In the workplace, hard skills are important to your success at work. Throughout our work lives, we make considerable investments in education and training to develop an expertise.
But long gone are the days when our expertise was enough to get ahead. In today’s competitive work environment, our ability to develop and leverage soft skills, like a strong work ethic and a positive attitude, will make the difference in what we both personally and professionally achieve. Here are six soft skills you should have in your skill set that will help you find long-term career success in the modern workplace.
If you want to get ahead in your career, you must be seen. Visibility is key. People need to know who you are, and what ability and soft skills you bring to the table. Get out from behind your desk — especially if you’re new to your role. It’s important that you make it a priority to show up on time for meetings, attend special events, prioritize time management on team projects, set up lunch dates with key members of your organization, etc. No matter how big or small your office is — being seen will allow you to become better known by your peers and key players that you must work and interact with. This makes your employers see you as a team player (which we already know you are).
Your body language speaks loud and clear long before you say a word. The way you carry yourself sends strong messages about who you are and how you feel about yourself. Your presence and demeanor should communicate self-confidence.
You can start to communicate self-confidence by watching your posture: hold your chin up, shoulders back, keep feet 12 inches apart with your weight evenly distributed on both feet. Be relaxed and comfortable in your own skin; own who you are. As you communicate self-confidence with your body language, others will begin to view you as a leader. This can be challenging if you have a lot of negative self-talk. Your self-talk is often reflected in how you carry yourself, so think positively about yourself and your goals. Be on a mission for success. Your positive self-concept and attitude will translate into self-confidence.
3. Interpersonal Skills
Whether you’re at a meeting or a social event, your interactions with colleagues and key influencers will establish a foundation for your future success in your organization. A high emotional intelligence quotient is especially important when you’re leading in today’s diverse workforce — you need to develop a sense of others’ feelings and perspectives so you can lead a team. Make it a point to be engaging and genuinely interested in the person you are talking to. Dale Carnegie, a master at building relationships, said it best when he wrote the “6 Ways To Make People Like You" in his book "How to Win Friends and Influence People." Here are his six ways:
- Become genuinely interested in other people.
- Remember that a person’s name is, to that person, the sweetest and most important sound in any language.
- Be a good listener; encourage others to talk about themselves.
- Talk in terms of the other person’s interests.
- Make the other person feel important and do it sincerely.
Strong communication skills are important to developing your leadership skill. Get "hands-on experience" by talking with friends, past employers and other individuals outside of work. Actively working to improve your social skill will greatly benefit your career.
4. Emotional Intelligence
Out of all the soft skills, becoming emotionally intelligent is the one that will help you the most. Emotional intelligence refers to your ability to perceive, control and evaluate emotions. When you sharpen this ability, you can more effectively find your voice, assist in conflict resolution and create your own sphere of influence. In other words — you can lead a team more effectively.
You can begin training to become emotionally intelligent by being more aware of yourself and others. Become better aware of how you respond to situations, what your hot buttons are and how you are perceived by others on your team. Then, go about learning the same factors about the people around you. Don’t just be passive in your interactions — be more in tune; have your radar up for subtle cues that give you insight into others. When you have this information, you are better positioned to flex your leadership style to more effectively influence and lead other employees.
Many women shy away from being assertive at work for fear of offending someone, but that is based on an incorrect perception. Assertiveness is often confused with being aggressive. Aggressive behavior means that one may be emotionally and forcefully standing up for one’s thoughts, feelings and needs while disregarding the thoughts, feelings and needs of others. Agressive behavior implies that somebody is hard to work with and that they may not be a team player.
On the other hand, assertive behavior means expressing your thoughts, feelings and needs in a direct, clear, honest and respectful way to others. It requires a combination of hard and soft skills, which you can work to develop over your long-term career. Aim to be assertive. If one is truly being assertive at work, i.e. utilizing strong communication and leadership skills within the workplace, offending others should not be a concern.
6. Executive Presence
According to a study by the Center for Talent Innovation, being perceived as leadership material is essential to being promoted into leadership positions. The study found that executive presence counts for 26 percent of what it takes to get promoted. According to the study, some of the key elements of executive presence include the ability to project gravitas: confidence, poise under pressure and decisiveness. Additionally, communication skill — including speaking skills, assertiveness and the ability to read an audience or situation — and appearance contribute to a person’s perceived executive presence.
Ellie Nieves, JD, MBA, develops webinars, seminars, and coaching programs to help women leaders to show up, speak up, and step up in their careers and personal lives. She is also the host of the Leadership Strategies for Women Podcast where she shares success tips to help women achieve more both personally and professionally. To learn more, go to www.EllieNieves.com.