The term soft skills belittles the importance thereof. Soft skills aren’t quantifiable and they are only really learned through experience and even then there is an art to learning how to apply them. You can have as many programming certificates as your heart desires; even if your code is perfection, that doesn’t mean you’re a delight to work with. As much as you may want to hibernate and code in peace, that is rarely an option. Even if you work remotely, we live in a world where you can avoid leaving your house for months on end (if not indefinitely) but can you pick up the phone or write an email without breaking a sweat? Before you have a panic attack, here are a few soft skills you can try learn which will go a long way to winning the respect and admiration you want from your colleagues.
Soft Skill #1: Communication
Communication happens on several levels; written, spoken, listening and through body language. Can you speak to your colleagues and your team clearly and concisely without miscommunication? If your teammates aren’t 100% on the same page as you, your deliverables will suffer and so will the morale. Good communication results in a clearer understanding of expectations and boundaries as well as higher productivity which are integral components to building a happy and successful working environment.
Soft Skill #2: Teamwork
Yup, you guessed it, there’s no I in teamwork. Regardless of your designation you will always be in contact with someone else and if you struggle to foster harmony and work respectfully with others, you will suffer for it and so will the team. Your positive attitude rubs off and helps build rapport which is an important component of success. Of course this is one of those things which is easier said than done but working towards a common goal is the single most important reason we work in teams; no single person can perform every function successfully, especially not within a reasonable time frame.
Soft Skill #3: Problem-solving
You can only learn so much in the classroom. In the office you will come across every problem for the one or two solutions you may have learned in a textbook. Whether your mind stretches and bends that way or not; you need to combine your critical thinking, creativity and analytical abilities at times. At first you may not be quite at home in the role of resident problem solver but if you keep trying you will get better, you will learn some cool new tricks and your superiors may even take notice of your perseverance.
Soft Skill #4: Conflict Resolution
Now you may not be faced with a new soapie equivalent drama every day but you still need to know how to deal with conflict when it arises because inevitably it does at some point. Rather than reverting to the ol’ stop, drop and roll, try this: remain calm, address concerns directly, listen without judgement and find a way forward through some sort of mutual compromise. If that’s not working you could require a little assistance from HR, but tread lightly if that is the route you take. Most people prefer issues to be settled with a few people involved as possible.
Soft Skill #5: Leadership
Not all roles require leadership per se but you do need to be able to make decisions, handle situations and manage people when the time calls for it. Making the wrong decision definitely isn’t the best idea but that’s a topic for another day. In this particular scenario you are rallying the troupes, solving problems and winning wars. You will need to combine all of the above mentioned soft skills. If your team doesn’t have faith in you, your skills and your experience, management may see this as a red flag and ultimately lose faith in you too. Not ideal.
In the end, soft skills are what gives you the edge over other similar candidates. As funny as Sheldon Cooper is, he cannot be easy to work with. Ultimately a few seemingly unimportant traits become a massive hindrance to your team’s performance. So for more than the sake of making friends and influencing people, work on your soft skills – just be cool, be better and your team will thrive.