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        Empowerment Series: Soft Skills

        5/3/2016
        Contributed by Business Professionals of America

        Empowerment Series: Soft Skills

        Greetings BPA, and welcome to this year’s final installment of the Empowerment Series, Soft Skills. Regardless of the industry, profession or workplace there will be business situations that will require soft skills to create more success. These, often underdeveloped, business skills are an invaluable way for you to increase your presence in your company.

         

        The Essence of Soft Skills

        Unlike hard skills, that incorporate a specific job skill such as: website design, managerial accounting or database design; soft skills are often labeled as ‘people skills’ and are what drives a successful work place. A 2008 survey of over 2000 companies in the state of Washington reported that most companies view their entry-level workers were lacking in the category of soft skills. This broad category was broken down into five distinct categories: communication, teamwork and collaboration, adaptability, problem solving and critical thinking, and conflict resolution. Through developing these skills more workplace successes and recognitions will likely come your way. However, developing these skills is no easy task, and can be particularly difficult considering that there is no tangible way of measuring this development. That being said, these skills can be developed and the rest of this blog will break down these areas in order to give you some tips to succeed.

         

        Communication

        First and foremost, good communication skills are vital for workplace success. Many companies often rank communication skills as the number one area that they look for in potential employees. Thus, when developing communication skills it is important to remember that communication is a two way street. In this spirit, when developing communication skills it is just as important to develop skills for communicating to people as it is to develop skills for interpreting communication from others. 

         

        It is also important to remember that communication skills go far beyond the field of auditory interactions. Rather, it incorporates: verbal, aural, non-verbal, written and visual fields. Thus, it is essential to always keep in mind what you are communicating to your co-workers. Take mental notes of what you are trying to convey and how your receiver is actually interpreting your communications. 

         

        Lastly, always keep in mind how and to whom you are communicating.  The way you communicate with a close friend or relative may not be appropriate when communicating with an interviewer or superior.  As such, always maintain a demeanor that will reflect you, as an employee or job candidate, in a positive light. 

         

        Teamwork and Collaboration

        US News reported in 2014 that a majority of careers in the 21st century will inevitably require some form of collaboration in the workplace. Thus, an employee or job candidate will find the modern workplace to be a difficult arena for advancement without strong collaboration skills. Most educational institutions have recognized this trend and have adjusted their curriculums accordingly. With that being said, there will always be room for improvement.

         

        Through extra curricular activates like BPA you can improve your skills in this area. For example, if you compete in the Small Business Management event you are actively building your collaboration skills. However, even working within your own chapter to organize fundraising efforts for your trip to NLC can help you gain skills in this crucial area.

         

        Teamwork and collaboration may manifest themselves in the workplace in different ways. One example is a group project may have members from multiple departments sharing their approaches to a problem. Teamwork and collaboration are vital to maintain a workplace that offers the most success to the company. Your job as an employee is to ensure that you do not hinder this process in any way.

        Adaptability

        Often times the demands of a work place may require you to go out of your comfort zone. Whether in completing a new report that you have never interacted with, volunteering for a difficult assignment, or simply learning new software, your drive to be adaptable in the work place is vital.

         

        To develop this skill you must have a good attitude. When addressing adaptability an employer will inevitably favor an employee that has a positive attitude over one whom is negative or disinterested with the task. Essentially, through adaptability you can go from an employee that gets work done to an employee that comes across as positive and has enough initiative to go the extra mile to get the job done.

        Problem Solving and Critical Thinking

        Every workplace has its problems. These problems can range from a paper jam to a delay in the supply chain. Your ability to think critically, evaluate and then execute a remedy to a workplace problem falls under the area of problem solving.  Problem solving on your feet is a critical aspect of the workplace that will most likely be presented to you daily.

         

        Further, critical thinking can go far beyond attacking problems. One example of this: instead of handing your employer a simple spreadsheet report, include a summary of the data and possible next steps to take. This shows not only initiative but also an understanding behind the data.

         

        Critical thinking and problem solving go hand in hand. As you increase your skills in one area your skills in the other will increase likewise. By having sharp problem solving and critical thinking skills you will distinguish yourself in the eyes of your employer.

        Conflict Resolution

        As with problems, there will certainly be conflicts within a workplace. With that said, your ability to negotiate and resolve these conflicts are fundamental. The best way to resolve conflicts is to come up with a solution that is mutually beneficial to both parties, which is often easier said than done.

         

        By developing conflict resolution skills your professionalism will also increase. By keeping a level head and coming up with solutions rather than hindrances during conflict you will look better to your employer, even if your solution is not picked. Also remember, that many companies have set institutional policies for conflict resolutions. Thus, if you do not have experience, turn to your company’s policies for answers.

         

        Conclusion

        When it comes to soft skills in the work place: make sure to ‘show them, don’t tell them.’ Developing soft skills across these areas can improve your likelihood of landing that dream job or advancing in your current position. Look to classes, the BPA Empowerment Series, or seek a mentor that can help you develop these skills that are vital to careers in todays world-class workforce.

         

        Thank you for reading our last segment of the Empowerment Series. We have enjoyed sharing our thoughts on how to be a better professional with you. If you have any questions or comments regarding this segment or any previous installment, please email your National Officer Team, with your feedback.

         

        Sincerely,

         

        2015-2016 National Officer Team

         

         

        Works Cited

        Buhl, Larry. 6 soft skills everyone needs and employers look for Technical skills may get you an interview, but these six soft skills will get you the job. No Date. http://www.monster.com/career-advice/article/six-soft-skills-everyone-needs-hot-jobs.

        Holmes, Bradford. Hone the Top 5 Soft Skills Every College Student Needs. 2014. http://www.usnews.com/education/blogs/college-admissions-playbook/2014/05/12/hone-the-top-5-soft-skills-every-college-student-needs.

        Skills You Need. Soft Skills. No Date. http://www.skillsyouneed.com/general/soft-skills.html.

        United States Department of Labor. Soft Skills to Pay the Bills — Mastering Soft Skills for Workplace Success. 2016. http://www.dol.gov/odep/topics/youth/softskills/.

         

         

         

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