How to Develop Your Soft Skills
When you’re applying for a job or developing your career, it’s easy to focus just on the technical side of things. Knowledge, expertise and qualifications are essential, of course. But ‘soft’ skills are equally important, for both your professional and personal development. Here, we’ll take you through how to develop your soft skills and how they can benefit you.
What are soft skills?
Soft skills are a set of general behaviours, competencies and interpersonal skills that are useful in all jobs. (In contrast, ‘hard’ skills are specific to individual jobs―for example, medical skills are required for a career in nursing.)
Examples of soft skills include:
Developing your soft skills can help you feel more engaged, motivated and productive at work. And it’ll help make you a great colleague. Recruiters want to see evidence of soft skills because it shows them your work ethic and how you’ll fit into their team. Two CVs might have the same qualifications on paper, but it’s soft skills that’ll get you through the door.
Because many of these skills depend on social interaction, it can feel harder to achieve them if you’re working remotely. This may be especially true if you’re early on in your career. But it’s useful to keep developing your soft skills, because without practice it’s easy for them to get rusty.
1. Identify gaps
A good place to start is by identifying the gaps in your skill set. What do you want to achieve in your career, and which skills do you need to improve to get there? For guidance you could consult your most recent performance review, or ask your manager or colleagues for specific feedback.
2. Look into training courses
Find out what training your organisation offers in soft skills. Many HR platforms have inbuilt e-learning courses. Your employer may also be able to provide budget for external training―ask your line manager what might be possible. It’s best to approach them with a clear idea of what you’re looking for and how it’ll benefit your role.
Have a look at what’s available online, too. Google has free courses in communication, negotiating, planning, public speaking and more.
3. Network and socialise
Build positive working relationships by taking every opportunity to get to know your team. Go to staff socials whenever you can. Try also to talk to colleagues you wouldn’t normally have much contact with. Some organisations have regular, randomised ‘coffee chats’ (often virtual) which are a chance to meet people from other departments. If yours doesn’t, you could even suggest it yourself.
It’s also worth networking with people outside your organisation who work in your specialism. CharityConnect hosts online conversations and ‘Connections’ events, where you can meet virtually in small groups with like-minded sector peers.
5. Organise something
Joining a club can be a good way to develop your soft skills. Better still is to start one yourself! You could set up five-a-side football or a lunchtime book club with your colleagues, for example. Or organise an event (such as a charity bake sale), start a blog or create a zine with multiple contributors. By initiating, coordinating and promoting a project under your own steam, you’ll be able to prove your drive, organisation and leadership skills.
6. Practice active listening
Communication skills may come more naturally to some people than to others. But the good news is that you can improve them by learning how to actively listen. This technique is invaluable for mindful and effective interactions at work. Start by reading the British Heart Foundation’s useful guide to active listening.
7. Be proactive
Get into the habit of taking initiative and seeking out challenges in areas you’re less confident in. For example, if you could do with some practice in verbal communication, put yourself forward to give a presentation. By leaving your comfort zone, you’ll be able to learn from the experience. And that’s the best way to develop your soft skills. The more you get used to doing something, the easier it’ll become.
Looking for the perfect job for your skill set? Take a look at the variety of roles available on CharityJob.
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