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4 important soft skills you need for the workplace and how to get them

When we think about adding skills to our CV we often consider only specific (or hard) skills, like computer literacy, machine operation, accounting, and so on. But a soft skill refers to a more generic personal trait or attribute, like communication and problem solving.

Hard and soft skills combine together to create an efficient and well rounded employee. A worker who is highly qualified but struggles with some of the most important soft skills will fail to deliver. This combination of soft and hard skills is what an employer is looking for when reading a CV.

Here are the top 4 soft skills you need for the workplace and how to get them.

1. Communication

This soft skill is without doubt an absolute must for every CV – no matter what the role is. But the term ‘communication’ is such a generic word and can be broken down into a few other categories.

Here are a few examples of the types of communication you will see in the workplace:

  • Written
  • Verbal
  • Negotiation
  • Friendly
  • Constructive criticism
  • Building rapport
  • Telephone based
  • Face to face – customer and co-worker
  • Mentoring
  • Training and support
  • Presentations

It’s the CV writer’s job to figure out which type of communication will benefit the employer, and to throw a few relevant examples into their CV. The employer wants to see that you’re up to the task, and having a proven track record is essential.

Becoming better at communicating is done through practice. There are certain training courses out there that would benefit this particular soft skill; however it mainly comes down to experience. If you are weak in this area and want to develop your communication skills further, you need to put yourself in difficult situations.

Step outside of your comfort zone and challenge yourself. If you are nervous about answering the phone then practice your greeting at home first of all, but take the plunge at work and be the first to pick up the phone.

Face to face communication, especially with customers can also seem very daunting at first. If your desired career requires a high level of communication then it’s important to put in the ground work. One of your first jobs could be as a waiter or waitress, working in a coffee shop or even local newsagents. Getting that early experience and interacting with customers will help you improve.

2. Team work

An employer is always looking to hire someone who can integrate into the team very quickly. The chemistry between each worker is a vital part of the company’s success, so a new hire has to be on the same level. The interview will play a huge part in this, and the rapport and chemistry that’s on display will play a big part in the decision of who to hire. Does this person seem like the right fit for our company?

Evidence of team working abilities can be stated within a CV, you just have to use the right examples. A common mistake is to focus every single part of a CV on you, and forget about the team’s efforts. The company is only successful because of the team, and although individual excellence is a benefit, the interaction and functionality of the team or department is more important.

Focus on providing some examples which showcase your team working abilities. This could be a particular project or team achievements. This will show the hiring manager that you value the team and not just yourself. This unselfish approach to CV writing can make a big difference – especially for team based roles.

If you feel your team working abilities need some work, then we have some great suggestions. Like all of the soft skills we will be looking at on this article, you will need to gain as much experience as you can in a working environment to improve them. However, it’s important to realise that your own personal gains need to be put to one side. An effective team player has the following traits:

  • Helps others within the team
  • Always provides training and support where needed
  • Goes out of their way to ensure the team succeeds
  • Puts personal goals to one side and looks at the bigger picture
  • Is friendly and approachable
  • Is a likeable individual who finds it easy to get along with others
  • Is calm, patient and able to diffuse arguments
  • Can accept they make mistakes and learn from them

There are lots of other traits we may have missed, but these are certainly a good place to start. If you want to improve and become a great team player, then take note of these and look to make some personal changes. Put your pride to one side and try to see the bigger picture.

3. Flexibility

Change is inevitable, and as a company grows and expands it will require employees that are willing to be flexible and adapt to the company’s needs. A stubborn worker who puts their head in the sand will create all sorts of problems. They will rarely be looked at for a promotion and will usually be considered first when cuts are being made.

Are you a flexible worker?

There may come a time when the manager asks you to take on more responsibility, change your job spec, move to another department, become a supervisor, and so on. You need to roll with the punches and stay open and willing to participate in the company’s vision. Any kind of negative resistance will not help your future, but a positive response and constructive feedback will.

Becoming a flexible worker is very easy, you just have to step out of your comfort zone and take a few risks. It may be that the company is making a bad decision, but that’s not always for you to decide. Sure, giving constructive feedback is always an option and you may even been asked to provide it, but if the decision is still made against your own opinion then you should be super positive about it.

You will always have a certain amount of control over your role, but in the end it will be your manager or company that makes the final decision. Sometimes these changes are too much and force you to find another job – that’s completely understandable. But ask yourself how much of a big deal it really is to change, be flexible and adapt to the company’s needs – or even that of your colleagues or customers. Do what’s right for other people and you will usually find it’s the right thing for you also.

4. Time management/organisation

There are generally two types of people – organised and disorganised. You rarely find anyone in the middle, and it’s the latter of the two that creates mistakes and causes problems. Figuring out which one best describes you can be tricky, as you may find that your perception differs from your bosses.

The best way to find out if you truly are an organised person and have good time management skills is to ask your superior – listen to their feedback and acknowledge it. If they feel you need to improve in this area, then look to make some changes in accordance with their suggestion. Agree to have a follow up meeting at a later date to analyse your potentially improved performance.

Every employer wants to place their trust in its workforce to organise and manage their own tasks to a high level. They do not want to get involved in routine tasks, and instead want to focus on the company’s goals.

When writing your CV it’s important you make it clear that you are able to manage yourself and need little supervision. Provide examples that show how you consistently met deadlines and even improved existing systems and processes.

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