Essential soft skills to develop your career
What are the top 12 soft skills and how to improve them
Without question the number one change you can make to help your career blossom, get the job you are hoping for, be most productive and, if you are in a management or leadership role, retain and engage a high performance team, is to develop yours and your team’s soft skills.
Soft skills play a crucial role in improving productivity in the workplace by fostering effective communication, collaboration, leadership, adaptability, and emotional intelligence.
Enabling you to interact effectively with others, both inside and outside your organisation, can be the difference between an average job and a highly successful career. With developed soft skills, you will be more effective in your work and most likely have a more enjoyable work life.
If you ask any recruitment consultant or business manager what they are looking for in the perfect candidate beyond the basic requisite requirements, the answer will be soft skills.
Given that these skills are the magic wand to get the job of your dreams or the future you hope for, let’s take a look at what they are and how these skills can be developed.
2. Active listening
Possibly one of the most overlooked of the soft skills, the ability to hear and understand what others are saying, both verbally and non-verbally. It's a critical skill for professionals who need to build rapport, communicate effectively, and collaborate with others.
How can I improve my active listening skills?
To get better at active listening, pay attention to what others are saying and ask open-ended questions to understand them better. Don't interrupt or jump to conclusions, instead, stay present and focused on the speaker. Avoid any distractions and be patient. Maintain eye contact and summarize what you've heard to confirm your understanding. Practicing these techniques will help you improve your active listening skills.
3. Time management
The ability to manage one's time efficiently to complete tasks within deadlines.
How can I improve my time management?
Managing time effectively is critical for completing tasks and achieving goals within deadlines. To improve time management skills, create a to-do list, prioritize tasks, avoid multitasking, and set realistic deadlines. Using time-tracking tools, delegating tasks, and avoiding distractions can also be helpful in improving time management.
Being a great leader requires the ability to motivate and guide others towards a common goal.
How can I build on my leadership skills?
Leadership skills can be developed through a combination of training, experience, and personal development. Here are some ways to improve your leadership skills:
Seek out leadership opportunities: Take on leadership roles in your personal and professional life. This could include volunteering for leadership positions in community organizations or taking on leadership roles at work.
Learn from others: Seek out mentors and study the leadership styles of successful leaders. Identify the traits and behaviours that make them effective and try to emulate them.
Develop your communication skills: Effective communication is a key component of leadership. Practice active listening and work on your public speaking skills.
Learn to delegate: Effective leaders know how to delegate tasks to their team members. Learn to trust others to take on responsibilities and focus on the big picture.
Embrace feedback: Seek out feedback from others and be open to constructive criticism. Use this feedback to identify areas for improvement.
Continuously learn and develop: Read books, attend workshops and conferences, and pursue further education to continuously develop your skills as a leader.
Remember, leadership is a journey, not a destination. It takes time, effort, and dedication to become an effective leader.
5. Critical thinking
Strategic thinking and complex problem-solving skills are critical for professionals who need to make effective decisions in today's fast-paced business environment. These skills involve the ability to analyse and evaluate complex information, identify patterns, and make decisions that can achieve long-term goals.
Critical thinking involves the ability to analyse and evaluate information and ideas to form logical conclusions.
How can I improve my problem solving and critical thinking?
To develop skills when approaching a problem, step back taking time to identify and really understand the problem.
Start by breaking down complex issues into smaller, manageable parts. Try brainstorming to present a variety of potential solutions, then analyse and evaluate each part systematically to find the best outcome. You can enhance your skills by staying up to date on industry trends, gathering data and insights, seeking out advice from others and learning from past mistakes.
Practice questioning assumptions, analysing arguments, and weighing evidence. Additionally, seeking multiple perspectives, being open-minded, and avoiding biases to help enhance critical thinking.
6. Team work
Collaborating and working effectively with others to achieve a common goal.
How can I improve my teamwork?
To improve teamwork skills, practice active listening, give constructive feedback, and be open to diverse perspectives. Setting clear goals, assigning tasks based on strengths, delivering on agreed actions and providing recognition can improve teamwork.
The ability to generate new ideas and innovative solutions to problems. One of the greatest challenges to developing creativity skills is allowing the time to think creatively.
How can I improve my creativity?
Try to approach problems from different perspectives, stay curious and consider alternative solutions. It’s great to bounce ideas off other stakeholders, practice brainstorming, seeking inspiration from different sources, and experimenting with new approaches. Free thinking creativity is best achieved by being open-minded, taking risks, and embracing failure.
The ability to adapt to changing situations and environments. To improve adaptability skills, one can practice flexibility, seeking feedback, and being open to change. Additionally, being proactive, staying up-to-date with industry trends, and seeking new experiences can also enhance adaptability.
