Whether it’s on your resume or in the workplace, there’s a new player in town… It’s a brave new world, and it’s high time we stop devaluing soft skills!
The workplace of the future is looking more automated by the second. If we have consumed even a single piece of science fiction media, we know that we will end up craving human connection in this technology-driven universe.
By making this idea of humanness the core of our workplaces, we can mitigate the problems of the future in the present.
Enter: soft skills!
Gone are the days when getting a job was simply about acquiring the appropriate qualifications. Don’t get me wrong: qualifications still matter. But securing employment, especially of the sustained and maintained kind, is about way more than that.
Soft skills, which were once optional bonuses in a resume, are now one of the cornerstones of hiring. We need to start taking them more seriously as we enter a radically altered job market.
What Are Soft Skills?
Soft skills are, by definition, non-technical skills. They don’t contribute directly to the work you do, but they make the process smoother and the work environment habitable.
The 20th century workplace is a thing of the past, and in order to distance ourselves from it, we need to dump it… toxic traits, bad coworker attitudes, et al.
Soft skills largely fall under the categories of
Interpersonal and intrapersonal communication
What Are Some Soft Skills Are Employers Looking For?
Employers appreciate it when you bring certain skills to the workplace.
Here is a basic soft skills checklist that every office HR department ought to pin to their soft boards, and every employee should work on for career growth.
Smooth work processes require smooth communication.
Working in silos can sabotage the fragile ecosystem of any good workplace. This also involves things like keeping meetings succinct, creating channels for workers to have a back-and-forth, and keeping open door policies.
Kool Kanya Tip: create agendas for everything, and put them on email. That way the recipients have been notified, and you have fulfilled your end of the bargain.
Ever sat in a serious meeting about resolving a glitch which is affecting your product or service, only to be met with stony faces, hmmm-ing and ha-ing? The solution: fostering creativity!
Creativity is a major player in all industries, from marketing to technology to governance. You don’t have to be a creative genius, but possessing logical thought and a consumer perspective can create new opportunities on top of resolving old problems!
Kool Kanya Tip: If a property doesn’t seem to be working in one format, reconfigure it in another medium to test whether it’s the idea or the implementation that is the issue.
Example: Kool Kanya’s wealth and labour reporter, Dollar Didi, was originally conceived as a ‘letters to the editor’ blog format. However, the form did not end up working because articles about finance are usually dry.
But when the character was reintroduced in video form, she was met with resounding success, because she spoke about the why of issues, in a quirky, fun way which resonated with audiences!
Ability To Work In A Team (Or Adjacent To One)
It might seem that these skills are expected only of full-timers, but freelancers need to work on them too. Even if your individual tasks don’t require engaging with your client, you do need to ensure that both of you are satisfied with the arrangement.
Similarly, in an office setting, bad attitudes and office politics are things to steer clear of.
Kool Kanya Tip: Keep a journal for self reflection, and note down any friction or blocks you face on a day-to-day basis. Use this to ask for clear roles and responsibilities, and to create dialogue rather than conflict.
EQ (Emotional Quotient)
Why do we not value emotional intelligence as much as regular intelligence? Empathy, tact, and thoughtfulness can make work seem like a walk in the park. This also goes the other way around—knowing how to channel your emotions in a non-destructive way.
Knowing that your workplace is dedicated to diffusing conflict and valuing your individual satisfaction can be a big motivator!
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Kool Kanya Tip: There’s tons of empathy-building exercises on the internet, which can help you identify others’ pain points and figure out whether you are causing them, or if you can resolve them.
It’s a fast world, ladies! Don’t get left behind. A whole team and its output can be affected by a single lagging coworker. Don’t be that person.
This doesn’t mean that you let your coworkers walk all over you. No, this means you keep up with the pace set by the rest of your team.
The ability to pivot quickly and work in ambiguous situations is a key skill; one which can be nurtured through continuous learning.
