Five Ways to Enhance your Soft Skills for Improved Employability
by Catherine Tansey
In today’s tech-driven world and economy, it’s easy for developing your soft skills to take a back seat. But it’s soft skills, like the ability to communicate clearly, work well with others, and think critically that enable teams to successfully accomplish business outcomes.
And as an employee or a job seeker, soft skills set you apart. While many people possess technical know-how, it’s top talent who balance their hard-learned technical skill sets with superb communication and interpersonal skills. But improving your soft skills isn’t clear-cut as you might expect. So, we’ve put together a list of the top ways to improve soft skills today.
Take Personal Inventory
The first step to improving your soft skills is to understand exactly which ones you could improve. Using a soft skills inventory tool, like the one from mindtools.com, is a great place to start. By understanding your strengths and weaknesses, you’re able to put together a cohesive plan of action to measurably improve in areas like written and oral communication, team work, and critical thinking.
Research from the New School in New York found reading literary fiction helps improve soft skills like empathy and one’s ability to relate to others. Empathy—the ability and willingness to understand where another is coming from—is an underlying trait that supports success and contributes to leadership ability. Empathy allows you to say, “I disagree, but I respect your point of view and understand where you are coming from.” Fiction, with its complex web of relationships and glimpse into the minds of others, offers an effective and enjoyable way to improve soft skills.
Work smarter, not harder. The most intelligent people use tools to help them work more effectively. Life-hack your way to improved soft skills by doing the same. Struggle with concision in your emails? Try the Hemingway app, which highlights opportunities for clearer writing. Don’t excel at time management? Use a tool like Trello or Asana to stay organized and prioritize the day’s tasks.
With meditation touted these days as a magic cure-all, it’s easy to write it off as modern-day snake oil. But here’s the thing: it actually works. Studies consistently show that meditation makes people happier, more relaxed, and better adjusted. Meditation helps improve soft skills like communication and the ability to work well with others by increasing mindfulness and encouraging a response—not a reaction. This leads to better decision-making as a whole.
Consider a Class or Club
Especially when it comes to written or verbal communication, professional classes or clubs are an excellent way to improve these soft skills in a structured environment. Take Toastmasters, for example. Toastmasters is club dedicated to helping people improve their public speaking and leadership skills with regular meetings, off-the-cuff exercises, and assigned work. Other options included in-person classes or online ones from HarvardX, Udemy, or Lynda.
Technology enables the world of work today. But as always, it’s the human capital that is most important. Without collaborative teams, strategic managers, or an enlightened C-suite, organizations are bound to fail. Employees who know how to communicate well, work with others toward a common goal, and empathize with their team members are powerful assets to their employers—and to their own careers.