How can I become more adaptable?
There are several approaches you can take to become more adaptable at work.
One of the most important things you can do to become more adaptable is to develop a positive attitude towards change. Instead of resisting change, try to embrace it as an opportunity for growth and learning.
Being adaptable often requires you to learn new skills and knowledge. Take the initiative to learn about new technologies, tools, and methods that can help you to be more effective in your job.
Keep up-to-date with the latest trends and developments in your field. This can help you to anticipate changes and be better prepared to adapt to new situations.
Feedback is an important tool for learning and growth. Be open to receiving feedback from your colleagues and manager, and use it to improve your performance.
A growth mindset involves believing that your abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work. This mindset can help you to approach challenges with a positive attitude and a willingness to learn.
Being adaptable often requires you to juggle multiple tasks and priorities. Stay organized and focused by using tools like calendars, to-do lists, and project management software.
Developing strong relationships with your colleagues and supervisors can help you to navigate changes and challenges in the workplace. Invest time in building strong relationships and communicating effectively with your team.
By adopting these approaches, you can become more adaptable and better prepared to handle change and uncertainty in the workplace.
9. Emotional intelligence
Emotional intelligence, or EI, is the ability to recognize, understand, and manage your own emotions and those of others. It involves the capacity to regulate emotions, perceive social cues, and manage relationships effectively. EI can impact every aspect of a person's life, from work to personal relationships.
How can I improve my Emotional Intelligence?
To improve your EI, start by becoming more aware of your own emotions and the emotions of those around you. Pay attention to body language, tone of voice, and other nonverbal cues. Also, try to control your emotions by taking a deep breath, counting to 10, or stepping back from a situation. You can develop your EI by practicing mindfulness, empathy, and self-reflection.
10. Conflict resolution
Conflict resolution involves the ability to resolve disagreements and conflicts in a constructive and positive manner.
How can I develop my conflict management skills?
A number of soft skills can be adopted to reach better outcomes when resolving conflict.
Active listening involves giving your full attention to the person speaking and seeking to understand their point of view. This can help you better understand the root of the conflict and find a mutually beneficial solution.
In any conflict situation, it's important to remain calm and composed. This can help you avoid escalating the situation and make it easier to find a resolution.
Put yourself in the other person's shoes and try to understand their perspective. This can help you find common ground and build rapport.
When you communicate, be clear and concise. Use "I" statements to express your feelings and avoid blaming or accusing the other person.
Look for a solution that works for both parties. Finding a compromise can help you resolve the conflict and build a stronger relationship with the other person.
If you're having trouble resolving a conflict, consider seeking the help of a mediator or a supervisor who can help facilitate a resolution.
Conflict resolution skills take practice, so be patient with yourself as you work on improving them. With time and effort, you can become a more effective conflict resolver and create a more harmonious work environment.
The ability to build and maintain relationships with others in order to achieve personal and professional goals.
Building a network of contacts can be a valuable asset in both personal and professional life. Here are some tips on how to build a network of contacts and become better at networking:
How can I improve my networking skills?
Before starting to network, it's important to identify your goals and the people who can help you achieve them. You can start by identifying people in your field of interest or industry who can offer valuable insights.
Networking can be a great way to build relationships, gain visibility, and create opportunities for professional growth. Here are some tips for networking within your company and externally:
Attend company events such as meetings, social gatherings, and team-building activities. This can help you meet new people and build relationships.
Volunteering for cross-functional projects can help you work with colleagues from different departments and build new relationships.
Request a meeting with colleagues in different departments or roles to learn more about their work and expertise. This can help you build new relationships and gain a better understanding of your company.
Attending industry events and conferences related to your field of interest or industry provides an opportunity to meet and interact with like-minded people and make connections.
For broader networking objectives, use social media platforms like LinkedIn to connect with people in your field of interest. Share relevant content, engage with other users, and join online groups and communities related to the network you’d like to develop.
Ask your existing network for introductions to people who can help you achieve your goals. This is a great way to expand your network and meet new people.
Networking is all about building relationships. Be authentic and genuine in your interactions with people. Focus on building meaningful relationships instead of just collecting contacts.
Follow up with people you meet to maintain the relationship. Send a thank-you note or an email, invite them for coffee or lunch, or suggest a collaboration project.
Be a resource: Networking is a two-way street. Offer help and support to others in your network. Be a resource for others and you will likely receive the same in return.
Becoming better at networking requires practice and consistency. It's important to have a positive attitude and be proactive in building relationships. Remember to focus on building genuine connections, be respectful of others' time, and always follow up. By putting these tips into practice, you can become a better networker and expand your network of contacts.
Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of others. It's a critical skill for professionals who need to build trust and establish strong relationships with clients, colleagues, and stakeholders.
