With the dramatic changes in the economy in the past few years, it can be hard for job seekers and employees alike to know where they need to focus their time and attention in order to land that next job or keep the one they have. Societal changes and economic changes both influence what these top skills are, but time and time again we are reminded that soft skills almost always beat out the hard skills.
An employer can teach employees new skills — send someone to a certification course, train them on new software — but it’s much harder to instill a sense of work ethic in them, an understanding of how to be a good team player or an effective problem solver. These tend to be tougher to develop in employees because in some cases, you either have it or you don’t, personality wise. So keep in mind when you are focusing on that latest trend or trying to figure what the next hot skill or talent is…that most often it is the soft skills that rise to the surface. Keep those on top of mind instead of solely chasing that next hot trend.
Here are some of the top skills I suggest employees and job seekers focus on in 2013:
Communication skills. This includes online and offline. Email communication and how you come across is now just as important, and sometimes more of a challenge, than in-person communication. Understand how to communicate in all arenas effectively and when to use one versus the other. Some things are just better said in person.
Conflict Resolution. We cannot avoid conflict at work regardless of the industry. Some jobs will require more of this skill than others (conflict will vary in frequency and intensity depending on your role) but you will face this with every job you hold. Being able to diffuse a difficult or tense situation, handle disagreements professionally while under pressure, and know how to do this with grace is critical to your success, ability to move up the corporate ladder, and being seen as a leader.
Social Media. You cannot avoid this one. It may not be a major part of your job but it could be down the line and you at least need to have an understanding of how it works and how it impacts your job search and your online presence or brand.
Flexibility. Roles can change often, especially in a down economy. Employees are downsized and those who are left have to take on their duties. Companies looking for ways to save money can change your role to streamline duties for greater efficiency. New software is introduced to save money and time. Being willing and able to take changes in stride on a regular basis can save your mental sanity and your ability to be promoted.
Problem Solving and Thinking on Your Feet. Not everyone is naturally good at this and if you are not, you can improve. These are two skills again that employers cannot necessarily teach you, or won’t take the time to help you improve but ones they want you to have. An employee with the ability to solve problems on their own and make quick decisions as needed with a customer or in a meeting is invaluable. Practice recognizing and acknowledging all sides of a problem by quickly analyzing it. Try on different perspectives or ways of seeing it in order to come up with creative solutions. Use Sudoku or other problem-solving games to help improve your skill in this area.
When you are in an interview or performance review, be prepared to provide examples of how you used this skill — not just telling them you have it. Illustrating the skills you have or the ones you are working on is much more powerful than talking about it. Start with these five, but also take time to think about what your job requires most of you and what skills are most critical to your role because they will vary depending on your situation. Re-visit previous performance reviews, ask your boss, whatever you need to do to ensure you have a clear sense of the skills you need to beef up the most in 2013.
Guest Blogger Hallie Crawford is a certified career coach and founder of HallieCrawford.com. Her team of coaches help people find their dream job and make it a reality. She is regularly featured as an expert in the media including the Wall Street Journal, CNN, and US News & World Report. Visit her website at www.HallieCrawford.com for more information about her team's career coaching services. Set up a Complimentary Career Strategy Session with Hallie Crawford to get advice on your career goals. *Mention you saw us on Talent Zoo and receive a free bonus if you purchase a product or sign up for coaching.*
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