To be a competitive worker in today’s world, you need to not only be focusing on building your resume, but on building and honing the soft skills that will make you successful. Since VirtualJobShadow.com spends considerable time interviewing professionals, researching work trends, and matching individuals with best-fit careers, we've developed a list of the most important soft skills for career success in 2020.
1) Flexibility- A recent study on the trajectories of 22,000 companies over the past four decades found that only 17% of companies were able to maintain peak performance for more than five years, and the common factor between those successful companies was a commitment to continually evolve and reinvent themselves. "The way we always did things" shouldn't be in the modern worker's vocabulary and those not willing to change risk being left behind. Flexibility can be applied on a much more granular level: are you the type of person who gets completely thrown off because a meeting was canceled last minute, you spilled coffee on yourself during your morning commute, or your manager rejected the pitch you stayed up all night working on? Or do you make the best out of any given obstacle? Flexibility means realizing not everything is under your control, but you're in control of how you handle everything.
2) Time Management- The average American wastes 21.8 hours a week and is only productive for 3.5 hours a day. While things like socializing with coworkers, getting up to walk around, and taking short mental breaks help productivity, a large amount of people waste a large amount of time at work; being someone who's able to come in to work, prioritize tasks, set goals, and utilize your time wisely is someone who will impress employers.
3) Collaboration- Teamwork isn’t surprising on a list of soft skills, but did you know that there’s a difference between teamwork and collaboration? Teams work together to complete a shared goal (i.e. working in your department). Collaborators will have some shared goals, as well as some competing goals. They may also have different leaders. Collaboration happens when teams work interdepartmentally or companies work together. Both teamwork and collaboration are integral to a productive workspace, but collaboration can be more difficult to master.
4) Networking- According to a survey by Performance-Based Hiring Learning Systems, 85% of respondents found their job via networking. Even more shocking? 70% of jobs aren't even listed—which could mean that companies are hiring from within. It could also mean that a friend of a friend or colleague of a colleague is the one getting resumes in front of employers. Networking includes connecting with other professionals in person, online, and managing and nurturing those relationships in a mutually beneficial way. Networking doesn’t just help with your job search, but also in instances of collaboration.
5) Problem Solving- Problem solving is the most evergreen skill on this list, because at their very base level every job is a problem-solving job. Employers and people doing the hiring want to know the people they hire are equipped to creatively and thoughtfully come up with solutions to problems.
6) Empathy-Taking other's thoughts, feelings, and perspectives into consideration is an incredibly powerful tool. It can help professionals create connections with current and prospective customers, patients, clients, coworkers, partners, collaborators, and teammates. Empathetic individuals also excel at problem solving, crisis management, and conflict resolution with their ability to see things from other perspectives. Empathy is often cited as a key leadership skill as seen in these articles by Forbes (8) and Fast Company.
7) Initiative-To show initiative is to be able to start things independently. Those with initiative are proactive. Research has shown that proactive people are better performers, contributors, and innovators than more passive workers. Having initiative means managing yourself, taking the needs of others into consideration, and figuring out how you can best help your workplace. People with initiative create their own opportunities.
8) Self-Advocacy-You will always need to be your own biggest supporter, or your own biggest advocate, which is why self-advocacy is so important at the workplace. While it’s common knowledge that not one size fits all, sometimes corporate culture forgets that. In order to be your best self-advocate, you need to know your strengths and weaknesses so that you can advocate for the working environment that will allow you to produce your best work. This also means showing resolve. If you really believe an idea or initiative is going to benefit the greater good, don’t be afraid to make a case for it, even if it’s initially shut down.
9) Open-Mindedness- Open-mindedness goes hand in hand with flexibility to some degree. “The way we’ve done things” mentality means that you’re stuck in your ways. Being open to change means you’re open to growth. Being open-minded also means you’re the type of person who can turn failures into learning experiences, take other viewpoints than your own into consideration, and aren’t afraid to take suggestions and try new ideas. Open-mindedness is an important step towards creating an inclusive, diverse workforce, which we’ve covered before is good for business.
10) Communication- Think about all the ways in which you communicate throughout the day: small talk, conversation, non-verbal cues, facial expressions, meetings, video-conference calls, knowing when and when not to talk, speeches, presentations, emails, Slack—we could go on and on, and each of these particular pieces of communications can foster entire blog posts of their own. Knowing how to communicate effectively and appropriately is key to being successful today, and a communication deficit certainly would render every other skill on this list moot.