Advertising
Advertising

Last Updated on April 17, 2019

10 Essential Soft Skills That Will Help Advance Your Career

10 Essential Soft Skills That Will Help Advance Your Career

What’s the secret of professional success? Some of it lies in the mastery of your discipline and all the technical skills you have to carry out your job; but a much bigger part lies in the soft skills list you possess.

Soft skills are your people or relationship skills—how well you get along with others and your ability to communicate and collaborate—as well as the personal characteristics you bring to the job, such as optimism, a can-do attitude and the motivation to work hard. These skills are not always easy to point out, but their absence can cause serious problems and negatively affect the whole work atmosphere.

They say that hard skills will help you get the job, but soft skills will help you get along—and get ahead. With that in mind, here’s the top-10 essential soft skills list to help you advance your career.

1. Communication Skills

Communication skills are hands-down the most sought-after soft skill that bosses want, and this one ability covers a lot of ground.

To communicate well, you have to listen carefully, interpret the context of the conversation, express yourself clearly, persuade others of your point of view, check your body language and use an engaging presentation style that won’t intimidate or bore your audience. That’s a big ask!

Your personality traits can influence the way you communicate with others. For instance, some people get straight to the point and center their arguments around facts and logic; others are cooperative and sensitive to how others feel. Both these approaches are equally valuable but there can be misunderstandings if you don’t understand where the other person is coming from.

Taking a comprehensive personality test can help you understand why you communicate the way you do and where your blind spots are. It can also help you understand other communication styles is so you can tailor your communication to the person you’re dealing with.

After all, connecting with your conversation partner is the hallmark of good communication.

2. Flexibility

Change is an essential part of any business. Companies need employees who are flexible enough to work with new initiatives, open to new ideas, and generally are able to tough it out when things don’t go as planned.

Research has found a link between job performance and flexibility over the long term because there will be times when you have to step outside your routine and rise to fresh challenges that didn’t exist before.

Being flexible doesn’t mean you have to hop into a new task or job role like an expert. Rather, it’s about showing you’re willing to accept new responsibility and learn different things.

Advertising

Bosses look for people who are prepared to step outside their comfort zones and are open to alternative solutions when their first idea doesn’t work.

3. Being a Team Player

Working on a team can be challenging but learning to do it well can definitely help you get ahead in your career. Employers look for people who can negotiate, cooperate and manage conflicts with other people to achieve a common goal. That includes the ability to build lasting relationships with customers and clients.

What makes a good team player? Essentially, it’s someone who knows the goal and knows her role. Employers look for evidence that you know your strengths, your responsibilities and how you can best contribute to the team, then put those skills into action by sharing ideas and communicating in a respectful manner. That’s the definition of being a good team player.

This is another area where taking a personality test can help you get ahead. When teams work together, each member brings a unique set of skills and qualities to the group. Research has shown that different combinations of personalities affect how teams collaborate and how productive they are.

Knowing who you are, and how you work on a team, can drive new insights and open the door to better teamwork.

4. Positive Mental Attitude

There are plenty of things you can’t change at work, like the people you work with or the fact that the printer is broken again. The one thing you can change is how much you let these things bother you.

Bosses like people who are calm, rational and upbeat—those who diffuse tensions in the workplace, not get all grouchy and go around slamming doors.

Studies show that people who maintain a sunny disposition have better relationships at work, are happier in their jobs and make better decisions than those who whine and complain. Some suggest that a positive mental attitude can also make you live longer—which means it’s beneficial for every area of your life![1]

It’s not always easy to keep a “glass half full” mentality when work is stressful and the deadlines are piling up. But there are some things you can do to help maintain a positive attitude. Laughing at your unfortunate circumstances keeps the work environment positive, and taking “sanity” breaks can help you keep your cool in high-pressure situations.

Managers look for positive mental attitude in a team member that is ready for a promotion, so it really does pay to keep your cool in challenging situations.

5. A Strong Work Ethic

People with a strong work ethic are committed to the role, persevere when things get tough and are inspired by challenge. These people are ambassadors for the organization, and will always be seen as top talent and ideal candidates.

Advertising

If you can exhibit this skill, then expect to be seen as a great candidate, eligible for new opportunities and positions throughout your career.

Since a strong work ethic can mean different things to different people, it helps to show specific examples of your exceptional work ethic during a performance appraisal or interview. For instance, you might talk about:

  • A time when you persisted in the face of challenges and did not shy away from hard work.
  • How you volunteered to help with projects even though these tasks did not form part of your job description.
  • The networking, workplace learning and skills betterment you’ve undertaken, which shows ambition and drive (people with a strong work ethic have those qualities in spades).
  • How you own your mistakes and never, ever point the finger of blame at others.

