In his book from 1972, They Call Me Coach, John Wooden, aka the Wizard of Westwood, wrote:
“Ability may get you to the top, but it takes character to keep you there.”
They are words you probably have come across, but ever taken the time to think through them?
You see, there was a time when all you needed to do to land a job was to simply prove you exist. In other words, you just had to show up and, ta-dah, hear those most longed for words – ‘You got the job’.
But that is when life was easy.
And most of us most likely weren’t old enough for the job market.
The modern job market has evolved a lot since, and it’s still evolving.
In yester years – the period following that “glorious chapter” in the job market – job seekers had to have an arsenal of expertise. Your academic papers got you the job, for the most part, hence the culture of whoever’s-top-lands-the-job was established.
But the landscape has also shifted.
Today, job seekers are looking for more than just hard skills.
Sure, your academic qualifications may get you through the door, but you need to have a little something extra: soft skills.
Soft skills have nothing to do with one’s ability to cuddle a munchkin kitten or fluffy bunny. Unfortunately. This is just a fancy phrase to describe your approach towards life and work, and your ability to interact with others.
These include those traits we were taught as children are what constitute good manners: good communication, need to get along with others, importance of taking responsibility, the aspect of dependability, integrity, time management and so on.
Soft skills are also known as interpersonal or people skills, and their importance in the job market of today cannot be overstated.
They are no longer an “extra”, but rather, essential skills that will give you an edge over other candidates.
Even in the case of technical jobs like mechanical engineering or IT, hard skills are not enough to guarantee you a job these days. More and more employers are increasingly giving credence to soft skills.
In fact, a good deal of organisations are starting to acknowledge that it is more important to hire for character then train for skills.
Let that soak in for five…
The logic behind it is that a person’s attitudes, dispositions and habits are what ultimately influences how effective one will be when it comes down to applying his/her knowledge and skills.
This is not to mean industry knowledge and technical skills are no longer important. That is still there, and that is what will get you the interview in the first place and ultimately land you the job.
However, companies are beginning to recognise the need for having responsible, honest and loyal employees who are willing to put the organisation first and not themselves.
I can bet you would too if you were sitting on that other side of the desk.
That said, what are some of the soft skills you need to cultivate?
Let’s take a look.
Positive attitude wins the day, we are often told. The same case applies at the workplace.
Attitude is about having the right mindset – the glass half-full mindset. This should not be misinterpreted for blind optimism. Rather, it is positive thinking tapered with a dose of realism.
This combo has been proven to lower stress and boost productivity.
- Work Ethic
Work ethic is not about pounding your day away at the computer. Or neglecting your personal life in favour of work.
It simply means going out of your way to get the job done. Sometimes that could entail taking on tasks that seem beneath your experience.
Employers are struggling to find individuals who make work a high priority.
- Communication Skills
This is a broad subject.
Communication skills can mean a lot of things – how you converse with clients and co-workers, how well you articulate yourself in office emails, as well as possessing good presentation skills, a soft skill that will put you ahead of the curve.
But good communication skills is not just about putting your points across effectively.
Listening is very much a key part of it. The ability to listen to people and show empathy when need be is a rare skill to find these days.
- Creative Problem Solving
Every employer wants an employee who can think logically and devise workarounds to problems. This kind of thinking leads to improvements and innovation within a company.
Every job has its hurdles and employers are interested in people who are keen to take on challenges.
You must have noticed the emphasis placed on teamwork in the modern job market. It’s not just a buzzword.
Good work camaraderie is not everyone’s forte, so if you can demonstrate an enthusiasm to work with others, trust their decisions and accept divergent views, that can only be a plus.
- Time Management
The ability to manage your time efficiently is one of the most competitive skills you can have.
It comprises goal setting, focus, planning, prioritising, delegation and organisation.
Other soft skills that could come in handy include:
- Working well under pressure
- Attention to detail
If you want to compete, master your soft skills to beef up your technical skills. They are essential for career growth and a big differentiator to employers.