When developing job descriptions, employers tend to emphasize the specific abilities required to complete a job. These are typically identified as “hard skills,” and are most often learned through education or training (i.e. computer programming, foreign language proficiency, or a specific degree or certificate). However, certain essential soft skills can play an equally as important role in getting and keeping a job.
Soft skills are the personal attributes that enable us to interact effectively with others and succeed in the workplace. Sometimes they are referred to as “people skills.” Unlike some hard skills, soft skills are transferable from one job to another, and are either inherent or developed over time. These are the attitudes, verbal and nonverbal behaviors, and habits that make us desirable employees and valuable team members.
Here are 7 essential soft skills that are sure to help you find and keep a job:
- Communication – Effective communication is one of the essential soft skills needed to ensure job success. This not only includes being able to communicate well with clients or customers, but also with colleagues and managers. Significant aspects of communication in the workplace include the ability to listen, negotiate, persuade, deliver presentations/speak in front of others, write, and use nonverbal communication. For employees with disabilities, this also includes the ability to communicate about accommodations and other needs both during the interview process and while on the job.
- Problem Solving & Critical Thinking – The need to analyze, problem solve, and make informed decisions occurs consistently in any work setting. This includes the ability to be creative, flexible, and observant. Problem solving skills are often one of the admirable qualities that employees with disabilities bring to the workplace, as people with disabilities are consistently required to think outside of the box or adapt a situation or environment to meet their needs.
- Time Management – Good time management skills are important because they demonstrate the ability to prioritize and meet deadlines. It also proves that you are reliable. Time management not only means delivering assignments on time, but also includes being on time for work, meetings, etc. Employees with disabilities may also have to consider any disability-related needs that may affect their time management at work. This could include factoring in extended time for restroom breaks, meals, or completing projects.
It’s important to remember that managing your time effectively not only impacts you, but your colleagues as well. Quite often, our work correlates with others’, and a missed deadline can reflect negatively on an entire team or business.
- Teamwork – Employers consistently seek job candidates who work well with others. Even if a job requires you to complete most of your work independently, you will inevitably need to interact with others at some point. Essential components of teamwork include the ability to accept and apply feedback from others, recognize and appreciate diversity (including disability), be self-aware, resolve conflicts, and work collaboratively.
- Work Ethic/Professionalism – Having a strong work ethic is an impressive quality to demonstrate to an employer. People with a strong work ethic don’t require micromanaging. Instead, they are responsible, meaning they arrive on time to work, meet deadlines, remain focused and organized, dress appropriately and generally follow instructions well.
- Positive Attitude – Demonstrating a positive attitude can make all the difference in getting a job and succeeding in the workplace. Employees who are friendly, excited about their work, and have an overall positive attitude even as they interview are more likely to impress employers. This is especially helpful in fast-paced or high-stress environments.
- Self-Confidence – Many other essential soft skills derive from having self-confidence. If you don’t have confidence in your skills and abilities, it will be difficult to effectively apply other skills in the workplace. Being self-confident helps you not to take things personally and provides a sense of strength as you pursue your professional goals and help your employer succeed. It can also help you make confident, timely decisions and easily adapt to changes.
While developing your soft skills doesn’t happen overnight, it is never too late to work on them. Simply observing people that demonstrate these qualities or asking someone to mentor/coach you in these areas can be beneficial. Additionally, choosing to take on more responsibilities in the workplace, such as serving on committees or signing up for an additional project, can help you hone your strengths and recognize areas for improvement.