Though technology changes and it can be hard to keep up with every industry trend, employers still seek the same old soft skills they did ages ago. Here’s a list of non-technical skills you can develop to help secure remote employment for years to come.
14 Soft Skills to Keep You Employed in Any Economy
We recently entered another revolutionary period, according to the World Economic Forum’s The Future of Jobs report. Technology is changing the nature of the workplace, employment, and recruiting. The report stresses that advancements in technology are an opportunity for personal and professional growth throughout one’s career, rather than a threat to human-filled jobs. However, technical knowledge and other “hard” skills aren’t the only factors recruiters and employers seek in their expanding and ever-changing workforces. Soft skills such as communication, empathy, and flexibility, which are highly transferable, go a long way in almost any position.
A 2016 study found that more than 90% of employers considered soft skills “essential” or “very important.” In fact, hiring managers are having such a difficult time finding employees with outstanding soft skills that some employers now say they value soft skills over technical skills when assessing candidates.
Here, you’ll find 14 soft skills you can develop that will help keep you employed during any economic season.
In a professional setting, communication refers to the ability to convey ideas and information comprehensively to help facilitate discussion, solve problems, and make decisions. Communication includes speaking, writing, and presenting to both individuals and groups in formal and informal settings. One of the critical elements of communication is understanding your audience (i.e., who you’re speaking to or writing for) and then tailoring your words, style, and tone to help improve comprehension. Another is knowing how to approach a variety of situations and the tone, words, and body language to use during each.. This could be a casual cubicle conversation, a potential conflict with a co-worker, a client who is pushing boundaries, or a co-worker’s retirement celebration, and more.
When will I use this skill? Well-planned or thought out communication is vital during conversation and instruction. It is also a critical tool when writing emails or creating a campaign for content marketing.
Coordination is the ability to work with others to accomplish a goal or task. Remote teams across different time zones need excellent coordination skills to ensure congruency among workers and to deliver work products accurately and in a timely manner.
Learn the typical etiquette for teamwork, and generally speaking, try to listen more than you speak. Work on keeping your desk materials and your digital work organized, and meet deadlines on time or early. These traits will help you to land jobs that are available at almost all companies or organizations.
As a child, how many times did you hear the adage, “Treat others the way you’d like to be treated,” or “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all?” Not much has changed since childhood. Courtesy for others remains a vital aspect of business communication and relationship building.
Individuals who demonstrate courtesy will do well in diplomatic or customer-facing roles, where one must also be polite regardless of how frustrating a situation may become. Courtesy also involves hospitality, manners and kindness, so it is absolutely critical in careers focused on fundraising and certain areas of business, which involve frequent wining an dining.
Detail-oriented people are observant and seek to understand causes, map concepts, and meticulously complete their work. They notice changes, deviations, and trends, and they perform thorough research and analysis. In a world of big data, employers seek professionals who can sift through the noise, quickly detect anomalies, and organize information logically. Many organizations also rely on their teams to follow instructions accurately and precisely and spot errors before they have harmful effects.
These jobs require precision and a meticulous nature. You may be removing a brain tumor, auditing a company, or typing a word-for-word court transcript. Regardless of the job, detail-oriented people tend to avoid multitasking, understand their specific position, break down larger projects into smaller ones, and proofread. Intentionally implement some of these behaviors in your life, and you too can become more detail oriented.
In our increasingly connected and technologically advanced workplaces, things change quickly. Companies that can respond to such changes and adapt are more likely to survive and thrive than their stubborn counterparts. Since a company is only as good as its people, employers need workers who react positively to change and approach unforeseen events as challenges that invoke growth. To portray this flexibility or learn to be flexible, intentionally find the positive in every change, and try to view creating solutions for challenges as a strategy game, rather than a burden. Jobs that greatly value flexibility include incident response, technical support, project coordination, and more.
Professional integrity includes showing up on time, doing the very best work you can, and communicating honestly. This includes speaking and acting morally and ethically, even when it’s not the easy move to make. For example, someone with integrity tells their employer when their payroll check was $500 too much. A sales person with integrity would avoid fudging the numbers and report the correct data to management, even if it could mean they’re out of a job.
Integrity isn’t so much learned as it demonstrated. Your best chance of letting future employers know you have integrity is by keeping a record of times when you’ve “done the right thing,” despite preference, or publicly (even if it’s quietly) standing up for something you believe to be most ethical. Google, 3M, and the Mayo clinic are all companies desiring employees with impressive integrity.
