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5 Essential 2021 Workplace Soft Skills (And How to Recognize Them)

Yes, workplace soft skills still matter. In fact, amid our ever-changing “new normal,” the intangible qualities that focus on behavior, personal traits and cognitive capabilities are more in-demand than at any other time in the modern workplace. They are also more challenging to recognize.

According to Deloitte, 90% of organizations are redesigning roles and teams. Perhaps no surprise, traits like adaptability continue to be in high demand as businesses adjust their operations to embrace remote work and other hybrid workplace models. At the same time, many job seekers are looking to make career transitions. Along the way, they’ll leverage the transferable, people-centered capabilities they currently possess.

In other words, we’ll soon be looking at a perfect storm for soft skills. Companies will covet them while candidates market themselves and their mastered soft skills to the best employers.

Top 5 Essential Soft Skills for 2021

So which workplace soft skills do employers require now? In our near-future of work, which soft skills will candidates need most to succeed?

Self-Management

The recent swing toward more autonomous working environments has changed everything. In the process, self-management has become one of the most in-demand — and marketable — soft skills. From everything to task ownership to time management, and self-motivation and the ability to set boundaries, this skill is a must-have in the workplace. A person who self-manages well also significantly reduces the risk of WFH burnout and Zoom fatigue.

Communication Skills

Good communication isn’t all about how we talk to others; it also involves active listening and the ability to keenly observe as well. Candidates must not only be articulate, but they must also be able to “see” beyond the spoken word and notice unproductive behaviors and patterns. Employees with expert communication abilities also tend to mitigate problems before they become a crisis and focus on collaborative solutions when they’re needed most. 

Emotional intelligence

Emotional intelligence (or “EQ”) is the ability to gauge and manage your own emotions while building productive relationships. EQ influences how well employees interact with one another — especially in remote or hybrid working environments. EQ also helps us increase performance, manage stress and conflict, and show much-needed gratitude. In a world of work where much of our communication happens via one-dimensional, tone-deaf text rather than in-person conversations, EQ will remain a top workplace soft skill for some time. 

Empathy

At one time, we didn’t associate empathy with the workplace. However, since we are now invited into everyone’s homes every day via Zoom, empathy is among the most sought-after soft skills. Especially when combined with a high level of emotional intelligence, empathy helps us read people and situations. When an employee has mastered empathy as a soft skill, they better exhibit adaptability, find it easier to build trust and connect quicker with remote team members. 

Self-Awareness

The mother of all soft skills, self-awareness, allows us to identify and develop the skills we may be lacking. Those with self-awareness pay attention to how they show up in different situations, especially during digital communications (like all those Zoom meetings). They ask for and are interested in and open to feedback from colleagues and leaders. Most importantly, they’re interested in personal and professional growth, achievement and contribution levels. 

How to Recognize These Five Workplace Soft Skills in Candidates

Candidates may not always be aware of their own soft skills. Or, especially during a virtual interview, they may not know how to articulate them). But savvy hiring teams can learn a lot during the application and interview process — virtual or traditional. 

For example, when a candidate completes an assigned, interview-related task on time and conveys their accomplishment to the recruiter, that’s a sign they have mastered self-management and communication skills. Similarly, candidates who give their former teammates credit while understanding how difficult it can be to remain productive during the pandemic display emotional intelligence and empathy. And those who display a passion for growth within a given role and as a member of a team — while understanding how they’ll need to adapt to fit into this new role — demonstrate acute self-awareness.

Want to truly assess mastery of the soft skills most important to your team or company? Be sure to leverage the many behavioral and situational tools available. 

For example, ask candidates to tell stories about how they handled various scenarios. Of course, don’t just rely on the candidate’s ability to serve as a storyteller. So ask the candidate’s references for insights on their workplace soft skills. For example, ask the reference to describe how the candidate handled specific situations involving stress and deadline-related pressure. To keep the conversation balanced, ask how they successfully rose to challenges and met opportunities to collaborate or lead.

