The "Softer" Side of Job Success

Every job requires a certain skill set for success. Engineers can't succeed if they aren't good with mathematics, for example. However, everyone needs more than task-related skills to succeed. Soft skills are less tangible than hard skills, but they are equally important to success.

Just What ARE Soft Skills?

Soft skills are the traits that enable you to get along with and work well with others. Even if you have the most impressive resume on your team, leaders won't see you as someone with the potential for growth if you don't possess soft skills.

To appreciate how important soft skills are, it helps to think of them this way: Hard skills will open the front door to your career, but soft skills will open every door thereafter. So just what types of soft skills should you be focusing on for success?

Effective Listening

Just about every job posting ever written stipulates strong written and verbal communication skills as a requirement. Most job seekers understand the value of good communication, but most people focus on the way they communicate using words or text. They fail to address listening, arguably the most valuable piece of the communication puzzle. You can't expect to speak or write in a way that addresses someone's questions, concerns or needs if you aren't a good listener.

A Strong Sense of Accountability

There are fewer things as frustrating to a boss than an employee who doesn't hold themselves responsible for mistakes or who is unreliable in their follow-through on tasks and projects. Leaders need team members who will do what they say they will do. And if something goes wrong, they want employees who speak up and address the mistake immediately.

High Emotional Intelligence

Everyone has worked with a person who simply cannot seem to keep their emotions in check. When something goes wrong, their entire day falls apart and they tend to take everyone down with them. They may yell at co-workers, cry, act passive-aggressively or display their emotions in other inappropriate ways. These types of behaviors are extremely disruptive and threaten the morale of the whole group. Emotional intelligence is the ability to read the emotions of others and adjust your approach accordingly. People with high emotional intelligence don't act in a reactionary manner. They measure their approach and remain even keeled, no matter what gets thrown their way.

The Ability to Empathize With Others

Empathy is the ability to understand how someone is feeling and express understanding for those feelings, without getting swept up in them. In short, it's the ability to say, "I know how you feel," and mean it. Empathy is extremely important when dealing with other people. A little bit of empathy can go a long way in resolving conflict (or preventing it in the first place), handling customers, working on a team and showing leadership in a group.

Creative Problem-Solving Abilities

There are very few work projects that ever go off according to plan; there are always curveballs and roadblocks that keep things from going 100 percent smoothly. How do you react when faced with a challenge? Leaders look for people who don't give up, but rather adjust their approach and think creatively to reach a solution given the resources they have available. It's ok if your ideas don't always lead to a solution; it's the fact you're able to think outside the proverbial box, take risks and do what you can to overcome a challenge.

A Strong Sense of Purpose

Finding purpose means connecting the work you do each day to something greater than yourself. Employers want team members who believe the work they do each day helps to fulfill the mission of the organization. If you can connect yourself to the big picture, it will help instill meaning and purpose in what you do, no matter your job title.

One of the great things about soft skills is they all seem to work together. By focusing on developing your listening skills, you can develop empathy. When you're empathetic, you become more emotionally intelligent, and so on. By building a few key soft skills, you'll become a more valuable contributor to the team, and your employer will sit up and take notice for all the right reasons.