What are Soft Skills, Why They are Crucial for a Future Labor Market, and How to Develop Them?
- Today, no matter what profession you have, it’s not enough to master the necessary technical skills once, put them into practice, and then just build up your reputation.
- If earlier it was possible to work according to the same standards, habitually performing the same tasks in your position, then now approaches to work can change dramatically more than once a year.
- Employers especially appreciate people who can quickly adapt to any changes, easily master new rules and technologies. Valuable team members can notice recent useful trends earlier than others and learn how to apply them in work.
- Soft skills come to the fore over specialized knowledge because the latter can quickly become outdated. However, the ability to learn fast, understand trends, and listen to your colleagues and managers is what gives you a significant advantage over your competitors.
Critical Skills You Will Need to Succeed in the Future
Every professional in any field tries to deepen their knowledge by developing hard skills. For example, a programmer learns new programming languages, and a mechanic understands how cars are structured.
However, sociological studies show that technical skills are sometimes inferior to “flexible” skills. In turn, they cannot be acquired at school or university, but they make any specialist more valuable and highly paid.
When selecting a candidate, HR specialists pay special attention to communication, persuading, and negotiating skills right at the first interview. For many companies, they are critical when choosing an employee.
Often professionals cannot show themselves from the good side. It would seem that a person knows their job perfectly, works conscientiously, but cannot defend their point of view, convey information, and communicate with other team members. This is due to the insufficient level of developed soft skills.
In this article, we’ll talk about what soft skills you need, and how to define and develop them. Read on to gain a significant competitive advantage in the future labor market!
How Can Upgrading Soft Skills Boost Your Career?
Soft skills are not related to a specific profession, but they help you do your job well and are essential for a successful career.
Nowadays, almost no one works alone. Each employee communicates with colleagues, clients, and partners. They should learn how to negotiate with them, argue their position, and convey it to others. In addition, soft skills help us work with information, keep up with changes, and feel confident in the workplace.
Such skills are essential for both a designer and a sales manager, a programmer and a manager, a marketer and a teacher. Entrepreneurs, freelancers, and academics are no exception. Everyone needs soft skills!
Today interest in soft skills and the need for them has become even stronger. Technology is developing so rapidly that the knowledge we gain becomes obsolete very quickly. Thus, it’s not a specialist who once learned many things that become valuable, but the one who knows how to learn quickly, effectively adapt to new conditions, and find non-standard solutions.
Which Professions Require Soft Skills?
Any team member should have flexible skills, no matter what their speciality is. They are needed to remain professional – quickly master the new and valuable that appears in your profession.
In addition, being a professional (that is, knowing your work area well) and being an effective worker is not the same thing. For the second, the ability to communicate, self-organization, and various talents are important that we will discuss below.
Often a person comes to a new company and tries to take on as many tasks as possible to stay in this position. However, the main task at this stage is to understand the business better. After all, not only the company looks at you, but you also learn about them.
Building communications and boundaries immediately after arriving at a new place is crucial. Establish contact with colleagues by showing empathy. Conduct networking to get to know the team and make yourself known.
This way, you show the manager that you’ve demonstrated proactivity, established communication, and proven yourself well among colleagues in addition to your work tasks. After some time, you will be seen as a proactive employee striving for development – this image will positively affect your career prospects.
How Do I Understand Which Soft Skills Do I Need?
It’s not just a set of flexible skills that you should define. It’s also important to understand what ratio of hard and soft skills is optimal in your case. To find answers to both of these questions, think about this:
- What are the characteristics of your profession, what is valued in your professional community?
- How fast is your industry changing?
- What features does your job have? For example, do you work for a company or freelance, with customers or documents?
- What are your goals: is a career important to you? If so, be specific about what you want to achieve.
- Listen to your personal feelings. What kinds of work activities do you struggle with? Maybe this is communication with colleagues?
There is no single formula for how many grams of what skills you should have. But there are three conditional types of professions:
Physicists, programmers, engineers, etc. You don’t always need to communicate with people or be eloquent to be an excellent technical professional.
Hard = Soft
Accountant, lawyer, teacher. Such specialists need to have a solid theoretical base, work with special programs and possess communication skills.
These are business, marketing, and creative professions. Here it’s crucial to find a common language with people, feel the interlocutor’s mood, and convey information clearly.
Why are Soft Skills Necessary for the Future of Work?
Business appreciates people who can easily adapt to changes, quickly master new technologies, notice useful trends before others, and apply them in work.
Any specialist should adhere to deadlines, be responsible and disciplined. These essential qualities are valued in any field of activity – at work, in family, friendship, hobbies. These are soft skills.
It’s unlikely that you will perform your duties efficiently without communicating, resolving conflicts, thinking creatively, proposing ideas, thinking about the future – to influence the culture of the company and the business in general.
