Improve the Soft Skills You Need to Succeed

In today’s marketplace, it isn’t enough to be a power Excel user or to have graduated at the top of your class at B-school. While hard skills, such as technical prowess or an award-winning portfolio, are certainly real accomplishments, the bottom line is that the ability to solve problems, communicate, and demonstrate emotional intelligence and diplomacy are the attributes that make you a stronger team player — and more likely to be hired.


How to Tell If You Need to Improve Your Soft Skills

Just as everyone believes they have a good sense of humor, it’s often hard to believe you might lack the soft skills that make a difference in the workplace. Are you amazing at finding new clients, but you can’t hold on to them? Does your business experience employee-retention problems? Are the problems you experience usually due to someone else’s failure to perform, do you find yourself arguing with coworkers, or are your work habits rigid? If so, you may need to improve your soft skills.


Find a Mentor

Soft skills aren’t born — they’re made. You can earn them by working with a mentor who has a particular skill set you admire. Perhaps there is a colleague or manager who demonstrates an aptitude for holding on to clients for a long time. Take her to lunch, acknowledge your goals, and ask if you could observe her at work. Take notes and try to put one observation into practice every week. No mentors to choose from? Consider taking an online continuing education course.


Keep a Journal

One of the best ways to encourage self-reflection is to write down the events of the day and how you felt before, during, and afterward. Do you notice a pattern emerging? Now imagine how you would like those events to turn in your favor and what you might do to accomplish that goal. Visualize yourself working to achieve the goal, and you may find yourself succeeding in real life.


Seek Feedback

It’s tempting to ignore harsh feedback by writing off a manager’s assessment as motivated by something other than a pure interest in your professional development. Resist the urge. Instead, think carefully about the incidents that may have led to that assessment and consider ways you can avoid similar feedback in the future.

Finally, remember that beginning a quest for self-improvement feels awkward at first. But with a long-term commitment to bettering yourself, you can become an even more valuable employee, one your business won’t soon part with.