How can I improve my Empathy?
Start by practicing active listening and putting yourself in other people's shoes. Try to understand their perspectives, experiences, and emotions. Be patient, attentive, and respectful.
It's important to let others know that their feelings are valid. You don't have to agree with everything they say, but it's important to acknowledge that their feelings are real.
Practice self-reflection: Try to reflect on your own feelings and how they might be affecting your interactions with your colleagues. Think about how you can adjust your approach to be more empathetic.
Remember, empathy is not something that can be learned overnight. It takes time and practice to develop this skill, so be patient with yourself and keep working on it.
THE most important soft skill to develop - the ability to convey information effectively and efficiently. Communication skills are essential in every aspect of our lives, whether it be personal or professional. It is essential to communicate effectively to build trust, rapport, and healthy relationships. Good communication skills are not just about speaking well; it is also about listening attentively and using the right tone and body language. Here are some tips to learn and improve your communication skills:
How can I develop my communication skills?
One of the most important aspects of communication is listening. Active listening involves fully concentrating on the speaker, paying attention to their words and nonverbal cues, and asking clarifying questions. This helps to ensure that we understand the message being conveyed, and it also shows the speaker that we value their input.
For example, imagine you are in a meeting with a colleague who is presenting a new idea. Instead of interrupting them or zoning out, you actively listen to their presentation, ask questions, and provide feedback. This not only improves communication but also shows respect and builds trust.
Ask Open Questions
Start conversations with open-ended questions. Open-ended questions encourage the speaker to elaborate and give more information. This also shows that you are interested in their perspective and ideas.
Show a sense of curiosity in what the other person is saying. Being genuinely interested and curious can help build a connection and rapport with the person you are communicating with. Curiosity also helps you to ask better questions and understand the other person's perspective.
Use the Right Tone
Using the right tone of voice is crucial in communication. It conveys your emotions and helps the listener understand your message. Use a warm and empathetic tone when communicating with others. This shows that you care and are interested in the conversation.
Get Help From Colleagues
Communication skills are not always innate; they can be learned and improved upon. Seek feedback from colleagues or take a course to improve your communication skills. Learning from others can help you to identify your strengths and weaknesses and improve your overall communication skills.
Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of others. It is a crucial element of effective communication, as it helps to build rapport and understanding. To improve empathy, we can practice putting ourselves in others' shoes and seeing things from their perspective.
For example, suppose you are talking with a coworker who seems frustrated about a project. Instead of dismissing their concerns, you empathize with their situation and try to understand their point of view. This can lead to more productive communication and a stronger working relationship.
Clear and Concise Messaging
Clear and concise messaging is essential in effective communication. It means conveying a message in a way that is easily understandable and does not leave room for misinterpretation. To achieve this, we can practice organizing our thoughts and speaking clearly and succinctly.
For example, when giving a presentation, it is essential to convey information in a way that is both informative and concise. This ensures that the audience understands the key points and does not get lost in unnecessary details.
Nonverbal communication refers to the use of body language, facial expressions, and tone of voice to convey a message. It can be just as important as verbal communication, and it is essential to be aware of our own nonverbal cues and to interpret others' cues correctly.
For example, imagine you are in a job interview. It is not just what you say that matters but also how you say it. Your body language, eye contact, and tone of voice can convey confidence, interest, and enthusiasm.
Summarize Key Points
Summarizing the key points of a conversation shows that you have been attentive and understood the speaker's message. It also helps to clarify any misunderstandings and keep the conversation on track.
Planning for growth hiring
Job market insights
Find salaries for key job roles in your location with our up to date salary guide.
Planning for the return of growth hiring: Four actions to take now to get one step aheadPlanning for growth hiring
Recruitment advice and insights for an evolving employment landscape.Job market insights
This is an excellent opportunity for an experienced Practice Accountant Bookkeeper to join a well-established accounts practice in the North Kent area of Dartford / Gravesend. This role is paying up to £35,000 and has the potential for flexible hybrid working. To be considered for this position you will have recent experience as a Practice Accountant...Read more
A well-established organisation is looking for an accomplished HR Advisor to join their team on an initial 1 year Fixed-Term Contract basis, located in Abbey Wood. Please note this position will be office based initially for a 3-month training period and upon successful completion of this, the company offers 2 days remote working. Reporting to...Read more
A well-established business is looking for an accomplished hands-on IT Manager to join its team based in Putney, west London. This organisation embraces flexibility so the chosen candidate will be able to work remotely 3 days per week. In this standalone role you will have full responsibility for managing the technology estate and will have...Read more
Looking to hire?
More than 20,000 people register with the Ashdown Group every month. We have access to hundreds of high-calibre professionals living within an easy commute of your business.