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It's common to overlook soft skills when thinking about career development. While you can't earn a master's degree in time management, collaboration, or problem-solving, they're no less integral to personal and professional growth. Learn more about their value in the workplace, the top skills you should cultivate, and the resources you can use for continuous improvement.
What are Soft Skills?
Soft skills aren't specific to any job but complement technical expertise (or "hard skills"), enabling career advancement. Developing these character traits can help you thrive in many environments by improving your interpersonal relationships. While they're often hard to quantify, employers value workers with impressive soft skills, which enhance teamwork, improve productivity, and create positive professional dynamics.
Top Soft Skills to Thrive in Any Career
Which soft skills should you focus on improving? Start with the ones on the list below. They're all incredibly valuable and easy to transfer from job to job.
1. Communication and Collaboration
Being an effective communicator means delivering information clearly and coherently. It should cover all forms of communication, including verbal, written, and non-verbal expressions. Developing this skill makes it easier to get on the same page with colleagues, minimize misunderstandings, and resolve conflict. It also helps build trust and conveys your dependability.
It goes hand-in-hand with collaboration, as efficient teamwork isn't possible without open, honest, and respectful communication. Collaborating with others is essential for employee career development as it exposes you to new perspectives, encourages innovation, and challenges you to be a team player or leader.
2. Critical Thinking and Problem-Solving
Critical thinking involves carefully analyzing and interpreting information before forming responses or making decisions. Sharpening this skill can help you make smarter choices, objectively assess risks and benefits, and understand complex problems. Being a critical thinker isn't the same as being overly skeptical. Instead, it means checking the facts and constantly asking questions to form a more balanced perspective.
Being a critical thinker allows you to respond to problems level-headedly, too. To resolve issues in the workplace, you must thoughtfully evaluate situations to arrive at the appropriate solutions. People who excel in critical thinking are typically effective problem solvers, as they’re more likely to see the bigger picture.
3. Time Management
Excellent time management skills allow you to organize and prioritize tasks, maximize productivity, and meet deadlines consistently. Managing your time well means completing work promptly without spiraling into stress from last-minute rushes or forgoing rest and breaks. Mastering time management can also help you achieve work-life balance and prevent burnout by keeping work responsibilities firmly within work hours.
4. Creativity and Adaptability
In the workplace, creativity manifests in numerous ways. Creative individuals may offer innovative solutions to problems, push for unconventional ideas, and harness their existing skills in unexpected ways, leading to breakthroughs.
Unsurprisingly, creative workers tend to be highly adaptable, too. They can pivot quickly, bounce back from setbacks, and learn new skills from ever-changing demands. Creativity and adaptability are crucial to professional success, as change is the only constant thing in life. When you maintain an imaginative, inventive, and flexible mindset no matter the job, you can make it big anywhere.
Networking is about establishing connections within and beyond your professional sphere. By building rapport with others and investing in these relationships, you open the door to bigger and better opportunities. You can meet potential mentors, get referrals for highly coveted roles, and establish a positive reputation among your peers. The job market is becoming increasingly interconnected, so expanding your network is even more critical to career advancement than ever.
Soft Skill Training: Resources for Improvement
Get ahead in your career by honing your soft skills and learning new ones. Look to these resources for guidance.
Websites like Coursera, Skillshare, and Udemy offer paid online courses on various soft skills. Coursera Plus has a Specialization track that focuses on "achieving personal and professional success." Upon completion, you can earn a career certificate from the University of Pennsylvania, boosting your credentials.
Books like Atomic Habits: Tiny Changes, Remarkable Results by James Clear and Simply Said: Communicating Better at Work and Beyond by Jay Sullivan offer nuggets of wisdom for those with a growth mindset. The former focuses on positive habit formation, while the latter offers expert advice on effective communication at work and in your personal life. If reading isn’t your speed, buy the audiobooks—they're a godsend for multi-taskers.
Check Spotify for podcasts hosted by reliable experts and thinkers specializing in soft skill development. Some notable examples include the HBR IdeaCast by Harvard Business Review, a weekly program exploring topics on leadership, communication, and more. There's also TED Talks Daily, which covers thought-provoking topics like stress management, teamwork, and work-life balance.
Improving your soft skills requires a lifelong commitment to learning. So, never stop looking for ways to grow. Stay on top of business innovations with The Business Advisor and get expert entrepreneurial insights by signing up for Globe Business Academy. And if you're a business owner, ensure smooth communication and connectivity by securing reliable data plans that support your work.