Equally important in the VUCA world is thinking out of the box. How does it help in practice? You can watch an inspiring talk by economist Navi Radjou on doing more with less.
Top 10 Soft Skills that Will Become Prominent in 2022
1. Critical Thinking
It’s a skill that allows you to analyze information, draw conclusions, make decisions based on the analysis, and most importantly, form your own opinion, present it to a group, and defend it in a discussion.
This talent helps to find and implement conceptually new or non-standard solutions that are not obvious in the framework of the usual traditional thinking.
3. People Management and Project Management
Management competencies are a set of skills that include several core ones:
- planning (setting goals and the ability to determine the necessary resources for this);
- organization of work (decomposition of tasks, definition of roles and functions of team members);
- delegation (the ability to select people for functions and tasks and include them in the process of their implementation);
- management (tracking work efficiency);
- training (team members development);
- motivation (the ability to generate long-term interest in work and manage short-term incentives);
- optimization (achieving results at the lowest cost).
4. Coordinating With Others
This is the ability to adequately restructure members’ activities and the team’s work in unexpected situations.
5. Emotional Intelligence
A skill implies a conscious understanding of another person’s feelings, states, and emotions (client, employee, or partner).
Judgment is a form of thinking for evaluating ideas or information in the context of a common goal, current situation, or given task conditions.
Dave Gearward, ex-head of enterprise applications at Google and founder of startup Upstart, wrote in a column for the First Round Review about the value of making quick decisions:
“Speed is the ultimate weapon in business. All else being equal, the fastest company in any market will win. Speed is a defining characteristic – if not the defining characteristic – of the leader in virtually every industry you look at. ”
It’s the ability to build trust, communication, understand the values of a client or partner, and find options for solving a problem or closing a deal that is beneficial to all parties involved in negotiations.
9. Cognitive Flexibility
It’s a skill that allows one to quickly respond to changing conditions and easily find new and different options for solving a problem.
10. Complex Problem Solving
It’s the ability to analyze a situation, evaluate a problem, develop hypotheses for its solution, test them and implement the best solution into reality.
How Can I Develop Needed Soft Skills?
There are several ways. The first one is at special courses and training. Search, see reviews, choose – and learn from a mentor.
The second is with soft skills books. Quite a lot of them have already been published. For almost every skill, there are at least a few, so you’ll have a choice.
The third way is to develop flexible skills based on feedback from other people, such as your work colleagues and family members.
Alternatively, you can combine all of these methods (or some). Honestly, this is the best option because the information will come to you through different channels – this will help you remember it better and make significant improvements.
It’s important not to forget the following: whatever method you choose, you will need self-reflection and evaluation of the experience gained.
Soft skills are very different, and we may not know what you need. Therefore, it isn’t easy to give specific advice. But here are five general guidelines:
- First, choose a skill group (or even a specific skill) that you want to develop. Then purposefully look for information about this (be sure to look at our list, you may need something from the listed there).
- Like any skill in general, flexible skills can only be developed through constant practice. Unfortunately, just reading books won’t help.
- Set specific goals for yourself, and as you develop, assess whether the result is improving.
- Here is an example of a wrong goal: “I want to develop emotional intelligence” (the goal is too general).
- An example of a correct goal: “I want to understand my emotions more accurately, so as not to get frustrated with relatives and colleagues” (a specific destination).
4 Start small, then the chances of success are higher. For example, if you’re willing to master public speaking, then start by performing in front of colleagues rather than at a major scientific or business conference.
5 Divide complex tasks into several stages and go according to the plan.
Wherever you go to get a job, the requirements for hard skills remain unchanged. For a programmer, this is knowledge of specific languages; for a driver – the ability to drive a car; for an architect – knowledge of standards, AutoCAD programs; MS Office, Photoshop, etc. However, if you have developed soft skills, this will be your significant competitive advantage.
It’s challenging to be a successful player without these skills: without the ability to listen and hear others, to argue your opinion, and set goals.
We all want to develop and improve our skills. Most of us want to make the right decisions, take leadership positions, and have more financial rewards. Our intuitive, somewhere even natural, greed pushes us to develop. This is where the biggest catch lies: the higher the level, the more soft skills you need to apply in practice.
You should learn to be a leader, form better emotional intelligence, plan not only for yourself but also for the team, work with conflicts, and notice changes. The more you develop in your niche, the higher your skill level should be.
Soft skills are talents that everyone needs. After reading this article, if you realize that you don’t possess any of these skills, we encourage you to start developing them today! Observe people in the company, learn from their experience and knowledge. Take advantage of various online courses. Develop emotional intelligence.
They will not only help you find a new job and adapt to a new place but also allow you to grow in your current position and make your work process as comfortable as possible.