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September 22, 2017

Soft Skills are NOT the Soft Option

Written by

Laura Fox

Your CV alone is not going to bag you your dream job. There’s a vast amount of research confirming that leading business decision makers consider soft skills as critical to a successful career as that degree you’re studying so hard for.

If you need a bit more convincing, think about these three reasons why soft skills are critical to career success, as told by Lei Han, a Stanford engineer and Wharton MBA who started her career at McKinsey:

  • 1. Soft skills are not often taught well in schools or universities;
  • 2. They are the most difficult skills to hone and master;
  • 3. Soft skills are what will get you promoted, especially to an executive level.

So have a read through these top soft skills that will enable you to stand out from the crowd when you are applying for those all-important internships and ensure that once you get there, you’ll be remembered for more than your coffee-making skills.

Public speaking and presentations

All the great speakers were bad speakers at first -- Ralph Waldo Emerson

Having the ability to communicate your ideas and information in a calm and confident manner will undoubtedly enhance your reputation and image within any organisation and will benefit you hugely, regardless of where your career takes you.

Easier said than done for some, it’s vital that you take the opportunity to hone this skill -- however nerve-wracking -- at every chance you get. It really is one of those skills where practice makes perfect and the more often you do it, the more confident you’ll feel. Forget the old saying of ‘picture the audience in their underwear’ -- that’ll probably just be super awkward, and go out there with your head held high. Chances are that nobody will notice if you make a tiny mistake and even if they do, it’ll hardly be the end of the world. So go out there, be confident, and become an awesome public speaker!

Critical thinking and problem-solving

Follow the evidence wherever it leads, and question everything -- Neil deGrasse Tyson

The art -- yes art -- of critical thinking means having the ability to take an objective approach to a particular problem or challenge with the goal of finding the best solution, rather than the solution that simply fits your purpose. You tackle the problem head-on by analysing and evaluating the subject and determining the best outcome, rather than taking the assumptions and opinions of others.

If you can crack this vital soft skill, you’ll easily be able to distinguish between what is important and what is completely irrelevant, which will enable you to produce better results and as such, have a far more rewarding career.

So, the next time you’re given a choice (and I don’t mean between mint choc chip and rum and raisin), take a moment to pause and think. Ask follow-up questions and glean as much information as you can to make a structured and rational decision. Consider the different options and think about what outcomes each decision offers, and once you understand which outcome is most beneficial, stick to it.

Conflict resolution

In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity -- Albert Einstein

There will inevitably be conflict in the workplace, since we’re all human and imperfect (despite what your grandma tells you). Whether it’s that one person who leaves their dirty plate in the kitchen after having tuna for lunch or a more genuine workplace issue, being able to respond rationally and resolve issues will help you to work more productively and maintain strong relationships with your colleagues.

The key to dealing with conflict lies in managing your own emotion and understanding that actually, conflict isn’t necessarily bad and it most certainly isn’t a sign of failure. When faced with an uncomfortable situation, remember these three key points:

  • - Don’t react -- be the bigger person and anchor the conflict into a safe space instead of letting it spiral downwards.
  • - Be willing to let go -- choose not to waste any more energy being angry over something that you probably won’t even in remember in a few months.
  • - Don’t triangulate -- consider whether it’s necessary to bring others into your conflict. However tempting it is to vent with your best work-buddy, avoid bringing additional and counterproductive opinion into the issue or causing additional strain on the relationships of others.

Follow these easy-to-remember tips and you’ll keep your focus on the conflict at hand, be able to step back and look at the situation with an objective perspective and enable you to solve your issues with maturity and integrity.

Master these so-called soft skills and you’ll be the master of your own destiny. Still think soft skills are soft?

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