9 ways to build soft skills

Soft skills are becoming a key hiring qualification among U.S. employers, Kate Hayes writes for Forbes.  

While employers still place an emphasis on technical prowess, they want to know that their employees have the interpersonal skills necessary to work collaboratively and therefore grow the business, she explains.

Hayes believes soft skills can be improved over time, as long as there is a commitment toward that goal. She outlines nine ways to build your soft skills:  

Skill: Working in teams and analyzing problems

 1: Read. If you're interested in learning more about the world around you, get in the habit of picking up a book, Hayes suggests. Bill Gates reads 50 books a year for that very reason, she notes. Reading will also expand your vocabulary.

2: Converse. Your workplace most likely requires you to discuss and debate ideas among your colleagues. You can get better at this by having discussions with people in your personal life about an article, book, or a show you are watching, Hayes writes.  

3: Self-examine. Getting feedback on how you communicate with others can be difficult, as many managers do not comment on the skill unless it gets in the way of business. Hayes suggest taking matters into your own hands by recording yourself to hear any filler words and identify other things you'd like to fix.

The one skill employers want most from new grads

Skill: Being creative and innovative

4: Research. Even if you are curious about topics outside of your day-to-day life, it can be hard to find time to learn more about them. Hayes suggests having a friend assign you a research paper, perhaps on a topic for which you have no interest, so that you can build creativity using that extra accountability.

5: Write. Spend some time writing a short story to help you get in touch with your creativity, Hayes suggests.

6: Detach. Hayes notes that we sometimes don't give ourselves the chance to be creative because we're so connected to our work. She suggests getting away from it all and just doing nothing for a little while. She believes that having an empty mind creates room for the creative juices to flow.

Skill: Developing a reputation for being resourceful and logical

7: Exemplify. Everyone is the CEO of something at work—whether it's of making sure the books are balanced or ensuring everyone gets a paycheck, Hayes writes. Take ownership of your task and job description and connect it to your organization's overall mission.

8: Explain. In order to solve problems at work, it's important to know how the situation became a problem in the first place. Hayes suggests having a frank and open conversation with a friend about a time you failed. It might be an uncomfortable conversation, but it's better than making the same mistake again, she writes.  

9: Listen. Being a likeable and effective colleague doesn't just involve talking—you've got to listen, too. Choose your moment to speak carefully, Hayes writes. She argues this will help you resolve conflicts better (Hayes, Forbes, 9/5).

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