Everyone emphasizes the importance of hard skills, things like engineering or computer programming. Even though these are extremely important, they are not the only thing you need to succeed. The term “soft skills” can be difficult to understand. They are sometimes referred to as interpersonal skills or people skills. Basically, soft skills are any abilities related to interacting and dealing with others in your professional life. Even if you’ve spent a decade honing your craft of video game software design, you should still put just as much effort into your people skills.
Every industry, company and organization needs people who mesh well with others. “Having the ability to receive feedback and produce stronger results swiftly or working with different thinking styles harmoniously takes time to develop,” Senior Assistant Director of Experiential Learning at the FSU Career Center Li Pon said. For students who are transitioning into the work force, building your own personal set of soft skills can make you stand out in today’s highly competitive job market.
Real world skills are learned from experiences, not textbooks.
Check out these 6 interpersonal skills that will make you stand out in your future career:
1. Deep Focus
Let’s be real, phones and technology have shortened people’s attention span. You’ll see people go back and forth between work, social media, texting and all the other distractions out there. There is a growing demand for people who can put everything else aside and focus on one single task for long period of time. “As you develop the ability to direct your full attention to the task at hand, it will allow you to get things done efficiently while incorporating the ‘why’ or impact of your task into the bigger project” Pon said. This essential skill will allow you to massively boost your productivity and also enjoy the benefits of the undistracted work you’re doing. While everyone else is busy scrolling the internet and looking at memes, you will gain momentum and improve your creative output. Books don’t get written and companies don’t get founded by checking social media every 10 minutes. Grow your deep focus skills and your work will be more creative, thorough and original.
Fight the misconception that millennial snowflakes can’t take criticism and persist through the difficult times. Become resilient and you will overcome challenges and adapt to changes in the workplace more easily. Employers want to know they are hiring somebody who will stick around even when the going gets tough. The job market doesn’t care how qualified you think you are. You might have to just suck it up and deal with a lower-than-expected starting salary. The economy changes, companies lay hard-working people off. S–t happens. You need to be able to quickly adapt as these changes occur. Luckily, you can build resiliency. Start by taking on challenging new projects or hobbies. Don’t be afraid to fail. Resilient employees are eager to learn, remain engaged and don’t let the past dictate the future. As the saying goes, “When the going gets tough, the tough get going.”
3. Receptiveness to Feedback
“Hey, you know that creative brief you worked on all last week and even came in on Saturday for? We need you to start over.” Accepting feedback on your work is one of the most painful, but important skills you can have. No matter which field you go into, constructive criticism is part of the job. Whether it be a boss, colleague or client, taking someone else’s feedback might make or break your week emotionally. Let’s face it, we all want our boss to think we’re awesome. We say we want feedback, but deep down we’d love to hear that our latest design or article is perfect in every way. We need to embrace criticism if we want to get better. People don’t criticize you for funsies, they do it to help you. So, let go of the ego and realize there’s always room for improvement.
4. Emotional Intelligence
Fact: the best leaders are the most emotionally intelligent. Your team will respect you if you understand and care about how they feel. The working world can be extremely high-pressure at times. Your boss might be dealing with a rough home life, your colleague might be going through a hard breakup, but you can offer to help them out with their work. Recognize that your fellow workers are human beings and you will be the glue that holds the office together. People will want to work with you if you demonstrate that you can be understanding. What is equally important is to manage your own emotions. If you’re going through a difficult time, stay professional and let work take your mind off things for a while. It is healthy to compartmentalize home life and work life to strike a balance between the two. Life can be stressful, so it’s best to learn how to manage your feelings early on. Even if your boss raised her voice at you during your last meeting, don’t let your anger show. Instead, focus on ways to improve your relationship so it doesn’t happen again. Be emotionally intelligent in this stressful world and it will pay you dividends in your career.
5. Conflict Resolution
Jim works very efficiently, but waits until the last minute to turn things in. Mary works more consistently and meets each project milestone. The two butt heads all the time and it starts to get in the way of their work flow. You’re involved with their project and your boss asks you to mediate. What do you do?
While some people choose to avoid conflict, others step up to the plate. Trying to understand both employees and their preferences will lead to the best conflict management strategy. You might want to place them on less projects together to avoid the differences in work styles. If you can be the one who solves problems, your boss will value your opinions more. “Having a reputation as someone who handles conflict calmly and professionally can help early-career employees stand out as a potential leader,” Head of the FSU Center for Professional Development Sarah Withers said. This will make the flow of work continue more smoothly, with fewer interruptions and delays over disagreements between employees.
6. Public Speaking
What good is your brilliant new business idea if you cannot communicate it to anybody? If you’re brave enough to voice your own opinions, you will seem more confident and command respect. There’s no doubt that putting yourself out there is scary. Not many people are willing to take on the spotlight, but there are plenty of ways to get started. Join a public speaking or debate club at your school. Make a conscious effort to improve each time you give a class presentation. Become a great public speaker and you will influence more people in your career. Every CEO had to voice their ideas in front of huge crowds to get where they are, so being able to speak your mind is worth the sweaty palms and anxiety in the long run.