Learn how to develop soft skills – they can help you get and keep a job

soft skills

Soft skills are particularly important for jobs in which people deal with the public.

Many people think that the hard skills they’ve developed are what will bring them success on the job. Recent studies, however, suggest that it’s the soft – or people – skills, that may be the key to success.

And it all starts with the interview. A survey of 400 HR/hiring professionals conducted for software provider iCMS in mid-2017 found that 75 percent of recruiting professionals have ended an interview early because the candidate didn’t demonstrate the soft skills they were seeking.

Although that may be true, once someone secures a job, soft skills are even more important.

But what exactly are these soft skills, and how do you learn them?

Soft skills are people skills

Soft skills are people skills that allow you to get along with and communicate with others effectively, manage situations and show leadership.

In fact, workplace expert Alison Doyle lists more than 150 of them in an article she wrote for thebalancecareers.com. Doyle divides soft skills into categories and includes all the supporting skills for each category. These categories are:

  • Communication – Communication skills are essential to getting along with a boss and co-workers. They include speaking, listening and writing, among others.
  • Critical thinking – Critical thinking is becoming increasingly important in a rapidly changing world and includes the ability to be creative, flexible, and innovative and to problem solve and troubleshoot.
  • Leadership – Although everyone is not in an official leadership role, leadership qualities are still needed to make decisions, manage conflicts and inspire and motivate the people you work with.
  • Positive attitude – People like to work with others who are friendly, happy and easy to get along with.
  • Teamwork – As more and more companies are dividing their employees into teams, such skills as collaboration, interpersonal skills and learning how to deal with difficult coworkers are skills that will help people do well in their jobs,
  • Work ethic – Companies value workers who are dependable, punctual, organized and can work well under pressure.
Soft skills can be rare among employees

A survey of 291 hiring managers conducted in the U.S. in 2016 by LinkedIn revealed that 59% of them considered soft skills difficult to find.

If soft skills are so hard to find, you can set yourself apart by developing some of the most important ones. Think about the job you are looking for and the industry it’s a part of. What soft skills are important to carry out that type of work?

For example, soft skills are particularly important in customer service jobs, whether it’s being a server at a restaurant, working in retail or providing tech support for a product.

While some of the skills are innate personality traits, many of them can be learned and practiced. But how do you that?

Ways to learn soft skills

There are many ways to learn soft skills. These range from community college courses to online tutorials. You can also improve your soft skills by reading books or joining organizations.

Community college courses. Check out the course offerings of your local community college. Many community colleges offer entire course curriculums on soft skills and job readiness.

Toastmasters International. To learn to be a better communicator, you may want to join your local chapter of Toastmasters International. This is an international organization that promotes communication and public speaking skills and has chapters in 141 countries.

Udemy. Online educational company Udemy offers a series of courses on developing soft skills. They’re not free, but the prices are affordable for most people.

Soft Skills Training: A Workbook to Develop Skills for Employment. Frederick A. Wentz wrote this book, which alternates articles and stories about people’s successes with exercises that make students think about the importance of soft skills.

YouTube. YouTube offers many videos on developing soft skills.

Your local public library.  Check with the librarian at your local library for suggested books to read and any online complimentary resources they offer.

 

Son of What Color is Your Parachute author Richard Bolles expands his father’s work with eParachute

eParachuteAlthough Richard Bolles, author of What Color is Your Parachute, passed away more than a year ago, his book continues to be published and his work continues to be honored by his son Gary.

Bolles operates the website eparachute.com, which, like the book which inspired it, can help you learn more about yourself and what you’d like to do with your work life. You will be able to discover your strengths, explore hundreds of career paths and see how well certain careers match what you most love to do.

The site, which costs $4.95 per year to access, will take you through a series of exercises that only take a few minutes to complete. You will choose:

  • The type of people you’d like to be around if you were at a party
  • Fields you love – from building and construction and sales and marketing to geography and public safety and security and many, many others in between
  • Skills you like to use

After completing the exercises, eparachute will give you a list of featured ideas for possible types of work. You can explore each of your chosen fields, skills and people types for more work ideas.

For those leaving prison

Bolles has some advice on how to make the most of your days in prison, as far as a future job or career is concerned:

The time in prison can be well spent by doing homework on yourself – understanding your favorite skills, knowledge, and other unique things about yourself,” says Bolles. “It’s also a great time to study new topics that can be useful to you in the work you want to do when you’re back in society.”

“Of course, society isn’t always as welcoming as we’d like to those who were formerly incarcerated, so you’ll need to be really creative in your search. Doing small projects and part-time work through various online markets, like TaskRabbit and UpWork, can provide a way to do work without having to immediately find a full-time job.”

He also recommends being entrepreneurial and possibly starting your own business. That way you can build a work track record.

“But if you’ve done your homework on yourself, and you can describe your best-loved skills, including ways you’ve used them before, you’ll be in a far better position to tell a prospective employer why you can be the one to help solve their particular problems,” Bolles adds.

Those in reentry have a very special skill

It may not be easy to find a job if you have a record, but Bolles is convinced that many of those leaving jail or prison have a very useful skill.

“Especially for those who were formerly incarcerated, it’s important to know that the world of work is changing rapidly. The people who will be successful are those who are very proactive, constantly adapting to do new kinds of work. If you’ve been in prison, you know how to hustle. Put that hustle to good use in the work you do, working hard to solve problems for the people you work for and with, and you’ll do well,” Bolles says.

But before you get to that point, you still need to figure out what kind of work you’d like to do and find employment. Eparachute is one way to jump start your job search. It’s an introduction to the process of discovering what you like to do. Those who want to go one step further can take a more extensive course on Udemy.

Note: While Bolles mentioned TaskRabbit as a way to ease into the job market, TaskRabbit does require a background check. We’re not sure what types of crimes would prohibit people from working TaskRabbit gigs, however.

You may also want to check the Gigs section of Craigslist or other part-time work opportunities. Another way to work your way into employment is to register with a temp agency, many of which are ex-offender friendly.