Adaptability. Communication. Management. Personal effectiveness. Do any of these look like skills you have? If so, you're in luck: They're among the most in-demand skills in the job market right now.
It's true, and we're going to show you how to deepen these natural faculties and use them to grow in your career.
But first, let's debunk a few common myths around soft skills. From there, we'll break down four skill sets that you're probably practicing every day without even thinking about it, map out some career paths and supply simple tips for deepening your fluency.
soft power skills demystified
For all the talk about the growing importance of baseline tech aptitude, many studies have concluded just the opposite: it's actually soft skills that employers really want. In one large-scale survey, for example, 91 percent of companies described finding candidates with the right soft skills as a challenge, while another 80 percent reported struggling to find "better soft skills" in the job market.
Other research — this time an internal study at Google — suggests why this might be true. In the study, Google analyzed the composition as well as the productivity and output of teams across the organization. What did they find? Top-performing teams were typically interdisciplinary groups. And what's more, having employees whose strengths were soft skills like collaboration and communication made all of the difference.
In that light, you can begin to see why some people have begun to call "soft skills" a misnomer, preferring the term "power skills," instead.
Soft skills, power skills: Whatever term you prefer, as long as we all know what we're talking about, let's look at four of them that you probably have already, then turn to how you can deepen these natural aptitudes and leverage them to land your next opportunity.
A close relative of "resilience," adaptability is a trait that's on just about every hiring manager's mind right now, for at least two reasons: First, most immediately, the massive disruptions unleashed by COVID-19 made adaptation a critical business imperative for nearly every company, and what's more, that imperative is an ongoing one. Second, tech continues to drive disruption, altering functional responsibilities and giving rise to new roles, an environment in which people who are able to rapidly adapt will be best equipped to deliver value.
But if adaptability is in your wheelhouse, how do you enhance that competency — and demonstrate it to a prospective employer? Easy. For one, nothing says "I'm adaptable" like acquiring an entirely new skill set or proficiency. You can't become more versatile without first being adaptable, after all.
Note: If that sounds like a lot of heavy lifting to you, it isn't. In fact, you might be surprised how little time it actually takes to become fluent in a new skill area. Some experts now believe that all you need is 20 hours to achieve proficiency in a new skill, which nets out to a commitment of about 45 minutes each day over the course of a month. That should be a cakewalk—at least for the highly adaptive among us.
Emailing. Texting. Blogging. Vlogging. Singing. Presenting. Collaborating. Commiserating. Fighting. Making up. There's no denying that life is full of moments that call on your communication skills.
So if this is already a part of your wheelhouse, why not use some nights-and-weekends downtime to sharpen your bonafides?
Follow-up question: Why not Toastmasters?
After all, the group is renowned for its ability to turn the incorrigibly shy into polished public speakers, and, what's more, Toastmasters not only has new offerings but has pivoted to an online meet-up model on account of COVID-19. It wouldn't hurt to add this achievement to your resume.
At first glance, "management skills" sound pretty simple and straightforward, but the underlying mechanisms that make them work — emotional intelligence, long-range planning, the ability to motivate others, the list goes on and on — could not be more complex. Perhaps that's why most people in life are employees, but only some are managers.
So if management skills are a natural strength, kudos.
But let's say you're looking to level-up your already formidable management skills. What's the right move? For starters, recognize that there are many paths open to you. But one of the better trod would be project management training or certification. In a project management role, a lot of the core responsibilities will dovetail nicely with your native skill set. And to that end, while educational resources abound, you might start by checking out the offerings of these three standouts:
Note that many project management training programs can be completed in their entirety online, which is obviously pretty clutch these days.
Now, with your new training in tow, you'll also be able to call attention to your innate management skills in a more formal way on your resume. And you suddenly might start to look irresistible in the eyes of employers, too.
personal effectiveness skills
This one sounds nebulous at first, but "personal effectiveness skills" refer to a whole constellation of practices that you likely depend on and put to use every day. Among other things, think of:
- time management
- critical thinking
- personal discipline
And now, think of something else: The fact is, these are definitely not things that everyone, or even all that many people, can say they excel at. As such, innate personal effectiveness skills should be a boon for your professional growth.
A few possible career paths suggest themselves (all of them COVID-19-friendly), and however disparate they might seem at first, they all have overlaps with your natural skill set:
- contact tracer
- administrative assistant
- accounts payable/receivable clerk
- career coach
Of course, depending on your background, you'd likely need to take advantage of online resources and learning platforms to qualify for some of these roles, but all of them are within reach. Don't discount the extent to which your personal effectiveness skills can be leveraged to help you grow in your career — and we've put together these tips to help show you how.
No matter where you are in your career journey, if you're anything like most other professionals out there, you probably don't realize that you already have pretty much all of the essential tools you need to take your career to the next level.
Many of the soft skills you already have can, with a little tweaking and some light work, be honed into the wheelhouse that will help you land new opportunities tomorrow. Flex them regularly enough — and follow the tips outlined in this article — and you should be ready to take the next big step in your career.
Check out our complete career resources toolkit for more helpful advice to power your journey.