Learning how to be good at your job is easy, but having what it takes to be great and be recognized by your peers and managers as a rising star requires extra effort and attention to something known as your soft skills. The senior women we interview often encourage young people to distinguish themselves from the pack as early on in their career as they possibly can.
But, this can be easier said than done when you look around and notice that most of your peers are essentially at the same technical level as you are. So what is going to make the difference between good and great at work? Listening, leading with compassion, adapting to change, being a good team player — all of these attributes (and much more) make up your unique set of soft skills, or what is commonly referred to as emotional intelligence.
Improving your soft skills, in addition to keeping your technical skills sharp, is one of the fastest ways to elevate yourself above the competition. Since developing your soft skills is such an important aspect of your career advancement and professional development, we have compiled some important tips for honing your soft skills at work. Following these simple tips will make you a more valuable asset to your company.
Tips for Improving Your Soft Skills at Work:
Tip #1 – Listen Up
Paying attention to your colleagues should not be considered a skill, but sometimes it is easy to get caught up in your own task list and not give your co-workers your full attention. Listening to your colleagues, expressing interest and concern, and showing them that you are approachable are such respected traits. This skill will especially come in handy when you are working in a team environment. Taking the time to listen to other people’s thoughts and ideas, even if you disagree, is the ultimate sign of respect. Obviously you can only give so much of yourself at work, but make sure that you do take the time and be attentive to your work environment, and most importantly the people in it.
Tip #2 – Say what you mean and mean what you say
Workplace friction is not pleasant, but most office misunderstandings can be avoided by improving communication. Being direct, concise, and clear whenever you are talking with your colleagues about work will pay off for you in the end. This is especially true when it comes to email communication. Tone can easily be misconstrued in text communications, so if you want to make sure your point comes across as you intend, pick up the phone or take a walk down the hallway and deliver your message in person.
Tip #3 – Be a Team Player
Don’t mistake this soft skill for passivity, but rather learn what it means to be a valuable contributor to a team. Balance is a key factor here. You need to be assertive and make your ideas heard, but you also need to know when to take the backseat and let other members of your team express their thoughts as well. Often, in a team setting, you might be tempted to push your own agenda, but you will be surprised at how much more productive it is to truly embrace all of the different ideas the diverse members of your team have to contribute.
Tip #4 – Be a Compassionate Leader
Being a good leader does not necessarily mean that you need to channel your dark side every time you come to work. On the other hand, there is a lot of research about how leading with compassion and forgiveness can actually be more effective than leading with fear or abusing your power. The best leaders pull up their teams up and elevate the level of knowledge, innovation, and productivity by leading with compassion and respect.
These soft skills will matter in your career development and advancement, especially as you progress in your career and your level of technical skill is at a similar level as your peers. If you neglect these soft skills, you will find yourself missing out on opportunities to take your career to the next level and beyond.