Employers clearly want candidates with the appropriate technical skills to do the job but what differentiates a great candidate from a pool of good candidates is typically the soft skills. What soft skills are critical for success?
Communication is critical to success is almost all jobs these days. The ability to communicate effectively via email has become a key component of success in business. Can you present your ideas succinctly and clearly? Can you prepare a PowerPoint to present the problem and your recommended solutions? Can you present to a team or managers or executives and clearly and succinctly present your case? Are you able to effectively listen and capture the key points? Success on the job is often highly dependent on the employee’s communications skills.
Most jobs don’t exist in a vacuum. In order to get your job done you have to work with other people. Can you effectively lead a team? Can you be a valuable team member? Can you motivate others to provide the input you require to do your job even when you have no authority over them? To be successful on the job, you need to work well with your peers, your managers, and everyone you come in contact with at the workplace. You don’t have to be best friends but you need to build mutually effective relationships across the organization to be successful. You need to build your reputation as someone they want to work with because you get things done, bring good ideas to the table and respect your colleagues.
It is critical that you build the necessary skills to meet or beat your deadlines with quality work. You want to establish a reputation as someone who does what they say they will do. When possible you want to strive to exceed expectations – do more than the minimum, anticipate the follow-up questions and next steps. Demonstrating a strong work ethic is critical to success.
Conflicting priorities often arise. The day isn’t always long enough to get everything done. Can you effectively keep your projects on track, keep your manager informed and ensure that you are meeting the high priority deadlines? Time management skills are critical to building your professional reputation.
You want to earn the trust of your manager and colleagues. Be someone who does what they say they will do. Be willing to learn. Be confident without being cocky.
Ability to Take Feedback and Act Upon It
In order to learn and grow professionally, you must be able to take feedback and act upon it. Seek out feedback if it is not readily given. Don’t wait for the annual review process, seek feedback regularly to ensure that you are constantly improving. Seek opportunities for professional development or new projects.
Attention to Detail
Accuracy matters. Being quick accomplishes nothing if your work can’t be trusted. Always double check your work. Step back and think about whether the data really makes sense and anticipate the questions other would ask so you are prepared in advance to address them. To become a trusted resource in the workplace you must build a reputation for doing quality work. And if you do make a mistake, own it! Admit the mistake and build a process to ensure you never make that mistake again. We are all human and make errors but you differentiate yourself when you own it and take action.
Paying attention to the soft skills will make you more successful in your current job and makes you more marketable for whatever opportunities lie ahead.