The Most In-Demand Employee Talent: Soft Skills
By Fahd Pasha
A new report from the Ontario Chamber of Commerce reveals a growing number of applicants are severely lacking in “soft skills”. The World Economic Forum reported that by 2020, “social skills” – such as, persuasion and emotional intelligence – will be in higher demand than technical skills.
The trend is becoming clearer by the day.
While technical (hard) skills may get you an interview, to gain that competitive edge and to leave a lasting impression with a prospective employer, you need to go back to square one: ramp-up soft skills.
So what are soft skills?
Understandably, the term has become sort of a buzz(kill)word, with many definitions floating around the web.
A standard dictionary definition identifies soft skills as “desirable qualities for certain forms of employment that do not depend on acquired knowledge: they include common sense, the ability to deal with people, and a positive flexible attitude.” The characteristic has turned from “nice-to-have” to “mandatory”.
Learning soft skills in school
Soft skills aren’t genetic. They come with time. You need to experiment, and you have to learn from your mistakes. The type of soft skills you need to succeed (and survive) in the workplace vary from problem solving to communication. Thus, for those who may struggle to figure out how to pick up these skills in college or university, here are some easy ways:
- Join a sports team. Juggling midterms with match day games on the soccer field, you learn to multitask and become a goal setter. You also have to take – hopefully constructive – criticism and direction from your coach to become a better player. All these moments lead you to become a better player and acquire the soft skills necessary for the workplace.
- Master the guitar. You don’t need to be the next Slash, but mastering any instrument takes years of practice. The discipline and commitment acquired from consistently setting aside 30-45 minutes of practice to learn something new bodes well when working in an office environment.
- Find your inner artiste. If you’re in a post-secondary program, you have the opportunity to take on electives. Consider taking on an art or design project. Not only do you learn technical skills, such as how to use graphic design software (that is very attractive to employers), but every project you take on stems from creativity.
Learning soft skills on the job
As someone like myself who would still consider themselves relatively new to the workplace, if you’ve succeeded in securing a gig (congrats!), you also may be able to hone these soft skills while on the job impressing your employer, and here’s how:
1.Volunteer. Maybe you volunteered during college and university years – if so, don’t stop now. Picture this, you are three days into your new job, and your manager sends out an email asking for help on a rather tedious, but important task at 4pm on a Friday. Who steps up to the plate? You! With a willingness to learn and a sterling work ethic to help the team out, you can show your employer that you’ve got the teamwork skills that it takes to succeed.
2.Present. If presenting still brings jitters to your stomach, you aren’t alone (guilty!). However, you succeeded when presenting during class presentations, and you succeeded presenting your case as the right candidate for the job interview. Mastering presentation skills or communicating verbally doesn’t come overnight; it comes from practice and identifying opportunities.
3.Actions speak louder than words. When it comes to characteristics like critical thinking, holding a certificate is great, but you still need to prove it. Say, you work in the financial services industry, if there are developments happening in the stock market, and you can connect the dots by identifying an opportunity for your organization, you’re showcasing your ability to find solutions that support the team and the business.
It may seem daunting at first, but the key for anyone to develop their soft skills is to practice them. The competition for jobs is intense. Period. Laying the groundwork for both – hard and soft skills – before entering the job market is bound to pay off in the long run.
For more insight on how to stand out from the crowd, visit career-advice.monster.ca