When it comes to experience and skill, you may be exactly what a potential employer is looking for. But, if the person interviewing you senses you lack the passion and roll-your-sleeves-up mentality their team thrives on, you’ll likely not get the job offer. That’s because soft skills like grit, excitement, and respect are what make a stellar employee. The skills outlined on a résumé only tell a fraction of the story, while understanding an individual’s work ethic, how they overcome adversity, and how they interact with their peers is much more indicative of success.
A LinkedIn Global Talent Trends report shows that 92% of talent professionals reported that soft skills are equally or more important to hire for than hard skills. The same study reveals that 89% surveyed said that when a new hire doesn’t work out, it’s because they lack much-needed soft skills.
The hard truth about hard skills is that they can have a short half-life. Constant innovation, technology updates, and new feature releases render many of these skills obsolete quickly. Meanwhile, soft skills never expire—they are relevant, transferable, and keep a person highly employable.
I have seen firsthand the value of soft skills in my career path—I became a C-suite executive in my twenties and am now chief creative officer at ClickUp, a fast-growing, four-billion-dollar productivity company. Here are the 10 soft skills that helped me get ahead—and can do the same for you and your career.
Think about it: adapting to an environment is a challenging yet critical part of growing your career. Adaptability in the workplace is the ability to adjust to changes in your role, processes, and surroundings. No matter the situation that you’re put in, it should be your goal to acclimate and excel. Don’t wait for change to come to you; anticipate what changes may be headed your way. How will you adapt? Are there new opportunities for you to develop your skills? How can you best contribute to new projects? These are the questions you should ask.
These changes may include a new manager with a different work style, the addition of new responsibilities to your role, or a shift in priorities with the signing of a new client. What do you need to be adaptable? An open mind, a can-do attitude, and a growth mindset.
Emotional intelligence is a person’s ability to perceive, evaluate, and control their emotions while being aware of other people’s emotions. We also refer to a person’s emotional intelligence as their EQ (emotional quotient). A high-EQ person thinks before they speak and act. This person also practices self-reflection and understands their feelings. They also don’t make decisions while angry. When they’re anxious, they pause and take a step back. They work to regulate their emotions, shift gears when needed, and don’t let their feelings interfere with producing great work.
Effective communication is both an art and a science—it’s much more than transferring information from one person to another. A good communicator can express ideas clearly. They can also engage proactively and productively. When you communicate effectively, there’s little room for misunderstanding. Whether sharing your vision with your team or outlining the scope of a project, be concise and clear. Your ability to communicate well will strengthen new connections, bolster long-term relationships, and boost your reputation.
Negotiation is one of the most crucial yet underrated soft skills. Underneath the negotiation umbrella, you’ll find time management, active listening, accountability, and critical thinking.
Identify your priorities and set clear, firm boundaries regarding what is and is not negotiable. Always work with the most up-to-date, reliable facts when “entering” a negotiation, and consider the source and context of information. This way, you comprehensively understand a situation and can work toward the best outcome.
There’s a reason they say “teamwork makes the dream work.” A business doesn’t run without a team, and an effective team player can drive success and contribute to a positive environment. Always celebrate your team members’ small wins and give them the kudos they deserve. This creates a happy work culture in which team members feel recognized, heard, and seen. Motivated employees will be willing to go the extra mile (or two) and can increase company productivity by 10x. Remember that the small things are the big things. Celebrate your small wins, small projects, and small ideas. Don’t neglect the smaller things while chasing big goals.
Pessimism doesn’t help you build your career. Aim to engage positively, especially when collaborating with team members to achieve a common goal. A positive attitude will help you climb the corporate ladder faster. Avoid negative thinking, gossip, and complaining. Complaining accomplishes nothing. Instead, look through a challenge and think of new ways to solve a problem. A positive person sees possibilities instead of roadblocks. Attitude is contagious—and a positive mindset impacts your job performance, job satisfaction, and even how others view you.
To accelerate your career, make managing your time your number-one priority. How do you do this? Remember that you can’t do everything at once (and do it well). Make a list and prioritize your tasks. Divide the tasks into “urgent,” “important and nonurgent,” and “other” categories. Use tools to automate away some tasks, delegate to others, and delete unnecessary tasks. You can also physically block off focus time in your calendar, create checklists, and develop templates for specific tasks.
Aim to avoid conflict in the organization or, when conflict is unavoidable, work to resolve disputes early on (before they snowball into more significant problems). You can apply the communication and negotiation skills I mentioned earlier to find solutions to conflicts—solutions that are right for you and the company. Often a conflict results from incorrect (or lack of) information, so clear, accurate, and timely communication of guidelines, deadlines, and policies can prevent many workplace conflicts.
Take responsibility and accept ownership for your work. Especially when you manage a team, remember that “the buck stops with you.” That means that your team’s wins, misses, and outcomes reflect on you and your work ethic. It’s also important to accept the consequences of the mistakes you make on a project. Never place the blame on others. Deliver your projects on time, respect your colleagues, and show up every day with enthusiasm.
COLLABORATION OVER COMPETITION
Competition is a short-term game, whereas collaboration leads to long-term connections and mutual growth. Collaboration also results in deeper relationships, increased creativity, and more innovative results. Two brains are better than one, and the creative ideas sparked by collaborative brainstorms push a company forward.
Also, when you collaborate with other team members, you may learn new ways of tackling assignments. And you may even learn from each other’s mistakes. This information sharing allows for cross-training within and among teams.
The hard truth about soft skills is that they matter—a lot. Soft skills are often overlooked because they are difficult to measure, calculate, and quantify. However, mastering soft skills is essential to navigating today’s fast-paced, ever-changing work environment and evolving your career. When you develop, hone, and practice soft skills over time, everyone reaps the rewards—you, your colleagues, and your organization.