In the modern workplace, you need more than technical skills to be successful in your career. Today’s employers seek candidates who can perform their jobs well but who can also fit into the company culture and interact with other employees. In order to do these things successfully, students need to develop soft skills.
Soft skills are attributes that enable you to engage in meaningful interactions with others. Since most jobs require teamwork, it’s important to possess soft skills to enhance your employability and achieve your dream job. They will help you increase your productivity in your career, build professional relationships and thrive at your job.
Read on to learn more about soft skills, their importance in your career, how to develop them and various books that you can read to improve them.
What are soft skills?
Often known as “people skills”, these skills refer to the abilities required to interact amicably with others in an office setup. They are personal attributes that affect your interaction and relationships with others. A few examples include:
Communication: An excellent communicator can put their ideas and arguments across in an effective way that does not offend anyone. Communication skills include listening, speaking and writing. Communication skills are important to:
- Writing clear and concise emails;
- Pitching an idea to the clients;
- Creating a compelling presentation;
- Socialising with co-workers and clients;
- Collaborating with team members.
Problem-solving: If you are easily able to analyse upcoming issues and develop creative solutions to overcome them, you are a problem solver. These people are critical thinkers, decisive, willing to ask questions and explorative. You need to be a problem solver to:
- Discuss a problem objectively;
- Examine how a problem affects the team and its productivity;
- Come up with possible solutions;
- Make plans to implement the solutions.
Productivity: As an employee, you should develop skills that are a sign of productivity such as strategizing, organizing, planning and delivering results. You need productivity skills for:
- Managing a deadline and staying focused;
- Developing a project plan that includes all details such as goals; requirements and available resources;
- Balancing multiple projects at a time and shifting priorities;
- Identifying factors causing delay and assessing how to address them.
Digital proficiency: This soft skill is especially important in the digital age as it helps employees navigate through modern technology to achieve a goal. Digital proficiency helps in:
- Making the most of productivity software;
- Being comfortable in using both desktop and cloud-based technologies for business goals;
- Using the internet to research and communicate;
- Choosing the best software for any specific purpose.
Creativity: Creative employees can come up with innovative solutions for various problems. Thinking creatively allows you to continuously learn and to push boundaries. Creativity can help in:
- Brainstorming ideas and solutions;
- Asking questions to generate original ideas;
- Keeping an open mind to evaluate tough situations;
- Keeping a positive attitude.
Confidence: Confidence is your belief in your ability to fulfil the goals assigned to you. It is one of the most critical skills to develop. Confidence helps you solve problems without giving up. Confidence also helps you in:
- Maintaining positivity in difficult circumstances;
- Maintaining assertiveness whilst being polite in a conversation;
- Serving successfully in a leadership role;
- Communicating and arguing your opinions without offending others.
Self-awareness: Being self-aware is essential for the continuous development of your professional and personal skills. Self-awareness helps in:
- Self-reflection and learning from previous mistakes;
- Collaborating with a team;
- Building strong and lasting relationships with colleagues and team members;
- Providing effective customer service.
Why are soft skills important in the workplace?
- The modern workplace is interpersonal. Collaborations are an integral component of any workplace. Skills such as listening and writing ensure that there is a smooth flow of ideas without any conflicts. This creates a productive and healthy work environment.
- Soft skills set you apart. Good communication and negotiation skills can help you gain an edge over other candidates. Hard skills can be learnt in a limited time but these skills are harder and take longer to develop, since they depend more on your nature rather than knowledge level. Having these skills can help you deal with challenges in the workplace.
- They complement hard skills. Technical skills aren’t enough to bring out your best in a job. All careers require soft skills to utilise technical expertise at the right time and place. For example, if an executive is trying to close a deal with a customer, they will need sales knowledge along with excellent communication skills.
- Future workplaces will depend more these skills. With advancements in technology, many technical jobs are beginning to be outsourced to automation and artificial intelligence (AI). This will result in more jobs relying on soft skills to be the key differentiators in a workplace.
How can you develop soft skills?
You can learn these skills by enrolling in various soft-skill courses at different institutions. You can also keep practicing the following habits to enhance them.
- Aim to be heard: To communicate effectively, it is essential that you are mindful of the other person’s wishes and sensibilities. You should avoid offensive language or remarks that might hurt the other person. Make sure you have an idea of what the other person wants to talk about before changing the topic of conversation.
- Make eye contact during face-to-face interactions: Direct eye contact provides assurance that you are paying attention to the other person. The recipient will feel more engaged in the conversation.
- Monitor your body language and observe others: Be conscious of your body language when you interact with others. Make sure you send out positive vibes and try not to come across as closed-off, defensive or rude.
You can develop these abilities over time by keenly observing how other individuals interact. You should follow their posture, gestures, tone of voice and eye contact to gather clues about their thought processes.
- Practice public speaking: If you feel uncomfortable with public interactions, try speaking in front of a mirror. With practice, your speech will flow more naturally. Be aware of your pace, tone and volume.
- Work on your listening skills: You must be a good listener to be a good communicator. Be aware of the urge to interrupt someone when they are talking. Always let the other person finish before putting your point across.
- Improve your written communication: You can take courses or join free workshops to improve your written communication skills. Anything you write should be clear and concise and make the reader understand your point of view.
Best books for learning soft skills
You can also pick up the skills by reading books. Several excellent books in the market make soft skills training look easy. This article suggests three books.
- ‘The Hard Truth About Soft Skills’ by Peggy Klause: This book provides a step-by-step approach to learning communication, self-management and social skills to succeed in a workplace.
- ‘Bridging the Soft Skills Gap’ by Bruce Tulgan: This book deals with the skills required to navigate professional set-ups. The book is written in a simple language and is easily understandable.
- ‘Soft Skills Training’ by Frederick H Wentz: This is a workbook to develop skills for employment; the book focuses on developing a positive attitude, self-discipline and problem-solving. This book is helpful for students who are new to the professional space.
You can achieve the soft skillsrequired in your career by enrolling in interactive degrees offered by the Toronto School of Management. TSoM offers tailor-made courses that involve a healthy amount of interaction between students in the form of workshops or group projects. These are designed to improve the communication and other soft skills of the students. To know more about the courses, click here.