For many job seekers, piling up papers is the single most important step towards securing their dream employment. This can be seen with the rise of diploma and degree graduates, and even the working adults may be studying part-time in order to garner more skills.
After all, academic qualifications have historically given people a competitive edge.
However, we are in 2018 and the workplace has changed. Yes, the certificates are still important to the employers but he or she will also be looking for another set of competencies that are not written on paper – soft skills.
The importance of soft skills is so great that 73% of employers won’t hire someone without them.
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So, what are soft skills? How are they different from hard skills?
Technically, a soft skill is an ability that’s difficult to assess. They are interpersonal skills, the ability to work with different people and these are harder to evaluate. They are not very straightforward and differs significantly from hard or technical skills since the latter can be easily estimated by administering a test. It is also not easy to teach soft skills in school.
For instance, it’s practically impossible to tell how innovative one is (a soft skill) while a simple math exam will demonstrate an individual’s prowess in calculations (a hard skill). You can count the number of correctly answered mathematical sums but it is almost impossible to measure innovation.
There are many examples of soft skills including leadership, communication, negotiation skills and more which will be elaborated at the later half of this article.
I am skilled in my major, why do I need to have soft skills?
Clearly, looking at the demand for these type of know-hows, soft skills puts a worker (and the organization) at a whole new level.
Having these soft skills can help a person boost their value and profile and hence, it can be good to include some soft skills into your resume. Some of the benefits include;
Having soft skills sets one apart from the competition and helps to win recognition from industry experts and peers. With tough competition, it is important to have skills that make you more valuable than others to the company. Besides, having soft skills will make working with others easier and allow one to stand out. With the fierce competition in Singapore, almost everyone has good qualifications. What makes you different?
New employment opportunities
Because of excellence, an employee with strong soft skills will always be considered by employers anytime new opportunities arise within or outside of the organization. Hard skills such as mathematics, legal, quantifiable skills can be measured and trained, but soft skills are abilities that not everyone can attain. It varies from person to person and is usually related to the person’s character or personality.
Soft skills may earn one a promotion because the company is confident that they will serve well even in a new position. With certain soft skills, one is usually able to handle the challenges and problems in the new position. They might even be able to lead the team or company to higher levels and increase profits.
These skills help when navigating challenging jobs by boosting one’s productivity and ensuring that they achieve set targets. It will help to increase efficiency as you will be able to complete your tasks and work well with your colleagues and team. More and more companies want to hire team players or people who can adapt and work well with others.
An individual can also reach the top echelons of their career courtesy of soft skills. That’s because they quickly earn the trust of colleagues, can convince or motivate people of their ideas, make working together a smoother process and thus climb the professional ladder within no time.
The In-demand Soft Skills
There are numerous soft skills in the world, so many that it can be rather overwhelming. Hence, we have narrowed down the top nine soft skills that we believe will help you advance in your career. Be it securing a job or a career progression, the following skills are set to bring you closer to your goals.
This is one of the most sought-after skills in the workplace. Leadership is the ability to influence, motivate and provide direction for a team to move towards the final goal. The good news is that leaders can be nurtured. They can be trained through experience, practice and with an open mind. So to succeed in the workplace, one needs to have the expertise to inspire, motivate and have the team focus purely on set vision.
The contemporary employee should be confident in taking charge of projects, solving conflicts, all while ensuring a harmonious co-existence amongst teams.
How to get it: Be initiative. Whenever there’s a chance, take a lead role. Grab every opportunity you can get to display your skills and gain experience. For example, volunteer to take charge of projects or events at the workplace.
2. Communication (Interpersonal Skills)
Communication refers to the professional ability to interact and share effectively with others. One must know when to speak, what to say, how to address colleagues, the best environment to speak out in and how to make use of body languages to clarify messages.
Today’s employee should also be conversant with all the 21st century communication methods including vocal, written (e.g. digital media or printed), visual (e.g. use of graphs and pictures) or non-verbal communication (e.g. use of gestures).
How to get it: Observing and putting themselves in the shoes of others. One can also join public speaking or communication workshops.
3. Time Management
One of the basic soft skill that employees are always looking out for. Deadlines must be met whatever the task. Thus, time management – the art of keeping time – is a top priority at workplaces. Employees must deliver assignments before a deadline on top of arriving on time for meetings or for work.
