They’re not hard, really. It’s just a term that recruiters and employers use for all the things that we do as social lubrication, so to speak. Since you’re very likely to be working with people when you work, soft skills are the skills you need to be able to get along. All are important, and some come easier to people than others do. Here are some of the soft skills you’ll need, not just at work, but in the rest of your life, too.
You can’t work with people unless you share your ideas and can convey information. That means you need to be able to write clearly and speak well enough to express yourself. You’ll be writing memos or emails, speaking to colleagues, delivering presentations, or giving instruction. You can be a better writer by reading and writing. You can become better at speaking by practicing. Always work towards being understood. You want to convey meaning, so make sure that is your goal. Stay on topic (though we’re all prone to a few detours sometimes), and make eye contact. Also be aware of body language. What is your posture saying?
As I said, you’ll be working with others. You’ve got to be able to be a part of a team. Sometimes you’ll lead, and sometimes you’ll follow. Teamwork is all about relationships, and you can boost these skills by having relationships. Not necessarily romantic ones, but family and platonic relationships. Be friendly and polite. When conflicts arise (and they will), don’t escalate things. Try to understand the other side of the argument. Practice empathy.
There will be problems. How you respond makes a big difference in any job. When you do solve a problem, reflect on it. What strategies did you use? What worked? What didn’t? A little bit of thought can go a long way toward developing your problem solving skills.
Helmuth von Moltke the Elder said, “No plan survives contact with the enemy.” This is true in war, in business, and in life. Be ready to change things. If something’s not working, be ready to try something new. Be aware of a sunk-cost bias. That means that because you’ve spent a long time doing something, you’ll want to keep going, so as not to waste the effort you’ve already put in. But if a strategy isn’t working, and you keep pursuing it, you’re liable to waste even more time. The only constant in life is change. You’ll need to change, too.
There are lots of other soft skills that you’ll need and that you can develop to help you along your career journey. If you need help, get it. Take classes, volunteer, and ask for advice. And if you want more help developing your soft skills, WIL would be more than happy to give you hand. Get in touch.