Soft skills: two words that we have heard countless times throughout this whole Masters year. Our advisors from the University’s Career Service, the recruiters that would visit the campus, our lecturers and the majority of the authors of our HRM textbooks, they all had one common thing to stress; the importance of developing these personal attributes that today’s employers seek like crazy in their candidates.
When applying for a job, you may feel that you have all the knowledge and training the position requires. Well, I have bad news for you; so does your competition. Soft skills are what will make you stand out and turn you from an adequate to an ideal candidate. Yes, they seem like the golden key for your career success.
But how do we develop them?
The problem with soft skills is that they are abstract and intangible and hence cannot be taught in a classroom or measured on paper. They do not relate to your qualifications but to your attitudes and intuitions. They are the complex bunch of characteristics that make you able to interact with others effectively.
Although improving your soft skills is not simply ‘book-learning’ but a life-long process, I feel that the MSc IHRM and CIR contributed significantly in our skills development journey. During the course we had the chance to enhance the following abilities:
1. Time and pressure management
From my previous posts you will have already gained a good idea of our course’s heavy workload. Although we may have panicked a bit at first, we eventually learnt to put studying, essays, part-time jobs and deadlines into a programme. And even during the (not so) few times that we left everything last minute, we managed to moderate our stress and anxiety and deliver results.
Recruiters are always looking for people that can work well with others. Through our numerous team projects we learnt to negotiate, listen to others’ opinions and feedback, compromise and appreciate diversity and difference in a team.
3. Presentation skills
No more public speaking anxiety and shyness! By giving at least 1-2 presentations every week, we got used to speaking in front of a large audience. We also learnt from observing our classmates’ presentation style; the tone of voice, hand gestures, the way you have to look at your listeners etc. Special thanks to my classmates for teaching me their amazing PowerPoint tricks!
From improving our essay writing and getting our point across in emails to speaking with people from all over the world with different mentalities and backgrounds, the course prepared us for working in demanding international and multicultural environments in the future. We now know that being able to communicate our own ideas is not enough, we also need to listen empathetically to others.
5. Positive attitude
Everyone likes respectful and polite individuals who demonstrate enthusiasm and ingenuity while working. Through our challenging moments, we realised that staying optimistic and smiling, even when things go wrong, can reduce stress and increase productivity.
Soft skills are supposed to be paramount to getting ahead in the workplace. However, I think they can offer you more than that. Enhancing your ability to interact with others will not only help you shine at work, but also have healthier interpersonal relationships and thus a happier, more positive life.