Leverage Available Digital Resources

There is no doubt: Emerging technologies have helped us thrive during the pandemic. So why not take advantage of the many digital tools that have been developed and fine-tuned during the pandemic to better assess soft skills in candidates:

  • Video-based interview platforms that capture a candidates’ emotional nuances. We’ve found that reviewing videos after the initial discussion can reveal even more than noticed during the first couple rounds of interviews. Specifically, that review can provide hints that a candidate hasn’t quite mastered a specific soft skill. 
  • Virtual reality (VR) assessments can immerse candidates in a simulated world of the job and working conditions. These VR platforms help crystallize an excellent candidate experience. They also have tremendous recruiting advantages; some have increased work efficiency in industrial settings by 60%.

Recognizing Workplace Soft Skills: A Soft Skill of Its Own

A quick look at an application, resume, and LinkedIn profile will tell you most of what you need to know on the technical and professional side of the hiring process. We’ve all gotten pretty good at that side of the equation.

But screening for these five workplace soft skills is a skill all unto itself. By taking the time to master this skill, however — and by learning how to recognize the most in-demand soft skills for 2021 — you’ll help secure the best possible candidates for your company.

 

Photo: Paul Bryan

#WorkTrends: The Bigot in Your Mental Boardroom

WorkTrends has been focusing on diversity and inclusion not as buzzwords, but as actions. Meghan invited Elena Joy Thurston to the podcast to share her story. Elena is the founder and speaker of the PRIDE and Joy Foundation and has developed compelling best practices for improving workplace inclusivity. The conversation hit on a fascinating reality: we all have a mental boardroom and usually, there’s a hidden bigot at the table. 

So what exactly is a mental boardroom? “The boardroom is really about realizing what stories we all work from in our heads — our suppositions or assumptions,” said Elena. Acknowledging that, noted Meghan, helps us understand that everyone has their own biases, and we may not even realize where they come from. It may be hard to do, but self-awareness and reflection are the first steps: it takes critical distance to be able to see the roots of our own judgment. 

“I do the work by watching my own reactions,” said Elena. We need to be comfortable enough to work through our own emotions, and find the bias at the source. The more that can happen at the workplace, the more people can start to understand each other. 

Meghan concurred that bringing this unconscious bias to the surface will spark real growth in the work culture. Just a gesture as simple as making space for gender pronouns on an RSVP can help the LGBTQ community feel valued, for instance. Added Elena, when someone can bring their whole self to work and not feel judged, it’s so much easier to get our work done. 

Listen to the full conversation and see our questions for the upcoming #WorkTrends Twitter Chat. And don’t forget to subscribe, so you don’t miss an episode.

Twitter Chat Questions

Q1: Why do work cultures struggle with inclusiveness? #WorkTrends
Q2: Why are some workplaces hard for LGTBQ employees? #WorkTrends
Q3: How can leaders boost inclusiveness in their organizations? #WorkTrends

Find Elana Joy Thurston on Linkedin and Twitter

Discovering Your Brand

There is something powerful about someone who knows who they are and what they are all about. It’s even more attractive when you can genuinely feel their presence in written word and spoken word.

Branding isn’t something you craft so let me break that down for you. It’s something you begin to discover by becoming aware of who you truly are. No sugar coating, no ideal scenarios, just you.

You might begin to ponder why anyone really likes you? Maybe you are shocked to learn that you truly aren’t who you say you are when it comes down to it. And you know what? That is okay.

Why? Because it’s part of the discovery process.

You can’t become who you are without truly acknowledging all your shortcomings, your goofy ways, your insecurities, your obsessions, and much more.

Why is this important? Well, in order to build a powerful and sustainable brand, you must know exactly who you are and what you are all about.

Let’s think of a few brands you associate yourself with:

  • What’s their mission?
  • What do they sell/do?
  • Who do they normally target/what is their demographic?
  • Why are they here?

While you may think that a brand’s mission is equivalent to why they are here, it’s not always black and white. Much is the same for someone without self-awareness. You cannot full embody your brand without knowing all the in’s and out’s of your brand aka your self-awareness.

Where does your brand come into play?

Everywhere. Every action you take and every word you say is a reflection of you. And yes, even when you are having a rough day and you do something rash — that’s you. But you know what else is you? What you say/do after that — that defines the moment.

