Top 5 Soft Skills You Need

In career development you’ll hear about two main types of skills: hard and soft. Hard skills are your technical knowledge of a subject area – like a BA in accounting or 10 years of experience in welding. Those are pretty easy to define. But what about soft skills? 

Some sites will list nearly 100 different soft skills but here are our top five:

  • communication
  • teamwork
  • initiative
  • adaptability
  • emotional intelligence

Now, let’s break these down a little.

Communication

We communicate in many different ways every day. Right now, we’re communicating through this blog post. So, what are employers looking for in potential employees as it relates to communication skills?

First, the ability to effectively articulate ideas, whether in writing or verbally, is important. Further, you must know your audience. Having the ability to change the level of complexity for different audiences is important. The way you speak with coworkers is different compared to how you speak with clients.

Conflict resolution, the ability to build team morale, and many other skills fall under the category of communication. No matter what your role is, communication skills matter.

Teamwork

Teams can arrive at ideas that no individual could ever reach. Two, three, or more heads are often better than one. Collaboration tends to help the end result because we all have different skills and past experiences we’ve learned from. Some jobs require you to work independently, but many also require some degree of working with others. Communication skills are key in this context — see how soft skills build on and reinforce each other?

Initiative

Have you ever been in a situation where you felt like you had to wait for someone to tell you to do something? When working in a group, attending a meeting, or simply observing something that could be improved, if you can step forward, speak up, and take on the task yourself, do it! Initiative often sets apart the highest performing employees from the rest. Do what is within reason of your role and responsibilities, but it’s likely that if you take ownership and volunteer for an extra task or two, the extra effort will be noticed and lead to a raise or promotion.

Adaptability

Handling changing and stressful situations is a critical skill. Situations can change quickly and it can be a challenge to keep up. Even for those who like adventure and spontaneity, change in the workplace can still rattle you. Work on being mindful of how you react in stressful situations and try to consciously avoid angry or defensive behaviors. Stay calm to gain respect.

Emotional Intelligence

Complicated but important, this skill overlaps with many other soft skills already mentioned. EI relates to how we perceive and manage emotions — both our own and for those around us. It often comes down to knowing yourself and how you work or come across to others. It also involves the ability to understand and empathize with others. If you want to test your EI, check out this quick quiz. You’ll need to answer the questions truthfully, but it may give you insight as to what areas you could improve!

How to convey soft skills? Show them.

One of the biggest tips for resume writing, interviewing, and career strategy in general is to have examples. Don’t simply say you’re a great communicator. Instead, it’ll be much more effective if you can give examples of times you’ve demonstrated effective communication skills.

If you’re a writer, bring some samples. If you’ve given public presentations, list them on your resume. Did you take on a big project in your last role? Succinctly describe it and include the results using as many numbers as possible. Data speaks volumes on a resume, especially as it relates to process improvements and driving revenue or saving money.

Know your strengths and weaknesses. Address how you’re working to improve them, whether that’s by taking a course, volunteering, working with a mentor, or simply reading the latest self-help book. This will show your willingness to learn, adapt, and improve yourself. That’s something employers will highly value.

Want to know if your resume really tells your story and if you’ve properly demonstrated you’ve got the soft skills employers are looking for? Share it with us by emailing info@northforce.org and we’ll give you our feedback!

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