As a self prescribed introvert it has taken me a long time to appreciate these simple soft skills.  One of the first courses I was placed on in my early career was a soft skills course run by the Scottish Enterprise.  It is only recently I learned the value of this course and why soft skills are important.  These are my five soft skills that I developed over the years.

“Soft skills get little respect but they will make or break your career”
– Peggy Klaus, author

Critical Thinking

Critical thinking is one of the most sought after skills in the workplace.   Work is about problem solving and being able to reach the best solution to the problem is always going to valued.  Critical thinking allows you to reach a satisfactory solution by a forming an opinion through questioning and analyzing facts from a number of sources to reach a judged and logical solution. Critical Thinking requires a number of skills (below) that on their own are valuable which is why this remains a key skill to develop.

  • Analytical skills
  • Communication
  • Being Open Minded
  • Problem Solving
  • Creativity

Accountability

Accountability in life is incredibly important.  Accountability can be split into two.

  • Doing your best when no one is around.
  • Holding yourself to account when s**t hits the fan.

As a kid growing up, I would often be told "If a job is worth doing, it is worth doing properly".  Yet despite this advice, I often looked for shortcuts in my early career. I'm not sure why, perhaps I was after Instant Gratification. Not only is this wrong but it is denying yourself and the company the best version of you.

The second part of Accountability is how you react when the s**t hits the fan. Most mistakes can and will happen but the sooner you admit to it, the better. Admit your mistake at the earliest opportunity and disclose all the facts.  Doing so and you will find people are more forgiving.  It is often cheaper and easier to resolve when you fail fast.

Have Confidence

If you have confidence it will be easier for other people to trust and believe in what you are saying.  A simple exercise to helping boost your confidence is to analyse your strengths and weaknesses.  Once you understand this you begin to learn the areas you can confidently communicate.  Many employees are apprehensive to speak up and put their opinion forward in the fear that they may be wrong.  Have trust in yourself and you'll find that you are more than likely correct and inspire further productive communication.  If you are wrong - then use it as a point to learn from.

Growth Mindset

Since Dr. Carol S. Dweck published her book - Mindset there has been a number of articles all over LinkedIn and other platforms about the topic. Even my son knows about the growth mindset from his headteacher. Having a growth mindset ensures you have a can-do attitude and not scared to try new things.  It is about believing you can learn from criticism and are open to take on new challenges.  Having a growth mindset also ensures that you recognise that others may be more skilled in different areas.  Rather than feeling threatened by these people - it is an opportunity to learn from their experience.  

Communication

Communication comes in all forms in workplace. It might be communicating in a team, doing a presentation or even writing an email.  Whatever the form of communication, it is the cornerstone of collaboration. In addition good listening skills is an important form of communication, it shows you are listening to other people, putting them first and importantly looking at the world through their eyes.

Being able to communicate effectively through listening, to structured emails and well written and formatted documents enable effective working practices and passing information between each other.

“Politeness is the first thing people lose once they get the power.”
― Amit Kalantri, Wealth of Words

Communication should also incorporate manners. It is the single thing that I have found lacking recently.  Here are a couple of examples:

If you would like someone to do something.
Use the word Please. When I challenge this I often hear - "But I have said Thank You".  "Thank you" is not a substitute for "Please".

If you are addressing a person use their name.
Think of when someone uses your name when addressing you. It feels good right? People love hearing their own name, in fact it can trigger a reaction in the brain. When writing emails, rather than a in personal "Hi", use "Hi <name>"

Summary

These are five skills that can help boost anyones career from apprenticeships to senior staff.  The list is by no means exhaustive and there are a number of other soft skills that can also assist your career.  This article highlights the skills that I have learned over time and I wanted to give back to the early careers, apprentices and graduates.   If you are interested in reading more, here are some more soft skills in demand for 2020.

One final tip that is worth mentioning, we all should be professional no matter what our profession is but we should learn to enjoy and have fun in the process.