How ‘soft skills’ can boost your career

Most of us manage to arrange holidays and a social life around work, but the planning seems to go out the window when it comes to reviewing our career paths.

Perhaps you have aspirations of progressing to the next level, but no real idea of how to do it or where to start. Perhaps you’re simply lacking the motivation to do anything about it. Whatever the situation, if career progression is something you really want to achieve, and you know where you’d like to go, the next step is knowing what employers want from you.

A CIPD Guide to Career Management points out that few careers adhere closely to the idea of upward progression through a hierarchical sequence of roles. Some involve sideways moves within an organisation, or frequent moves in or out of employment in a number of different companies. Or even phases of self-employment, temporary work and permanent employment.

So, it is important to think about transferable skills.

Qualifications are vital to building a successful career in most professions, but it is also important to remember the significance of basic skills and talents that do not necessarily require formal training.

Employers are increasingly interested in essential skills such as communication and interpersonal skills, time management and even assertiveness.

People can develop their careers by accumulating and transferring job skills from one context to another, by broadening the range of expertise they apply in each successive job, or by constantly seeking out novel and challenging situations.

Therefore, anyone who is worried about giving the impression of being a ‘job hopper’ can actually use the experience to highlight the skills they have developed from a variety of sources.

These skills may seem so basic they are often overlooked, but employers are looking for more than a qualification, and highlighting your soft skills may make the difference between two equally qualified candidates.

Demonstrating good time management skills means controlling and using your time as efficiently as possible. There are a number of benefits to be gained from effective time management.

Greater control of your time, improved productivity, an increase in free time, and higher visibility among peers and superiors can all be achieved by introducing simple techniques and habits such as effective diary keeping and organised delegation.

Listening skills Good communication is a two-way process, and listening is an essential aspect of this. Listening is an activity that is often taken for granted as it is assumed we all do this as part of a natural communication process. However, listening is more than just hearing what others are saying.

Real listening means giving your full attention, and really understanding what is being said. The ability to listen well to others often means that they will reciprocate and listen to you – and respond when you are speaking.

Assertive skills can bring a number of benefits to the individual and, therefore, the organisation. Handling confrontation will become easier and produce satisfactory results, stress will be reduced and self-confidence increased, behaviour will be more tactful (which will improve image and credibility), and individuals will be able to disagree more convincingly in a way that maintains the effectiveness of the relationship.

Assertiveness can sometimes be confused with aggression, so it is important to strike a balance and consider your approach carefully. How people feel about us is a direct result of the way we behave towards them, so the more positive that behaviour, the more valued we are as a boss, colleague, member of staff, or friend.

Negotiation and influencing
Being able to negotiate and influence decisions is an excellent skill to possess. The ability to influence people, and do so positively, is something that most of us could do better. Influencing can be achieved through manipulative means.

However, influencing positively will help you achieve more of what you want and build relationships based on openness, trust understanding and mutual respect. It also boosts personal credibility. This is a skill that involves both good listening and assertiveness; thereby improving your abilities in a variety of communication skills areas.

These ‘softer’ skills are all highly transferable to any organisation or role, and at all levels. So it is important to demonstrate them through your work achievements, abilities and personal qualities.

Thinking about them will help you to decide what you are good at and what you need to develop further. Looking at your soft skills will also help you to identify some realistic career options, and work out what steps you need to take to start moving your career in that direction.

Jessica Jarvis is training, learning and development advisor at the Chartered Institute of Training and Development.

For more information on soft skills training, go to:

Link: Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development




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