How to be more effective at work: develop your soft skills

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If you’re reading this article, it’s likely you’re looking for ways to make yourself a more valued employee or are in desperate need of some ways to move up the career ladder. Many employees, managers and even business owners often lack vital skills that make them far more appreciated and effective at their roles. These skills aren’t always related to possessing more qualifications or a targeted degree, but may instead only be developed by awareness about yourself and how you interact with others. These specific skills are more accurately termed soft skills.

What are soft skills exactly?

As opposed to hard skills, which are more tangible and include things like professional qualifications or work experience, soft skills are less tangible and more to do with who you are as a person and how you interact with others. There are a whole host of soft skills, but a few examples include communication, resourcefulness, leadership and teamwork.

Why are soft skills important?

When employers look to hire new staff, or are deciding who to promote through the ranks, they are not completely focused on what grades you received at school or where you’ve worked before. Instead, they like to look for traits in your personality and in your apparent work ethic that indicate that you will make a good addition to their existing staffing team and will be adaptable to their company’s needs. Depending on where you are at in your career, these soft skills will become increasingly important as you would naturally be expected to nurture them throughout your time with different companies. If you feel like you are stuck in a rut and are looking to become more effective at work, it’s likely you’ll benefit greatly by improving on your soft skill set.

How do you develop soft skills?

The first thing you need to do is be proactive and take an honest and realistic look at who you are as a person and how you approach your working life. You should consider things like how trustworthy and reliable you are, how much of a hard worker you are, how you interact with members of your department, do you seek out new opportunities, or do you just stick to what you’re paid to do. Asking yourself questions like this should throw out and make apparent some of the weaknesses in your personality.

Next, it’s time to look at ways in which you can improve on your weaknesses. Say, for example, you find that much of your working day is spent on your own focusing on what you’re paid to do and that you avoid going out of that comfort zone very much. This can identify some soft skills that you are lacking in, such as that you’re not much of a team player, you don’t take a proactive approach to what needs doing, or that you don’t like the idea of greater responsibility. It is completely fine to come to these conclusions, and you will find that you are actually particularly strong in some different areas.

Once you’ve taken an honest look at yourself, you should have come to identify a handful of personal soft skills that you think could do with improving. So now it’s time to take action. Decide on a plan of attack for each of the skills and stick to it. To develop this plan you should examine those around you and see what they are doing differently. Perhaps you have a fellow colleague who joined your organisation at the same time you did. So you should either take stock of the way he approaches tasks or deals with others and try to replicate that; alternatively, be upfront with that person and ask them for advice.

If your objective is to improve your communication skills, take note of your colleague who is always joking and laughing with upper management, and is always getting new exciting opportunities thrown at him. Maybe your plan should be to speak to one new person in your organisation every day. This way you have a clear goal and you will be pushing yourself further and further out of your comfort zone, meeting all kinds of people. The conversations you have will vary and you will slowly become more confident and able to speak to people of varying authority. The idea is to start slow, but maintain gradual improvement every day.

What next?

If you’ve taken the time to assess your soft skills and find ways to improve, and now you’re feeling ready for a new challenge, it could be time for a career change, and a step up the ladder. In that case, BTG Recruitment is a trusted and leading accountancy and finance recruitment firm in Nottingham and Manchester. If this sounds like something you need, then get in contact to see how we can help you and start putting those soft skills to the test. Call Matt or one of the expert team at BTG Recruitment today for a confidential discussion on 0115 960 7000.

P.S. You can obtain a free copy of our 6 Step System to Finding your Perfect Accountancy Role here.

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