5 Soft Skills To Try

Illustration by Kunle O.

What are soft skills?

Soft skills are non-technical skills that apply to any profession. These are skills that relate to how you work in a team, and how you communicate with others. The opposite is hard skills which are technical skills relating to a profession. 

In this blog post, we will discuss the top 5 soft skills that I believe can help you in your career.

Listening 

Being a great listener is a top skill to have. Great leaders listen to people around them and also to people who report to them. They listen to what is going on in their industry and listen to other leaders in their field. When you have the ability to listen, you are increasing your chances of being an effective member of your company. You are more likely to complete tasks and projects you are part of because you can understand what is being asked of you or your team. You are able to provide feedback about the tasks and build a strong relationship with your colleagues. 

In order to become a great listener, when you are at work, be attentive to the conversation you are having. Give your colleague your undivided attention, and always acknowledge the message. In this situation, always try to look directly at the speaker. Show the person that you are listening through your body language and use gestures to let them know you are giving them your attention. An example of a gesture could be occasionally nodding when listening to them while maintaining eye contact. You should try to mirror the speaker’s body language to show genuine interest in what they are saying. 

How you respond is very important in being a good listener. Avoid interrupting the speaker. If you disagree with the message, try to be pragmatic and let them finish their message then assert your opinions respectfully. You gain nothing from interrupting and will show a lack of understanding of one’s perspective. Always remember to be an active listener and that you are trying to gain their knowledge and perspective.   

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Communication

Following having great listening skills is communication. Communication is split into two parts: the giving of information and the receiving of information. This can be in many forms, from a phone call to an email. The goal of communication is that both parties understand the information being given and received. In a work environment, the most valuable employee is the one that can communicate their points clearly and concisely. This is why employers look for candidates with exceptional written and verbal communication skills for almost every type of job. There are several ways to help improve your communication skills; always read through your messages before sending them, check for any grammar and spelling errors, and check you are using the correct language style tailored to the person you are sending the message to. If you are sending a message to a senior member of staff, make sure you are using formal language or try to. 

Verbal communication or oral communication is important if you are in a customer-facing role, you have to use the phone extensively or spend a lot of time in meetings. This still applies even if you are not in a customer-facing role. There are ways you can improve your verbal communication and the best way is to go out there and speak to people. 

For example, in your workplace talking to your colleagues is a good way to practice, you do not have to discuss work but you can pick a random topic of interest to you both. Make sure you can articulate points of that topic and that there is clarity so that you do not leave the receiver confused. The more practice you do, it will translate into your work as you can now explain things in better detail, making you a valuable asset. 

Non-Verbal communication is another valuable skill to practice. This all starts with confidence as with all communications skills. The way you express yourself in a conversation carries more weight than verbal communication. You should use the right tone when speaking to anyone and try to maintain eye contact to show you are engaging with the speaker. 

Time Management

Another key soft skill to try and have in a workplace is good time management. Time management is when you organise and plan how your time is used between specific tasks. You prioritise which tasks you want to do and allocate enough time to complete them. Effective time management helps you in a lot of ways in your career. One of the great ways time management helps is that it can reduce stress and is a great way of achieving a good work-life balance. Remember that saving time helps not just you but others around you, time management helps an organisation save money and increase revenue.

When you organise your time properly, it will help you work smarter and also help you get to your goals a lot quicker. You will be more attentive to each task planned and able to meet deadlines and produce a better quality of work. Effective time management will help enhance your work experience and you will feel more accomplished at work. 

To get better at managing your time, you should plan your day ahead. Any scheduling software can help plan your day, week, or year. You do not just have to schedule meetings but can schedule other activities, such as your lunch break or taking a walk. Start each day by planning which tasks you want to do, and when you want to do them. This shows you are being intentional and also helps with being punctual.

Adaptability

One soft skill that does not get mentioned a lot and is easy to miss when hiring is asking if you are able to adapt. What does this mean? Being adaptable means you are able to adjust and be flexible when things in life or at work change. Are you willing to accept change at work in a positive manner? Are you willing to learn new things? Are you able to come out of your comfort zone?

The last few years have shown that things can force change that is outside of our control. Companies have had to adapt to stay alive and move from their old ways to survive. This shows that you also have to be willing to do so. You must show the ability to learn and also be able to put it into practice in a positive manner. People who have good adaptability skills are never disheartened by failure and are open to both positive and negative change. 

When you are challenged in a situation at work, it is very easy to shy away from it or to look for a quick getaway. Next time you find yourself in this situation try to remain positive while you look for a solution, motivate yourself and others around you, and be persistent as this will pay off. If the outcome is negative do not feel discouraged, but see it as an opportunity that you have gained experience and are ready for the next challenge. 

Remember that being adaptable is about learning new things, and being curious, persistent and resourceful in challenging situations.

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Problem-Solving 

Problem-solving is the ability to identify problems quickly, look for solutions, and implement the best one. This can be difficult at first but as you grow in your career and gain more experience you will be able to see problems a lot quicker and find even better solutions. 

When you encounter a problem with a task you are working on, take a break and investigate what could have caused the problems. Treat the issue like a teacher giving you homework in school. Try not to go and ask for help straight away,  but instead, try and see what could have caused the issue, one idea could be to try to work backwards to get to the genesis of the problem. Once you gather enough information to see where the issue stemmed from, brainstorm ideas for possible solutions. With the solutions found, evaluate each solution, this is a good opportunity to then go and ask for help if necessary. You know you have identified an issue, you have an idea of what could have caused it and now you have possible solutions. At this point you can use this opportunity to have discussions around the topic, this is to show that you have already put time and effort into solving the issue. You have taken the initiative and you are working towards a plan but you need advice rather than an answer from your colleague. 

There are times when a problem is bigger than your skill set, which is fine, take it up with the right person but always try to understand the issue at hand and then seek further advice. 

When you have implemented the right solution, take note and revisit the solution. This will help you in the future if you should face the same issue or similar issues. 

Conclusion

There are a few more soft skills that you can try that we have not covered. Try these ones first then expand to the other areas. Soft skills are valuable and can help you progress a lot faster in your career and also make you a valuable member of your workplace. They take time to get better at and you will need to have confidence in yourself but it is very achievable with the steps mentioned in this blog.

Thank you for taking the time to read this post, if you enjoyed it please share and for any other tips or advice please feel free to contact me.

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