For help with building a strong work ethic, check out these tips: How to Build a Reliable Work Ethic

6. Public Speaking

Who’s terrified of public speaking? Pretty much everyone, since public speaking is America’s number one fear, ahead of death at number five and loneliness at number seven.

Yet, according to Warren Buffett, mastering this one skill you could increase your personal value by 50 percent.[2] That’s huge!

If you’re not natural at public speaking, you’re in good company. Buffett had to work hard to overcome his stage fright and once dropped out of a public-speaking course before it started—because he was afraid of public speaking! He eventually realized that he needed to build up his confidence by just doing it; over and over in front of small groups.

For a more structured approach, Toastmasters International teaches public speaking and leadership skills through a variety of pathways. Membership of this non-profit looks good on your resume but the real payoff will come when you can put your newfound skills to use on the job or in the interview room.

Or, you can check out this advice: The Ultimate Public Speaking Tips to Hook and Impress Any Audience

7. Integrity

From a manager’s point of view, the two integrity skills that will set you apart are:

  • Always doing what you say you will do
  • Owning an error instead of minimizing or hiding it

…even when no one is around to check up on you.

There are lots of people who have climbed the ladder without scruples, but they are not the people who others trust, respect and support when promotion time comes around.

Advertising

Behaving with integrity is a safe and consistent way to enhance your reputation and achieve your professional goals.

8. Managing Your Time

Phone calls, texts, Slack pings, meetings, huddles, side projects, multitasking—we are busier today than any generation before us. There’s no denying the workplace is an incredibly distracting place to be.

A lot of us have traded effectiveness for busyness which we wear as a badge of honor, both as a proxy for productivity and to show our value to the company. But what bosses want, what they really, really want, is someone who actually gets stuff done on time.

Time management is not merely the art of being on time, but of managing your time so you focus on the projects that really matter and add value to the business. This means prioritizing well, sticking to schedules, delegating, and not getting distracted by tasks that are easier to perform or less important. It means planning ahead and learning when it’s appropriate to say no.

Time management can be a tough skill to maintain, but not a difficult one to pick up. Monitor your actions for a few days—how long do your tasks take to finish? What’s interrupting you? What causes you to lose focus? Once you have the answers to these questions, you can set a schedule for yourself to make sure you’re spending your time wisely and this valuable asset is never wasted.

These 20 Quick Time Management Tips to Super Boost Your Productivity are also great to try.

9. Assertiveness

In any workplace, you typically will find people with the following conflict styles:

  • Passive: Those who go out of their way to avoid conflict.
  • Passive-aggressive: Those who express their negative feelings through actions rather than words.
  • Aggressive: Those who respond to conflict in a hostile and rude manner. These people get their opinion heard but they won’t make any friends in the process.
  • Assertive: People who stick up for their rights while still respecting the rights of others.

Managers look for assertiveness above all other styles because it allows decisions to be made without conflict or alienating people.

How do you use this information for yourself?

It starts with understanding your personality so you can anticipate how you will react when conflict arises and address your own shortcomings. Then, you can start influencing the team for top results, and securing your own career advancement in the process.

Learn how to be assertive and gain respect:

Advertising

How to Be Assertive and Stand up for Yourself the Smart Way

10. Creative Thinking

LinkedIn recently analyzed over 50,000 skills that employers search for when looking for candidates to find out what skills are currently in demand.[3] Taking the number-one slot on the 2019 soft skills list was creativity: the ability to solve problems and think outside the box.

Creativity is about bringing fresh, and sometimes unorthodox, ideas to the table. This helps companies to innovate, and companies that do not innovate will not survive very long.

How do you showcase your creative thinking skills? The golden rule is to participate.

Be brave and share your ideas during group brainstorming sessions. Volunteer to run a society, networking event or recruitment drive. Ask “what if” questions: “What if we add this information to the client welcome pack?” “What if we eliminate step 3 from the process?”

These activities demonstrate that you’re prepared to go beyond “business as usual” towards creative problem solving—an ability that will serve you every day, all throughout your career.

You can learn to unleash your creativity power:

What Is Creativity? We All Have It, and Need It

Final Thoughts

The good news? Every item on this soft skills list can be learned. Although you may feel lacking in certain areas, taking an inventory of your strengths and weaknesses will allow you to focus in on the areas that you’ll benefit from developing.

