Going to college and learning how to execute the intricacies of your chosen profession is a fantastic accomplishment, and one you should be proud of. However, having the prowess to program software or launch an SEO campaign (the technical skills of the job) is only half the battle. Today’s employers want workers who can demonstrate their grasp of essential soft skills, as well.
What are soft skills? They’re that less tangible set of characteristics that every employer wants, regardless of your field. They include interpersonal skills like the ability to communicate, have empathy, work in a team, accomplish tasks independently, and think outside the box.
We’ve compiled a list of 10 major skills you should work on honing (and showcasing on your resume and in interviews) to be successful in your career.
- Adaptability and resilience. If this past year has taught us anything, it’s that life is unpredictable. This absolutely applies to the workplace. Employees who can change course or plans while keeping a positive attitude are essential to keeping a business running amidst upheaval. In general, the challenges and quick turns in life will be easier to manage if you work to adopt an attitude of flexibility, so it’s a win-win to work on this one.
- Decisiveness. In a world filled with so many strong opinions, it’s still surprisingly difficult to find people who can make well-reasoned decisions in a crunch. If you want to impress a potential employer, provide examples of situations where your ability to make prompt decisions and follow them through has benefited you or other people in the past.
- Problem solving. Along the same lines, every job in every field needs people capable of creating solutions to tough problems. Whether in a team or independently, you need to be able to examine a problem from different angles and make a risk/benefit analysis. Then come up with suggestions for solving it. Hiring managers will be thrilled to hire people who can demonstrate these qualities, as it’s the people who solve problems who get the job done.
- Organization and Planning. It’s tough to do your best work when you’re constantly losing your materials, missing appointments, or forgetting deadlines. You won’t last long in the workplace if you haven’t mastered a method for keeping yourself organized. Having the skills to take a mess of tasks or files and transform them into a workable schedule or workspace will also set you apart from the pack.
- Communication. Due in large part to the prevalence of online communication over the past two decades, many college students may not have much practice with face-to-face interaction, let alone writing appropriate business correspondence and documents. However, these skills are still crucial to keeping things running smoothly in the workplace—and keeping clients coming back. If you want employers to view you as a serious professional, you’ll need to demonstrate effective communication skills—both articulating yourself and being an active listener.
- Research skills. One thing that goes hand-in-hand with a decisive problem solver is the ability to effectively research and process a subject. There will be many instances in your work life when you may be called on to present with authority on a subject. Having the ability to properly locate and disseminate information will be critical to becoming informed enough on a subject to make quality decisions. Thankfully, school is an excellent place to get research experience.
- Dedication. Companies need loyal, hard-working employees. It’s as simple as that. If you can demonstrate to your employer that you are willing to go the extra mile, persevere through difficult circumstances, and continually work toward success in your endeavors, you will be valuable indeed. Employees who can be counted on to follow through and get the job done right are the ones that get promoted.
- Stress management. At times, work may collide with personal circumstances to create excessive stress. This can impact your performance in all areas, and reflect poorly on you at work. It’s vital to have a system for managing and working through stress. While stress may not always be possible to avoid, preventative self-care such as meditation, daily exercise, spiritual nourishment, and creative outlets can have a profound impact on your ability to manage daily obstacles.
- Teamwork. Mixing different personalities and work styles is bound to cause conflict at times. But employers need people who are able to work through those difficulties and be productive as a team. You will likely need to heed other opinions, create solutions with others, or delegate responsibilities. Learning how to function in a team environment beforehand will help you excel and show much-needed leadership (or humility) in those situations.
- Going the extra mile. Slap-shod work doesn’t last long-term. In all circumstances, you should strive to do things to the very best of your ability. Measure things twice before submitting them. Be willing to stay late every once and awhile. Ensure all details have been addressed before moving forward. Edit your work, redo the calculations, have someone do a second review, practice your speech beforehand. These little details may seem like they go unnoticed. But being the employee who consistently delivers quality, timely work does matter. Not only to leadership, but to yourself. Always take pride in your work, be thorough and do things to the very best of your ability.
Updated September 30, 2022.