Developing Your Soft Skills
What are Soft Skills and why are they important and how can you leverage them to advance your career?
As you begin your job search, the soft skills listed below are going to be used to its full capacity! Each one defines who you are personally and professionally and it also helps the hiring manager determine if you fit into their work environment. These are my interpretation of what I’ve learned throughout my career and others. So, I thought it would great to share them with you. Let’s get right into the breakdown of each one.
Enthusiasm/Attitude: Attitude is everything! First and foremost, you have to have a good attitude if you want to be successful. The moment you walk through the door, people can feel your energy. If you are giving out negative energy people are going to reluctant to work with you and spend time trying to figure out what is going on. Your attitude shows your willingness to be patient, ability to listen and your ability to be flexible working with people because your enthusiasm shows you want to work with them. So show that you want to be there. Be careful; having too much enthusiasm can be bad and cause you to do things in haste. So stay neutral.
Fitting Into The Work Environment: This is a touchy subject because many people have their own interpretation on what it means to them. To me, some people stay to themselves while others are quick to make friends. Personally, I like to stay neutral because neutrality gives me the advantage of getting to know a lot of people without staying too much to myself or making friends way too quickly. What I like to do is learn the culture of the office first and then find out where I best fit in. Get to know them on a professional level, learn how they work so you can get an idea of how you will work with them; and then learn how other departments work and so on. I found this to be the best method of fitting into the workplace. I will strongly advise not to engage in office gossip or join office cliques whether you been on the job 1 year or 5 years. If you do be careful as this can backfire on you if you lose their trust. If you happen to see yourself in a compromising situation, make sure that you stay professional at all times and ensure that If you have to speak to someone about it, go to human resources or your manager who has your confidentiality in mind. You want to be careful who is speaking to whom about you.
Professionalism in the Work Environment: Professionalism in most dictionaries means, “the skill, competence or character expected of a member of a highly trained profession” Everyone has this interpretation on this, here is mine as a breakdown.
As soon as you walk through the door of your new job, you are expected to show professionalism in whatever you do. As my grandmother used to say: Be Your Best, Act Your Best, Dress Your Best and Smell Your Best” , yes even smelling your best show professionalism. People are gauging you right from the beginning and throughout your entire time at the job. They want to know if you can be flexible enough to blend in but yet smart enough to contribute your ideas in a way that is approachable. No one wants to work with someone is unruly, hard to work with and does not carry themselves in a professional manner. So practice your professionalism before you take the job.
Motivation Skills: Getting a new job is a great motivator because you get to work for a new environment, meet you people and learn new things. However, this only goes so far. You have to be your own motivator. This is an opportunity to show what you are made of, how creative you can be and how you can grow in your field. Look for motivators that highlight your best skills then others will be motivated with you.
Problem/Solving & Critical Thinking: One of the best ways you can show value in the workplace is to carefully think about a situation or complex problem and offer solutions. Critical thinking is a soft skill you must possess because it shows your intelligence on complex issues. When you have a resolution to a problem, it shows that you carefully thought about every outcome before you present it. More importantly, during your interview you may have had questions asking how you solve complex problems. So remember, you were also hired to help them solve a problem so the company can thrive. So do not be afraid to offer solutions.
Teamwork: Have you ever heard the saying, “That’s not my job”? Well, to me this is the same as you are not my teammate, or I am not a team player”. Remember the reason why you were hired is to be part of a team because no one person can do it all. Teamwork is so vitally important to an organization because people of different backgrounds and expertise can work together to create something great. When you are not able to work as a team, people will be reluctant to engage with you on any level and most often some will speak negatively about you. So, always work as a team player. Pitch in to lend your talents to help the cause whenever you can. Doing this will show you want to be there and want to help the company thrive.
Leadership: Leadership has many meanings; however for the purpose of this article I want to specifically point out leading in your own lane. What that means is follow through on your own tasks and take ownership in what you do. Showing leadership does not always mean that you are telling someone what to do. It is more about how you show people that you can guide, direct or influence people by of taking ownership of tasks and projects you are assigned to and following through to its completion. It shows your ability to be consistent, reliable and honest; and this also makes you very valuable. So “Lead by example.”
Time Management: I cannot stress this enough, you have to not only be on time for work, but also you need to know how to prioritize your work. When you prioritize your work, you are able to give your manager a more accurate time frame on when to expect the completion of your work. If you are late coming to work, will you spend your time rushing and making small mistakes, and you will eventually look incompetent. If you find yourself trying to complete competing projects, work with your manager to set up an alternative schedule so you can meet your goals on time. If you need more practice in this area, brush up on your time management skills by setting small goals, documenting your progress and working around obstacles that will delay you so you can quickly bounce back. Another option is to work with a co-workers or take a time management course that can give you other helpful tips on how to manage your work.
Communication: People who hold different levels of positions have different ways of communicating with each other. Therefore you must learn to how they communicate and speak their language. Having good communication skills also extends to your own communication style, body language and how you project your ideas and thoughts to others. Know your audience and remember to communicate in a way that easily understandable, in a neutral tone of voice and approachable. As an IT professional, you have to work with all different types of communication styles. Some people are very upfront, may even sound aggressive while others are more quite and seem afraid of you; but they are not. This is their personality and somehow they have learned to communicate with others before you got there. Nevertheless, you cannot take their behavior personally because this is way they communicate. So remember that communication goes both ways. So to fit in you have to gauge and learn how your co-workers operate.
Listening/Comprehension Skills: In the workplace, you have to be able to listen to the person speaking and comprehend (understand) what is being asking of you to produce your work. In my very early career, I did not realize that I did not completely comprehend the instructions given to me. In my mind I was, but my manager thought differently. I would interpret one way while my manager was saying something else. One of the best methods to fix this problem is to take notes and “repeat back to them” what was said so that you 1) understand the instructions and 2) the person requesting can hear what you heard them say. This way you avoid the uncomfortable conversation of he said, she said and it gives the person time to correct their mistake. Taking notes will also make sure and you know exactly what you need to do. Plus, you have it all in writing so you can reference it whenever you need to.
Dependability: Dependability is the second half to fitting into the work environment and professionalism in the workplace. You will not get too far in your career if your manager or co-workers cannot depend on you. When you “mean what you say and you say what you mean” it goes a long way to building dependability and value to your work ethic.
I hope you enjoyed this three part series. Please let me know your feedback about what you think about this article or offer a suggestion for other topics! Please email your suggestion or topic to email@example.com.