Technology is revolutionizing the job market at breakneck speed, and many hard skills are being innovated out of existence. That’s why companies are turning to these four soft skills instead.
Early on in your college career (maybe before you’re ready), there’s a lot of pressure to declare a major and decide which area will be the focus of your studies. It’s an important decision and one that bears thorough consideration, but there’s no need to feel as though your future hangs in the balance.
The reality is that technology is revolutionizing the job market at breakneck speed, and there’s no evidence that’s going to change any time soon. In fact, one study from Dell drew on the opinions of tech, academic, and business leaders from around the world and determined that 85% of jobs we’ll perform in 2030 don’t even exist yet. To be fair, that report and its massive 85% figure have received a certain amount of criticism, but the essential point holds true. The world is changing, and no one can be sure what the future holds. As a result, the hiring priorities of companies are changing as well.
According to LinkedIn’s 2018 Workplace Learning Report, 57% of company leaders surveyed valued a candidate’s “soft” skills such as communication and emotional intelligence over their “hard” or technical skills such as coding or accounting. Hiring managers echo this sentiment as evidenced by the 2019 Global Talent Trends report, with 92% agreeing that soft skills are as important or more important than hard skills. To ensure you have the social intelligence that talent scouts dream of, focus on cultivating these four soft skills.
Some of the biggest companies in the world have recently been caught relying on stagnant, outdated processes, and they’re being dethroned by creative newcomers on a regular basis. Former household names such as movie rental giant Blockbuster and retail chain Toys “R” Us are already fading into distant memory, and the rise of Uber, Lyft, and transportation as a service has disrupted an entire industry and left the traditional taxi service with just 6% of the ground transportation market.
What does all that mean? If you’re a creative, original thinker, who operates outside of the status quo, you’re going to be in high demand when you enter the workforce. The good news is that creativity isn’t a gift—it’s a skill, and it’s one you should be honing. One way you can practice creativity is by regularly thinking of alternatives. When you read a news story, think of an alternative interpretation. When you decide where to go for dinner, think of an alternative way to get there. Encourage your friends to take the same approach and you can have particularly creative brainstorming sessions that allow you to learn from ideas besides your own.
Unless you’re one of the 18% of people who work remotely full-time, you’re probably going to spend a large portion of your career working in an office with a group of colleagues. And if you are one of those telecommuters? You’ll almost certainly be working as part of a larger team spread out across the globe.
Group projects are an ideal chance for you to improve your collaboration skills. When you’re working in a group, be mindful of how responsibility is being shared, and lend a hand to those who genuinely need it. To be clear, that doesn’t mean you should let others take advantage of your drive and work ethic. If you get in the habit of shouldering too much of the burden, you can get burned out quickly. Instead, work with the rest of the group to ensure that workloads are delegated fairly. If your classes rarely involve group work, organize group study sessions to accomplish the same goal.
If you can think on your feet, you’ll fit right into today’s workplace. Whether you’re dealing with a new product or website launch, a new hire, or an unexpected acquisition, the truth is that things don’t always go according to plan. It’s not just at work, either. In all aspects of life, you’ll be thrust into unexpected situations and you’ll need to alter the original course to account for your new information.
When the National Association of Colleges and Employers conducted its 2019 Job Outlook survey, 58% of respondents indicated that adaptability/flexibility was one of the most valuable skills a job prospect could possess. In other words, it pays to be practicing this skill now. Start by making a list of goals you want to accomplish in three different time spans: short-term (one month), medium-term (six months), and long-term (two years or more). Then, conduct self-assessments on a regular basis to determine what changes you need to make to your trajectory to accomplish them. Your goals will inevitably change, and that’s okay. Repeat the exercise and alter the course accordingly.
Throughout your career, you’ll need to persuade people to adopt your own line of thinking. You might be presenting a proposal to a client, asking your team to work extra to meet a deadline, or even just convincing an interviewer to hire you in the first place. Companies recognize that sales is an essential skill, and they’re always on the lookout for people who demonstrate an aptitude for it.
While we like to think we make all our decisions based on facts and careful reasoning, the reality is that we mostly listen to our emotions. There are countless studies indicating that how we feel about something (a brand, a product, or an idea) matters more than what we think of it, and the best salespeople are the ones who can tap into this insight. When you’ve internalized that message, it’s time to practice being persuasive. Work for a volunteer organization on your campus and practice encouraging people to donate, or join the alumni relations committee and convince graduates to give back to the school. Whatever you do, don’t be dissuaded by failure. Sales takes time and practice.
As technological innovations such as automation and artificial intelligence change the nature of the workplace, many of the hard skills that companies used to covet are becoming obsolete. Increasingly, these organizations are after a new kind of candidate—one who thinks outside the box, functions well as part of a team, adapts to new situations quickly, and helps communicate new ideas in a convincing and compelling way. If that sounds like you, you’re in luck. If not? There’s never been a better time to start honing your soft skills.