Zig Ziglar stated, “Your attitude, not your aptitude, will determine your altitude.” Many who seek career advancement tend to focus on developing their aptitude. They may pursue additional certifications or degrees that will add letters after their names in their signatures. Those advancements are good and may make for a highly accomplished employee. However, what really sets you apart as an outstanding employee is your attitude. This is where “soft skills” come in.
According to Zoe Kaplan, “Soft skills are non-technical skills that describe how you work and interact with others.” In a report from Monster.com, some of the most prized soft skills that recruiters seek are “teamwork/collaboration, communication, and problem solving/critical thinking.” These skills make individuals effective as both leaders and team players.
A soft skill that has surfaced as one of the most crucial, especially during the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic, is adaptability. Many employees went from working 9-to-5 jobs in a building where they saw their colleagues in person to spending countless hours on virtual Zoom meetings. The term “Zoomed out” was coined as a result of those exhausting, nonstop meetings when managers were trying to figure out how to keep employees engaged and employees were unsure if they would still have their jobs. Those who have or grew in the soft skill of adaptability were able to thrive during an otherwise incredibly challenging time.
Adaptability is a soft skill that empowers you to easily adjust during challenging situations. Instead of choosing to be inflexible, an adaptable individual will modify his/her mindset or approach to a circumstance. In some ways, one can say the adaptable person adjusts his/her perspective to see a glass as half-full instead of half-empty. Kaplan states, “An adaptable person in the workplace can keep up with moving priorities, projects, clients, and technology. They’re skilled at dealing with changes at work, whether process updates or their work environment.” Such individuals are every manager’s dream as the workplace is usually an ever-changing environment.
To grow in this soft skill, Daniel Bortz advises that you, “Push yourself to be an early adopter of change and someone who is able to meet new challenges. Inquire about training sessions and offer to teach your co-workers what you learn.” In other words, be open-minded when a change comes up. Instead of resisting or becoming overwhelmed by the change, realize that the change is a learning opportunity.
Developing your Soft Skills
There are many opportunities to develop your soft skills. An article on Indeed.com states that to improve soft skills, be receptive to feedback from your managers and colleagues. “When you’re open to feedback, you can be better able to receive constructive criticism and use that information to improve in your workplace role, including your soft skills”. Furthermore, there are many free resources that will help you to develop these skills. For example, Yale University lists different soft skills such as LinkedIn Learning where you can read articles on how to develop them. It includes articles on communication, teamwork, critical thinking, and many other soft skills.
Highlighting your Soft Skills
To highlight your soft skills on a resume, Kaplan suggests that you incorporate “active verbs like “overcame,” “adjusted,” and even “adapted” [to] help you describe instances when you had to acclimate to new working conditions.” An article from the Society for Human Resource Management advises the best place to list your soft skills as, “Directly beneath your name and contact information … [as] This immediately attracts the hiring manager’s attention.” The article further states that you should include soft skills that are relevant to the position you are applying for. For example, if you aspire to be a project manager, you could list leadership, conflict management, and time management among your soft skills.
What soft skills have you developed in your career? What skills would you like to develop? A good place to start is by being willing to see the opportunity for growth in a challenging situation. Be open to responding differently than you typically would. Choose to adjust your perspective and use a soft skill in a way that will cause you to flourish. All the best to you as you turn your obstacles into opportunities by choosing the right attitude.
Written by: Gloria Shunda, Data Analyst/Writer