Kool Kanya Tip: Take on new challenges in relation to your role, or upskill yourself so you can adapt quickly.
This one’s not so hard. Be organised, keep deadlines, be on time, and respect the time and space of others. Be respectful, do not harass or bully a coworker, and invest in motivating yourself and those around you to perform their best.
Kool Kanya Tip: Do a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats) test to learn more about your working style, and use that information to identify, unlearn, and learn what you lack.
What Are The Benefits Of Soft Skills For Employees?
Here are some of the ways in which mutual investment in soft skills by employers and employees generate advantages:
Promotions And Pay Rises
In the climb to the top, a lot of people forget that our technical (or hard) skills are limited by the finite nature of knowledge.
This means that you can learn everything there is to know in your field, but it still will not pave the path for growth within your industry. Soft skills not only help you fit into a workplace; they help you learn from the work processes.
By investing in them, you are more likely to get promotions and salary hikes.
A major benefit of a workplace centred around human connection is that it fosters inclusivity.
The 20th century workplace was rife with sexism, racism, homophobia, and other discrimination. By opposing these values in the present, the future of the workplace starts looking safer and empowering.
Inclusivty (trained and acquired) also creates leaders who will not stand for prejudice and problematic behaviours.
Plus, the people against whom discrimination is usually perpetuated are now major players in the workforce. Including them is the very least that needs to be done.
When companies expect employees to feel joy in the company’s success, they need to realise that this happiness comes from feeling like you’re in good company.
By focussing on soft skills – creating usable channels for dialogues and providing better individual support – employees can benefit one another, creating an office which they actually look forward to entering.
Why Are Soft Skills Important In The Workplace?
Although each workplace differs from one another, it is soft skills which create positive, motivating, and growth-oriented work environments.
Success isn’t about journeying from an idea to an end-product; it is about achieving that while also avoiding dissatisfaction and detrimental behaviours within the organisation.
What’s the point of ticking off all your goals while having to contend with in-fighting or disinterest?
Toxic work environments lead to high employee drop-off rates, and a complete lack of synchrony. Overcoming this is as much a top-down issue, as it is a bottom-up one. Companies need to nurture a thriving work culture, and employees need to keep it alive.
How To Develop Soft Skills?
To avoid toxicity, companies must encourage their employees to work on building healthy relationships, engage in continuous upskilling, and value one another’s mental and physical wellbeing.
Individual employees should use soft skills to motivate their team members, in exchange for the same from their colleagues. It isn’t a quid pro quo situation as much as it is the foundation for team-building.
While many think that this can be achieved through generic team building exercises and work outings, it is not that simple.
What is required is a recce of individual advantages, and how they can translate into team advantages, and thus company advantages.
By building on existing soft skills, and creating space to expand on them, a company can guarantee an empowering workspace which is not hostile.
Employees can also take the lead in terms of soft skills on an individual level. Knowing what your abilities and shortfalls are is a major step in expanding and overcoming them.
Kool Kanya Tip: Frequent mental health checks, organisation workshops, inclusivity training, and upskilling resources are few things that employees can request and employers can provide.
The ‘Soft’ In Soft Skills Is Not A Sign Of Weakness
For a while now, the internet discourse around soft skills has been that the adjective ‘soft’ is a misnomer; one which devalues the fact that these skills are essential. However, softness is not a sign of weakness.
Reality check: Your technical abilities may get you an interview, but having soft skills might just get you hired.
Soft skills build the bridges which hard skills use to get from idea to end goal. As power tools, they need to be afforded the same gravitas as technical skills.
In a time when upskilling is a buzzword, it is time to skill up those little things we take for granted. So this hiring season, have a look at that soft skills checklist… which ones do you already possess, which ones do you not, and which ones can be worked on?
Stop treating soft skills as bystanders, and invite them to be a part of your career conversations!
You’re invited! Join the Kool Kanya women-only career Community where you can network, ask questions, share your opinions, collaborate on projects, and discover new opportunities. Join now.