By KATHI WEILBACHER
Employers in today’s job market are looking for more than technical skills. They place a high value on “soft skills” — everyone needs these skills to move ahead in their career. Employment experts agree that technical skills may get you an interview, but these soft skills will get you the job — and help you keep it.
“Soft skills” refer to a group of personal qualities, habits, attitudes and social graces that make you a good employee and co-worker.
Area employers tell us, “Just send me someone with the right soft skills and we will train them,” said Rick Stubblefield, Business Development Representative for St. Clair County Intergovernmental Grants. “They want employees who know what punctuality means or the ability to communicate and work with others. Other skills like problem solving and teamwork are equally important.”
Some of the most common soft skills employers are looking for and will be assessing you on include:
Strong Work Ethic – Do you show up on time? Are you motivated and dedicated to getting the job done? Are you cognizant of the work you do and do your best work?
Positive Attitude – Is the glass half full? Are you optimistic and cheerful? Will you generate good energy and good will? Can you handle the stress that accompanies deadlines and crisis?
Communication Skills – Do you express yourself well? Are you verbally articulate and a good listener? Can you write a coherent memo? Can you express your needs to co-workers, clients and vendors?
Time Management – Do you know how to prioritize tasks and multi-task? Will you use your time wisely on the job?
Problem-Solving Skills – Are you resourceful and take a creative approach to solving problems? Do you take ownership of problems? Be prepared for the “how did you solve a problem?” interview question. Explain what you did, how you approached the problem, how you involved others and what the outcome was in real, measurable results.
Teamwork and Collaboration– Do you work well with others? Employers want employees who play well with others – who can effectively work as part of a team. That means sometimes being the leader, sometimes a good follower, monitoring the progress, meeting deadlines and working with others to achieve a common goal.
Flexibility and Adaptability – Do you embrace change and are you open to new ideas? Can you handle criticism? Are you coachable and open to learning and growing as a person and a professional? Are you able to adapt to new situations and challenges? This is especially important for seasoned professionals to counter the opinion that older workers are too set in their ways. To succeed in most organizations, you have to have a passion for learning and the ability to change your skills to adapt to the changing needs of the organization. On your resume and cover letter and during your interview, explain the ways you have continued to grow throughout your career.
Boosting your soft skills not only gives you a leg up on a new job or promotion, but these skills also have obvious applications in all areas of a person’s life, both professional and personal.
For links to best practices, sample interview questions and resume tools, visit www.illinoinsworknet.com.
Kathi Weilbacher is a career specialist at the Southwestern Illinois Workforce Investment Act office at the Monroe County Courthouse in Waterloo. She can be reached at 939-3332 or email@example.com.