So take an inventory of your personality, skills, and talents. This will give you a baseline for your communication style, attitude to change, conscientiousness and more. You can then identify your weak areas and develop strategies for improving your team-building, assertiveness and conflict skills.

The better news? The effort is worth it. Developing your soft skills opens the door to a new job or a promotion, and helps you succeed once you get there.

More Articles to Help Advance Your Career

Featured photo credit: Rachael Gorjestani via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Molly Owens

The CEO of Truity aspires to connect personality science with real-world problems to help people make the most of their strengths.

10 Essential Soft Skills That Will Help Advance Your Career 7 Questions to Ask in a Job Interview That Will Impress the Interviewer How to Get Your Life Back on Track After Getting Fired

Trending in Smartcut

1 10 Essential Soft Skills That Will Help Advance Your Career 2 The Savvy Employees Guide to Asking for a Raise 3 Why You Feel Stuck in Your Career After Staying in a Job Longterm 4 10 Simple Yet Powerful Business Goals to Set This Year 5 How to Nix Your Credit Card Debt in Less Than 3 Years

Read Next

Advertising
Advertising
Advertising

Published on April 16, 2019

The Savvy Employees Guide to Asking for a Raise

The Savvy Employees Guide to Asking for a Raise

“I know that if I work harder, my boss will notice and give me a raise.”

That’s what you tell yourself as you leave the office at 7 pm five days a week.

But, will your boss notice?

He might, but this will be a slow and painful process.

Most companies won’t go out of their way to notice great employees. It’s up to you to toot your own horn the right way.

I hate to break it to you. But, if you’ve worked at your position for over a year without a raise, you’re doing something wrong. Don’t worry, I’ve failed in the past and still continue to do so. Plus, asking for a raise isn’t easy.

It wasn’t that long ago when I was fresh out of college and clueless to how I’d negotiate my salary. Fortunately, I’d adopted habits that helped me get a raise. And, if these tactics have worked for me, I’m confident they’ll work for you too.

Ready to start making big bucks? If so, here’s your guide on how to ask for the raise you deserve.

Prepare Before Asking for a Raise

You’re feeling pumped. You’ve worked hard for over a year and know that you deserve a raise.

But, before you march into your boss’s office (or cubicle) do your homework. By this, I’m referring to doing some research on what your average salary is for your role.

Don’t overdo this–all you need is a ballpark estimate to what the average salary is in your industry. Go to sites like Glassdoor, Salary, and Payscale to get this information. Then type in your role or company name in their search bar.

Within a few minutes, you’ll have a rough idea for what you should be getting paid.

Advertising

Take a note for how big the gap is from the average salary and what you’re currently earning. If your salary is on the lower end, don’t worry, use this as your motivation to get paid better.

Be honest with yourself for what skills you’re offering to your employer. If you’re falling behind in any area, read a book or take a course to improve. Another option is to ask your boss for extra work to gain more experience.

Make it your priority to improve, so that you stay sharp with your skills.

Know the Value You Bring

If you’ve never negotiated your salary, I’m betting that it’ll be at the lower end of the industry average.

I know how frustrating this is because I’ve been there. I’d envy others who were getting paid more than I was–especially since I was working hard. But, having this type of mindset won’t do you any good.

If you’re unhappy with your current salary, it’s because you don’t know your worth. So, before you ask your boss for your raise, be clear on what value you bring to your employer.

To know where you stand, write down the relevant skills you bring to your team. For example, as a web designer, a valuable skill can be creating great logos. Write a list of 5 to 10 similar skills that can help you stand out.

Also, research what top skills are in demand for your current job and make improvements here. When you’re valuable, people will take notice. More importantly, knowing you’re valuable will help you negotiate your salary better.

Earn a Meeting with Your Boss

Do you get the “chills” randomly walking to your boss and asking for a raise?

You should because that’s a bad way to ask for something. Would you reach out to someone you’d met at a conference 6 months ago and out of the blue ask for a favor? I hope not.

They’d most likely turn you down. That’s because you haven’t earned the right to ask for a favor. Like this scenario, don’t randomly walk up to your boss asking for a raise.

Instead, work your way up. Ask your boss how he/she thinks you’re performing a few times each month. Then ask what’s needed for you to get a raise.

Advertising

Repeat this process until you’re confident with how to get a raise. This will put you in your boss’s mind when it’s time to give a raise.

Create Your Perfect Timing

Have you ever watched a movie where the character knew the perfect time to do something?

