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Sep 11 2017
by Jessica Vuong

7 Ways to Improve Your Soft Skills

By Jessica Vuong - Sep 11 2017

First of all, you might be wondering, what are soft skills? Soft skills are basically people skills that allow you to effectively communicate with others, whether it be at a job, an internship, etc. Hard skills are technical skills that you can learn, such as math or science.

College tends to put more emphasis on teaching students hard skills to succeed in the future, but soft skills are just as important for making it in certain industries. Examples of soft skills include verbal and written communication, conflict management, being a team player, organization, public speaking, problem solving and time management. These are skills that cannot be taught directly, but can be developed over time with experience. Soft skills are essential for succeeding in the workplace or at an internship, so if you're looking to brush up the skills section of your resume, then keep on reading. 

1. Always communicate. 

We all know how important communication is in relationships, group projects, etc., so of course communication is crucial in the workplace. It's essential to be a good communicator to your peers, supervisor or team members, whether it's through email, phone calls, messages or in person. Both written and verbal communication skills are important to have because they show what type of worker you are, updates others on your progress and lets you form relationships with your peers. Communication also leaves everyone with a clearer idea of where a project or task is headed and paves the way for excellent results. Communicate with your boss, supervisor or co-workers with a simple message, email or in-person update just so you guys can keep up with each other.


2. Be a team player. 

We've probably all heard that "teamwork makes the dream work." When you're in an internship or in a job, you're rarely going to work on things by yourself. In most cases, you'll have to work on a project with a group of people. Employers look for people who are able to work well in a team setting because a company's success is dependent on many people working towards the same goal. In addition, people who are able to work well with others build a friendly office atmosphere, which motivates those around them. A large part of learning how to work in a team is learning how to effectively communicate with people, so communication is key to developing your soft skills!


3.  Strengthen your creativity.

Everyone has a creative bone in their body. I'm not talking about creativity in terms of arts and crafts, unless that's your job, but in terms of problem-solving and brainstorming new ideas. Some ways to strengthen your creative skills are to practice problem-solving. If a problem arises, think about how you can approach your boss or supervisor with a solution rather than a complaint about the issue. By thinking of solutions to problems and constantly trying to come up with new ideas, you'll get the gears in your head turning. Another way to work on your creativity is to surround yourself with creative people so that you can share ideas back and forth. This is why communication and team work are two valuable things to get used to if you want to improve your soft skills.


4.  Practice public speaking.

Public speaking during meetings or presentations shows how well you communicate your ideas to others and affects how they view you in the workplace. By practicing public speaking, you are working towards becoming a better communicator and leader. If you're uncomfortable with public speaking, practicing alone will help you feel more comfortable when it's time for you to talk in front of others. When practicing, take note of your pace, body language, volume, eye contact and tone of voice, so you can evaluate what you need to improve on. Always remember that practice makes perfect!


5. Pay attention to body language.

Since soft skills are essentially people skills, body language plays a large role in all of this. When speaking or listening to someone, be sure to pay attention to that person's body language, as well as your own. Observe their eye contact, facial expressions, tone of voice and posture, all of which will help you better understand how to respond to them. For example, if someone is constantly checking their watch, it could be that they have an appointment and that it's time to wrap up your conversation. Also be sure to pay attention to your own body language so that you give off the proper attitude. For example, sitting or standing up straight and maintaining good eye contact are signs that you're interested or invested in a topic. 


6. Approach conflict in a healthy manner.

Conflict is an inevitable part of everyday life, which is why conflict resolution is a useful soft skill to have. When disagreements arise, approach the situation calmly but assertively. Ask each side questions to get their outlook on the problem and then work together to come up with a rational solution that benefits the greater good. While some people might feel uncomfortable when conflict arises, it's important to not run away from it. Dealing with conflict will make things go smoother in the long run and will strengthen your conflict resolution skills.


7. Accept constructive criticism.

A part of learning and growing in a job, an internship or life in general, is being able to evaluate yourself, collect feedback and make the necessary changes to better yourself for future opportunities. To develop your skills, whether they're soft or hard skills, it is necessary to listen to others' feedback and improve yourself. With this being said, keep in mind that whoever is giving you feedback, whether it's your boss, supervisor, co-worker or peer, is doing it with good intentions. You can learn a lot from the constructive criticism you receive and with time, you'll get better and better at what you're working towards.


Soft skills can't be learned in a day, so get out there and experience the workplace environment for yourself! Apply for internships, jobs, leadership positions and more so you can navigate yourself through different situations and develop your soft skills along the way.

Lead Image Credit: Pexels

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Jessica Vuong - University of California, Davis

Jessica is currently attending UC Davis and majoring in Managerial Economics. She was vice-president of teensReach, a community service organization, and has competed in several SJPL art & design contests. She loves coffee, sarcasm, and rainy weather. Follow her on instagram: @jsscvng | pinterest: jessvjess | VSCO: jessvjess

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