When we talk about the job-hunting process, we usually take into account things such as experience and having the proper skills to do a certain job, moving successfully from a resume to an interview, passing an interview with flying colors, and all the other aspects of finding one’s place in the work market.
What we don’t usually talk about is how the success of this endeavor doesn’t always depend only on these factors. And that, no matter how well experienced a candidate is, the importance of the less-honored so called “soft skills” can sometimes overcome more objective qualities. This happens especially for jobs where working with people and within a team is very important.
But what are soft skills?
Soft skills usually define a set of skills that determines how we interact with other people. Among them, here are the most important.
They refer to the ability to clearly let other people know what we want from them, as well as the ability to listen to them. In certain jobs, communication skills can weigh as much as an education or experience does (sales jobs, PR, advertising, any management position). It’s not something we are all born with, but it’s a skill that can be taught to a certain degree.
Some jobs require you to function independently, be self-sufficient and entrepreneurial. Others require the ability to work within a team, and adapt quickly to all the social roles within that team. That means that sometimes you can be the leader, and sometimes you have to follow, but that you always have to keep in mind that your work is highly interconnected to that of your peers and adapt to that situation.
While it may seem like something we all maintain (because most of the times not doing so means losing our jobs), work ethic isn’t only about the big things (lying, stealing, cheating). It also refers to the way we treat our colleagues, about what we are willing to do and how far we are willing to go in order to get ahead, about respecting a certain moral code that differs from one company to the other. Employers want employees who can maintain good relationships with their co-workers and who have good reputations.
Problem solving skills
Certain employers want their employees to be able to quickly come out of sticky situations on their own, without extra guidance. That means they need the ability to find solutions to complicated and / or unexpected problems, using creative and innovative ways. This is a skill that is extremely important in any managerial position.
While for some jobs being a good leader is not necessarily an important skill, for any management position it is vital. A leader is also expected to have entrepreneurial skills and to not only be in charge formally, through his position, but informally as well. He has to naturally get people to trust and follow him. He also has, in addition to leadership skills, all the other sets of skills listed above.
There are many other soft skills we can talk about and we will in our next articles: a positive attitude, adaptability or conflict resolution. They are all important in the workplace, and they all contribute to a healthy and productive work environment. Some of them can be taught. Some of them can’t. But it’s important to understand that while experience and education sometimes seem enough to qualify a candidate for a certain position, when it comes down to two candidates with similar sets of skills, it will be their soft skills that might make the difference.