Everyone is different and that is something I have truly found beautiful in this world. Don’t be afraid to be yourself and to have emotions. Anger, sadness, fear, happiness, excitement, disappointment, anxious — it’s all part of the journey. Each moment we live fully, we begin to understand who we are as vulnerable beings.

In moments of despair and uncertainty, we begin to understand how to compose ourselves in the moment. The only way to get there is the opposite. Time after time, we see a pattern and start to craft “I”.

This is who “I” am and i’m not afraid to show it. This is where you want to be no matter who you are and what you are all about.

Let’s write it together (Takeaways)

  1. Who are you and what are you all about? Think deep and take your time.
  2. If this was the beginning of your life purpose, what do you want to focus on? What subjects, causes, people, desires? Don’t worry, this will change over time.
  3. Who are your friends? Do they align with your purpose and brand? Variety is OK but make sure you aren’t surrounding yourself with assholes.
  4. What is your expertise or future expertise? People like to follow experts in their craft or at least humorous until they become that person.

In a world full of impostors, make a point to stand out whenever you can. Don’t feed others what they would want from you but what you want/like/desire/enjoy/believe. Your personality is what we all want — show us.

You are you and nothing will ever change that. Embrace it.

A version of this post was first published on Medium 1/15/16.

Soul Search — Then Job Search

Written by career consultant, Maggie Mistal

Most of us assume that the best way to find a job is to look at what’s available in online listings, or to follow someone else’s advice. However, these methods often lead to unfulfilling career choices.

You only need to look at the latest job satisfaction surveys to recognize how unfulfilled most workers feel. For seven straight years, The Conference Board has reported that less than half of U.S. workers are satisfied in their careers. So what can you do to find job satisfaction and fulfillment while still making a great living?

Uncover Your Core Genius

“Core genius” is the special contribution that each of us brings to our professional life. It’s what you are in this world to do that only you can do. It’s the unique package of skills, experiences, passions, interests, talents, abilities and attitude that you possess.

Take my client Laura Rolands. Laura was a hard-working Human Resources executive at Chrysler. She’s also a mom. When Laura’s son was diagnosed with ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder), she got to work and investigated how to best help him with attention strategies at school and in life. Through this experience and through our career coaching work together, Laura realized she had a talent and an interest in helping people with attention issues.

It led Laura to start an attention coaching business shortly after accepting a voluntary buy-out from her position in the automotive industry. Her business is in a relatively new field, focused on coaching people to overcome challenges associate with ADD or ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder). Actually, you don’t need a diagnosis to benefit — anyone who feels overwhelmed or distracted in today’s hyper-connected environment will find value in Laura’s services. Her clients have developed time-saving personal routines, and have improved their academic and business performance.

The Path to a Successful Career Fit

In 10 years of coaching, I have seen that we are each uniquely built to fulfill a specific purpose. And I am proud to have many success stories such as Laura Rolands. However, too often people take their unique talents for granted. In fact, the real challenge is that most people have no idea what their purpose is. That is where I help.

I believe the best way to find your purpose — your core genius — is to conduct a formal Soul Search, and get specific about all the elements of your ideal career. It starts with helping clients assess themselves in 8 essential dimensions, as part of the “Soul Search, Research and Job Search” process I developed.

These elements include: 1) your top interests, 2) key motivators, 3) skills you want to employ, 4) ways you want to contribute, 5) best qualities, 6) best work environment, 7) activities you enjoy most, and 8) salary and benefits.

Soul Search Before Job Search

By working through exercises and self-reflection questions, we prioritize what’s most important and brainstorm career possibilities that match those elements. You can gain even deeper clarity with my downloadable (PDF) Soul Search workbook.

This workbook contains over 30 pages of exercises to help professionals uncover the eight core elements of your core genius. The insights developed from each exercise are designed to correspond with a section of your own personalized career guide. This helps you easily organize and interpret the information as the basis for brainstorming new career possibilities and making sound decisions about the best options for you.

So stop looking at want ads and instead start talking to anyone and everyone about the ways you are already of service. Carefully process all of that input, and you’ll see viable new options ahead. Take seriously the value you bring to the table, and (like Laura Rolands) believe that you can get paid to deliver it. Let others know about the high-value service you are prepared to provide. Then deliver it consistently and professionally. Soon, you’ll find you have more than enough work in your new role — and you’ll be making a living while loving what you do.

