Whether you are looking for an accounting, legal or technical role, soft skills are increasingly sought after. Technical and industry specific skills, experience and qualifications are clearly important but to progress in your career you will also need the ability to effectively communicate your expertise.
Soft skills encompass the basic interpersonal skills needed to operate effectively in the workplace. Appreciation of the dynamics within an organisation and the ability to work with others is crucial. Key soft skills include:
The ability to communicate your ideas. Speaking clearly and concisely with an appropriate tone of voice and positive body language will enable you to deliver your message effectively.
Good communication also requires you to be an effective listener, actively seeking to understand a message. This in turn enables your response to be appropriate and encourages others to listen to you.
The ability to produce clear written material is also highly valued. From succinct emails to comprehensive reports and analysis, well written material is likely to make people more receptive to your ideas.
At interview you could illustrate your skills with an example of a difficult situation that required extensive communication.
Team working and relationship building
It is essential that you have the skills to interact in a group situation. A team comes together to complete a task so team working involves the agreement of objectives, division of labour and cohesive working.
You can illustrate your skill by describing your role within a successful project team. Or an instance in which a conflict arose within a team and you helped to diffuse the situation.
Relationship building is a key skill, both within your organisation and with external stakeholders. You should be prepared to describe how you go about building effective relationships, particularly if there is a client facing aspect to your role.
Leadership and management skills
The ability to lead, motivate and delegate are often sought by employers. Give examples of your experience of leading and inspiring a team to achieve a common goal.
Developing others encompasses coaching people to help them develop their skills, giving feedback on performance and finding solutions to under performance.
If you’re looking to progress to management you’ll need to demonstrate an inclusive approach and the ability to engage with employees. You’ll hold responsibility for the success and wellbeing of others and be able to build effective business relationships.
Your ability to positively influence those around you will enable you to achieve desired outcomes while maintaining valuable relationships. In fact, relationships are likely to be strengthened through increased understanding and mutual respect.
Consider each situation from the other person’s point of view. This will enable you to negotiate based on points that are important to them. At interview give an example of a situation in which you needed to influence different stakeholders with differing perspectives.
Problem solving and innovation
Lateral thinking and an innovative approach to difficult situations are highly desirable skills. Think of examples to demonstrate your skill at overcoming problems and generating successful outcomes.
You may have had to identify the root cause of a problem or come up with a new approach for addressing a problem. Or perhaps you have initiated a change that improved performance or productivity.
To identify your soft skills consider what you do well and how you approach specific situations. What would your manager, friends and family consider to be your strengths and weaknesses?
Employers often test soft skills at interview with competency based questions. Use the STARS technique to help identify your soft skills. And demonstrate your skills with workplace examples, including a portfolio of materials where appropriate.
Having assessed your current skills and those required for the type of role you are seeking you may find you need to strengthen certain areas. Identify the requirement and add this as a goal within your career management plan.