Soft skills, also known as common skills, are the skills that are desirable in personal and professional life. These are the attributes or characteristics of a person that allow him to interact with others effectively, which is generally focused to work, certain aspects of it, or even daily life.
They are not just a particular ingredient, but they are the result of a combination of social skills, communication, way of being, of approach to others and other factors that make a person given to relate and communicate effectively with others.
Therefore, soft skills are related to what is known as emotional intelligence; the relationship and effective communication is mainly affected by the ability to know and manage emotions, both in ourselves as in others. It also can use the term “soft skills” to group these skills into one person.
Another way to approach it is to differentiate these characteristics of what is known as hard skills; these last are related to formal and technical requirements to perform a certain activity. For example, know the procedures and mode of operation of a machine in a factory, is part of the hard skills of a person.
It is also important not to idealize the different capacities or abilities of each one; for some tasks or functions soft skills are of great importance (for example for those jobs where there is a direct relationship with the public, or where a lot of interaction is required with other entities, departments or individuals), while other works focus their requirements rather on the candidate’s “hard skills” (for example, a computer programmer). Each person, according to your characteristics and preferences, will look more comfortable in a position according to your skillset.
The Four Phases of the Learning Process
In psychology, the four stages of competence, or the “conscious competence” learning model, define the psychological states we go through as we progress from incompetence to competence in a skill.
It suggests that people are initially unaware of how little we know, or unaware of our incompetence. When we recognize our incompetence, we consciously acquire a skill and then consciously use it. Also, this ability can be used without conscious thought, in that case, it is said that the person has acquired unconscious competence. And here the coach comes into play: the professional who accompanies you to help you identify what you do not see about yourself. It diagnoses your skills to develop and works with you.
In any case, both soft and hard skills can be developed. In the case of hard skills the matter is obvious; for example, just read the manual operation of a machine or device to develop them in a certain field. While the soft skills will require the will to put more attention in the way we relate to others.
Leading others to achieve goals is one of the most challenging important skills that people assume when they come to occupy supervisory charges.
In their professional careers, people have knowledge and skills derived from their technical and academic preparation, and as a result of good performance in the application of that knowledge, is that they rise in the organizations. However, success in the field executive requires other competencies, related to the so-called “soft skills”.
Knowledge of hard skills is essential in the start stage of working life. To ascend and grow, they are not enough. The mastery of managerial skills, which are transversal and indispensable for people who hold positions in which, the most important thing, is the ability to develop others.
From this perspective, we need to develop or strengthen the learning of these skills by applying a very simple model, divided into four stages; which is taken from the renowned American psychologist Abraham Maslow.
The aforementioned process includes the following phases:
- Unconscious incompetence (We don’t know that we don’t know)
- Conscious incompetence (We know that we don’t know)
- Conscious competition (We work at what we don’t know)
- Unconscious competition (We don’t have to think about knowing it)
1. Unconscious incompetence
The individual does not understand or know how to do something and does not necessarily recognize this deficit. It can negate the usefulness of the skill. This person must acknowledge their own incompetence and the value of the new skill before moving on to the next stage. The amount of time someone spends in this stage depends on the strength of the stimulus to learn.
2. Conscious incompetence
Although the individual does not understand or does not know how to do something, he recognizes the deficit, as well as the value of a new skill to address the deficit. Making mistakes can be an integral part of the learning process at this stage.
3. Conscious competition
The individual understands or knows how to perform a certain task. However, demonstrating skill or knowledge requires concentration. It can be divided into steps, and there is a lot of conscious participation in the execution of the new skill.
4. Unconscious competence
The individual has had so much practice with a skill that it has become “second nature” and can be easily performed. As a result, the skill can be performed while another task is running. The individual can teach it to others, depending on how and when it was learned.
How to Develop Soft Skills?
Talking about soft skills is something new, but history has shown that success depends on personal skills that are not necessarily part of traditional study curricula.
We start by going to school, then to university and thus, without realizing what is happening, we land on our first job. The goal now is to create a career that meets our expectations and leads us to achieve our dreams. To achieve this goal it is essential to never stop learning.
Thus, you will acquire knowledge and technical skills, which will help you, specialize in a specific field. And, whatever your role, you should develop soft skills that will allow you to better relate to others and make better decisions.
Why Soft Skills are so important?
Throughout our careers, we are always learning new professional skills. Either because our position changes or because new technologies are created, this is a reality.
While there are specific skills for each field of work, whatever the case there is something they all have in common: we all work with people.
Although we constantly interact with others, this does not mean that in a work environment we can achieve the results we want in the best possible way. Making a friend wait for 10 minutes when we go to have a coffee is very different from making our co-workers wait to start a business meeting in a company.
What soft skills give us is the ability to find the best ways to work with others, their ideas, and even ourselves. For example, skills such as creativity speak of how we can optimize our generation of ideas for better results.
Soft skills are very important to build a successful professional career. Companies know this and that is why they are increasingly interested in hiring people with these skills. However, it is not always easy. A survey conducted by Manpower in 2013 revealed that in 16% of the cases where companies were unable to find the right person for a vacant position, it was due to a lack of soft skills in the candidates.
5 Tips to develop soft skills:
1. Define a clear objective:
Knowing what you want to achieve is the basic first step. Creativity, problem-solving skills, flexibility, communication, teamwork, critical thinking, adaptability, decisiveness, emotional intelligence and leadership are some of the highly recommended soft skills. It is impossible for you to learn them all at once because every big change takes time and depends on your interest and creativity.
Define which ones are most important to you right now and start by focusing on them. Try to be as specific as possible:
Which one will you learn first and why?
