CV and professional networking social media platforms (e.g. LinkedIn) by describing how you’ve applied them. For the interview, prepare examples to share that cover the what, why and where you’ve used those skills.
Soft skills need to be practiced in order to be sustained, so find ways to use and update these skills on a regular basis e.g: online or in person training courses, on the job activities or volunteering for a project or cause that’s important to you.