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Tips to Sharpen In-Demand Soft Skills

From the manufacturing floor to the trading floor, these days, almost every business is looking for skilled workers with well-developed soft skills. In fact, according to Gregory Lewis in his LinkedIn blog post titled “The Most In-Demand Hard and Soft Skills of 2018,” the top three soft skills employers are looking for this year are leadership, communication, and collaboration skills. Here are some practical tips on how to take your soft skills to the next level.

  • Leadership skills: Some people are born leaders, but others need to learn how to lead. If you’re in the second group, then the good news is that with some practice, you can become a strong leader. Start by analyzing your leadership strengths and weaknesses. For example, if you’re adept at leading by example but not great at following through on goals you’ve set, then you need to focus more on achieving your goals. Other areas to examine include self-motivation, motivating others, and communication. Once you’ve determined your strengths and weaknesses, the best way to hone your leadership skills is to lead a team to a specific goal. However, you can also simply practice in your daily job, for example by motivating a co-worker or pushing yourself to finish a project before the deadline.

  • Communication skills: Communication is about conveying your message and understand other people’s messages. There are several factors that influence how your message is interpreted by a listener, including your choice of words, tone, and body language. Ask yourself whether you use language that is accurate, neutral, and appropriate for a professional setting? Is your tone friendly or neutral? Is your body language open yet confident? Similarly, how well another person can communicate his or her message to you is influenced by how much and what type of attention you’re paying to him or her. It’s important to listen properly — so don’t look at your smartphone or computer. At the same time, your body language should reflect that you’re receptive to what the other person has to say, so be patient and open. Remember: Anything that could convey impatience or distraction is likely to deter your conversation partner from trying to get his or her message across. Instead, practice listening actively, by nodding, making eye contact, and occasionally repeating what the other person says.

  • Collaboration skills: Even if you regularly work in a team setting, you might still have room to improve your collaboration skills. Take a moment to assess how you work with others. Ask yourself things like whether there are people you avoid working with, how you handle collaborating with difficult coworkers, and whether you possess the ability to contribute without taking over another coworker’s responsibilities. Next time you’re in a team setting, concentrate on those areas where you feel your performance is weak. For example, team up with someone you normally would avoid or instead of trying to lead a project, simply contribute your own work and if you have time left, ask your colleagues how you can help.

If you keep these tips in mind and practice your soft skills in both your professional and personal life, you'll soon be ready to actively lead, communicate, and collaborate in business circumstances where the payoff is your career advancement.