On business: Cultivate your soft skills for career success
June 14, 2013
"What is a soft skill anyway?" Soft skills are characteristics that come naturally, such as your style of communication, the way you view your commitments and the ability you have to interact with people. Your temperament and capacity for dealing with stress are soft skills too. They have great value in the workplace and arguably may pack a more powerful punch than their technically driven twin, the hard skill. Soft skills are applicable in the workplace but also in all areas of your life, making them a worthy point of discussion. It's essential to identify and cultivate yours in order to understand and appreciate their value. Yes, employers are seeking technical expertise and impressive educational credentials, but the fact is a blend of both hard and soft skills makes the ideal worker. There are exceptions. It has been said that Steve Jobs creative genius and co-founder of Apple Computers, lacked soft skills on occasion. He was highly successful in spite of this shortfall. But Jobs possessed one unique and rare soft skill. He was a visionary. The following are five soft skills to cultivate.
A strong work ethic
Do you clock out five minutes before your shift ends and think no one is paying attention? Do you honor your commitments; show up to work on time? Show up at all? Are you a hard worker with a reputation of being trustworthy, honest and reliable? Your work ethic sends a strong message to your employer and co-workers. It can make or break relationships and be the deciding factor for promotional opportunities. Keep your reputation and work ethic in tact. It will serve you well.
Making others feel valued instead of marginalizing their efforts while building up your own is a key skill. Learning to convey, sell and clarify a concept doesn't come easy for everyone. Are you a clear communicator or do you do a lot of "assuming?" Are you open and inviting or critical and judgmental in your communication style? Do you listen or interrupt? Your body language speaks too. Rolled eyes, lack of eye contact or crossed arms send a negative message. Fine-tuned communication skills build a solid foundation of trust. A good communicator has a higher capacity for success than those who fail to communicate well.
Being a team player
Working on a team can be challenging. There are multiple personalities, differing opinions, and a variety of problem solving techniques to navigate. Patience often rules the day. Does your participation on a team motivate others towards a common goal or does it impede progress? Do you attempt to grab credit and establish control? Are you a good collaborator or are you uncompromising? Difficult team members often don't realize their affect on others. Their own agenda is their focus. Awareness is the first step towards improved behavior. The goal is to be respectful to all team members and open to ideas even if they don't align with your own.
Emotional intelligence is defined as "the ability to identify, assess, and control the feelings of oneself, of others, and of groups." Many fail to gauge what others may be feeling and are not sensitive to the tone in the room. They often can't manage their own emotions and are distracted in their efforts to do so. They may speak without forethought. Four branches of emotional intelligence are important factors: Perceiving, reasoning, understanding and managing our emotions. Do you possess emotional intelligence in these areas?
The "if it ain't broke don't fix it" mentality is forever gone. The reality is that change is constant and inevitable. We should become accustomed to expecting it on a regular basis. If you can accept change without displaying discomfort or expressing discontent you're at an advantage. Flexibility is necessary in the workplace. Those who embrace change rather than resist are more likely to advance ahead of those who bristle at the thought.
— Gloria Sinibaldi is a career professional who has worked in the employment field for more than 20 years. She is a trainer coach and job developer. Email questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.