Top 20 Soft Skills Employers Look for in Job Candidates

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When it comes to succeeding in the workplace, a university degree alone is not going to cut it. That’s because the most in-demand qualities employers look for are soft skills – the personal and elusive attributes that allow you to work and interact effectively with the people around you.

Even if you’re the best at what you do, if your soft skills aren’t up to par, then your chances of career success are limited, to say the least. Having these personal skills can be a huge game-changer; it can be the difference between remaining at the same level or climbing up the career ladder.

So, what are most important soft skills you should have?

1. Work Ethic

Having a great work ethic is vital to succeed throughout your working life. You should be eager to continuously learn and progress, as well as get things done in a timely manner. This doesn’t mean that you need to devote your entire life to your occupation, but you should be present and get stuck in – this will often involve taking tasks that aren’t included in your job description or doing more duties to help a teammate out.

2. Communication

This is single-handedly the most important quality for your professional and personal life. You need to be able to converse with people from different cultures in person, writing and over the phone. The ability to listen to others and display empathy when necessary is also a fundamental part of communicating effectively.

3. Time Management

Managing your time efficiently is essential for the workplace. In other words, you should know how to prioritise and allocate task, as well as be able to delegate assignments to others when needed.

4. Positive Attitude

Are you optimistic and generally have a good attitude? If you answered ‘yes’, stay like that! Employers want positive team members that possess a can-do attitude. If you’re on the grumpy side, learn how to pick yourself up and put a smile on your face – at least while you’re at work, anyway.

5. Self-Motivation

Let’s face it: however much you love your job, there will be times when you simply will lack motivation, whether that’s due to the Monday blues or you’ve just returned from the holiday of your life. Whatever it is, you should have the skill to pull yourself together and complete your tasks to the best of your abilities.

6. Leadership

Leadership is defined as the ability to take initiative whenever possible. It’s the action of leading a group of people, delegating duties, managing others and giving directions for the effective operation of a business or a department. Even though you may not be in a position where you have the lead (eg; being a manager), leadership on its own shows your willingness to take control of a situation, to guide and support your colleagues effectively.

7. Teamwork

Being able to work as part of a team is essential in the workplace. Whether you are working on a group project or simply participating in a meeting, you will need to be a team player, show respect to others and generally be willing to work towards achieving a common goal. Teamwork means contributing your ideas effectively, being responsible and assertive, accepting criticism and giving constructive feedback to others.

8. Flexibility

Being narrow-minded will not get you far in your job. You should flexibly move from one project to another and prioritise in order to take care of the most pressing matters first.

9. Self-Management

You’re not going to have your manager hold your hand throughout your time at the company; once you’ve completed your training, you’ll be left to your own devices and will be expected to self-manage. This means that you should efficiently manage your time and find new tasks to do once you have completed your duties.

10. Organisation

Being an organised person is usually something that’s part of your DNA or a skill you developed from your parents. It’s vital to possess this quality in the workplace – if you’re super messy, how will you find that important document that your boss is pressing you for?

11. Stress Management

Your time as a student or an employee will be super stressful at one point or another (this is simply unavoidable), but the key lies in how you handle the pressure. If you cave in and panic, you’ll spend more time worrying about the task than actually getting stuck in and completing it. Finding ways to manage your stress is essential, no matter what role or situation you are in.

12. Innovation

Whether you’re an employee or a manager, creativity is what sparks change in the workplace. It’s a good idea to try to demonstrate this skill on your CV and highlight any personal examples in your cover letter of when your ability to think outside the box helped you achieve promising results.

13. Negotiation

If you’re the king of haggling at markets, you’ve already got this skill in the bag. If not, you’ll need to learn how to be persuasive and exert influence, while sensitively seeking a solution that will benefit all parties involved.

14. Ability to Network

Being good at networking comes naturally to most extroverts; they are able to adapt to different scenarios and personalities and build strong relationships with colleagues, managers and clients. This is a highly desirable skill in today’s sociable working environment.

15. Accountability

So many people struggle with taking accountability for their own actions and work – this could be because they are afraid of judgement. It’s only natural that you will make a mistake now and again – you’re only human, after all – but it’s important to take responsibility and learn from your errors.

16. Emotional Awareness

The ability to control yourself, to show empathy and understand yourself and others is crucial to carrying out your job effectively. Not only does this help you handle interpersonal relationships and judge a situation successfully, it can also help increase your problem-solving skills.

17. Cultural Fitness

Being a great culture fit is not something you learn; it’s when your values align with those of the company you work for. Most companies these days share the same outlooks, so you should be able to fit in seamlessly with a number of different teams.

18. Initiative

Having the expertise to think of new ideas and follow through is a desirable skill that millennials must have. You should be able to come up with interesting tasks and find solutions to pressing issues within the workplace.

19. Self-Confidence

Confidence is in everything you do and say – your appearance, behaviour, even the work you submit and the simple ways in which you hold yourself. Employers want to work with people who are sure about their professional skills and who can encourage others to follow suit.

20. Decision-Making

The ability to make good decisions quickly is necessary to every employer. Effective decision-making is all about using your intuition and logical reasoning to choose a possible course of action out of the options you are presented with. It also refers to judging a situation correctly, making conclusions and coming up with a practical solution to a problem.

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