There are many skills that are specific to certain professions and industries, and you may spend so much time investing in and developing those, that you forget about the more basic, general life skills that can be the difference between a job and a rejection. Here is a quick reminder of some of those skills, the areas in which they can be implemented, and why they are important in everyday life.
What are soft skills?
They are skills that are not technical, that can still impact your experience in, and effect on, your workplace environment. They can include social and communication skills, character and personality traits, and emotional intelligence. It can be easier to teach a person technical skills, than it is to teach them soft skills. However, this does not mean that it cannot be achieved if you do not already have them. You may have learned many of them at school or while training, and not even realize how valuable and transferrable they are. Soft skills are important in any career setting, whether you are an intern or an engineering manager, and can always be developed and built upon. To find out more about engineering manager soft skills, click here.
Making sure you can prioritize workloads, work efficiently and meet deadlines is essential if you are going to be successful in the workplace. This starts at the beginning of the day, with arriving at work on time and being punctual, ensuring a positive start to the day. Setting an alarm that allows you plenty of time to prepare for the day, and getting as much as you can ready the night before may seem like childish habits, but they can be incredibly useful and make your start run smoothly.
Scheduling and planning your day will also help manage your time, especially if you have a busy schedule, or lots of smaller tasks to complete. Find a method that works for you, from alarms to bullet journals, and stick to it. This will prevent you from forgetting tasks, or spending too much time on something. The majority of people include ‘good time management’ on their resumes, but implementing these practices and displaying this skill in the workplace can often be more difficult when putting it into practice.
Many people struggle with speaking in front of people, whether this is in a meeting, presentation or briefing. Luckily, there are plenty of ways to overcome this, and become more confident, assertive and eloquent. Your workplace may even run courses in public speaking, in which experts come in and coach you, teaching you the basics from breath control to stage fright.
Confidently commanding a room will put both you and your audience at ease, and make your speech more engaging and easier to understand. You do not have to become an expert orator, but there are some small things you can do to make it easier.
- Breathing – when you are nervous, your breathing may speed up, making you feel out of breath and faint. This is a common occurrence, and breathing deeply using your diaphragm will help your brain and breath return to normal. Engaging your diaphragm will also boost your vocal power, as you are using your breath to support your voice, in the way that performers do. Practice breathing into your diaphragm rather than your lungs, and tell the difference in your voice and body.
- Body language – another tell-tale sign of nervousness is body language. Nervous people may avoid eye contact, fidget and move around on the spot. Pay attention to your body when you speak and when you feel relaxed. Keeping yourself grounded and in the same spot can help you seem more in control and comfortable in front of an audience, whereas wringing your hands and moving your weight around can reveal your anxiety.
- Projection, pace and volume – solid breathing and posture will help boost your vocal quality. When you are nervous, you may speed up your speech, or talk quietly. Speaking at an even pace, and at a volume suitable for the environment will mean your audience can fully understand you. Engaging your diaphragm and breathing helps you to project your voice, rather than shouting, which will damage your vocal cords and is not very pleasant to listen to! If you are able to use a microphone, this is a great way to make sure you can be heard, but it is important to master good technique without technological help.
Conflict resolution is another important skill for the workplace. Being a calming voice and presence can work wonders for your environment, and de-escalate any potential problems. It is important to listen to colleagues, and take in multiple perspectives. However, sometimes discussions can become heated. Emotional intelligence involves being aware of yours and others’ feelings, and controlling yourself. There are many ways to develop and implement this skill, and one is to identify your emotion, and discover the root cause. Knowing why you or someone else are feeling a certain way will help resolve the issue, as you can find a legitimate, tangible reason behind a reaction.
Another important mediation method is face to face conversation where possible. This may be intimidating, especially if you do not like conflict, but engaging with the opposition in person will lower the risk of communication errors, and help resolve the problem faster. Speaking to a person over email, message or phone can often result in misunderstandings and misinterpretations of meaning and tone, not to mention making the resolution process even longer while waiting for responses. Thinking about what you want to say is always a good idea to prevent further escalating a situation, but leaving problems to fester will only make them worse. Many work places will offer conflict resolution courses or lectures, so it is worth attending to develop existing skills, or learn new methods of implementation, even if you think you won’t ever need to use them.
These are just a couple of examples of soft skills that are useful in any workplace. Further examples include teamwork, flexibility and creativity. There are many resources online and in your place of work to help you understand these skills, and develop them further. Having technical knowledge in your industry is wonderful, but a good grasp of soft skills can really help you stand apart when applying for jobs or promotions, or just being a great employee.
Disclosure: This is a contributed post.