We all have skills related to our specific jobs that make us good at them. For example, if you're a marketing copywriter who has a way with words, that's a good means of keeping yourself employed. The same holds true if you're an IT professional who's got great coding or web-development skills.
But not all work skills are job specific. These days, a growing number of companies are placing a lot of importance on soft skills.
Soft skills are those that apply to pretty much any job, and they're more interpersonal by nature. The extent to which you excel in the soft-skill arena might dictate how well you get along with the people you work with and what sort of reputation you build at the office. Improving your soft skills could be your ticket to career advancement, no matter what stage you're at right now, so here are five proficiencies it pays to work on in the coming year.
Many people struggle with communication, even though it's an integral part of pretty much every job out there. If you've been told you're not the best communicator, aim to do better this year. For one thing, choose your words carefully during live discussions to avoid inadvertently coming off as offensive or overly abrupt. Forcing yourself to take a two-second pause before responding during face-to-face chats might be the best way to go about that. Second, bear in mind that email doesn't convey tone, so before you fire off messages, try putting yourself in your recipients' shoes and asking yourself whether they're too blunt or unclear. Finally, figure out a good communication schedule -- make sure you're updating your boss and teammates frequently enough but not so much that it becomes annoying.
The more mentally and physically organized you are on the job, the more efficient you're apt to be. To this end, get in the habit of writing out to-do lists so that you're aware of the various items you need to tackle on a daily or weekly basis, and find an online calendar or app that will help you better track deadlines. Additionally, keep your workspace physically organized. File key paperwork regularly, and aim to avoid desktop clutter. Doing so will save you time and help you appear more on top of things.
3. Problem solving
We're not all natural problem solvers, so becoming a better one often boils down to changing your attitude for the positive. As challenges arise in the coming year, pledge to spend a few minutes thinking of solutions before running to your colleagues or manager for help. Even if you end up needing assistance, presenting solutions of your own in conjunction with asking for help will make you look more competent.
4. Attention to detail
Paying attention to smaller details is a good way to set yourself apart from the pack at work. Doing so is often a matter of budgeting more time into your schedule for key tasks. Plan to edit your reports, presentations, and even important emails before sharing them with others. A few extra minutes here and there could go a long way.
Proving that you're a true team player could be your ticket to a promotion -- if not this year, then at some point down the line. There are many things you can do to foster better teamwork, but to start, try identifying your peers' weaknesses and seeing where there's room for you to help them overcome those flaws. For example, if you're a more seasoned network engineer than the other three people on your team with that title, offer to let them shadow you to see how you tackle outages, or make yourself more available to answer questions. Along these lines, offer up your time during periods when your colleagues are slammed with deadlines and you have fewer tasks on your plate. Doing so will help you gain your coworkers' respect, as well as that of your manager.
It's always wise to work on building the skills that are specific to your job. At the same time, don't gloss over the soft skills that make you a more well-rounded employee on the whole. A little extra effort could make the coming year your most successful one yet.