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5 Soft skills to learn and develop for 2021

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​Soft skills has often been a term thrown around whenever you start googling “How to write a Good CV?” but rarely do many people know what the term actually means, what it entails and if they do actually have any “soft skills”. It may even surprise you to find out that something you just considered as a natural trait of your personality or something you gained from years of experience can be utilised into a formidable skill for career progression.

But what does the term “soft skill” mean? The Collins English Dictionary defines the term "soft skills" as "desirable qualities for certain forms of employment that do not depend on acquired knowledge: they include common sense, the ability to deal with people, and a positive flexible attitude”

Although soft skills do not depend on acquired knowledge, it can be very easy to identify, learn and develop these skills a lot faster and efficiently than trying to become a master in Phython or C++ overnight.

To help you embark on your quest of defining and improving your own soft skills, here are a list of some below that we believe are important and relevant in the current job market:

1 – Teamwork

Teamwork may seem part and parcel of most job roles, but it is very much a vital soft skill relevant to any industry or job.

It involves being able to ensure successful working with clients, colleagues, managers, and anyone else that you may encounter. Especially those you need to assist or gain assistance from with helping complete tasks efficiently whilst also creating an enjoyable work environment for yourself and others.

The key to developing this skill is to focus on communication and respect for others. This will be involving listening and discussing ideas in an engaging and constructive environment and understanding each other’s strengths and weaknesses while ensuring every opinion is heard.

There are a wide variety of ways to develop your teamworking ability and can involve many of your hobbies, such as joining a book club or sports group or even working together on a team-based video game. Which is not only appropriate due to the current pandemic but can also provide much desired social interaction with friends.

2 – Critical Thinking

Critical Thinking as a soft skill that will not only help you greatly in your career development but will also help you in your day to day especially with the bombardment of dramatised headlines and “fake news”.

It is defined as the ability to think clearly and rationally and to understand the logical connection between ideas, it is a concept that has dated back for thousands of years. And has been a subject of philosophical debate for thousands of years.

Someone with critical thinking skills can:

  • Understand the links between ideas.

  • Determine the importance and relevance of arguments and ideas.

  • Recognise, build, and appraise arguments.

  • Identify inconsistencies and errors in reasoning.

  • Approach problems in a consistent and systematic way.

  • Reflect on the justification of their own assumptions, beliefs, and values.

Simply put, it is putting into practice asking yourself who, what, where, when, why and how whenever someone provides you information. Asking yourself these questions can help with developing this skill but there are other methods such as reading books such as:

Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman

The Irrational Ape: Why Flawed Logic Puts us all at Risk and How Critical Thinking Can Save the World by David Robert GrimesFactfulness: Ten Reasons We're Wrong About The World - And Why Things Are Better Than You Think - Hans Rosling;Ola Rosling;Anna Rosling Rönnlund

3 – Adaptability

Adaptability is the ability to effectively learn new skills and behaviours as a response to a change in circumstance. It requires a degree of flexibility and foresight and is often sought after for those in senior roles such as manger or director within a business.

With lots of talk about how “the future is changing” even pre pandemic times, the skill to be adaptable is going to be essential for new hires now and within the future.

It requires some confidence but with the ability to be open to improvement and an awareness of your own skills and limitations, combined with the drive to develop or pick up new skills, processes or even technology.

Adaptability also encompasses a variety of other such skills, such as teamworking and critical thinking (conveniently covered above). But there is a degree of organisation required. For instance, if your business is bringing in some new software it is recommended to plan for some time you can set aside to learn the basics or to even just look through the software to become familiar.

Putting yourself in unfamiliar situations is a great way to improve your adaptability and strengthen the quick thinking and level headedness occasionally required. This could be something as simple as learning a new piece of software or starting up a hobby such as photography, where you need to understand the basics and how to change settings depending on lighting and the subject.

