Monday, September 12, 2011

Soft Skills Are the Key to Career Success!

By: Danielle Miller, Certified Career Invention Coach
One of my favorite songs is a classic Garth Brooks song called “I’ve Got Friends In Low Places” and a line in it that says “I’m not big on social graces”…fine for a song, but not if you want to really get ahead in your career.

Understanding the importance of soft skills is vital to enhancing your career and your opportunities. Soft skills are not about being “touchy-feely”, but are real qualities and traits that will enable you to put your best foot forward in pursuing your vocation.

Let’s start with a definition of soft skills: Soft skills can be defined as the traits and qualities that enhance a person’s job performance, career options, interactions with others, and leadership potential. These are qualities that are difficult to measure and quantify as opposed to hard skills, which refer to an individual’s skill set and more technical abilities.

What do soft skills look like? Some of the traits used to describe soft skills include things like:
• Effective communication
• Active listening
• Empathy
• Managing time effectively
• Flexibility
• Courteousness
• Adaptability
• Ability to manage emotions
• Problem solving
• Teamwork
• Conflict negotiation and resolution
• Motivating others
• Willingness to learn
• Conscientiousness

This is by no means a complete list, but it starts to give you an idea about the types of qualities that are considered soft skills.

Why are soft skills important? Well interestingly enough, as we are conducting more business and personal functions online, we are also becoming more social (hence the term social media). The world literally is at our fingertips now more than ever and we have more choices than ever. Clients, customers and people want to feel valued, respected, and have their problems solved and they will take their business and relationships elsewhere if those needs are not met.

Soft skills are also important because of their portability. What I mean by this is that you could change your career 20 times and the time you have invested in developing your soft skills will always be transferable to any career you choose. Not only will soft skills serve you professionally, but they will also enhance your personal relationships, attract like minded people to you, and empower you to make choices that are best for you.

We all have soft skills that can be cultivated whether you consider yourself to be a left brain or right brain person; for example, you may not be the best organizer, but you are excellent at motivating others to perform at their best. Perhaps you are the strategist that can see several different options for solving a challenge or the mediator in team meetings.

One of the most important things you can do is to know what your strengths and natural personality traits are so you can emphasize the ones that come naturally to you. There are any number of self assessments that can help you identify your strengths so you can capitalize on them. Another great way to start pinpointing your soft skills is to make a list of soft skill traits and ask friends to pick five that they feel represent you the best.

Knowing which soft skills you already possess and which ones you’d like to develop further will be invaluable to both your career success and personal success.

Do you want more helpful advice on job searching or career advancement? Become a member of the Fresh Start Community of women today: Membership gives you exclusive access to all of the exciting & interactive workshops.

Danielle Miller is a Certified Career Invention Coach and a Reinvention Strategist. She works with women who want to reimagine, reinvent, and reignite their careers and personal brand. She can be found at

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