5 Soft Skills You Already Have

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 In News

Now more than ever, employers are looking for ‘soft skills’ – abilities to interact with people, think critically and creatively and keep organised.

In many positions, these abilities trump more technical abilities. Why? Because it’s easy to teach someone how to use a cash register, but it’s extremely difficult to teach someone how to be a good team player. (Sidenote: this is what PCI’s Work the Change programme is all about).

As for their benefit to you, soft skills are the most transferable. You may have 15 to 20 jobs in your lifetime, all in different sectors with different responsibilities, but soft skills can get you through all of them.

Soft skills are not like maths skills or memorisation skills or HTML coding skills. They are more indefinable, but this is a good thing: when you apply or interview for a job, you have a bit of wiggle room. Your soft skills can become whatever you want them to be as long as you give examples.

1. Communication skills

What they are:
Arguably the most important soft skill, communication skills refer to the abilities to express yourself clearly and effectively, present your ideas in a thoughtful and coherent way and demonstrate politeness, tact and professionalism in your interactions. Communication skills involve all manner of communications, from speaking to listening to writing.

Nearly every job requires communication skills – even positions that don’t involve interacting with the public – because you still need to interact with your co-workers, superiors, other businesses, etc.

How you have them:
Have you ever told a friend a story? Raised your hand in class to give an answer to the teacher? Written a letter to your grandmother? Had a conversation with a server in a restaurant or a cashier in the shop? You communicate with a huge variety of people every day, from friends to teachers to strangers. In all these communications, you’re conveying your thoughts and ideas or listening and responding to others.

While I don’t recommend you go into a job interview and talk about your lovely letters to your grandmother, you can tell them that you have experience communicating clearly and professionally by giving presentations in school; that as a babysitter, you have an effective and friendly communication style; that contacting professors at uni required a thoughtful email manner. Pick a few of the trillions of communications you’ve had with people and explain how they demonstrate your abilities.

2. Teamwork Skills

What they are:
Having teamwork skills means you are a good team player. You listen to others, debate with them, share your own thoughts and contribute your fair share to the work load. Teamwork skills obviously tie in with communication skills, but they require you to be a bit more proactive. You need to support the group, demonstrate respect for the members and be willing to work towards something together.

No job exists in a vacuum. Even if you work for yourself, at some point you will need to work with others. By showing that you have the ability to work well within a team, employers will know that you will do your best to get along with your co-workers and work with them enthusiastically to achieve various goals.

How you have them:
Have you ever been on a team? From sport to a school project to a previous job? Just think back to that time – what did you need to do as a team member? How did you need to act? Did you take on a specific role? Bonus points if there were any challenges the team encountered and how you helped overcome those challenges, which brings us to:

3. Problem-solving skills

What they are:
Problem-solving skills in an employability context mean much more than solving something straightforward like a maths problem. Employers want to hear about something more complex. To break it down, think of a ‘problem’ as something that gets in the way of a goal. To get rid of this problem and keep moving forward, you come up with a few solutions, evaluate the risk involved with each of them, come to a decision and try the solution out. If it doesn’t work, you persevere – trying other solutions and asking for input, but being careful not to get too frustrated or lose your cool.

How you have them:
If you are a human being, then I’m sorry to say you have encountered problems like these. At some point in your life, something has got in the way of one of your goals. Think back to school, previous jobs, teams or clubs you were a part of. If you have to use a personal example, then do so as long as it is appropriate.

Whatever this problem was, you didn’t just yell and scream about it. You thought it through, figured out what needed to be done and did it. Problem-solving skills require a level of creativity, determination and sense – qualities that, if you are a human being faced with something you really want, you are absolutely able to harness.

4. Research skills

What they are:
Having research skills means you are able to investigate a topic. You are able to define the topic and work within the parameters of the definition to collect the right kind of information. You use different resources, from websites to interviews, and rely on your reading and critical thinking skills. You do so efficiently with speed and focus, and ultimately, are able to organise your results effectively.

How you have them:
I seriously doubt that you, PCI blog-reader, have never used Google before. I doubt that you have never looked up a word in a dictionary, read an article or looked into the background of a country or event or person or place or thing. I also doubt that you have never had to impart this information to someone – again, communication skills come into the fray.

School projects are the obvious choice for an example, but maybe a boss had you look up market research once, or maybe you did a bit of research about dogs before you had to dogsit the neighbour’s greyhound for a month.

While the assertion “I can use Google” wouldn’t hold up in an interview, you can talk about how in school, uni or previous jobs you were relied upon to look something up and present that information to someone in a clear and organised way.

5. Time management skills

What they are:
Being able to manage your time wisely is important to employers. Not only do they want to know they’re getting their money’s worth with you, but they want to know you’ll be able to get things done without them having to supervise you all the time. Remembering your tasks, staying organised, getting things done on time and working efficiently is all part of time management.

How you have them:
You’ve had deadlines – a project for school that you had two weeks to do, shelves at work that needed to be stacked by the end of the day, your room at home that needed to be cleaned by the time relatives show up, etc. How did you handle these time-sensitive tasks? Did you do a little bit each day? Did you set aside a few hours to do it all in one fell swoop? How were you able to motivate yourself to get it done at all?

Whatever you do, don’t say you save things til the last minute. Even if this is your policy and it works for you, I hope there has been at least one time in your life when you decided you would do a task ahead of the curve. Remember that time and use it.

When dealing with potential employers, obviously talk about more professional-sounding examples than cleaning your room, but do try to remember the purpose, drive and feelings behind your actions. This may seem bit mushy, but they are called ‘soft skills’ for a reason.


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