Listening and communication go hand-in-hand. It’s important to listen to others with the intention to comprehend, rather than make assumptions. The same goes for carefully reading emails, reports, and letters. Keen listening skills help professionals avoid confusion, misinterpretations, and conflict. When you listen first, you help people feel heard, learn about a situation, and are presented with new ideas that may spark a solution in your mind. As you choose to listen more without pre-developing a response while someone is talking or daydreaming, you become more perceptive, and it becomes easier to teach, translate, serve, lead, and negotiate. Practice listening first and fully with family and friends. Soon, those skills will transfer to work, too. Companies such as A Place for Mom, InVision, and Language Line Solutions stress their desire for employees who are good listeners.
Organization doesn’t necessarily imply a squeaky-clean desk or perfectly structured work method. It does, however, mean that you have systems in place to effectively manage your time, documents, finances, thoughts, ideas, and communications. Organization is especially important for management positions and roles that collect and process a lot of data. However, everyone can benefit from a bit of order to create efficient workflows and more accurate, high-quality work products. If you struggle with organization, set aside 10 minutes at the end of each day to make sure everything on your desk is returned to its proper place, any new information is marked on your calendar, and your digital workspace follows a system as well.
Employers want upbeat individuals who can roll with the punches, take failure in stride, and continue to strive for the best despite all obstacles. Therefore, the more positivity you bring to a team, the more likely you’ll get hired. In fact, Jobvite found that enthusiasm was the third most important trait that positively influenced recruiters’ hiring decisions in 2017. Now, you still need industry knowledge and technical skills related to your profession, but in a large pool of qualified candidates, a little enthusiasm can go a long way.
Professionalism is a rather vague term to describe business-like conduct, which changes as the nature of the workplace changes. For example, back in the day, many employers required their workers to wear pressed suits in the office and while visiting clients. Over time, professionals started ditching their jackets and companies adopted more business-casual attire. These days, many organizations lean toward casual clothing to make the office comfortable and inviting. Plus, telecommuters who work at home are free to stay in their pajamas all day and comb their hair only before video conferences. (Did you know that 69.5% of Virtual Vocations survey respondents admit that they work in their pajamas at least some of the time?)
Regardless of your wardrobe, however, you can always exude professionalism in the way you carry yourself, your manner of speaking, your posture and attitude, and by showing respect and appreciation for others. The care and pride you take in your occupation, how you communicate with workers and managers, and your dedication to continuous improvement demonstrates your level of professionalism to potential employers.
You may think that only sales and marketing roles require persuasive traits, but all workers in any occupation can benefit from persuasion skills. For example, at some point, you may need to convince your manager to purchase new software, hire another employee, or give you a promotion. You might also help proposal teams land new clients or assist grant writing teams to apply for funding. In either case, persuasion involves crafting compelling arguments to gain new business, attract clients, and influence company decisions.
Employers also seek professionals who can inspire customers to purchase products and rally employees to adopt policies and protocols. Careers where honing your persuasion skills is extremely important include sales, marketing, business development, and some areas of law enforcement.
12. Social and Interpersonal
Employers generally seek nice people who can work well with others. Therefore, whether you’re an introvert or extrovert, you should be able to express compassion for others, offer assistance, and participate in conversations to some degree.
Keep in mind, in the remote workspace, nonverbal communication is limited but still very powerful. For instance, the use of emojis, typing on the keyboard during phone conversations, your tone of voice, and placement of all-caps and exclamation points can influence a listener or reader and alter the mood of an interaction.
13. Strategic Thinking
If the details bog you down, consider your strengths at the other end of the spectrum. Companies need strategic thinkers who can imagine scenarios, generate outside-the-box ideas, and create plans to actualize their visions. Thus, if you relish in the abstract and can align business objectives with innovative, forward-thinking ideas, employers will be lining up at your door (or your inbox) with requests for interviews. To improve your strategic thinking, first work on your listening, participate in problem-solving games, and ask leadership to include you in goals and business objective meetings, so you can learn how to better yourself.
14. Teaching Others
Professional educators study learning and teaching methods so that they can communicate lessons and help students succeed. However, you can still be a great teacher without a formal degree. Have you ever showed a colleague how to use a software program feature or how to speed up their work tasks? Have you ever trained a new employee or gave tips to customers on how to make their products work better? Teaching and training skills are becoming more critical as technology ceaselessly changes and people have increased access to tech resources. Many people are natural teachers, other not so much.
If you need to improve your teaching/training skills, consider taking a course to help you, practicing with loved ones, and then putting yourself out there to do it so much that it eventually becomes natural. A few organizations that commonly hire individuals with strong teaching skills include Connections Academy, Kaplan Inc. and Western Governors University
Put Your Soft Skills to the Test
If you need help conveying your soft skills on your resume or cover letter, submit your documents to our Professional Resume Review Team or request a brand new set. Our expert resume and cover letter writers can help you capture your best qualities stand out from the crowd.
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What soft skills would you add to this list for someone who wants to be as employable as possible in any economy? Connect with Virtual Vocations on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn to tell us. We’d love to hear from you!
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