What are Soft Skills?
Sharon Burton and Nelda Shelton, in their text book, Office Procedures for the 21st Century (8th Edition) describe soft skills as personal qualities such as being responsible, dependable, a self-starter, having a positive self-esteem, being sociable, exhibiting self-management, displaying integrity/honesty, projecting a pleasant personality, showing your human side and projecting a professional image. Your ability to get along with your co-workers and being a team player is essential to your success as a valued employee . Let’s take a closer look at soft skills.
There are many Personal qualities, also called soft skills, that are required on the job. The following outlines some of the most important:
- Be Reliable and Dependable: Proving you are responsible on the job is one of the key personal qualities of the office professional. Make sure you perform the tasks assigned by your supervisor or manager to the best of your ability. Keep your supervisor informed of your progress and inform him/her of any obstacles that might prevent you from meeting your deadline.
- Take Initiative: Look for opportunities to gain additional responsibilities by taking the initiative to ask your supervisor if you can assist him/her with a project or special event that is on the horizon. This could be as simple as refilling the office supplies that are getting low or setting up a system for the office staff to easily access frequently used forms. By gaining additional responsibility, you will be able to demonstrate your level of initiative to your supervisor and other coworkers as well.
- Show Up on Time: It’s also important that you are known as dependable and someone that can be relied upon to come to work every day on time. Today’s employers cannot afford to tolerate tardiness so organize your life such that you can practice an excellent attendance record by arriving at work on time each morning and returning to your desk promptly after breaks and lunch. Remember, your employer and the entire office is dependent on your presence in the office.
- Develop Positive Self-Esteem: Self-esteem is defined as the opinion you have of yourself. Having high self-esteem causes you to be more confident and possess a good attitude which affects you both at home and in the workplace. Having a positive attitude impacts everything you do in life but in particular, how you perform in your job. People with a positive attitude are generally more successful in their work life.
- Be Sociable: This comes naturally for some people and is not so easy for others. However, being social with your co-workers does help develop a positive office environment and a place where people enjoy going each day. Start out by just being friendly and greet your co-workers with a pleasant smile at work each day. Burton and Shelton also recommend taking part in office get-together’s such as birthday celebrations, lunches and holiday celebrations. They believe your attendance and participation is part of your belonging to the office group and showing your desire to support one another.
- Exhibit Self-Management: This is basically an exercise in self control and evaluating a situation before your react. When confronted with difficult situations, allow yourself time to think and evaluate the situation to avoid displaying an inappropriate attitude you’ll regret later.
- Display Integrity/Honesty: It’s important that you are sincere and trustworthy on the job and follow your companies code of ethics. The code of ethics sets high standards for professional integrity in the workplace in areas such as honesty, loyalty, social responsibility and protection of company information and property. Companies will often post a summary of their code of ethics on their website.
- Projecting a Pleasant Personality. One thing that makes life interesting is that everyone has different personalities and some people have better personalities than others. According to the Personality System website, over the years there have been many different definitions for what personality is and that most of the definitions refer to a mental system — a collection of psychological parts including motives, emotions, and thoughts.
- Show Your Human Side: It’s possible to be viewed as a professional and still show your human side and this can be accomplished simply by greeting your co-workers or customers with a friendly smile and a “good morning” or”good afternoon”. Shelton and Burton recommend that you treat each person as if they are important to you and that the little things do count. Being thoughtful will help you enjoy your relationship with others more.
- Project a professional image: A professional is one who aspires to meet the highest possible standards in their profession. For the office professional, this achieved through a variety of ways such as a well manicured appearance, a willingness to continually learn and grow and keep up with industry trends, taking pride in one’s work and applying quality standards and belonging to professional organizations.
The office professional can no longer depend on technical skills and knowledge alone for success on the job. They must have the ability to communicate and get along people so an understanding of the importance of interpersonal skills is important. For example, Shelton and Burton in their textbook Office Procedures for the 21st Century outline 15 ways you can improve your interpersonal skills and project a professional image by working on one skill at a time. The reward they say, is projecting a professional image.
- Cope with stress
- Cope with change
- Display good manners
- Keep confidential information confidential
- Recognize office politics
- Respect Diversity
- Embrace constructive criticism
- Negotiate effectively
- Exercise leadership
- Offer exceptional customer service
- Teach others
- Understand conflict resolution
- Learn to work with difficult people
- Recognize individual differences
- Be a team player