Soft skills are character traits and interpersonal skills that characterize a person’s relationship with other people. In the workplace soft skills are considered a complement to hard skills, which refer to a person’s knowledge and occupational skills. Sociologists may use the term soft skills to describe a person’s EQ or emotional intelligence quotient. Soft skills have more to do with who we are than what we know. As such, soft skills encompass the character traits that decide how one interact with others, and are usually a definite part of one’s personality. Whereas hard skills can be learned and perfected over time, soft skills are more difficult to acquire and change. Soft skills required for a doctor, for example would be empathy, understanding, active listening, and good bedside manner. Alternatively, the hard skills necessary for a doctor would include a vase comprehension of illness, the ability to interpret test results and symptoms, and a thorough understanding of anatomy and physiology.
In 2008, survey of more than 2000 businesses in the state of Washington, employers said entry level workers in a variety of professions were lacking in several areas, including problem solving, conflict resolution and critical observation. You will likely see these soft skills popping up in the job descriptions, next to demands for technical qualifications. Employment experts agree that tech skills may get you an interview, but these soft skills will get you the job and help you keep It. The soft skills at workplace include:
Communication skills- this doesn’t mean you have to be brilliant orator or writer. It does not mean you have to express yourself well, whether it is writing coherent memo, persuading others with presentation or just being able to calmly explain to a team member what you need.
Teamwork and collaboration- employers want employees who play well with others, who can effectively work as part of a team. That means sometimes being a leader, sometimes being a good follower, monitoring the progress, meeting deadlines and working with others across the organization to achieve a common goal.
Adaptability- this is especially important for more seasoned professionals to demonstrate, to counter the opinion that older workers are too set in their ways. To succeed in most organizations, you need to have a passion for learning and the ability to continue to grow and stretch your skills to adapt to the changing needs of the organization. On your resume, on your cover letter and in your interview, explain the ways you have continued to learn and grow throughout your career.
Problem solving- be prepared for how you will solve the problems, interview question with several examples, advise your fellow workers. Think of specific examples where you solved a though business problem or participated in the solution. Be able to explain what you did, how you approached the problem, how you involved others and what the outcomes was in real and measurable results.
Critical observation- it is not enough to be able to collect data and manipulate it. You must also be able to analyze and interpret it. What story does the data tell? What questions are raised? Are there different ways to interpret the data? Instead of hunting your boss a spread sheet, give them a business summary and highlight the key areas for attention and suggest possible next steps.
Conflict resolution- the ability to persuade, negotiate and resolve conflicts is crucial if you plan to move up. You need to have the skill to develop mutually beneficial relationships in the organization so you can influence and persuade people.
The good news is that like any skill, soft skills can be learned. The better news, boosting your soft skills not only gives you a leg up on a new job or promotion, but these skills also have obvious applications in all areas of a person’s life, both professionally and personally. Soft skills can be learned in the following way:
Taking a course- some colleges are mixing technology with areas such as effective written and verbal communication, teamwork, cultural understanding and psychology. 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.
Seek mentors- be as specific as you can about your target skills, and when you are approaching a potential mentor, complement that person with a specific example in which you have seen him practice that skill, then ask if that person if he is willing to share ideas with you about how you might achieve the same level of capability. Maybe it will grow into a long mentoring relationship, or maybe you will just pick a person’s brain for a few minutes.
Volunteer- working with a nonprofit organizations gives you the opportunity to build soft skills. And listing high profile volunteer work on your resume gives you an excuse to point out what you gained there for example as chair of the environmental committee, planned and carried out a city wide park cleanup campaign, utilized teambuilding, decision making, cooperative skills, extensive report writing and public speaking.
Hard skills are specific teachable abilities that can be defined and measured example of these skills include job skills like typing, writing, math, reading, and the ability to use software programs.
In my own opinion supervisors of entry-level workers rely more on soft skills than hard skills in accomplishing their work. This is due to; someone who won’t just perform their job function, but will be a good personality fit for the company and make a good impression on clients. It is mainly the soft skills that lands someone a job. Soft skills are natural and include a person’s personality and are difficult to learn so the supervisor is advised to choose workers with a vast of soft skills. Since hard skills can be learned easily while at work they should not be considered even in someone’s interview.
