Don’t overlook the importance of SOFT SKILLS!

Skillful businessman

You’ve got the best grades; great! So why are Graduates and generation Y finding it so difficult to impress employers? Because today, you need something far more intangible to get ahead… soft skills!

What Are Soft Skills?

“Soft skills”: the talents that businesses have pinpointed as the modern workplace’s most sought-after qualities. These include intangible attributes such as punctuality, flexibility, good communication and cooperativeness!

Soft skills are impossible to quantify but are, according to increasingly exasperated bosses, potentially far more valuable than exam results!

Why Are Soft Skills Important?

Qualifications are great, that is not the point, but what is also important, but often overlooked are so-called soft skills, character skills, the ability to get on with different people, to articulate yourself clearly, confidence, grit, self-control.

For example, a study by Oxford University suggests that 91% of customer service workers will be replaced by automation in the next 20 years.

Business forecasters are also predicting that, very soon, workforces will be split between those highly skilled individuals able to carry out technology-related jobs and charismatic, innovative individuals; whose charm will make others want to do business with them. That is something that can’t be outsourced to a computer; so underestimate the importance of these soft-skills at your peril!

A recent article in Harvard Business Review bemoaned the trend for younger workers to wear headphones at their desks, to communicate all day with friends via social media, while ignoring office life around them.

Social media is incredible and we live in an increasing digital age; but do ensure that you can sit face-to-face with an interviewer or a colleague and be able to hold eye-contact and a good conversation!

Why Do You Need Soft Skills?

Soft skills help us do our jobs. They allow us to effectively and efficiently use our technical skills and knowledge. They improve the way we interact with our bosses, colleagues and clients. They influence how we feel about our jobs and how others perceive us.

Just look at any job advert and you will see a shopping list of qualifications that includes not only the technical skills you need to do the job, but qualities like “excellent communication skills,” “strong organisation skills,” “team player,” and “strong listening ability” listed as well. Even if you have the technical skills required for a job, if you can’t demonstrate that you have the specified traits you probably won’t get the job.

How Can I Learn Soft Skills?

The good news is that, like any skill, soft skills can be learned. Boosting your soft skills not only gives you a leg up on a new job or a promotion, but these skills will help you in all areas of life, both professional and personal.

Volunteer: Working with nonprofit organisations gives you the opportunity to build soft skills. And listing high-profile volunteer work on your cv gives you an excuse to point out what you gained there. For example, “As a member of the environmental committee, planned and carried out a park cleanup campaign. Utilised team-building, decision-making , report writing and public speaking.”

Take a Course: Take a writing or public speaking course to boost your communication skills. Look for a conflict-resolution course or “leadership skills” class at your local community college.

Find a Mentor: Be as specific as you can about your target skill, and when you’re approaching a potential mentor, compliment that person with a specific example in which you’ve seen him or her practice that skill. Maybe it will grow into a long mentoring relationship, or maybe you’ll just pick the person’s brain for a few minutes.

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