Throughout your career you’ll rely on different skills to succeed. Hard skills are the technical, specialized skills you learn for a certain career path, such as knowing how to code in a certain language or how to write for different audiences. Soft skills are those that support your hard skills — and they’re important in any position you take.
“Soft skills in general are often overlooked because they’re difficult to measure,” says Bill Connolly, who uses improvisational comedy to teach others about soft skills.
However, there’s one group who won’t be overlooking soft skills: interviewers who will be looking for them in your interviews. Here are some soft skills you’ll need for just about any job.
Connolly describes this as a “common sense” skill — after all, being able to exchange information with others is important outside the workplace, as well. But it’s always at a premium when companies are hiring, so being able to show you’re good at it is important, Connolly says.
Your résumé should be free of typos and formatted well, Connolly says, and you should respond clearly and promptly to any communication from a company that’s hiring. When interviewing, look people in the eye and greet them politely. Practice writing and speaking publicly whenever you can, even if you don’t like it. Building confidence can make it easier, he says.
Creativity can help you make connections others don’t see, and think up solutions to sticky problems. “Being creative helps you recognize you have something to offer,” Connolly says. “It opens up your mind and exposes you to other people you might not have encountered before.” But people often convince themselves they aren’t creative, when the issue is they simply don’t have the confidence or experience to try, he says.
One way to boost your creativity is to start writing a blog about something you’re an expert on, Connolly says, especially if it has something to do with your career. Creating something tangible by taking a painting class or starting a garden are also good options. “If you create something and put it out in the world, it’s a great way to make use of your time,” he says.
“In the workplace, you have deliverables you have to hit, and that’s going to be foremost in how you communicate with colleagues,” Connolly says. But over time that can wear on a relationship. “You don’t have to have best friends at work, but it helps when people can communicate on an empathetic basis with one another.”
Listening to others brings a human touch to the workplace and builds connections between employees. “You need to make an effort to actually care about what is happening in someone’s world and invest in what they care about in the workplace,” Connolly says. Doing so helps you work with others as people, not just cogs in a machine, and thus make stronger connections in the workplace.
Working collaboratively isn’t easy for everyone, but it’s increasingly important in today’s workplace. “It all comes down to gaining confidence through experience,” Connolly says. Understanding what you can offer to a team and having confidence in your skills are important, as are listening, communication and creative thinking skills.
Finally, Connolly recommends transparency in everything you do, which can build trust with your colleagues. “Set clear expectations on when you are delivering something, and stick to it,” he says. “When you mess up — and someday you will — don’t make up an excuse for why you aren’t to blame. People trust those who mess up but own it more than those who supposedly never mess up in the first place.”
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