Whether you're in the market for a new job or wish to shine at your current one, there are certain core skills out there that automatically make you better in any role. These are known as soft skills, and they've become just as important in the workplace as hard skills.
Soft skills are those that aren't unique to a specific job, but rather, apply universally. Hard skills, on the other hand, are job-specific skills you need to do the work you do. For example, if you're an IT professional, your hard skill requirements might include an in-depth knowledge of a particular software.
Soft skills, on the other hand, are more interpersonal by nature, and they're often more difficult to evaluate. After all, if you have an employee or job candidate who's certified in a computer program, it's pretty hard to argue that person's expertise. Determining whether someone is really a good communicator, however, is a lot trickier. That said, it pays to get a sense of the soft skills companies are looking for today so that you can work on boosting them.
Today's most desired soft skills
So what interpersonal skills should you aim to improve this year? According to data compiled by Monster.com, these are the top soft skills hiring managers and recruiters want to see:
- Oral and written communication.
- Attention to detail.
- Customer service.
- Personal drive.
- Problem-solving capacity.
- Troubleshooting ability.
Now the challenging thing about this list is that some of these skills can't be learned overnight; rather, you'll need to work on them over time. For example, some folks are just naturally more detail-oriented than others, and there's really no such thing as taking a class on how to better pay attention to the small things. But if you're not great with attention to detail, what you can do is take note of the times you've fallen down in this regard in the past, and consult your little cheat-sheet of sorts on future tasks to avoid making the same mistakes.
The same goes for independence. Some people are more naturally self-assured than others, and therefore are more likely to take projects and run with them. But if that's not you, there's no need to give up. Instead, brush up on the hard skills related to your job so that you approach assignments with more knowledge, and work on reminding yourself how proficient you are at what you do. You might even try reviewing your personal track record on occasion to snag the sort of confidence boost that will lead to more independence.
In fact, many of the above skills really boil down to confidence. If you have faith in yourself and approach your job, or the job interview process, with a can-do attitude, you'll instantly come across as someone who's more than able to problem-solve, troubleshoot, and work without supervision.
Another thing it pays to work on is choosing your words carefully on the job. Not everyone is a strong writer, but you can still be a solid communicator by making a point to always address others with patience and respect. Master that art, and you'll also hit other key items on the above list, including customer service and teamwork.
In fact, one thing you're probably realizing by now is that many of the aforementioned skills are interrelated. Work on one, and the rest might naturally follow suit.
Finally, if you're struggling to improve on the soft skills front, try observing someone you know who seems to be stronger in that regard, and figure out what it is he or she is doing differently. Though soft skills can't replace hard skills when it comes to landing or retaining a job, the sooner you embrace their importance, the better your chances of succeeding in your career.