4 Soft Skills You Need to Improve Your Career

As traditional workplaces change, your career may need to pivot too.

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By Syed Balkhi

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Many professionals focus on developing their hard skills in order to improve and advance their careers. While hard skills are important, organizations today are looking for professionals that possess strong soft skills. After all, even if you're the best at coding, you won't be able to advance your career if you don't know how to work well with others.

In fact, Google did an internal study that found that among the eight most important qualities of their top employees, hard skills such as STEM expertise come in dead last. The seven top characteristics of success at Google are all soft skills like being a good coach, communicating and listening well, being a good critical thinker and being able to make connections across complex ideas, just to name a few.

Related: Soft Skills Are Critical to Career Growth: Here's Why

If you want to grow professionally, get a promotion, or land a new job this year, here are four soft skills you need to possess.

1. Creativity

Creativity is one of the top soft skills employers are looking for. And creativity isn't just important for professionals in graphic design and content marketing; creativity is beneficial in all roles within an organization, from human resources to software engineering to customer service. Creative people are able to develop new ideas and apply new solutions to address existing problems, which will allow businesses to discover new opportunities for innovation and growth.

Luckily, creativity isn't only a skill that people are born with, you can actually learn to be more creative. There are a number of ways to boost your creativity like collaborating with others, asking for feedback, writing down your ideas, solving a puzzle or even going to an escape room.

2. Social intelligence

Being "street smart" is just as important as being "book smart" in the workforce. Social intelligence, commonly referred to as street smarts, is the ability to get along with others, build relationships and navigate social environments. As you can imagine, social intelligence is necessary if you want to build meaningful and successful relationships with people in an organization.

What exactly is social intelligence? According to Psychology Today, the key elements of social intelligence include:

  • Verbal fluency and conversational skills

  • Knowledge of social roles, rules, and scripts

  • Effective listening skills

  • Understanding what makes other people tick

  • Role-playing and social self-efficacy

  • Impression management skills

Related: 8 Questions That Will Help Diagnose Your Current Career Status

Social intelligence can be developed from experiences with people and learning from your successes and failures in social situations. So, a great way to boost these skills is by getting out there and interacting with people. For example, you can attend networking events to practice your conversational and listening skills. Remember, study the behaviors of others and yourself to master social intelligence.

3. Digital literacy

Gone are the days when knowing how to use Microsoft Office Suite was enough to land a job. Today, technology has taken over the workplace and it's constantly evolving, which makes digital literacy an essential soft skill to have in 2020 and beyond. The American Library Association (ALA) defines digital literacy as "the ability to use information and communication technologies to find, evaluate, create and communicate information, requiring both cognitive and technical skills." In simpler terms, digital literacy involves knowing how to use digital tools effectively in order to solve problems, be productive, work collaboratively, create content, etc.

You can develop your own digital literacy skills by doing a little research online. Read articles or take online courses about the basics like online safety, email etiquette and creating slideshow presentations, for instance. Then, you can begin to learn more about advanced computer and tech skills like email marketing or basic coding. Be sure to take advantage of any learning opportunities provided by your employer as well.

4. Virtual collaboration

Remote work is on the rise. According to GlobalWorkplaceAnalytics.com, regular work-at-home, among the non-self-employed population, has grown by 173 percent since 2005. That's 11 percent faster than the rest of the workforce and nearly 47x faster than the self-employed population. So, whether you're working remotely yourself or you'll be working with other remote team members within a company, virtual collaboration skills are necessary for today's workforce.

Related: The 9-Step Quick Guide to Rehabbing Your Career

Virtual collaboration is the method of collaboration between team members regardless of their location that is carried out via digital tools. To boost your virtual collaboration skills, familiarize yourself with popular virtual collaboration tools like video conferencing software, time tracking tools, project management software, instant messaging tools and so on. It's also important to increase your cross-cultural awareness. Remote companies typically have international teams so you need to be able to effectively interact and work with team members of various cultural backgrounds.

Over to you!

These are just a few of the top soft skills employers are looking for. Start developing and mastering these important soft skills to get a leg up on the competition. With your new and improved soft skills, you can take your career to the next level.

Syed Balkhi

Entrepreneur Leadership Network Writer

Entrepreneur, Growth Hacker and Marketer

Syed Balkhi is an entrepreneur and the co-founder of WPBeginnerOptinMonster and WPForms

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