We often think it’s the accomplishments, hands-on experience and hard-skills that ultimately win over hiring managers. And yes, those attributes weigh heavily in the decision making process. After all, they establish your professional foundation and ability to do the job.
But how about those other personal aspects that have proven an asset in your career – your ability to build strong rapport with clients and retain/grow their business, or your ability to lead a team of cranky, frustrated designers through an all-night session of fixing the company website that just crashed?
Newsflash: companies need, and want, people like that.
Skill sets like these fall into the category of “soft skills”, personal attributes that enhance a person’s performance and interactions by complementing their hard (or learned) skills. Often they’re referred to as “interpersonal” skills, but they expand outside the realm of communication and customer interaction to include other proficiencies like creative problems solving, negotiation, critical or strategic thinking and other traits.
Here are some of the top soft skill sets employers are looking for, and when demonstrated effectively, can absolutely help you nab your next job offer:
Creativity and Innovation
This is less about having a creative portfolio and more about how you tackle problem solving and finding interesting, effective solutions to common (and not so common) challenges. Creativity is key in a sales role, for instance, when you’re constantly faced with clients who don’t understand the value of what you’re selling, and are hesitant to make an investment in a “nice to have” versus “need to have” product or service.
How do you get that message of value across the client? Many sales people tell me that it’s about truly knowing your prospect’s business inside and out, feeling their challenges, and then being able to offer innovative solutions that not only speak to their needs, but respect their budgetary constraints.
Strong Grasp on Technology
You might not be physically handling the social media or website design functions day to day, but illustrating your technical savvy positions you as someone who understands what’s currently being utilized and leveraged by your competitors.
Where this is really going to be effective is if you understand what role these technologies play for the organization – are they underrepresented in the social media space, lacking a cohesive online brand presence, falling short of the same levels of customer engagement as their competitor brands? It may not be part of your job, but it’s still valuable insight that you bring to the table.
Management and Leadership
Management & leadership skills are something to be developed at any level of your career, not just when you’re pursuing a role where you’re leading a team or managing direct reports. It goes beyond organizational structure and hierarchy. Leadership is about taking initiative, developing creative vision, seeing opportunities to leverage your knowledge and expertise, and having the confidence to bring that to the table.
Where have you stepped up in the past on projects, brought in new ideas, or assumed responsibility for something that was maybe outside of your role?
You don’t have to own a business to understand the idea of an entrepreneurial mindset. One of the facets of entrepreneurship is being able to manage yourself – your time, your workflow, and thus your productivity. You know how to navigate a less structured environment as much as you can follow the protocol in a very structured role. It’s also about being able to look at the organization as a whole, and understand how your role and the work that you do contribute to the overall growth and goals of the company.
Think of your role as your own business. You and only you are accountable for running it day to day, seeking out the necessary resources you need to do the job, and tracking your progress. Of course, this mindset also means being able to step back and take yourself out of the equation on a personal level, and understand what the higher objectives of the project and the organization are.
Chances are you’re well-acquainted with the hard skills you bring to the table. But what soft skills do you possess that can potentially give you a step up? What traits have proven valuable to you in the past? How can you demonstrate those skills and traits to differentiate yourself from candidates with similar skill and experience-based qualifications?
Answer those questions well, and watch your soft skills get you hired!
For this post, YouTern thanks our friends at Brooklyn Resume Studio!
About the Author: Dana Leavy founded Aspyre Solutions, focusing on small business development and career consulting. Her mission is to support creative and socially-conscious small businesses, through career transition coaching and business consulting for creative professionals and entrepreneurs.
Dana has helped hundreds of professionals in advertising, marketing, design and other industries execute effective career plans to find and DO the work they are passionate about. She has presented seminars on navigating careers, transition and work-life balance to several colleges and universities, and her advice has been featured on MSN Careers, Fox Business News, NewsDay, CareerBuilder.com, GlassDoor and About.com. Follow Dana on Twitter!