So you're on the job market and you're sure that you are a fantastic candidate for the job that you want. Why? That's easy. You have all the skills the job requires. You have the training, the knowledge, and the abilities that the job requires.
News flash. So does your competition.
You may not want to hear it, but unless you have some fantastic experience under your belt, you may be one of many applicants that have very similar resumes. So how do employers find the right one for the job?
Think of your favorite professional sport. Most athletes have similar physical capabilities. If they didn't they wouldn't get drafted into the professional ranks. But, once they make it to the highest level, only a few succeed. What's the difference? On sports TV and radio talk shows, they'll refer to an athlete that has “it.” They can't describe it but, the ones who succeed seem to have something that can't be quantified.
It's not as mysterious as they want to make it and it's just as true in the non-sports world. In the real world, the “it factor” is also known as “soft skills.” Develop your soft skills in the workplace and you have a big edge on your competition. [TWEET]
What are soft skills?
Think of soft skills as your personal skills. Things you do that make you a great employee outside of the technical skills that are needed for the job. They may come naturally to you or perhaps you've added some classes to your list to augment these abilities. If you haven't, consider working to develop your soft skills in the workplace. Soft skills, which may seem basic to some, are difficult for employers to find, so they're impressed by applicants who can demonstrate a strong set.
There are too many soft skills to list them all, but here are some examples of soft skills that employers most appreciate.
1. Strong work ethic.
This one you probably didn't learn in school. It's either a part of your DNA or your parents taught it to you. These examples of soft skills are seemingly simple things like being punctual, getting things done on time, and understanding that a job might be more than punching in and punching out. Employers struggle to find employees who make work a high priority. It doesn't mean that you have to give up your home life for the sake of work.
How do you show it? Take your career seriously and do what it takes to get the job done. Sometimes that can mean doing jobs that seem beneath your experience. If you can display examples of a great work ethic in your resume, cover letter, or your interview, you have a great start.
2. Communication skills.
This is a broad category. It can mean anything from how you converse with a client to how well you get your point across in inter-office emails. The ability to communicate with clients and team members is essential. It's not just when you are trying to get a point across, either. A good employee is also a good listener. The ability to listen to others and display empathy when necessary is unfortunately hard to find.
How about presenting? Having the soft skills to present to a small or large group can put you ahead of the crowd in a big way.
If you have a chance to take a class on communication skills like those presented by Dale Carnegie Training, it's well worth your time and money. It's one of the most crucial soft skills in any job in any industry. If you already think that it is one of your best attributes, find a way to demonstrate that on your resume and in your interview.
3. Creative problem solving.
The last thing an employer wants is an employee who sees a tough situation and says, “Wow. I don't know what to do here.” They want to know that you can think logically and come up with ways to work around problems. The more creative, the better. That kind of thinking leads to innovation and improvements within the company.
On your resume, be sure to list out the situations where you faced adversity and created solutions to the problems. At your interview, express your enthusiasm for tackling challenges. Every job has hurdles and employers want to hire people who aren't afraid of tackling those challenges.
4. Time management.
Do you know how to look at everything that is on your work plate and prioritize your tasks? Time management is more than just working hard and not goofing off. It means making the most of each day and getting the most important things done first. If necessary, the ability to delegate assignments to others when needed is a part of it. It's not impressive to an employer that you work 10 hours each day if you only have 8 hours of work. Learning how to manage your time to create maximum efficiency is a money saver for the company and makes you a hero in their eyes.
To provide examples of skills related to time management, highlight one or two examples in your resume of difficult and time-consuming tasks and demonstrate how you found a way to get it done efficiently.
Teamwork isn't about your part on the intramural soccer team. It means you have the ability to work with others in a professional environment. It can be harder than it seems. For those who believe that they know how to do the job and don't have faith in others to do their part, they can create tension in the office and hurt the overall efficiency. Learning to trust others, work together, give and accept ideas is a difficult skill to master, but if you can, you'll be well ahead of the game.
Show off your examples of soft skills in teamwork by displaying your ability to work with team members in your resume and highlighting it during your interview. Show enthusiasm for accepting coworkers' ideas and maximizing your team's efficiency by using each person's strengths.
This could be the most important of the soft skills. Good work ethic, problem solving, time management, communication skills, and teamwork ability are all skills that can make you a great employee. Leadership skills make you a candidate to be more than that. No matter the job, most employers are looking for someone who is capable of growing beyond that job. In fact, leadership skills can really be looked at as a combination of all the other soft skills. When you put them together, you have a person who can not only work well with the team, but take the reins and make the rest of the team better.
If you've been in charge of big projects in the past, bring that out in your resume and in interviews. Show that you're not someone who is just looking to punch in and punch out, but an applicant who is ready to conquer this job and grow into a future leader within the company. That makes you a very attractive investment for the hiring company.
Think of your soft skills as the accessories to your training in your field. They, alone, cannot qualify you for a job, but when paired with solid credentials, they can make you a much more attractive candidate for any job. From cashier, to construction worker, to CEO, soft skills are needed in today's workforce. Learn to cultivate yours and display them for employers to see and you'll keep yourself ahead of the pack.
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