How to develop soft skills
You can develop soft skills just like hard skills. Here’s how to hone the five most in-demand soft skills of the year.
Earlier this year, LinkedIn released a list of the five most in-demand soft skills for 2020. They were determined by examining the skills listed on the profiles of the people on the network getting hired at the highest rates.
The ranking was:
- Emotional intelligence
Are you job hunting this year? It might be a good idea to start reflecting on to what extent you demonstrate these skills — and getting more practice in the areas you’re weakest.
Here are some tips on how to hone each of these in-demand soft skills.
Brainstorm with colleagues. Some people are naturally creative on their own, but a lot of us need to bounce ideas off others to get the creative juices flowing. Book a recurring brainstorming meeting with a co-worker or even the whole team to come up with more creative ideas in the moment, and train your brain to think outside the box even when you’re working solo.
Zone out. Yup, you read that right. A 2014 study from the University of California, Santa Barbara, found that physicists and writers came up with their most creative ideas when they were spacing out. Schedule “think time” alongside all your other to-do list tasks to make sure you are allocating time for creativity — and the more time you practice this skill, the more readily the ideas will come.
Be your own “devil’s advocate.” It’s much easier to persuade someone to your argument if you’ve taken the time to think through their position in advance. By examining all of the angles of a topic, you can prepare to answer their objections — and offer your rebuttals.
Flex your communication style. Trying to persuade someone who is a visual learner through a pages-long email is probably not going to work out in your favor. Tailoring your communication style to the audience you’re trying to persuade is critical, and the more you can practice flexing your communication style to those around you, the better prepared you’ll be to persuade when the situation calls for it.
Define the structure. Collaboration suffers when roles and goals are not defined. The next time you take on a group project, strike up a conversation about what success looks like, and who’s doing what. Just this simple act can get everyone rowing together faster and more effectively.
Listen. To benefit from the ideas of the group, each member needs to listen to the others. By modeling good listening habits, such as checking for understanding and ensuring everyone is heard, you ensure the group actually collaborates instead of working around one another.
Manage your mindset. The ability to adapt to changing circumstances starts with a mindset that’s willing to adapt to changing circumstances. If you tend to balk at change, reflect on the reasons why — and then see if there are any reframings you haven’t explored.
Experiment, experiment, experiment. It’s far easier to be adaptable when a project fails or pivots dramatically if you have other ideas ready to go. For every major project, think of a few alternative ways it could be accomplished, and, when feasible, test them out as small experiments. Getting in the habit of testing alternative ideas also ensures you’re constantly learning and refining your approach to your work.
5. Emotional intelligence
Seek out different perspectives. Empathy is essentially perspective-taking — but when’s the last time you actively asked someone for their point of view? Getting in the habit of prompting others to share where they’re coming from and carefully listening to their responses won’t just increase your emotional intelligence, it might actually make you more efficient.
Ask for feedback. Self-awareness is a key component of emotional intelligence. Asking colleagues for feedback regularly will help you understand how you come off to other people. And when you get constructive criticism that’s hard to hear, remember that there is no “right” or “wrong” when it comes to others’ points of view — that’s their perception, and perception is reality.
Emma Brudner is the director of people operations at Lola.com. Previously, she spent nearly five years at HubSpot managing the company's blog. She's fascinated with people and is constantly thinking about how to make work more loving. Her other job is being a mom -- to one human baby and two cats. She wants to be Dolly Parton when she grows up.Follow on:
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