Set Yourself Apart with a Combination of Core and Soft Skills
With more and more college graduates entering the workforce each year, finding a job or simply landing that first interview can be a daunting task. It is no longer enough to have only the knowledge and competency for the job. Many employers are searching for potential employees who also have soft skills, traits some feel recent graduates tend to lack.
Soft skills refer to qualities such as good communication, professionalism, responsibility, adaptability, problem-solving, time management, and other personality traits possessed by quality employees. Many companies hold great value in those who display these qualities as they can directly affect the job performance of an employee.
Set yourself apart from your competition by strengthening your soft skills before you walk into that first interview! The U.S. Department of Labor understands the importance of soft skills and provides resources for those who seek to gain these abilities through curriculum created by the Office of Disability Employment Policy. The manual entitled Skills to Pay the Bills: Mastering Soft Skills for Workplace Success aims to prepare young people for the workplace through a series of hands-on activities. These activities focus on soft skills that employers are looking for in new employees, such as communication, enthusiasm and attitude; teamwork, networking, problem solving; and critical thinking; and professionalism.
In addition, here are a few tips you can use to help improve your soft skills and make you more marketable when entering the workforce.
- Clearly communicate – Consider what you are going to say before you say it to avoid misunderstandings and ensure that your statements won’t be taken the wrong way.
- Be positive – A positive attitude not only draws others toward you, it shows those around you that you appreciate their work and makes you more approachable.
- Volunteer – Practice your soft skills by working for nonprofit organizations. Through volunteer work you will have opportunities to gain and apply soft skills while also giving you the perfect experience to add to your resume.
- Be an active listener – Practice actively listening to those around you. Try to put yourself in the speaker’s position in order to see things from his or her point of view. It will help you to better appreciate the work your co-workers do.
- Avoid arguing – Resolving conflicts through negotiation rather than argument is essential for advancing in the work place. Work with those around you to formulate solutions that are beneficial for both parties.
- Be coachable – Learn to take constructive criticism from both your supervisors and your peers. Learn from your mistakes and use each experience as an opportunity to improve.
- Find a mentor – Once you have targeted the soft skills you hope to gain, find a mentor who can help you cultivate them. A mentor can be a friend, family member, co-worker, or anyone who possess these skills and makes you feel comfortable. Having a mentor will provide you with a resource for advice and someone with whom to practice your skills with.
- Take a course – Build soft skills by enrolling in a public speaking, communication, or leadership course. You do not have to be a full-time student to enroll in a class; simply check out course offerings at your local community college! Not only will you strengthen your interpersonal skills, your effort will further impress employers as you strive to continue your education.
- Organize your resume and other application materials – Make sure there are no spelling or grammar errors on any of your application materials. Neglecting to correct errors within these materials can make a potential employers think you lack attention to detail.
- Don’t be afraid to take the lead – Even if you are starting a new job or in a new position, don’t be afraid to step up to the plate if you feel confident in your ability to complete a task successfully. If you don’t step up, you’ll never have the chance to prove that you can hit it out of the park!