One of the tips to better manage time is to set a timetable and have the discipline to stick to it. This helps to avoid falling behind schedule.
How to get it: This is mostly self-trained and attained by practicing self-discipline in ensuring that one is on time for even personal tasks. There are also plenty of self-help books on time management at bookstores.
4. Collaboration (Working in a Team)
The phrase “There is no I in Team” has never been more accurate in today’s workplace.
Almost all projects require teamwork with each player having a specific role to play. In a team, all members are therefore expected to have the perseverance to work together with peers. In real sense, collaboration is multifaceted. There’s a need for clear communication, empathy, problem solving, accountability and more. Furthermore, successful collaborations are dependent on having a cooperative spirit plus mutual respect.
How to get it: Participating in group tasks can help imbibe the culture of working in teams. Take part in as many group projects as possible to gain experience and knowledge.
5. Negotiation Skills
Not only should lawyers be able to do this well, but a good employee should too. Having good negotiation skills means that one has the capability to persuade and argue out a case and this is an integral component of a skilled staff. Whether it is dealing with clients, juniors, suppliers, seniors, or even competitors, being able to negotiate well is a key skill in order to achieve a win-win outcome for all parties.
For team leaders, success is hard to attain if one is unable to negotiate the best deals. Many deals or projects might not be able to go through without good negotiators. They must be able to convince others to adopt their positions when hiring resources for the project, deciding on a hike, attracting investors for their company or when signing up for a new sales agreement.
How to get it: There are many great books on negotiation skills that one can invest in. An example would be “Getting to Yes” by Roger Fisher, Bruce Patton and William L. Ury. Aside from reading self-help books, practice speaking confidently and negotiating whenever you can.
6. Emotional Intelligence
Some people say that can E.Q. is all about discerning and controlling emotions so as to be able to nurture and build important relationships. It is a form of social intelligence where one is able to observe their own and other’s feelings, emotions and use them to guide one’s thinking and eventually, action.
Emotion regulation enables an employee to recognize and take care of their psychological well-being with an aim of modeling sustainable working friendships. Such a worker is transparent in his or her dealings and is very approachable. They have empathy, self-awareness, can read people’s minds and are adept at communication.
How to get it: Training to pause when emotions are running wild then taking deep breaths to help relieve the emotions. Meditating and experimenting with new actions will also help.\
7. Problem Solving Skills
When things go wrong, an employee can either complain or act.
When given a choice, recruiters prefer the latter so those who take the steps to correct the situations get noticed easily. Thus, knowing the way to think soberly under pressure makes one a big asset to any employer. A sure way to gain success in a career is to learn how to take the initiative and to confront issues calmly.
How to get it: When new issues crop up, employees should try and think through them with the aim of coming up with ideas to address them. Should there be any confrontations or arguments, always remain rational and calm.
8. Flexibility and Having the Ability to Change
Again, the 21st century firm is always changing. For example, when matters go out of hand and all proposals have failed, managers have to look for alternatives quickly. That means staff must be ready to experiment are always ahead of the competition.
Flexibility, when problems arise, is so valued that experts contend that it should be among the topmost priorities in the mind of present-time employees.
How to get it: Workers and job seekers should tune their minds to be positive when they encounter new situations. Investigating the trends in the industry can also prepare one for future changes.
9. Professionalism and Attitude
Personal etiquette, greetings, one’s attitude, courtesy, dressing, and work ethics all matter. Employers need well-groomed and professionally dressed workers.
Organizations also follow certain cultures and it’s easier for a firm when someone is able to observe established workplace norms. Not to mention that people are expected to be courteous and respectful at work. Certainly, prospects who demonstrate outstanding professionalism and ethics will always win favor with hiring companies.
How to Get It: Practice makes perfect. People should strive to dress and act the part whether on the job or during the selection process.
A Quick Wrap-up
The job market place continues to grow more competitive and job-seekers are expected to have not only hard skills but also soft skills. Just having that piece of paper might not get you where you want to be.
Hence, intangible competencies such as negotiation, adaptability, problem solving, and even professionalism are in high demand out there.
Others such as being emotionally intelligent are known to increase one’s chances of rising to leadership while characteristics such as time management and collaboration are useful even outside the workplace.
All these skills cannot be completely learned from books and can only be attained through experience and practice. Organizations know the employees with these abilities will help build better relationships, on top of creating great opportunities for growth making the skills a must-have for workers.
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