4 – Problem-Solving

Problem solving is not only invaluable for your career but also a great skill to learn and develop for any aspect of your life and many employers appreciate an employee that when faced with an issue will attempt to analyse and solve it as opposed to giving up.

Problem solving does require a few other skills, such as:

  • Creativity – often referred to “looking outside the box”, especially when logic or intuition haven’t solved the issue

  • Ability to research – this could be simple as “googling” the problem, which when it comes to some IT issues can solve it very quickly

  • Team working – the ability to ask for help or seeing if someone else is experiencing a similar problem can greatly propel a team and their workload forward. Sometimes it’s worth having the courage to speak out and talk about issues with others!

  • Emotional Intelligence – Another handy skill to have and can be related to problem solving for instance; following up a colleague with project delays and providing constructive criticism.

  • Risk Management – Often plays into problem solving where you need to consider any inherent risks of solving a problem, such as if it will take up any time or resources

  • Decision making – this is an aspect that will arise particularly if you are working in part of a group and will help reach an appropriate solution faster.

Problem solving as a process is tricky to define as it purely depends on the context and the situation it is applied to, for instance going through the steps of “Does A work, no? Then let’s try b” can take anywhere from a few minutes to even months for a large-scale project.

The easiest way to improve your problem solving is to put yourself in situations where it is required but the risks are fairly minimal, for instance online games with friends are a great opportunity, while also allowing you to build upon other skills such as teamwork and communication. Especially games with a Real Time Strategy aspect such as Warcraft, Command and Conquer and Northgard for instance.

5 – Positivity

Positivity can assist with not just your personal life but also your general outlook on life and although it does sound a bit holistic and intangible as skills go, there has been some studies that show that by being positive you can change your thinking and how you perceive the world, which can then have a knock on effect with your interaction with others and your overall wellbeing.

Although things in a global pandemic landscape can seem grim, it is even more reason to practice being positive and to show gratitude to what you have.

The main aspect of positivity is to prevent being critical of yourself and others and to refrain from being negative. It may seem difficult at first but through relaxing through practices like meditation it will make things easier.

One of the easiest ways to be positive is to be sure to congratulate or show gratitude to others around you on jobs or tasks well done and do not neglect yourself, just by taking a few seconds can immediately brighten yours or someone else’s day.

Here are some other ways to help build positive thinking skills:

  • Meditation – it is difficult to try and obtain a positive outlook if your mind is racing away, worrying about things. Sometimes in helps to just slow things down by meditating to allow you to look at things in a different light and maybe you’ll be able to see the positives in things. Meditation has countless mental health benefits too!

  • Writing – When we are concerned about things or agonising over negative feelings or events our minds can get very cluttered. Easiest way to prevent that is to just write down how we are thinking and feeling to help empty our heads. Once that is done you can begin to write down all the things you appreciate and feel positive about.

  • Do something fun! – Although this can be tricky, especially in a lockdown there are numerous ways to do something you enjoy, quite often we sacrifice this time for work or other commitments, but it is vital to spend time unwinding and having fun. This can be as simple as calling a friend for having a catch up, playing a game online together or even just reading a book or going for a bike ride.

Above is just a taster of a wide variety of soft skills you can learn and develop, and there are numerous resources and articles to help you do so!

While things may not be great for anyone right now, being stuck inside, anxiety inducing news reports or even just avoiding the cold the weather. This is a great opportunity to develop yourself, even if you spend a small amount of time of reading and being consciously aware of soft skills you are already ahead of the curve.

By taking part in some of the activities mentioned as well, you will be surprised to see the positive impact they have on your personal life but soon start seeing how these skills can translate into your career.

Learning and developing soft skills are also a perfect goal to make for 2021, and speaking of goals, why not checking this article written by my colleague Tamara Corcoran about goals to strive towards this year to help your personal life and career

If you are looking at changing jobs this year, especially within the life sciences industry, why not get in contact with one of our consultants today?