Employers Care About Soft Skills (You Should Too)

When is the last time you inventoried your soft skills? Soft skills in the workplace represent your ability to interact effectively and harmoniously with other people. They represent your "EQ" or Emotional Intelligence Quotient and those traits that allow you to perform effectively in social settings and relationships.

In my day job, I help employers attract their ideal candidates by boosting their web presence through SEO (search engine optimization) and by gaining an in-depth understanding of who their ideal candidates are. Increasingly, these key decision makers and hiring managers are less worried about finding candidates that have the cold and hard functional and educational backgrounds that will suit their business needs; and, they care more about whether they can hold a business savvy conversation with a client while remaining cool and professional.

"We can train them on technical elements. We want to mold them to our way of doing business anyway," a recent hiring manager told me. They were having trouble finding viable candidates that could effectively work "autonomously," with "discipline," and who could prove they were "charismatic."

They want employees that will own their jobs, not have a punch-out mentality -- out of sight, out of mind.

"We support and encourage work life balance. And this can be achieved with employees that are dedicated to their work load and who will do what it takes to efficiently get the job done. We need to work with employees who will not become undone when projects don't go the way they envisioned. That can be creative and calm under pressure."

These soft skills that employers talk to me about every single day -- that I strive to locate to add to their candidate pools -- are not skills that are necessarily taught in college. Many of these skills are inbred. Some are learned and honed. And they can make or break your career.

The United States Department of Labor developed a curriculum to help youth develop soft skills. I think they should swipe the word 'youth' from the curriculum coursework and simply offer this toolkit to all U.S. job seekers. How do you fair against the Government's vision of what makes a great worker in terms of soft skills?

1 - Communication: This is teaching job seekers that communication in the workplace is give and take. It's not just take and all me-me-me. Seems simple, right? Think about the guy in your department meeting that hogs the conversation and talks over you. Sigh.

2 - Enthusiasm and Attitude: Turn that frown around. Let's face it. Some people go through life seeing the glass as half full. Some see it as half empty. In the workplace, half-empty-glass people are quickly known as the Negative Nellies of the office. Are people darting out the back door as you are walking through the front door? Do you often find yourself conducting a one-man Bitch Fest to glassy-eyed co-workers who are nodding at you but appear to be brain dead? Well perhaps it's you -not them- and time for an attitude adjustment.

3 - Teamwork: When my kids were in pre-school, the teacher taught them that it was okay to share toys with other children and that getting along was a great thing for everyone. Unfortunately, some adults missed pre-school and can learn more about teamwork. It's pretty simple when you think about it. We are stronger as a collective whole than we are individually. And we cannot run the company alone. We need to find ways to get along with everyone and motivate others to contribute to the best of their ability. And that means you too.

4 - Networking: This is about learning to overcome fears of getting out there and marketing yourself and building a network of business professionals that you can help and that can help you. Don't worry, you don't have to date these people or even be their friend. (Well- unless you want to I guess - without damaging your career.) It's about having the ability to have a friendly and professional conversation with someone to the point where they actually want to take your business card and stay in contact with you versus preferring to stab their own eye with their company issued, 5-years-of-service, Pininfarina Cambiano pen. If networking seems scary to you, start out small by attending industry seminars and trade shows and putting yourself out there. "Can you pass the raspberry vinaigrette dressing?" you flippantly ask the CEO seated at your trade show lunch table. That wasn't difficult, was it?

(from appraisalnewsonline.typepad.com)

5 - Problem Solving & Critical Thinking: The U.S. Department of Labor teaches in this section, "how to properly tell the difference among criticism, praise, and feedback and reacting appropriately. The section will also review strategies for making ethical decisions, solving problems on a team with others, and learning how to take into account others' perceptions when assessing actions or statements in the workplace."

(from reactiongifs.com)

Yeah, flipping tables doesn't seem like it would be too effective. But then again, what do I know? I never tried it! {Adds to bucket list.}

6 - Professionalism: Professionalism is the blending and integration of all of the above skills. It is the overall workplace mojo that you exude. It's your businessperson vibe. How would others rate your professionalism? Have you ever thought about how people perceive you? Do you care?

(Hint about the last question: You should.)

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