Soft Skills For Every Professional
By Randall "The Singing Dev"
Soft Skills Can Be Hard
As professionals in any field, we all understand that there is something a little bit extra about the people who make great team players and co-workers. This "thing" is not any kind of technical expertise or "know-how". Sure, having all of the information needed for the job is crucial, but in a team environment where individuals are working in concert with one another, we all need to have a good grasp of what the tech industry has given an overall label of "Soft Skills".
Soft skills are somewhat complicated as they are skills that are not quantifiable in any traditional sense, but when someone has them- everyone can see it (without seeing it). These skills are so important to not only the work environment but to being better team players and friends to one another. These skills can often be so ethereal that many people have trouble pinpointing what exactly it is that makes a "soft skill".
It is for this reason I have come up with a list of many of the skills I see, and have experienced firsthand as the "little something extra" which makes a team player/co-worker such a joy to work with. This list is by no means exhaustive but is a great jumping-off point for any professional, young or old. If you can master just 5 or 6 of these skills, you will already be way ahead of the proverbial crowd.
The ability to communicate clearly and precisely, especially in a digital-first world, is priceless. Effective communication not only conveys what it means to say but also makes clear what it does not mean. This drastically cuts down on miscommunication effectively driving more productivity. If you only have to say something once, you have said it correctly.
If you want respect and trust from your team- be authentic. Show your humanity. Authenticity with warmth and empathy lets people “in” to know you better. The more your team knows you, the better they understand you, the more support they can give you. Don’t hide your beautiful self, people will not shy away from you because of your flaws.
This is very important to being on a team and is a god send for managers. Initiative takes a lot of burden off of management and trust me, they will notice it. Just be sure that you do not over step your bounds when taking initiative in a way that steps on toes rather than helping.
In a team environment, accountability is imperative. An effective team is built on trust, and nobody trusts an unethical or unreliable person. A person with integrity can be counted on to keep their word and be trusted. Without this skill, you will find it much harder to advance in any company worth advancing in.
The ability to think precisely and clearly about a problem using logic and reason. These types of people are priceless to managers as they prove to be rare. You need critical thinking in order to identify proper opportunities to take initiative. Critical thinking will also give you the power of knowing when to NOT take initiative. This is critical stuff...
This skill is needed across the board, from doing your work to interacting with other people. Confidence is especially needed in management. When you don’t convey confidence you can present as inauthentic or lacking understanding. Caveat: excessive confidence can also work in the opposite way making you seem inauthentic and arrogant.
Mediating and controlling conflict is a key part of keeping a productive and safe work place. Having an overhanging sense of unresolved issues causes anxiety, especially in a professional environment. Conflict resolution is a valuable skill in both business negotiations and interpersonal navigation.
Learning to be a part of a team (and effectively work as an integrated member of a team) is a top soft skill needed in every industry which deals with people (Hint: it's most of them). A great team might have its star players, but success does not depend on those few, it depends on the whole team.
Empathy is a top skill, especially for management. A manager with no empathy will find their work culture to be less vibrant and have much faster turnover rates as their employees do not feel valued and can even feel dehumanized. To be able to see from another person's point of view, resonate with their feelings, and provide grace through understanding is a literal superpower humans have. Do not underestimate empathy.
This skill is especially important for anyone working in tech. If you are not growing, learning, and adapting with agility, your company and your mental state will suffer. Everything is changing all the time, do not ignore that fact (This is what gets companies into “technical debt”). The ability to quickly pivot and stay moving forward is absolutely necessary in our fast changing world.
Warmth is a subtle skill that some people are born with, and some people must learn. This is the skill of drawing people in and making them feel comfortable and welcomed. This skill alone will get you far. A warm person displays many things including empathy, confidence, and authenticity. You ever meet someone who acts like they are genuinely happy to meet you? It feels great. We all want to feel seen. Be that welcome warm to everyone around you - they will not hate you for it.
The art of conveying information in an engaging and passionate way. Persuasion is also a way to let other people understand your point of view in a polite manner. Your power of persuasion is not some seedy way to get what you want, but an engaging way to convey what you mean. This power is especially needed in management to give life into any project. Working on something all the while thinking in the back of your head "this is pointless" will inevitably lead to a feeling of un-fulfillment in your work.
Developing your communication skills further to becoming a great story teller helps in everything from casual social interactions to business settings. Everyone has been in those meetings where the speaker seems to drone on in an unengaging way. This causes less information retention. People remember a good story, but will never remember the time you put them to sleep with your boring story.
Taking And Using Feedback
Some of the most skilled and advanced people I know are constantly asking for feedback. You will not become a top expert without seeking, and using the information gathered from good feedback. The key here is to take feedback with grace and then implement changes based on that feedback. Never get angry or feel personally attacked when someone gives constructive criticism in a polite way.
Giving Useful Feedback
Giving feedback is an artful skill involving delicate truthfulness. Having a tactful way of giving useful feedback is a skill that serves you and your team members in a way that promotes unabashed growth. Giving feedback with warmth is key.
This is a way to approach your work. Ask yourself “If I owned this company/product, what would I want to do to make it better?” This causes more personal responsibility related to the project, and could even give a boost of creativity once you make that psychological switch.
Building relationships in an authentic way also involves vulnerability, which can feel uncomfortable. Vulnerability builds trust and trust helps to create a safe work environment that builds better teams and drives productivity. Relationship building necessarily means understanding your coworkers on a deeper level, which builds trust.
This skill is so important not just for building relationships, but also for gaining a deeper understanding. You will never know what your client or employee really wants/needs without actively listening to what they are saying. This means being in the moment with the person speaking, processing what they are saying, clarifying, and understanding - not thinking about what you will say as you are waiting for your turn to speak.
In an industry full of smart, yet ineffective communicators, writing is so important, especially in a world where email and text is so prevalent. Without effective writing skills, it is easy to give the wrong impressions or even cause the wrong interpretation of vital information.
Though these skills are largely unseen, they are felt by everyone around you. Hiring managers say these skills are just as important, if not more important than technical skills and general knowledge. Though these skills will not land you the job, they will keep your job and pave the way for advancement. Anyone can learn a technical skill over time, but the soft skills are much more nuanced than anything that can be taught.
In a world full of 24/7 distractions and communications - many people have forgotten how to interact with each other. That's why I would love for you to reach out and say hello to me -- let's connect!
Randall is a software developer and content producer in Southern California. Available for software or website development, blogging content, song writing, and consultations. Please reach out if you have any questions or opportunities, or just to connect as a human being to say hello: firstname.lastname@example.org