In the 4 decades since Imprimis Group began, we have never seen a period quite like 2020-2021 in terms of transformative change in business. The pandemic and the adaptations businesses had to make require a different skill set in employees than used in years past. This has resulted in changes in what skills recruiters and hiring managers now look for as companies evolve.
So what skills should job candidates in 2021 be cultivating? What skills should you be able to demonstrate to prospective employers in this environment? We asked our recruiters and present our consensus top seven essential soft skills for today’s professionals:
- Able to Work in Virtual Environment: Employers want to know that you have mastered online collaborative software such as virtual meeting and project management tools. They also want to know that you are self-motivated, don’t require supervision, and are able to proactively manage media-based interactions. If you have these abilities, you can build professional rapport, demonstrate cooperation, and engender trust in your coworkers, without being together in person.
- Time Management: Recruiters and hiring managers must be confident that you can manage your time well, especially with all of the chaos in today’s organizations. This includes the distractions of working from home, such as social media and television, as well as the unscheduled meetings and work that can derail your daily task schedule in the office. How do you prioritize work, and how to you accommodate changes and still meet deadlines? Employers will want to know the specifics of your time management strategies.
- Flexibility and Adaptability: Just as the pandemic brought radical changes to the way we work, globalization and innovation will force more change and ambiguity in the future. Employers want to know how you handled recent changes and what skills you have developed that will enable you to be flexible and adaptable when inevitable changes occur over the next few years.
- Continuous Learning: The pace of change in business continues to accelerate with global competition and innovation. Hard and soft skill sets have never been outmoded so quickly, so be prepared to discuss how you have used available training and professional development resources to learn new skills. Another important component of continuous learning is proactively anticipating skills you may need to take the next step in your career. Employers usually offer training and professional development, but they want employees with a track record of taking responsibility for this themselves.
- Visibility and Responsiveness: In your current and past jobs, have you been able to brand your skill set so that others in your department and in the company know what you have to offer? It’s not just what you bring to the table; it’s also how you stay visible and responsive to business priorities and coworkers’ needs, especially in a virtual world. Be prepared to talk about examples of how you have cultivated and practiced these critical soft skills.
- Emotional Intelligence: This involves recognizing your strengths and weaknesses in terms of self-awareness, self-regulation, moods, motivation, social skills, and empathy. Emotional intelligence (EQ) at work helps you to develop strong working bonds and awareness of how to communicate effectively so that intense emotions – on your part or others – don’t overwhelm group collaboration and decision-making. It’s about understanding different perspectives and stepping back when there are potential conflicts and working to bring people together.
- Communication, Collaboration, and Coaching: Though these are three unique skills, the “three Cs” combine to enable workers to be effective in virtualized and in-person teams. Communication refers to the abilities to be open and available, as well as concise, clear and focused. Effective communicators understand the nuances of each verbal and written communication channel, such as email, online chat, and virtual meetings. Collaboration often requires more than just the ability to work with teams in assigned projects; in virtual settings it demands more proactive thinking as you consider what co-workers need from you. A coaching mindset is critical here as teams adapt to changes and learn new ways of accomplishing goals. This requires being a strong learner and sharing knowledge with team members to improve the group’s capabilities.
How would you rate yourself in each of these soft skills? Since you can’t improve on shortcomings without first recognizing your strengths and weaknesses, your willingness to take stock in your own development may be the greatest soft skill of all!