Depending on which company you talk to, there are varying demands for IT technical skills. But there is one common need that the most IT organization have and that is soft skills. This need is nothing new. As early as three decades ago corporate IT sought out liberal arts graduate to become business and system analysis so they could bridge the communication gap between programmers and end users. People need soft skills in an era of high technology in various ways:
Deal making and meeting skills- IT is a matchup of technology and people to produce products that run the company’s business. When people get involved, there are bound to be disagreements and a need to arrive at a group consensus. Technology experts who can work with people, find a common ground so projects and goals can be agreed to, and swallow their own egos in the process if need be are in high demand.
Great communications skills- the ability to read, write, and speak clearly and effectively will never go out of style especially where high technology is applied. Technology project annals are filled with failed projects that were good ideas but poorly communicated.
A sixth sense about projects- there are formal project management programs that teach people PM methodology. But for the most of the people, it takes several years of project management experience to develop an instinct for how a project is really going. Natural project managers have this sixth sense. In many cases, it is simply a talent that can’t be taught, but when an IT executive discovers a natural project manager who can read the project in the people and the tasks, this person is worth his/her weight in gold.
Ergonomic sensitivity- because its expertise is technical, it is difficult for IT to understand the point of view of a nontechnical user or the conditions in the field that end user’s face. A business analyst who can empathize with end users, understand the business conditions they work in, and design graphical user interfaces that are easy to learn and use is an asset in application development.
Great team player- it is easy for enclaves of technology professionals to remain isolated in their areas of expertise. Individuals who can transcend this technical silos and work for the good of the team or the project are valued for their ability to see the big picture. They are also viewed as candidates for promotions.
Political smarts- not known as a particularly politically astute group, high technology firms’ benefits when it hires individuals who can forge strong relationships with different constituencies throughout the company. This relationship building facilitates project cooperation and success.
Teaching and knowledge sharing- Technology experts able to teach new applications to users are invaluable in project rollouts. They are also an asset as teaching resources for internal IT. If they can work side by side with others and provide mentoring and support, they become even more valuable, because the real IT learning occurs on the job and in the trenches. Central to these processes is the willingness to share and the ability to listen and be patient with others as they learn.
Vendor management- few IT or MA programs teach vendor management and even fewer technology experts want to do this. But with outsourcing and vendor management on the rise, technology experts with administrative and management skills who can work with vendors and ensure that service level agreement and key performance indicators are met to bring value to performance areas where IT is accountable. They also have great promotion potential.
Soft skills are also referred to as interpersonal skills, these skills are intangible and considered one’s talent. Interpersonal skills are related to the digital era in a number of ways while dealing with large groups:
Communication- this entails talking to customers and fellow employees in passing vital information across. As a manager is sometimes required to address huge masses of both the employees and customers during exhibitions. One needs to be a good speaker and able to apply various insights of speaking. A good speaker is able to read the minds of the audience and tell them what they wish to hear.
Teamwork- is other aspect of interpersonal skills that is required in handling a group of people. A good team leader should manage the time of the group well, talk to the group members in a manner motivating them, should be friendly while addressing group issues. The output of the group will depend on how the team leader coordinates it. Teamwork is mainly applied in project management, where a group of people are collectively conducting research on a certain topic.
There are various ways in which the effectiveness of a team player in terms of people-related team activities can be improved:
Training- training boosts the interpersonal skills to a higher level making someone better at doing a particular activity.
Remuneration- to some extend paying the team player well and in time boosts his/her morale of conducting activities, he/she may also improve the effectiveness in which duties are conducted so that he may receive a good pay.
Mentoring- effectiveness of a team player may be improved through mentoring. Here a person will learn by observing what his/her mentor is doing. The mentor may also give some lectures in important aspects pertaining activities of the team so that the team player may know what to do and how to do it best.
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