April 26, 2016
A strong set of soft skills, or the interpersonal abilities supported by emotional intelligence, will set you apart in today's job market. Employers want to hire individuals with technical expertise, and the ability to get along well with others and positively impact the company by effectively expressing their ideas.
While soft skills encompass a range of abilities, a study by Burning Glass Technologies found that there are three soft skills employers want to see most: Communication, organizational and writing skills. These three abilities provide the foundation for career success, as they enable you to positively engage in the world, build and maintain relationships and confidently contribute ideas and solutions.
If you want to excel in your career path, you should spend time strengthening these soft skills, no matter what field you want to work in. While it may be obvious that these abilities are needed in creative and client-facing occupations, such as those in media, marketing and sales, they're also necessary in data-driven and STEM fields including engineering, healthcare and computer programming.
Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU) offers online degree programs infused with valuable soft skills. Your courses will train you in communication, organizational and writing skills. Whether you're enrolled in a liberal arts degree program or an information technology program, the curricula will equip you with the necessary knowledge, skills and practical experience that will empower you to interact with others effectively, express your ideas clearly and form strong connections so that you stand out as a job candidate. You can also take advantage of the services offered by SNHU Career team, including resume and cover letter review and assistance, mock interviews, negotiation tips and so much more.
Now that you've answered the question, "What are soft skills?," let's focus on how you can sharpen and leverage these abilities to your advantage.
Even though you communicate, organize your time and write in some form every day, you need to develop these abilities to the level of proficiency that employers are expecting and requiring of their employees. There are many ways you can improve these soft skills to help you achieve your professional goals.
Communication Skills: At your job, you'll have to interact with clients or stakeholders, give presentations, contribute ideas to meetings and collaborate with co-workers. Lacking vital communication skills can cause major problems in the workplace.
"Flaws in communication are a common source of conflict," IT manager Dan Parsons said to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. "You'll usually work with or for someone else, so having these skills will make you stand out."
The best way to improve your communication skills is through practice. If you're currently in the workforce, volunteer to give a presentation or try to be more vocal during meetings. Consider the way that you currently speak with those around you, and determine if there are areas that you can improve in. When other people are speaking, make sure that you are listening attentively rather than just considering how you'll respond as soon as they're finished. Don't forget to think about nonverbal communication as well, such as e-mails and other forms of messaging. In SNHU's online programs, you'll have opportunities to improve your communication skills by participating in online discussions on Blackboard, the program that will become your virtual classroom. Crafting your own posts and responding to those of your classmates will help you learn to more efficiently express your own ideas and discuss the contributions of others.
Organizational Skills: Even if you're technically proficient in your field, you'll face challenges if you can't organize your time, space and workload. A major part of being organized is staying on top of your goals, duties and expected deliverables. Experiment with different organizational systems - from those as simple as a to-do list on a notepad to one of the many tools available online - to find what works best for you and your personality type. In an SNHU online degree program, you'll improve your organizational skills by learning to effectively and efficiently balance your time between courses and other professional and personal obligations. Academic advisors will help to create a plan that will maximize your academic success, and strengthen your soft skills in the process.
Writing Skills: In your work, you'll need to create communications, including emails, presentation slides and reports, and these have to be easily understood by others. While practice is important for improving this soft skill, it can also be helpful to receive outside assistance. When you enroll in SNHU's online degree program, you'll have access to the Online Writing Center, which has a variety of resources to help you improve your writing, including webinars on topics like grammar issues, revision methods and syntax.
Strong communication, organizational and writing skills can lead to success in the workplace, but of course, you first have to get your foot in the door. Your resume and interview are chances to showcase your strong soft skills. Instead of simply stating you have communication skills on your resume, list specific examples using active language that demonstrates how you used these abilities in past positions to accomplish real results. The presentation of your resume speaks volumes about these skills, too, and your SNHU Career advisor can assist in ensuring your resume is concise, clearly formatted and easy to read.
Employers won't just be listening to your answers during job interviews, they'll also be observing how you communicate and whether or not you're prepared. Don't walk in with a messy pile of papers - instead, bring an organized portfolio showcasing your past work, which will demonstrate to an interviewer not only that you're experienced, but that you can present information effectively. Brainstorm questions you may be asked ahead of time and plan your answers so that when the time comes for the actual interview, you can express yourself confidently and effectively highlight your achievements. Answer interview questions honestly, but frame any past challenges you've faced in a positive light by talking about how you overcame the issues and learned from them. Preparing ahead of time and answering questions clearly and thoughtfully will help present you as the best candidate for the job.
SNHU's online degree programs will help you hone the soft skills that employers value most and help you leverage these skills effectively throughout your job search. Contact SNHU Admission today to take the next step in furthering your career.
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