A new study from LinkedIn revealed that hiring managers are struggling to fill 59% of open jobs.
Why?Aren’t there more top performers in the ad industry than there are jobs?Yes, but it turns out managers are having difficulty finding candidates who have the elusive blend of hard and soft skills that make an employee invaluable.
There’s more than enough people, but not enough candidates who have taken the time to master the less-tangible skills that would help them land an amazing job.
In case these terms seem a little foggy or equivocal, hard skills include graphic design, computer programming, copywriting, and the like. Soft skills include communication, adaptability, and sociability, among many others.
Honing your soft skills is key to succeeding in your career and becoming a better leader. The best employees know that success is largely based on who you are as a person and how well you communicate with others.
Soft skills aren’t directly taught in college, unless you attend a progressive school that includes psychology and communication courses in its core curriculum.
It’s a shame, because a lack of soft skills is the #1 reason professionals don’t make it to the director and/or executive level, even if they have all the hard skills to get the job done.
The good news is that soft skills can be taught, regardless of what anyone tells you.Yes, learning how to respond in a conflict might be a little more nuanced than mastering a new Excel formula, but it’s totally possible.
So how can you get savvy in this area?
First, acknowledging that you can develop your soft skills at any time is the key to honing them. When we take on the belief that we simply can’t learn soft skills – whether consciously or subconsciously – we won’t. It’s human psychology.
If we affirm that soft skills are totally teachable and we’re open to learning them, it will be much easier to make them part of who we are and apply them at the office.
If you suspect you might be lacking – or just a little rusty – when it comes to skills like resilience and adaptability, these are the three keys to develop them.
Take a course.Enroll in a course – online or in-person – on team work, time management, human psychology, problem solving, critical analysis, written and oral communication, and/or public speaking.Leadership and management development courses teach many of these soft skills, and can be a great way to get an all-in-one training.Personal development and coaching programs are also very effective for increasing self-awareness and improving your communication skills. Simply fire up Google right now and see what your local college has to offer in these areas.
Find mentors.Building genuine relationships with 2-3 mentors is one of the most effective ways to grow your career. Identify 3-5 people who are where you’d like to be professionally in 5-15 years.It’s smart to have mentors at different levels, since they can give you guidance on the short and long-term trajectory of your career. Someone who’s a few years ahead of you can help you identify the action steps you need to take today, while someone who’s 10-15 years ahead can give you big-picture perspective and inspiration.Your mentors should give you objective, honest feedback on where you are with soft skills and how to hone them. They can zero in on your strengths and weaknesses and help you chart a clear path to where you ultimately want to be.These people will likely be busy, so it’s important that you’re respectful of their time and genuinely interested in what they do.To open up the conversation with prospective mentors, send them a brief email giving praise on a recent article they wrote or talk they gave. Tell them exactly how it helped you.Based on their response, you might simply get a few quick tips, or they may be open to a coffee meeting.
Volunteer.Volunteering your time is a wonderful way to gain soft skills you might not glean in an office environment. It’s impressive when an employee can relate soft skills learned through a seemingly unrelated activity to their work at the office. Volunteering for a cause you truly care about makes you a more well-rounded, compassionate person.
When you’re communicating your soft skills to a perspective employer or your current boss, make sure you show – don’t tell.Anyone can say they’re a great communicator or that they know how to keep their cool during a conflict, but not everyone can demonstrate that.When you’re communicating traits like adaptability, communication, and conflict resolution, you must use examples.Here are some ideas to get your wheels turning…
Instead of saying you’re adaptable during times of change, explain how you responded when there were layoffs and you absorbed three roles on top of your own. Did you keep your cool and communicate your needs while working as efficiently and effectively as possible? If so, share that.
If you’re tempted to simply say you’re a great communicator when an interviewer asks about your strengths, detail the time there was a misunderstanding between two colleagues and you were able to mediate and get them on the same page.
When asked about dependability, share an instance where you worked three weekends in a row to ensure your team met a project deadline. That shows dependability, instead of simply claiming it.
Soft skills play a huge role in the success of your career, and are often the deciding factor when managers are choosing between two hires with equal technical skills, or deciding on the next executive.
What will you do this month to hone your soft skills?Share one action step you’ll take with us at firstname.lastname@example.org.Have a friend who wants to grow their career (especially someone who’s a little shy)? Please send them the link to this article.