As a technical professional, you’ll spend a lot of your time improving your technical repertoire and your coding skills. But, don’t forget about the equally important soft skills. According to a LinkedIn survey from this year, 57% of employers care more about soft skills than they do about hard skills like coding. Of the soft skills that are the most valuable, you should focus on improving these 6 if you want to reap the career benefits.
1. Communication: From collaborative positions where you have to work as a team to help desk positions where you have to interact with users directly, there are a wide variety of technical positions that benefit from superb communication skills. The best way to improve this soft skill is through a combination of research and experience. For example, if you notice that people don’t quite understand what you’re trying to say in an email, it may benefit you to improve your written communication skills. You can do this through reading more often, writing more often, and even taking an online course in professional communication. Similarly, you can learn helpful communication tips from body language cues to active listening skills by simply researching online and then practicing in person. A lot of people also see major improvements in their communication skills through courses on or experience with public speaking.
2. Patience: Snapping at a coworker or sending 10 reminder emails about their portion of a project is clearly bad etiquette. The best way to avoid these bad habits is to improve your patience. This soft skill plays into interpersonal relations a lot, but it also factors into your ability to stay focused on a task and not get frustrated when it’s taking longer than you anticipated. Practicing mindfulness or meditation can help improve your patience because it forces you to relax your muscles, take deep breaths, and slow your heart rate down. This can often alleviate the physical symptoms associated with impatience. Active listening and empathetic listening can also help you improve your patience. And, if all of that doesn’t work, you can reframe the situation and shift your perspective, focusing on the positives even if the positives are, “I can’t work on this right now because their portion isn’t ready, so I get to work on another thing I needed to get done eventually anyways. It will save me time later on the other project and I’ll still stay productive.”
3. Problem Solving: Particularly in technical positions, problem solving is an essential soft skill if you want to have a successful career. Improving your problem solving skills can involve a wide variety of things including working on puzzles, coding a side project in your free time, stepping away from a problem and distracting yourself with physical activity to passively solve it, make lists of all possible solutions, improve your objectivity, reverse engineer, etc.
4. Organization: No one likes to share a workspace with a Messy Melvin and your lack of organizational skills could lead to missing deadlines, losing important project information, or worse. However, if you can improve your organization, you’ll be seen as more responsible and reliable. Making a schedule for cleaning your space can help you with physical organization at work, and breaking down a project in reverse from its deadline to present day can help you keep your projects organized. There are also a lot of online resources where you can learn helpful tips and tricks for improving your organization.
5. Time Management: One of the most important soft skills at work is time management. If you’re not able to effectively manage your time, you’ll fall behind on projects and drop the ball. Working on your ability to prioritize, avoid procrastination, stay productive, avoid distractions, and make and maintain a schedule will help you elevate this soft skill to new heights.
6. Versatility: While versatility falls into the range of soft skills, it kind of overlaps with hard skills too. Basically, improving your versatility in the workplace means you can lend a hand in a wide variety of ways and add value in a lot of areas. With so many employers looking for a jack-of-all-trades, it’s clear how improving this soft skill can benefit your career. So, how do you improve your versatility? This one comes with experience for the most part but you can proactively ask coworkers to shadow them or teach you a process they know that you don’t. You can improve your hard skills in your free time or research relevant areas of interest so you can become the office expert in a certain subject. However you choose to pursue it, improved versatility will certainly have positive effects on your career.
Now that you know which 6 soft skills you should focus on improving and a few ways you can improve them, you can get to work. This effort will undoubtedly benefit your career and will help you be a more desirable candidate for promotions or hiring managers when you’re ready to switch jobs.