There are endless clear paths to improve your work skills: training for new technologies, degrees in your field, or programs that can teach you the hard skills you need to succeed in your workplace. However, so-called "soft skills" like communication, time-management, and problem-solving are often rated as being more important by hiring directors and employers. Anyone can learn how to code or use new technology if they're given enough time and support. Soft skills are different. These aren't the skills you learn in a classroom and they probably aren't what you got your degree in, but they're still essential to your work life. How can you pick up these vital skills on the job?
The first thing to recognize is that your employer wants you to be good at these things, and they may even offer assistance in improving those soft skills. If the company offers negotiation training or leadership seminars, sign up. If your company doesn't have resources like that, there's plenty that you can do on your own to improve your soft skills. Free lectures and online courses can help you improve everything from your problem-solving skills to your ability to manage your time productively.
Ask and Listen
It's not always easy to know what you need to work on. If you have them, you might not recognize what they are, and if you don't have them, people are often too polite to mention that. Consequently, if you want to know where your soft skills lie and where you need to improve, you will need to ask, and more importantly, you will need to listen to the answer, even if it isn't what you wanted to hear.
One simple step you can take is to get organized. Getting yourself organized and being aware of your habits, both good and bad, is probably the best thing you can do to quickly upgrade your soft skills. In order to organize yourself and your time, you will have to learn both problem-solving and time management skills. You'll gain a better understanding of your own work process, which will in turn help you improve your work ethic and productivity overall. It will also free up time to say yes to new things, and that is just as important.
Getting organized can help with the internal soft skills of work ethic, time management, and problem-solving, but what about the more extroverted soft skills like communication and teamwork? For that, you need to get involved and say yes. A lot of these skills are best learned by doing. While you can learn a lot about leadership from seminars and training, you'll learn a lot more about leadership from the reality of leading your own team. Even if it's just a chance to shadow someone in another department and observe how they do things, it's well worth asking for the opportunity or saying yes when it's offered.
Sharpening your soft skills doesn't have to be a drag. A lot of soft skills are people skills and humans are naturally social creatures. That company retreat or big conference isn't just an opportunity to network and build your soft skills of communication and presentation; it's also supposed to be fun. Part of the reason that soft skills are often hard to learn is that they are skills that most people pick up organically from hanging out with friends and family as well as co-workers.
There's a common misconception that soft skills are somehow inborn. You're either a leader or you aren't. You're either a team player or a lone wolf. This is patent nonsense. While many people have learned soft skills passively over the course of years, they still learned them. Maybe while you were busy learning how to code, one of your co-workers was studying leadership skills by playing club football. You both studied, you both learned, and you both have opportunities to learn the skills that you currently lack.
Publish Date: April 1, 2021 7:54 AM