In today’s world, you need more than just technical skills to succeed in your career. Employers now look for soft skills among potential hires to determine who will be an effective team member. Here is a list of top 10 soft skills you will need to grow in your career in 2020 and beyond.
What Are Soft Skills?
Put simply, soft skills are your personal skills. While you can exercise soft skills in and out of the workplace, these skills are typically the characteristics that impact how you work, outside of your technical skills that you were probably hired for. They are also the skills that will support your career growth, whether you’re looking to pivot careers or grow within your company.
For example: a hard, technical skill would be data analytics. A soft skill that would enhance your performance as a data analyst would be your critical thinking and ability to solve tough problems.
What makes soft skills difficult is that they can’t be measured. While they’re not quantifiable, they are still able to be developed and practiced. It’s up to you to identify which are your weakest ones and start practicing them.
1. Emotional Intelligence
Emotional intelligence can be understood as your ability to identify and regulate your own emotions, as well as be able to understand how those around you are feeling. In other words, can you read the room and respond appropriately? This umbrella skill will encompass the three following:
- Emotional awareness— identifying and naming how you’re feeling in the moment you’re feeling it
- Productive harnessing of emotions—channeling these emotions into something actionable
- Management of emotions—regulating your emotions as they arise and supporting others’ in their regulation, such as through conflict regulation
This may be challenging for those of us who have trouble confronting our emotions. But building emotional intelligence is possible; it just takes practice and a lot of self-work. Exercising this skill in the workplace will show your employer that they don’t have to worry about you and can even tap you in to mediate conversations and projects with large teams.
This is perhaps the most important soft skill on this list. Communication will impact all lines of work, no matter where you work. Both written and oral communication impact how you’re able to get your point and ideas across to your team, your superiors, or your clients. If they can’t understand what you’re trying to say, how will anyone be able to trust your work? In our current day, communication forms to pay attention to include:
- Phone call
- Zoom and video platforms
The main point here is how you’re able to communicate your visions, plans, and strategies. Maybe it all makes sense in your head and even on paper, but if you’re aiming for career growth, you’re often pitching. The good news is that there are tons of free resources out there to enhance your communication and public speaking skills.
Communication is also deeply tied to emotional intelligence. Your ability to communicate will especially depend on your ability to be in touch with your emotions because they will impact how you communicate. Not only is being able to communicate the what of your ideas important, but how you deliver it to your audience is key as well.
3. Active Listening
How you communicate is one thing. How you listen to others is another. Active listening is more than just allowing your co-worker to talk. This soft skill requires full concentration in order to respond in a helpful or appropriate manner.
Think of a situation where you spent a few minutes sharing an idea or presenting something, only to be met with comments or questions that you clearly addressed. We’ve all been there. Chances are, your audience was not practicing active listening.
To practice, make sure you listen when someone speaks. Don’t spend this time that you’re not talking in the conversation thinking of what you’re going to say next. Practicing this skill in the workplace will demonstrate to your employer that you are dependable and can contribute to team harmony.
This is tied to how well you respond to change. In lines of work like consulting or politics, for example, rapid response work will be a constant. How well do you respond to internal and external changes? Are you able to shift your project responsibilities depending on need? Being adaptable means that not only are you able to recognize when change is needed or is coming, but you can integrate yourself into projects as they’re moving.
The only constant in life is that there will always be change. This remains true in the workplace. Your employer wants to know that you will adapt and thrive in any kind of situation. Of course, there are boundaries to when this is appropriate versus you just being overworked. But if you’re seeking to grow in your workplace, you need to show that you can do more than what you are currently doing.
5. Growth Mindset
A growth mindset is what will allow you to continue learning and believing that you can always improve. This is more than having a positive attitude; it’s about a consistent desire to hone in on your skills and even develop new ones. To better understand, let’s think of what a fixed mindset is.
