Successful employers are experts at teaching new employees how to follow a process, such as how to make a product or complete a specific task.
It is much tougher for them to educate that same person on how to be pleasant with customers, optimistic with co-workers and passionate about collaborating with others.
That’s why we’re hearing a lot these days about the importance of “soft skills.” Employers are finding that a lot of people are coming up short in that area.
When you’re looking for a job, it is a good idea to make sure your potential employer knows how well you work with others and any other valuable soft skills you’ve developed through part-time jobs, group projects, internships and other activities.
Here are some ideas on how you can build, sell and nurture your softer side:
When you’re applying:
Try to make sure your soft skills are highlighted in your resume and LinkedIn profile. In fact, an analysis of 2.3 million LinkedIn profiles for The Wall Street Journal found that almost 58 percent of employees who cited strong communication skills were hired between June 2014 and June 2015.
According to the story, the top attributes were communication, organization, teamwork, punctuality, critical thinking, social skills, creativity, interpersonal communication, adaptability and having a friendly personality.
When you’re interviewing:
When you’re talking to a prospective employer, every word and action will be examined, whether you’re on a phone interview or talking to the receptionist when you come into the building for an in-person meeting. Treat everyone the same, and be the kind of person they’d like to be around because they’re all part of the interview process in one way or another.
During your interviews, share stories about collaborating with people across a school – or the world – to accomplish a task. That will paint a picture of your ability to successfully work with others. If you’re a manager, point out your people-first management style and give plenty of credit to your team when you tell stories about your success.
Once you’re hired:
The first task is to be dependable. Do what you say you’re going to do, be on time and exceed expectations whenever possible. When you get to know people inside your organization, be a valuable team member by working with them on projects, ensuring success for everyone. Outside of your work, keep in touch with a wide variety of people – including a mentor – who can help you understand how their soft skills make them successful. When you’re looking for the next step in your career, your internal and external contacts can be valuable references for you when you need to let a prospective employer know about your strengths as a team member and leader.
We all have soft skills gaps, and sometimes it’s tough to confront them. But if you’re honest with yourself and accept – and ask for – feedback from those you trust, you can begin to round out your skills by targeting the ones that need to improve. Continuing education, such as pursuing an MBA at an organization that makes soft skills a priority in its teaching, would be one way to start.
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