Take love stories for example, when the man knows the perfect time to ask a woman out. You hear the right music on the background during the perfect night. The reality is that in life, perfect times rarely exist.

This doesn’t mean that you should walk up to your boss tomorrow and ask for raise. Instead, be aware that the only perfect time that’ll exist is when you do your best to prepare.

Do some planning around where you’d ask your boss. If he/she travels a lot during certain months, avoid asking during this time. Pick a day and time that you know your boss will have the most availability.

Add a meeting to the calendar with your boss to discuss your promotion. This way you’ll avoid rushing and increase your odds at getting heard.

Increase Your Odds at Success Thinking like Your Boss

Knowing your customer doesn’t only apply for salespeople. The same concept applies to you–except think of your boss as your customer.

By doing this, you can expect what he/she will say to you. Then you can prepare for possible outcomes.

If your boss were to ask you why you deserve a raise, you wouldn’t fumble. You’d summarize 2 to 3 key points without hesitation.

Think of your top three possible scenarios based on what you know about your boss. Then record yourself discussing your top 3 scenarios.

Figure out Your Company’s Policies

Waiting each year for your raise is a huge mistake.

In case you’re wondering why–not all companies have the same policies for getting a raise. Some do a performance review on an annual basis, while others do so on a quarterly or semi-annual. To familiarize yourself with your company’s policies, check out their HR web portal.

Advertising

If you can’t find the answers you’re looking for, call your company’s HR department. Your goal should be to determine what’s the required timeframe to ask for a raise. Once you know this timeframe, you can prepare for the ask.

Level-Up Your Emotional Intelligence

Emotional intelligence is a skill you need to master.

Why?

The last thing you’d want to do is getting upset if you don’t end up getting the raise you’d hope for. This would only make your situation awkward and less likely to get a future promotion.

Mastering your emotions allows you to collaborate with others better–increasing your odds for success.

Daniel Goleman argues in his book Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ that emotional intelligence is as important as your IQ. Research shows that people who manage their emotions better perform better at school. Emotionally intelligent people are socially skilled, able to empathize with others better.

Improving your emotional intelligence isn’t easy. But, changing the way you perceive failure and manage stress will help you improve.

To take failure less personal, view it as a learning opportunity. This will help you learn from your mistakes and avoid making them twice.

To better manage your stress, start meditating.

I bet that you’re thinking meditation isn’t for you. After all, you’re not a monk who sits quietly in a room for hours. Meditation isn’t only for the selected few–it’s for everyone.

Even if you don’t know how to meditate, you can learn from apps or online videos. By practicing meditation enough you’ll eventually reap its benefits. Here’s a 5-minute Guide to Meditation: Anywhere, Anytime.

Don’t Take Rejection Personally

You can be as prepared as possible and still fail. But, don’t take it personally.

Advertising

Often it’s because your company doesn’t have the budget to do so. While you can’t expect the unexpected, you can prepare for it. Here are some questions to ask yourself before you run off to your manager asking for a promotion:

  • How long can I hold off if I get rejected for a promotion?
  • How has my company been performing in the past year?
  • Do I deserve a promotion?

If you get rejected for a promotion, ask to revisit your performance within 3 to 6 months. Be sure to get details on what’s required to earn a promotion so that you can work towards it.

The worst case scenario is that your company isn’t willing to give you a promotion. If this is your scenario, find a way to escape this environment.

Get Paid the Money You Deserve

Imagine waking up each morning excited to perform your best at your job.

Your role didn’t change but for the first time, you felt heard by your manager. After 6 months of working hard, you got the raise you’d hoped for. The best part is that you didn’t have to stay in the office till 7 pm to earn it.

I know you wish that this scenario was your reality. It wasn’t that long ago when I was earning a low salary and afraid to ask for what I deserved. But, after trial and error, I managed to get many raises and switch careers.

Why am I telling you this? Because if I was able to get my raise, so can you. You’ll need to work harder than most people and make sacrifices along the way, but it’ll be worth the effort.

Except for this time, you’ll be working hard in the right areas. Think of this post as your mini-blueprint to getting the raise you deserve. Be honest with yourself and focus on improving in the areas you’re weakest. Before you know it, one day you’ll wake up working in a job you love getting paid what you deserve.

Bonus Resources

If you’re looking for extra tips to ask for a raise, this is a nice infographic to go through:[1]

    More Recommended Articles:

    Featured photo credit: Amy Hirschi via unsplash.com

    Reference

    Read Next