Saturday, August 1, 2015

It's Not Hard to Improve Your Soft Skills for Work--Follow These 5 Steps

By Susan Pines, Shy Job Seeker Blog

Employers hire you to do a job. They look at your work experience, work history, work skills, education, and training. If you are a car mechanic, for example, employers make sure you can do tune ups. If you are an accountant, employers look at your skills and experience in handling financial records. These job-specific skills are sometimes called “hard skills.”

It's Not Hard to Improve Your Soft Skills for Work [Shy Job Seeker Blog]
In addition to such hard skills, employers look at the “soft skills” of potential employees. Soft skills are difficult to define because they encompass a wide range of traits, behaviors, and attitudes. For example, communicating well and taking initiative are soft skills. So are showing up every day on time, being honest, being organized, being enthusiastic, learning, leading, working well in a team and with customers, responding well to criticism, accepting assignments without complaint, dressing and grooming appropriately, being flexible, and more. Phew! All these soft skills are essential to doing any job well. Soft skills are not extras you bring to a job. They are all part of being a professional.

So when you want to excel in your career or get a new job, it’s important to monitor, improve, and use your soft skills. How? Here are five steps.

(1) The first step is to become more aware of your soft skills. I think this point is key, because it’s easy to fall into a habit of acting, reacting, and responding to people and situations in the same, sometimes automatic, way. For example, if someone interrupts me while I'm working, my first reaction is to feel slightly annoyed. Does that come across in how I respond to the interrupter? I think at times it does. But if I know I react this way, I can practice looking up slowly and smiling when someone interrupts me. I think this better reaction falls under good soft skills because it is part of good communication and a good attitude.

(2 and 3) The second and third steps for soft skills improvement are to decide which soft skills you want to improve and become committed to improving them. For example, suppose you always run late. How can you improve the soft skill of being punctual? It’s not as difficult as you may think, as long as you are willing. Commit to setting alarms and reminders, to becoming more aware of time, and to giving yourself enough time to get somewhere. You must want to address and eradicate whatever situation or mindset makes you late.

(4) The fourth step is to find a way to improve your soft skills. My suggestions for improving soft skills range from simple ones, such as practicing the skill, to more-involved approaches, such as finding a mentor who can help you learn the skill; volunteering to be part of a team; or taking classes on communication, professionalism, and leadership.

(5) Finally, when you are job hunting or want to advance at work, you need to show the employer that you possess soft skills. Studies have shown that employers would rather hire for soft skills and teach hard skills than the other way around. When you are on the job, it’s easy to show soft skills in how you behave, react, and respond to your work, to frustrations, to challenges, to unexpected situations, to your boss, to customers, and to co-workers all day long. People who ignore their soft skills at work will learn a hard lesson by getting fired. Workers who are grumpy, disorganized, rude, late, dishonest, lazy, gossipy, careless, or sloppy can lose their jobs because they lack needed soft skills.

When you are trying to get hired, you need to convey and display your soft skills as much as possible, so employers will choose you over other similarly skilled workers. So be on time for job interviews, provide requested information promptly and completely, avoid errors in your job search correspondence, be friendly and enthusiastic, communicate well, dress appropriately, and follow up. Be sure to give examples of how you took initiative and solved problems.

So start focusing on your soft skills. It’s not that hard! 

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