A few weeks back, my eight-year-old son and I had this conversation:
Son: “Mom, I like to make people happy.”
Me: “That’s a good thing. How do you do that?”
Son: “Well, my friend was sad at recess today because he wasn’t catching the football, so I said, ‘I wish I could kiss my armpit.'”
Me: “Did it work?”
Son: “It made him smile.”
This caused me to think of the changes in the expectations that employers are having on the candidates they choose to hire. Several years ago, hiring managers would focus on the technical abilities of a job. If you could do them, you got the job — no questions asked.
That’s not the case anymore. Even part-time jobs and blue-collar employers are looking at soft skills — skills that, according to Wikipedia, center on “the cluster of personality traits, social graces, communication, language, personal habits, interpersonal skills, managing people, leadership, etc. that characterize relationships with other people.”
It’s a challenging transition for some careerists and job seekers to make when they are updating their résumés or LinkedIn profiles, especially if they have been so focused on promoting the hard skills they may have acquired through schooling or employment experience that they all but ignore what they have achieved as a result of effectively using their soft skills.
How do I talk about soft skills?
One place to start describing your soft skills is in the profile of your résumé. For example, a client who was targeting business analyst positions was known for her listening skills. Job openings would often say something like, “This role should practice attentive listening, and display empathy towards others’ ideas and perspectives.”
Because of how critical this soft skill is to the roles she focused on, I included this line in her profile:
“Listen attentively to identify needs and understand nuances presented by the other party.”
You can also highlight soft skills when talking about the accomplishments you have had in your career. Don’t let that confuse you — achievements gained through the use of soft skills can have just as much of an impact as ones earned through hard skills when presented properly.
Take the example of another client who has earned two promotions, working her way from a part-time bank teller to an assistant branch manager:
“Turned confrontation with non-customer into a positive experience, resulting in gaining a new checking customer.”
That tangible success my client experienced wasn’t because of her technical knowledge of banking; it had everything to do with her use of soft skills in her interaction with the individual. It’s also a significant part of her career story.
My son’s story made me laugh because of his unorthodox methods, but I was also proud of how his soft skills are developing. His ability to help others maintain a positive outlook in the face of disappointment will be an asset when he enters the workforce.
Image courtesy of Alan Cleaver
Melissa Cooley of The Job Quest, LLC unearths clients’ career examples to showcase the talents and results that make them must-hire candidates. Click here for more information on ways to partner with Melissa for your career success!
Melissa is a contributor to the book Nourish Your Career; has been quoted on Monster.com, The Daily Muse, and Dice.com; has interviewed numerous times for The Voice of Job Seekers podcast; and has written guest posts for multiple job seeker blogs.