Career Progression: 10 Ways To Improve Soft Skills
In the previous article, we listed eight soft skills employers look for in today’s workplace. On contrary to hard skills, soft skills are usually more difficult to obtain, and acquiring them takes significant effort, as they are closely related to an individual’s character and personality.
Considering the 70-20-10 learning approach – the idea that 10% of our learning is formal, 20% is shaped by relationships with other people, and the remaining 70% by day-to-day experience, soft skills are developed out of situations that pose a challenge. This means that those skills can be fostered with experiences, feedback from others, training activities and programs, and coaching or mentoring.
Here are 10 strategies that can help improve your soft skills on the path to your career (and) personal success.
1. Prioritise which skills to develop
Every individual has a unique mixture of strengths and weaknesses. You are naturally stronger in some soft skill areas than in others, so the very first step in developing or/and improving soft skills is to prioritise them. Take some time to analyse what you consider to be areas of strength and areas for further improvement. Then, compare this list with soft skills that are most needful for your particular career path.
2. Set specific goals
Goals help measure performance, but they also serve as a career and personal development roadmap. Use them similarly for soft skills; you may spot opportunities for growth, including appropriate challenges that reinforce these skills. Also, to work on your skills effectively, often you must step outside your comfort zone and get into a setting you might not naturally gravitate to. The truth is, we do learn more outside of our comfort zone. You might feel you are not ready for the task, but that’s what your team, mentors, friends and family provide: guidance when necessary. Whether you fail or succeed, you will learn.
3. Ask for regular feedback
If your organisation holds regular review cycles, this is a great opportunity to get an outside perspective. Use this constructive feedback from your reviews to develop an improvement plan and its timeline.
If your organisation does not hold regular reviews or if you want to know how well you’re doing before the next review, consider asking your supervisor or colleagues for feedback. You might ask them about specific soft skills you’re trying to improve, such as collaboration, active listening or public speaking, or for a general overview of your work. By asking others for feedback, you may reveal blind spots in your self-perception. If so, you’ll have gained valuable insight into areas you otherwise wouldn’t know to improve.
4. Enhance your communication skills
Think of communication like a muscle. The more you use it, the stronger you get. Use all the communication tools and methods available in your workplace to build relationships with colleagues, supervisors, customers and clients. This includes in-person communication, presentations, videoconferencing, phone calls, email, instant messaging and more. Practising each method can help you better understand the differences between how to use them appropriately and effectively and become a more robust communicator over time.
5. Seek teamwork opportunities
Being able to work with others to achieve a goal can demonstrate your communication, empathy, dependability and collaboration skills in the workplace. If teamwork is not often a major part of your role, find projects where you can help others. If you frequently work in a team to complete tasks, consider taking on new roles within your team to further challenge your teamwork skills. When working as part of a team, allow each member of the group to contribute their ideas and focus on utilising the different skills and personalities of the group.
6. Try new things in the workplace
Seek opportunities to do something you have never done or rarely do in the workplace. These new experiences can challenge you to use your soft skills in different ways and even develop skills that you might not use very often, which can make you a more well-rounded professional. Being able to adapt and succeed in these new experiences can also show supervisors they may be ready for leadership roles or positions with more complex duties and responsibilities.
7. Pursue education and training
Engage in learning and training opportunities. With soft skills becoming increasingly important, there are plenty of resources available to help boost your skill-set. Take advantage of workshops and training organised by your employer to help you upskill at work.
Consider online courses that may develop your skills at home by following expert advice. Another way is practising with a friend or colleague can help increase your confidence with soft skills. You can also develop your soft skills in job-related training and coursework. Consider pursuing a degree or certification related to your position or industry to gain advanced qualifications and soft skills like time management, communication and organisation.
8. Actively listen
Listening well is an integral part of many of the soft skills discussed earlier. Active listening can take many forms, but at the core, the goal is to listen well enough to be able to restate the other person’s views, ideas and opinions in a respectful manner even if you disagree with them entirely. It means you show you truly understand their perspective and can represent it well, even if you disagree.
9. Work on critical thinking skills
Critical thinking in and of itself is a soft skill, but it is a core ability at the centre of most of them. Thinking reflectively for the purpose of self-improvement is critical thinking. So is wading through whatever feedback (direct or not) you get from peers and others about your communication. Work to improve your ability to be discerning and to think carefully before reacting. These abilities can significantly improve your communication and decision-making over time.
10. Take on a leadership role
Experience is a great teacher. Stepping into a leadership position is a great way to grow your soft skills overall and especially in leadership. One option is to find a way to take on a leadership role, no matter how small or seemingly insignificant that role may seem to be. You may be able to lead a project or even serve as a mentor to a new employee, or one who is training in your role. Whatever the role, you will be faced with countless opportunities to exercise leadership-related soft skills like communication, conflict resolution, task delegation, organisation and time management in smaller ways. That way you and your supervisor can determine your readiness for advancement, your leadership style and where you can keep improving to be the best leader you can be.
Taking your career to the next level
Soft skills development is a worthy goal if you want to improve your overall effectiveness in life and business. Many of your soft skills can lead to better raptors with customers and clients, determining their needs, addressing their concerns and solving problems for them. Soft skills enhancement can enable you to meet new people, communicate clearly and practice empathy in the workplace, allowing you to build strong professional relationships with colleagues and supervisors.
In terms of your career progression, by using your soft skills effectively and more accurately in the workplace, you are better able to show qualities of leadership, which can lead to new roles with more complex responsibilities and increased pay.
If you’re looking for ways to improve your soft skills and are ready for your next career move, contact the ABN Resource team today. We are ready to support you and your career development needs.