7 soft skills you need for career success
When it comes to applying for a job or a promotion, your soft skills are essential to sealing the deal.
Your career success is determined by more than just your technical competencies and knowledge. Sure these hard skills are important, but in these unpredictable, fast-changing times that require pivoting between roles and across sectors, don't underestimate the value of soft skills.
Hiring managers are increasingly on the lookout for employees who can collaborate on teams and interact meaningfully with customers. So if you are up against another job candidate who has the same level of technical abilities as you, it’s your soft skills that will give you the competitive advantage.
What are soft skills?
There are two types of skills: hard and soft. While hard skills refer to technical knowledge and training (your ability to use PowerPoint, CPR certification, etc.), soft skills are more like personality traits—teamwork, communication, problem solving—that make you well-rounded and give you the ability to work well with others. Combining these human skills with hard skills will boost your hireability, earning potential, and progress in the workplace, even in the most technical fields.
Read on for a primer on the top soft skills you should develop.
7 soft skills you need
Why you need it: Strong communication skills can help you during the interview process and throughout your career. No matter what industry you work in, you need to be able to communicate with superiors, colleagues, and direct reports, both verbally and written, to get your ideas and points across clearly and effectively.
How to get it: Effective communication is hard work and requires putting yourself out there. Whether leading a meeting, hosting presentations or joining a panel discussion online, co-workers and management need to understand what you’re saying.
As George Bernard Shaw once said, “The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” Don’t be misunderstood—eliminate the need for corrective communication and having to explain what you really meant.
Take workshops and join professional groups, such as Toastmasters International or an online public speaking forum, to hone this skill. Check out TED talks on communication to get expert speakers’ tips on improving your conversations, digital communications, and oral presence.
Why you need it: A company’s success relies on people getting along and working collectively toward a common goal. When there is a friendly office culture and lots of collaboration, not only is there increased job satisfaction, but office productivity and retention go up too.
How to get it: Be a good team player and career opportunities abound. Go out of your way to build a connection with your team mates. Lend a hand on projects without being asked or offer to cover for a colleague that needs the afternoon off. When you give, you get, and the goodwill generated can’t help but be noticed by management. Being a team player is a big piece of the promotion puzzle.
Why you need it: This soft skill is on everyone's radar. If you’re looking to aspire to management ranks, then displaying confidence and a clear vision can be your ticket to the top. It takes leadership skills to influence your co-workers and get them on board with your ideas.
How to get it: Go out of your way to find opportunities to take on more responsibility, including extra jobs and new projects. Look beyond your department to other areas of the organization to spearhead new initiatives and display your leadership aptitude. Learn to lead through books, podcasts, online classes and workshops.
Get hands-on leadership training by volunteering to become the internship supervisor—overseeing a crew of summer interns gives you hands-on experience at managing and motivating a team.
4. Problem solving
Why you need it: Workplace challenges are inevitable, particularly with unprecedented emerging technology and higher customer expectations. You want to get noticed for taking action when challenges arise and something goes wrong, not for crumbing and complaining. Finding a fix will get you buy in from management and colleagues.
How to get it: The foundation of effective problem solving is critical thinking. That requires being able to think creatively, analyze information objectively, and reach a logical decision through effective communication and collaboration.
Let’s say the weekly email to customers is regularly late. Define the problem, dig into the details—maybe the new hire isn’t aware of procedures and deadlines—then brainstorm for solutions. Once you’ve weighed the pro and cons, select and implement the solution. Problem solved!
5. Work ethic
Why you need it: Employers in every industry rely on people to be reliable, dedicated and committed to quality work. A good work ethic makes for highly coveted team members that are focused on the goals and positive outcomes of the company. Demonstrating a strong work ethic will increase your employability, likeability, and promotability.
How to get it: Nurture this soft skill as a matter of routine. Focus on time management by being punctual for every appointment and meeting, and totally prepared for presentations. Stay organized, finish tasks immediately, and turn in quality projects on time. Speak politely to others and well of the company. Tackling extra tasks with a positive attitude will go a long way in developing a reputation for being a hard worker.
Why you need it: Workplaces and processes are evolving and shifting rapidly, and more than ever, employers are reliant on employees who can quickly adapt to industry shifts and trends, particularly the fast and furious technology changes.
How to get it: Being an early adopter of change will make you relevant and indispensable. Be nimble, resourceful, think ahead and don’t whine. Keep on top of any industry trends by taking seminars, webinars and courses to build your tech skills. Share your software learning with your colleagues.
If you’re in the business department, stand out by becoming proficient in the latest accounting software. Upskill your digital expertise and help ramp up your company’s social brand. Showing off how you’re staying ahead of the change curve keeps you ahead of the competition.
Why you need it: Employers value workers that can bounce back after adversity and continue to perform under pressure. There’s no underestimating the beneficial impact on company productivity and team moral—and your career trajectory.
How to get it: You need to be like a rubber ball and bounce back when things get tough. This is a hard soft skill to learn, but your efforts will be rewarded and benefit the collective culture of your workplace. Hone this trait by cultivating confidence, optimism and compassion.
Jobs are packed with disappointments, great and small. Reframe the challenges as opportunities. One of the best ways to improve your resilience is to learn to manage your stress, which is particularly impactful on work performance and burnout.
Put your soft skills to work
When it comes to applying for a job or asking for a promotion, your soft skills are essential to impressing the top brass. Want to know other strategies for becoming an attractive job candidate and superstar employee? Join Monster for free today. As a member, you'll get career advice and job search tips sent to your inbox. You can also sign up for customized job alerts so you can be among the first to apply to new postings. You've got lots to offer. Let Monster help you find a job that will make use of your many talents.