When it comes to succeeding in the life and work, a college degree isn’t necessarily enough. Nor is years of work experience.
That’s because the most in-demand skills that employers crave are the elusive "soft skills" —the intangible but important qualities that enable you to work and interact with the people around you effectively.
These traits include leadership, self-awareness, communication skills, and emotional intelligence.
Having great soft skills can be a huge game-changer as you go through your life and career. These skills teach you not just to be a better employee but a stellar human being as well.
So, check out the five soft skills below that are essential for success—all of which you can teach yourself to practice in your daily interactions:
1. Listening: Make it Your Secret Communication Weapon
People often associate good communicators with excellent public speaking. But the best communicators do something that most others fail at. They listen.
The easiest way to build trust with someone is by showing interest in him or her. You can accomplish this by listening more than you talk. Good listeners don’t think about what they’re going to say next when the other person is speaking. Good listeners ask follow-up questions. Good listeners make it all about the person they’re with—not about them.
2. Take Accountability: Do What You Say You’re Going to Do
When something goes wrong and you’re responsible for it, don’t make excuses, ignore it, or blame someone else. Instead, take full accountability and responsibility for the role that you played in it. Even better, learn from it.
Further, when working on a project, it’s easy to hit send on a message or email and assume your job is done. It’s even easier to agree to something in a meeting and then not follow through on it. However, being accountable also means making no assumptions, it means holding others accountable and following-up to confirm tasks have been completed, and it means keeping the agreements that you make.
3. Creative Thinking: Be Resourceful With What You’ve Got
Being creative often means finding ways to solve problems with limited resources. Chefs are a great example of how to do this. If a chef wants to make a dish that requires 10 ingredients, but he only has seven of them on hand, what will he do? Is he going to leave his customers hungry?
No, a great chef will go into problem-solving mode. He’ll find a way to get creative with the seven ingredients that he has to make a delicious dish. The greatest innovations tend to arrive under constraints. The companies with the largest budgets or head counts don’t always finish first. Use your disadvantages to your advantage. Focus on the ingredients that you have, not the ones you don’t, and then embrace the freedom that this creates.
4. Emotional Awareness: Know What You’re Feeling
When we’re having a good or bad day, it’s easy to act on pure emotion. But this can be a deeply problematic way of making decisions (for reasons you can probably figure out).
The truth is, sometimes when you’re afraid, you’re actually very excited. Sometimes when you’re sad, you’re really angry. Sometimes when you’re angry, you’re actually quite sad. When you’re feeling any type of emotion that may cause you to behave in a questionable manner, one that you may possibly regret a few hours later, press pause and ask yourself: “What am I really feeling?”
Talk to a friend. Get a second opinion. Take the time to pause, and ask yourself what’s most important.
5. Empathy: Go Outside to Connect Inside
It’s easy to be part of the crowd and do what everyone else does, particularly on campus or within a large organization. However, it’s valuable to find time on the "outside" to explore new experiences that allow you to grow and build empathy for others.
Great outlets for this include volunteering, travel, working on side projects, attending conferences or cultural events, and more. When we do this, we learn how to connect with others outside of our day to day life and build an understanding of those who may have different viewpoints, backgrounds and who see things from a different perspective. This also teaches us how much we may have in common with others.
This creates a greater empathy and understanding of those around us, which ultimately allows us to feel more comfortable in our own skin.
And this is really what soft skills are about. Bringing these traits to your life can help make the work you do more efficient, effective, and—dare I say it—even enjoyable.
Antonio Neves is a nationally recognized leadership speaker, award-winning journalist and author of 50 Things Every College Student Should Know and 50 Ways To Excel In Your First Job (And In Life)
Antonio will be the keynote speaker at the 2017 Multicultural Professional Development Conference on January 31st from 4:30pm-8:15pm. To register for this conference, click here.