Soft Skills Hold the Key to Building Your Career
When I worked for a corporation, we had a corporate training department that offered a long list of in-person and web-based courses and trainings for employees. About once a month I’d scroll through the training calendar looking to further develop my skills (and resume). While there was lots of health and safety, Microsoft office, and IT training, soft skills training was often few and far between.
What was offered was often focused on conflict resolution or dealing with difficult people. Presentation skills, answering tough questions, how to conduct a media interview and a number of other soft skills were always absent from the training calendar.
Why? Because it was often assumed staff either had these skills or didn’t need them for their role (as in it’s someone else’s job). As a result, I sat through some of the most painful presentations you’ve ever heard. Slides bursting with information (that no one could read), rambling dialogue, and no clear focus or takeaway message.
Value of soft skills
I view soft skills as foundation blocks for all business professionals. Sadly, instead of teaching these skills, we criticize people when they don’t have them (as in what’s wrong with you, why aren’t you an expert in everything).
So what are soft skills? Here’s a quick list.
- Communications skills
- Decision making
- Emotional intelligence
- Self motivation
- Creativity and problem solving
- Team dynamics
Take a minute to look at this list. Don’t just skim it but really look at each category and ask yourself when was the last time you had training in this area. Has it been in the last year? Six months?
As with all skills, we need continual training and practice to master the skill. It’s not about taking a course five years ago, and thinking “yeah, I got this.” Rather it’s about listening to different perspectives and growing your skills as you grow as a person and professional. It’s amazing how you can take the same course three times, but learn something different each time based on what is happening in your personal and professional life.
Don’t wait for it to come to you
While many large organizations are now recognizing and valuing the importance of soft skill development, it is still not getting the space in the training calendar it requires (or deserves). Staff are left seeking out the training on their own – through internet courses, conferences or other professional development.
As a corporate trainer, I’m regularly speaking with staff who want me to work with their organization. They’ve heard me speak at a conference or watched one of my videos. Sadly, once the introduction is made to the HR department to discuss training for the organization, I’m often told they have a full training calendar (which is full of health and safety and Microsoft training).
Despite the demand from employees, the priority is always on the “essential” courses not “nice to have” offerings. As a result, staff continue to struggle with the soft skills that would actually strengthen their “essential” skills.
While we know helping improve people’s soft skills increases their engagement and professional fulfillment, it’s up to staff to vocally demand this training.
And while you wait for your HR department to fill the training calendar, you can always seek out training on your own through your corporate expenses.
Reviewing the list above, what soft skills would help you in your job? What areas do you struggle with? And when was the last time you took the time to improve you soft skills?
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