Each company looks for a different mix of skills and experience depending on the business it is in. Yet it is no longer enough to be a functional expert. To complement these unique core competencies, there are certain “soft skills” every company looks for in a potential hire.

Soft skills refer to a cluster of personal qualities, habits, attitudes and social graces that make someone a good employee and compatible to work with. Companies value soft skills because research suggests and experience shows that they can be just as important an indicator of job performance as what could be called hard skills – that is technical competencies and learnt skills. Soft skills are intrinsically linked to our emotional intelligence which is at the core of our interactions with others and the world around us

According to experts today’s service economy and the ascendance of work teams in large organisations puts a new premium on people skills and relationship-building and with business being done at an increasingly fast pace, employers also want people who are agile, adaptable and creative at solving problems. Soft skills are becoming more essential in developing a person’s career path. The 10 most essential areas to concentrate on are listed below.

1. Strong Work Ethic

It is very simple if you want to be successful you have to work at it. A work ethic, that is a preparedness to work hard and with determination to ‘see the job through’ must be at the core of your values. You are not a teenager anymore and life will not be handed to you on a plate. Failure to have a work ethic will only result in a life of frustration with little direction.

2. Positive Attitude

Your attitude is infectious – especially if you are in a position to influence others. Negative attitudes tend to carry even more than positive ones so if your attitude is not right it may even have a detrimental effect on those around you. Be positive and upbeat. For some people this is very natural, but for many it is something they have to work at. This requires discipline, often hard work and persistence.

3. Good Communication Skills

Statistics show that a high proportion of our core competences revolve around our ability to communicate with others, especially when it comes to leading, influencing and managing those around us. The same research shows that many feel inhibited when it comes to building bridges with others through the sharing of knowledge particularly through shared or personal experiences. It is also strongly suggested that with certain specific communication skills such as asking effective questions many are indeed clueless. In other words the above-mentioned statistics are a damning indictment for many and should motivate us become more verbally articulate and a better listener who can make a case and express our needs in a way that builds bridges with colleagues, customers and vendors.

4. Time Management

Time is precious and it is essential to manage it effectively. People often fail to meet deadlines, struggle with prioritising and juggling multiple tasks and even find such seemingly simple things as being on time difficult to manage. This is often the result of one of only two things – poor planning or overload. Taking control of your time – including your sleep patterns can help you to remedy these problems through hard work and discipline.

5. Problem-Solving

Strategic and lateral thinking are key natural requisites to enable problem solving and key essential skills in the world of work. If they are natural skills can they be developed? Is it possible to think outside of the box? The answer is a resounding YES through persistent challenge and drawing people out of their comfort zones. Positivity and a desire to improve is all that is needed. Problem solving is also about taking ownership and responsibility for problems that crop up from time to time.

6. Being A Team Player

Based on the premise that we are all limited we need others around us to help us succeed and that means team or what many business gurus call synergy – or in less jargon T.E.A.M. equals Together Each Achieves More or 2+2=5. Being a Team Player means being able to take your role in the team to maximise your abilities, to be able to lead or delegate as the situation demands and in addition to good communication skills to be able to develop the culture of the team built on mutual respect, recognition, a serving attitude and ethical values, which should be introduced from a sound moral foundation.

7. Self Confidence

Your self confidence is drawn from your competences / skills and not your feelings. We all have bad days but should still be able to perform with great confidence in all that we do based on the skills sets and experience we have. Self confidence is closely related to being positive and it will have a galvanising effect on those around you by inspiring them to follow your example and grow. Self confidence is not arrogance and must always be checked with a sense of humility

8. Teachability

The ability to learn from our mistakes or take criticism and put it to positive use to enable greater personal and professional growth are essential characteristics for those who wish to get on and succeed. Some find it hard to take criticism especially if poorly delivered or if considered to be wrong or misplaced. However, when criticism comes it should be seen as an opportunity to examine ourselves and improve.

9. Flexibility / Adaptability

This is a kind of openmindedness that shows that we are prepared to go the extra mile or accommodate others and their plans. It can mean changing our plans from time to time for the greater good or going into a different, often challenging environment. This may seem to run at odds with Time Management and achieving an effective work / life balance but it should actually be based on pull-push dynamics that mean a bit of give and take.

10. Stress Management

Too much stress can kill your professional life, but too little can leave individuals feeling unmotivated, unchallenged and bored. Stress could be compared to a guitar string – too much and it will snap, too little and it will hang loose and be unable to play that note that is required. Getting the stress level right and being able to manage it effectively is not only the job of managers and leaders, but of every individual, who best knows their own limitations. There are many ways to manage stress. Find that right one for you so that it enables rather than disables you in your working life.

© by Richard Horton 2014 (Omega Support Services)