Times like these call for a little introspection.
When you’re on the hunt for a job, you will likely be spending plenty of time convincing potential employers that you can perform the tasks they require. Oftentimes, you will be asked to create samples showing your mastery of what employers call the “hard skills” of your field.
But there are other essential skills you will need to become a workplace aficionado. Teamwork, time management, and openness to feedback prove critical to success in the workplace. These “soft skills” are imperative to potential employers as they show just how well you will fare in interpersonal aspects of the job.
As remote work becomes the new norm, how have the necessary soft skills evolved? And how can students and workers improve their soft skills to become more sought after in new jobs and more effective in their current ones? According to human resources company Employment Hero, remote work is likely to continue past the pandemic. So, let’s make sure you have some top-notch soft skills available in your workplace toolkit.
Here are the top five soft skills we’ve identified for remote workers along with ways to improve your performance in those areas:
1. Self Driven
Self-motivation is highly sought after in most positions. But in a time when many employees are working without a supervisor lurking in the distance, it becomes even more important. An effective remote employee can get their work done in a timely and accurate manner sans external pressure.
So, how can you put this skill into action? Start by ensuring you have all the resources you need to complete your work. If you run into any issues, try to solve them to the best of your ability (i.e. do a web search to find a solution) before going to a supervisor or teammate for assistance.
Also, creating an intrinsically motivating environment can help you find joy in your work. Simply re-decorating your work area or joining your colleagues on Zoom for interactive work sessions can boost morale and keep you connected.
When confronted with a new situation, like working from home full-time (#lockdowns), or joining a cross-cultural team, keeping an open mind will make your transition seamless.
Also called “learning agility” (used by Maria Kovaleva, Soft Skills Assessment and Development Manager at Practicum by Yandex), open-mindedness entails being receptive to feedback. This is especially crucial in a tech environment, where many people are working together to create a product and must be willing to make changes and correct course when needed.
Need to bolster this skill? Try taking a short online course, or watching a TED talk on a topic you may be unfamiliar with.
And if receiving feedback is scary, challenge yourself to seek it out. Ask your supervisor if there is something you could do better or an area in which they’d like to see you improve. Hearing about this may not be pleasant at first, but because you’ve created the situation and it is likely to be at a time of your choosing, you’ll get practice absorbing the information provided in a neutral manner. You might also try to compartmentalize, separating the emotion from the factual information presented so you can learn to receive feedback in the manner it is intended.
3. Time Management
When you’re working from home, you have a little more control over your schedule. For example, if you’re more efficient when you start working at 6 a.m. and end at 2 p.m. versus the standard 9 to 5, you can accomplish that more easily (and you can spend the rest of your afternoon with family, friends…or Netflix.)
But with great power comes great responsibility. That level of control can make it easy to let work stretch into much more than an eight-hour day. In fact, according to The Economist, most employees are working longer hours now that they’re working from home.
Don’t let this be you! Consider downloading some project management software (like monday.com), or time-blocking to ensure you’re making the most of your workday. Also, implement a specific work schedule. This will keep you on track while ensuring your work doesn’t creep into your family or leisure time.
4. Critical Thinking
Given the current media climate, it is easy to see how critical thinking helps you ensure that you’re acting on valid information in your personal life. According to Kovaleva, because information is being received digitally now, rather than face-to-face, assessing its usefulness is even more important. With most people at home instead of gathering in common work areas, we’re missing out on the non-verbal cues we typically use to determine data reliability. Workers are also missing out on the impromptu conversations or overheard information that help spread news throughout an organization.
Additionally, you’ll use critical thinking to make important decisions, identify the core of a problem and generate potential solutions, and create compelling arguments.
Not sure how to practice this skill? Begin by paying more attention to the info you currently receive. Note who typically has the most accurate information and where it originates. Consider using video communication for important topics so you can also get some of the non-verbal cues that are left out of emails and text messages.
Antifragility, coined by statistician and risk analyst Nassim Nicholas Taleb, comes from the study of systems. A system that is antifragile actually becomes stronger during times of stress or chaos. This characteristic goes beyond resilience, in which a system would remain unchanged when stressed.
If you’re finding that the ongoing stresses of the pandemic are affecting your ability to focus, this skill will become your best friend. The key, according to Psychology Today, is to know that you don’t have a choice about the stressors that enter your life, but you do have a choice of how you react. You can list potential or actual stressors and come up with a set of strategies on how to respond to them in a positive way. And when stress gets the better of you, accept that your responses are natural to avoid getting stuck in a cycle of blaming yourself for not reacting positively all the time.
So, how do I work my “soft skills” muscle?
- If you find that you have areas to improve, feel free to follow the steps we’ve outlined here. If you do a testing program, they will likely offer you specific prescriptions for improvement.
- Assessing and improving soft skills may seem daunting, but with the importance hiring managers place on them, the payoff will be worth it in the long run.
Want to put those new skills to use? To learn more about our educational programs — and how we incorporate soft skills throughout them — please visit the Practicum website.