You know those colleagues who it seems everyone wants to work with? Maybe they get pulled into collaboration sessions or your team’s leader frequently consults with them. Heck, maybe it just seems like the whole company just loves them. This could be because they’re the nicest person in the world, or it might be because they’ve mastered a certain set of soft skills. Are you wondering what exactly soft skills are and why they’re so important to achieving career growth? If so, keep reading to find out!
What are Soft Skills and How Do They Help Achieve Career Growth?
Soft skills are a combination of people skills, social graces, effective communication, sound emotional intelligence, and personality traits. Individuals who have refined the right soft skills are easy to get along with and work in harmony with others.
Hard skills are quantifiable and advanced. You can learn advanced maths or writing skills, and you can improve at writing code. But when it comes to soft skills – things like small talk, empathy, and flexibility – it’s not as straightforward.
This doesn’t mean soft skills aren’t a worthwhile investment or that you shouldn’t refine your soft skill set. Think about it this way, you need hard skills to land a job, but you will achieve career growth via your soft skills.
On that note, here are 7 of the most meaning full skills that will help you achieve career growth.
7 Vital Soft Skills You Need to Achieve Career Growth
Emotional intelligence is the ability to recognize and manage your emotions and the emotions of others. There are five key elements to emotional intelligence:
- Social Skill
There are a few key abilities when it comes to emotional intelligence and achieving career growth in the workplace.
- Can you recognize and regulate your emotions and reactions in the workplace?
- Are you able to build rapport and meaningful relationships with your colleagues?
- Can you empathize with others?
- Can you give (and receive) effective and constructive feedback?
It may not seem like the most critical skill set for your career, but in many cases, it is. In an analysis of new employees who fell short of expectations during the first 18 months on the job, 23% failed due to sub-par emotional intelligence. If you’re curious about your emotional intelligence, then you should check out this quiz from Harvard Business Review.
Team Player Attitude
The ability to play well with others is a soft skill you’ve been working on since…well, since forever. Think about it – you’ve been learning how to share the toys since pre-school or daycare. It’s pretty awesome if you actually take the time to think about it. You’ve honestly spent years learning how to collaborate in the workplace.
Whether you’re an individual contributor or a personal manager, you have to work well with others in order to achieve career growth. This is true in almost every situation – meetings, brainstorms, and other various cross-functional projects within your organization. A positive, let’s do it attitude is essential to team harmony when working with others. This means that you need to be able to run an effective and inclusive meeting, welcome new ideas, and show your colleagues some respect.
Maintain a Growth Mindset to Achieve Career Growth
No matter what role you play, you’re destined to encounter roadblocks that frustrate you. It is these moments where it is helpful to have a growth mindset. Carol Dweck coined this term to refer to a frame of thinking that reflects viewing your abilities, talents, and intelligence as skills you can grow and improve upon.
Individuals with a growth mindset may look at the failure to meet a quarterly goal as an opportunity to identify their strengths and weaknesses in order to better prepare for the next quarter’s goal. On the other hand, an individual with a fixed mindset might say to themselves, “I’m no good at making sales,” and let that negative outlook – without any belief in the ability to improve – impact their next quarter’s success, too.
Here’s an awesome video that summarizes Dweck’s comparison of the growth and fixed mindsets. Furthermore, you should strive to find moments in your daily interactions where you can reframe your outlook and view challenges or setbacks as an opportunity to grow.
Achieve Career Growth by Being Open to Feedback
The aspect of emotional intelligence is essential to achieving career growth. When it comes to the workplace, it is critical that you are open and able to receive feedback if you hope to achieve career growth. This is especially true when you accept a new position.
Think about it – constructive feedback helps you do a job to the best of your ability. However, if you take it personally or get defensive, you aren’t able to hear the feedback and incorporate it into your current strategy.
The key to feedback is to enter into a conversation with kindness at the forefront. Your peers aren’t offering constructive feedback because they hate you personally. Instead, they want you to become the best you can be at whatever it is that you do. You should seek out constructive feedback whenever possible since it will help you achieve your goals.
If you’re not quite comfortable with feedback just yet, try immersion therapy. Make feedback part of your daily to-do list. Ask for feedback from more people at work to get immediate help honing your skillset.
Flexibility is Critical to Achieving Career Growth
Regardless of your role and industry, the ability to adapt can work wonders in terms of achieving career growth. Furthermore, maintaining a positive outlook regarding changes will also serve you well.
Whether it’s the seating arrangement or an epic company-wide pivot – nobody likes a complainer. It’s critical that you learn to accept change as part of life. Furthermore, it also helps if you view change as an opportunity to implement new strategies and tactics. Sounds a little like the growth mindset that we touched on earlier.
If you’re uncomfortable with frequent changes at any level, write down your feelings and reactions instead of blurting them out. Doing so allows you to separate legitimate concerns from utter emotion-based nonsense.
Learn the Power of Active Listening to Achieve Career Growth
Odds are that you can tell the difference between when an individual simply hears what you’re saying and when they’re actively listening to what you’re saying. If a peer is pecking away on their keyboard or they’re slack-jawed, they likely aren’t really listening to what you’re saying.
Active listeners, on the other hand, pay close attention in meetings, ask clarifying questions or responses, and refer back to their notes in future discussions. These active listeners rarely need you to repeat anything since they heard you the first time. Engaging in active listening not only shows respect to your colleagues but also makes you a more effective employee, too. If you feel as if you need to improve your active listening skills, you’re most likely correct. Challenge yourself to keep your various devices tucked away or turned face down during meetings. Instead, focus solely on the speaker and take notes by hand if necessary. In fact, I strongly encourage you to take notes by hand since there is science showing that handwritten notes help with memory retention.
I typically don’t promote products on my blog, but I’ll make a rare exception for a product that I simply could not live without. I’m a huge tech guy and I love trying out all the latest gizmos and gadgets. However, I’m also an advocate of handwritten notes, which is why I’m thankful to have discovered the Remarkable 2 paper tablet. Check out the video in the link I’ve provided and you’ll see why the Remarkable 2 is such an awesome tool that helps you grow your active listening skills.
Your Work Ethic Speaks Volumes
It’s next to impossible to succeed in any role without putting in the time and effort. I typically don’t resort to using clichés, but my high school lacrosse coach engrained this one in my memory – hard work beats talent, when talent doesn’t work hard. Company leaders and hiring managers constantly seek out individuals who put in the extra time and effort without any prodding.
If you want a promotion or to land a new job, it’s vital that you hone your work ethic. That being said, quit whining and put in the extra time and effort you need to succeed. Furthermore, if reaching new heights means learning new skills, set some time aside on a regular basis to make it happen.
If you haven’t caught on yet, the common element that unifies the seven soft skills together is a positive attitude. This may sound lame, but simply believing in a positive outcome in the face of adversity will help you navigate the choppy seas of any career path. Furthermore, people will recognize your positive outlook on both life and your career, which, in turn, will make them genuinely want to work with you. While these soft skills are difficult to master, the payoff is most certainly worthwhile. That being said, make sure you’re investing the time and effort to properly evaluate and improve your soft skills.