You’ve got the right skills and/or qualifications that enabled you to get your job in the first place. Depending on what your profession is, you will undoubtedly want to undertake additional qualifications and courses which will give you a greater level of technical skills and improve your future career prospects. But these can be a serious commitment; they are often both costly and time consuming.
If you are keen to upskill and develop your career, regardless of what your job is, improving your soft skills is a great way to go about it. Nowadays, employers tend to pay as much attention to soft skills as they do to technical skills, so it’s definitely worth your while applying some attention to improving them.
And the best part is, you can do it every day on the job so it doesn’t deplete your free time!
What are business soft skills?
Soft skills, otherwise known as interpersonal or people skills, are essentially communication abilities that contribute towards successful office interactions and working relationships. They incorporate a wide range of things including personal attributes, personality traits, and social cues; soft skills are similar to emotions or insights that allow you to ‘read’ your colleagues.
Key workplace soft skills are:
- Time management
- Networking ability
- Decision making
- Creative thinking
- Conflict management and resolution
- Listening ability
Why are soft skills so important?
Technical (or hard) skills can easily be taught on the job if the employee is willing to learn. On the other hand, interpersonal (or soft) skills are much harder to master as they are heavily dependent on your type of personality. In most jobs, technical skills alone are not enough to ensure a successful career. But if you have the perfect blend of both soft and hard skills, you will be an exciting long-term prospect to employers in your profession.
At some point, nearly every job will require some form of interaction with others, whether that’s speaking to customers over the phone, in a face-to-face meeting with clients or simply interacting with other teams in the office.
Strong soft skills ensure a productive and healthy work environment - vital attributes for companies in a competitive working world.
Another reason soft skills are so important to hiring organisations is that they are easily transferable; an employee with strong interpersonal skills is likely to be more adaptable and flexible than one who isn’t so adept. They are also a sign that the individual has experienced a broad range of situations, bringing diversity of thought to the business. If you want to fulfil a leadership or management role, interpersonal skills are crucial.
How to improve your interpersonal skills
Excellent communication skills can make an enormous difference to your career. But how do you go about improving your soft skills?
The best place to start is simple: by listening and watching. Observing how others in your office interact with colleagues and management is a great way of gaining a better understanding of what works in your organisation. Once you have this understanding, try to replicate it and practise it in your day-to-day life - at work and in your free time! Beyond listening, there are numerous ways you can easily improve the strength of your interpersonal skills.
- Always try to remain positive: As hard as it can seem at the time, it’s important to not allow negativity to encroach on your interactions at work. Attempt to clear your mind and find the positive aspects of any situation.
- Don’t let your emotions get the better of you: Emotions and empathy are important in the workplace, but it’s even more important that you have control over them. Whether you’re irritated or happy, always try to express yourself in a calm and patient manner.
- Recognise the expertise of colleagues: Everyone wants to be appreciated; showing that you recognise and appreciate their talents is an effective way of building trust with co-workers.
- Show your interest in people: Our lives all continue beyond work. Getting to know more about your colleagues develops and solidifies your relationships, giving you a better understanding of them as a person - which can be useful when it comes to asking for favours!
- Try to identify the best thing about every person at work: It’s natural that you won’t get along well with every single person in your organisation - we are all different in many ways. Instead of forming unshakable negative opinions of them, try to pick out one positive trait in their personalities and always remind yourself of it when communicating with them, it’s a great way to develop mutual respect.
- Be assertive: Show that you are confident about your abilities and don’t be afraid to back up your opinions. This said, there’s a fine line between being assertive and being stubborn.
- Be empathetic: It pays to put yourself in others' shoes - this is perhaps the most effective way of broadening your perspective on interpersonal skills and being able to find resolutions that keep as many people happy as possible.
Other useful tips…
If you want to highlight your soft skills in a job application or interview, identify whether any are specifically mentioned in the job description and try to relate them back to your past experiences, providing evidence of how those specific skills helped your situation at work.
You can also directly display your soft skills in an interview - it’s as easy as being friendly and approachable!