2. Divide and conquer:
You have already prioritized your most important competencies at this time. Now is the time to go into the detail of each competition, as specific as possible.
For example, imagine that you want to become a great speaker. List everything you see great speakers doing and plan tasks that allow you to get closer to their level. Some examples of tasks could be: creating attractive presentations, mastering non-verbal language, handling questions from the audience, etc. Learn the techniques for each case and set yourself small challenges. You can create a relevant presentation for your work team and evaluate their reaction. Reflect on what you can learn from the experience. Remember, take small steps, and do not reserve a stadium to give a lecture at this point.
3. Look for experts and sources of knowledge:
Soft skills development needs action rather than sitting in a classroom.
However, there are techniques and best practices that can help us on the path of developing these skills. Look for experts and sources of knowledge in your selected field as today in a digital world it is much easier to find out different resources using the Internet at home.
4. Be patient:
Soft skills need a change in your behaviors, thinking and in your way of problem-solving skills.
This is why from the beginning we must be clear that developing soft skills is a task that takes time and is an everyday job.
Define a realistic time frame for learning and mastering the different techniques, as well as for completing the challenges that will allow you to analyze your results. This will not only help you reduce uncertainty but will also keep you on track. And if you can’t meet these times, reflect on what you’ve learned.
5. Practice, practice and practice:
Soft skills aren’t like that fun fact that you keep in your head and suddenly blurt it out at a party to impress everyone. These skills should be put into practice whenever you have the opportunity.
This constant practice is what will allow you to make that change in behavior that we talked about earlier.
So in every situation you face, ask yourself how you could put that skill you are learning into practice. Challenge yourself according to the skill level you have reached.
If you’re trying to improve your networking skills, don’t start by trying to talk to the speaker who impressed you the most at an event. Start with the person sitting next to you.
6 soft skills needed to succeed in the new world of work:
Soft skills are difficult to define and measure, unlike hard skills, including technical skills like designing web pages, computers or writing. Your soft skills affect the way you behave and react in certain situations. For example, are you quick to adapt and find solutions to problems? Or do you tend to shy away from change?
Prepare yourself in the best possible way for the new world of work and position yourself accordingly by working on these six soft skills that employers demand of their future employees:
The ability to accept and adapt to change is extremely important, as change will take up a lot of space in the new world of work. The needs and expectations of consumers are changing, so companies must adapt their entire business model accordingly. This, of course, brings about a job change; whether we work in the organizational or technical fields or with certain skills.
During the pandemic, you too probably faced adverse circumstances and unforeseen challenges that you had to overcome. It was undoubtedly difficult and sometimes uncomfortable, but precisely because of this you improved your adaptability and learned to cope with changes.
2. Willingness to learn:
The willingness to learn ranks high on the list of soft skills that are in demand in the new world of work. To ensure that you meet the current and future demands of potential employers, take advantage of this time of uncertainty to prepare for the new world of work, train and learn new things. This will not only broaden your knowledge but will also demonstrate your willingness to learn from potential future employers.
Employers value the willingness to learn and the desire to stay abreast of current trends and changes, regardless of industry or company size, especially in a world where the required technical skills are constantly changing. Lifelong learning is the key to understanding new technical developments, which ultimately helps drive progress for your business.
3. Emotional intelligence:
Emotional intelligence is “the ability to understand other people, what motivates them and how to interact with them.”
In difficult times and with many new challenges, it is essential to have a high level of emotional intelligence. This can help you manage stress by recognizing difficult situations and dealing with them before things get worse. Since, unfortunately, in the future, we will frequently face challenging situations and will have to master them successfully, this skill is very important.
4. Social Competence and Communication Skills:
Learning something new every day and coming up with smart solutions to challenges is a good thing. However, demonstrating your expertise to others, such as a potential employer during an interview, also requires soft skills, such as people skills and communication skills. Because, after all, employers are looking for people with excellent communication skills, who can communicate professionally with people from all areas of the company.
And communication with colleagues and stakeholders, in particular, has changed dramatically from the days before the crisis. Conversations no longer take place face to face; all interaction is characterized by a huge increase in technological means of communication. As we shift to a hybrid work environment; with team members going back and forth between the home and the office; interpersonal communication skills play an increasingly important role as we learn to build and maintain relationships.
5. Problem-solving skills:
In a rapidly changing world of work, you need people who adapt quickly and solve problems efficiently and effectively.
One way to improve your problem-solving skills is to visualize the problem. Trying to represent the problem pictorially by drawing a simple diagram without giving much thought to technical conventions, specific constraints, etc., can help you visualize even complex problems. Also, during a crisis, managers should involve their team more in problem-solving discussions. Thus, problem-solving skills not only help you face your own professional challenges but also help your bosses find solutions to the new demands of the organization.
Creativity also plays an important role in the business world. In these turbulent and unpredictable times, cost awareness will continue to be an important issue, and budgets are increasingly tight. For this reason, companies are looking for employees capable of providing creative ideas and solutions to ensure meeting deadlines and achieving good results, even when resources are limited or affected.
The following steps can help you be more creative at work:
Take some time: many people have their best ideas when they are doing something unrelated to work, like walking the dog.
Approach tasks with curiosity and a playful spirit: Take a new perspective by asking yourself completely different questions for once: How would my superhero do it? What if I had more time or unlimited resources at my disposal? What if you had to find a solution today?
Create a positive work environment: If you are working with a team on a difficult project, start the day with something positive, like a little talk.
Creativity is by no means exclusive to creative works. This invaluable skill will be essential for solving problems, finding strategies, and coming up with ideas that move businesses forward. Most importantly, it will never be replaced by automation.
What skill level would you consider an achievement at the priority?
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