Someone who has a fixed mindset will think the following:
- “It’s too late for me to try to learn _____”
- “I’m too old to start _______”
- “I’m just not good at it.”
- “I tried it once and failed, so I won’t try again.”
Notice the pattern? A fixed mindset prevents you from exploring, trying, and reiterating. If our 2020 transition to remote everything has shown us anything, it’s that we need to be willing to learn new things and forms of working.
Let’s stop finding all the reasons we can’t learn something or improve one of our skillsets. For example, on episode 50 with Lissette Calveiro we heard how she honed in on one set of skills, further developed them, and leveraged them to launch her business.
2020 is the year that has shown everyone we can never be too prepared.
Show your employer they can count on you to consistently know how to respond to changing times.
Even just two minds are better than one; not because one isn’t enough, but because we should always invite multiple perspectives. If you are someone that likes to do everything on your own, take full control of projects, and doesn’t delegate, you will miss out on integrating new ideas and risk making your team feel “out of the loop”
Regardless of your role, you will always be working with other people. To contribute to team harmony—rather than making it more difficult—work towards creating the right spaces for team collaboration. This can look like:
- Being inclusive of all team members
- Keeping your team updated on project updates
- Welcoming feedback and ideas
- Running effective, efficient meetings
Now, there is the added element of virtual collaboration. After 2020, demonstrating you are just as effective collaborating virtually will be crucial for career growth. Familiarize yourself with popular virtual collaboration platforms, including video conferencing, document sharing, and project management.
7. Critical Thinking
Critical thinking is tied to how you analyze a situation. Do you only look at what’s directly in front of you? This soft skill is all about digging deeper when confronted with a problem that needs solving. A critical thinker in the workplace is someone who will never confront a problem and give up. They are also someone who will offer multiple solutions and encourage collaboration towards finding them. Some guiding questions to encourage this soft skill include:
- What could happen if…?
- What are the different factors at play?
- Who does this affect? How?
A critical thinker will not only identify problems; they will also offer up solutions that address more than what is shown at the surface level. Practicing this soft skill will show your employer they can brainstorm with you and count on you to offer up solutions ot their problems.
Creativity and critical thinking are an ideal package of soft skills. The best solutions are those that are creative. Gone are the days where we associate creativity in the workplace to jobs in marketing or design. All industries require creativity, because this soft skill is essential to crafting effective, timely solutions.
What can you offer that’s different? Don’t overwhelm yourself by always trying to offer something new that’s never been done. What hasn’t your team tried? What’s worked for you on a different project? Creativity is all about what you can pull from to respond to the situation at hand.
Practicing this soft skill and excelling it will allow you to generate new ideas for your team and even the larger business. Leverage this soft skill to show your employer you can contribute to the company’s growth.
9. Receptive to Feedback
Being receptive to feedback doesn’t just come when you’ve made an error. Be open to feedback and ideas throughout the entire process of a project. If you refuse to incorporate comments or even invite your team to provide feedback, you are not contributing to team harmony, nor are you showing your employer that you can be an effective leader.
This soft skill is tied to a growth mindset. Someone who has a growth mindset will welcome change and feedback because they thrive under constant improvement and reiteration. Ask your team questions like:
- What are your thoughts on [pick a specific section]?
- What were your initial reactions?
- Is there something you would do differently? Why?
- Am I ignoring a crucial perspective or experience here?
10. Work Ethic
If you have soft skills 1-9, chances are you have great work ethic. Having a growth mindset most closely aligns with this soft skill, as both are all about improvement. Having a good work ethic in the workplace looks like:
- Staying focused on the task or project at hand
- Meeting deadlines
- Delivering quality materials
- Identifying and responding to your areas of growth
If you’re looking to grow within your profession, this will particularly be important, as you will need to prove to your employer that you are capable of more than what’s on your current job description.
Career growth is possible, even in 2020! Think outside the box and tap into these top 10 soft skills to set yourself up for succcess.