Have You Discovered Your Core Genius?

Are you in touch with your core career strengths? What steps did you take to gain that awareness? And how have you applied it to your career? Share your thoughts in the comments area.

Maggie Mistal(About the Author: CNN dubbed Maggie Mistal “one of the nation’s best-known career coaches.” A former Learning & Development executive at Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, she is a certified life purpose and career coach who, for seven years, hosted “Making a Living with Maggie” on SiriusXM, and now airs a monthly podcast on iTunes. Maggie has been featured across major media, including NBC’s Today Show, Fox Business, CNN and The New York Times. Connect with Maggie on Twitter, or LinkedIn or Facebook.)

(Editor’s Note: For a limited time, in conjunction with her February 2014 appearance at #TChat Events, Maggie is offering special pricing for her “Soul Search” career planning workbook to anyone who mentions #TChat when contacting her. Don’t miss this opportunity to get a fresh perspective on your core genius!)

(Also Note: To discuss World of Work topics like this with the TalentCulture community, join our online #TChat Events each Wednesday, from 6:30-8pm ET. Everyone is welcome at events, or join our ongoing Twitter conversation anytime. Learn more…)

Image Credit: Pixabay

Careers: Better Choices Mean Better Business #TChat Preview

(Editor’s Note: Are you looking for full Storify highlights + resource links from this week’s #TChat Events? Read the #TChat Recap: “Bring Your ‘Genius’ to Work.“)

Happiness at work
. Passion for your profession. Finding your bliss.

These days, we hear a lot about the importance of being emotionally connected with our careers.

Sounds like a nice idea — but it’s much more than that. Research shows that it’s a key driver of professional performance. It’s also an essential aspect of employee engagement. Yet statistics show that, for most of us, it remains an elusive goal.

Bucking the Trend

This week at #TChat Events, we’ll look at how each of us can defy those statistics by gaining better understanding of our individual strengths and motivations — and by putting those insights to work through better career choices.

We’ll also look at why it’s smart for business to encourage this kind of investigation and discovery.

And who better to help lead this discussion than career management expert, Maggie Mistal? Before establishing herself as the personality behind the long-running SiriusXM radio show, “Making A Living,” Maggie was Director of Learning & Development at Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia. Also joining us is Laura Rolands, a former HR executive at Chrysler, who, with Maggie’s guidance, launched a rewarding practice as an ADHD coach.

Sneak Peek: Finding Your “Career Core”

To frame this week’s events, I spoke briefly with both Maggie and Laura about how and why it pays for all of us to pursue careers that leverage our strengths. Watch the hangout now:

This discussion has potential to help each of us find more fulfilling work lives, while helping organizations develop more effective talent strategies. So join the #TChat crowd this week to share your ideas and opinions with other “world of work” professionals!

#TChat Events: Claiming Your “Core” Career

#TChat Radio — Wed, Feb 5 — 6:30pmET / 3:30pmPT

TChatRadio_logo_020813Tune-in to the #TChat Radio show

Our hosts, Meghan M. Biro and Kevin W. Grossman talk with Maggie Mistal and Laura Rolands critical about how to find and claim your core career “genius.” Tune-in LIVE online this Wednesday!

#TChat Twitter — Wed, Feb 5 7pmET / 4pmPT

Immediately following the radio show, Meghan, Kevin and our guests will move to the #TChat Twitter stream, where we’ll continue the discussion with the entire TalentCulture community, in a live chat moderated by Dr. Nancy Rubin.

Everyone with a Twitter account is invited to participate, as we address these 5 related questions:

Q1: How can we align our career aspirations with our strengths?
Q2: When a job isn’t fulfilling, what can we do to take charge of our career?
Q3: How can we continually identify and develop skills and talents?
Q4: What value does business gain from encouraging “career genius” in employees?
Q5: How can new technology help us redirect and manage our careers?

Throughout the week, we’ll keep the discussion going on the #TChat Twitter feed, and on our new G+ community. So feel free to drop by anytime and share your questions, ideas and opinions.

We’ll see you on the stream!