You may be a computer whiz, a scientific genius, or a master of mathematical theories. However, to be successful, you need more than just expertise in your given specialty. In fact, according to Job Outlook 2015, a survey conducted by the National Association of Colleges and Employees (NACE), when participating employers were asked to name the attributes they seek in candidates, they responded as follows:
Leadership is such an important trait that employers ranked it equally as important as a candidate’s major, and when choosing between two candidates, leadership experience can be the deciding factor. In response to the demand for employees who also possess emotional intelligence, some postsecondary schools are incorporating soft skills in scientific and technical specialties. For example, Penn State’s Engineering Department offers a career development class for junior and senior engineering students that includes such topics as teambuilding skills, communication skills, and leadership strategies.
So why are intangible skills so important to employers?
Companies want employees who can supervise and direct other workers. They want employees who can cultivate relationships up, down, and across the organizational chain; assess, motivate, encourage, and discipline workers; build teams, resolve conflicts, and help to create the desired culture.
Most employees are part of a team/department/division, and even those who are not on an official team need to collaborate with other employees. You may prefer to work alone, but it’s important to demonstrate that you understand and appreciate the value of joining forces and working in partnership with others to accomplish the company’s goals.
Successful communication involves five components. Verbal communication refers to your ability to speak clearly and concisely. Nonverbal communication includes the capacity to project positive body language and facial expressions. Aural communication is the ability to listen to and actually hear what others are saying. Written communication refers to your skillfulness in composing text messages, reports, and other types of documents. And visual communication involves your ability to relay information using pictures and other visual aids.
Many people shirk from problems because they don’t understand that companies hire employees to solve problems. Glitches, bumps in the road, and stumbling blocks are a part of the job. The ability to use your knowledge to find answers to pressing problems and formulate workable solutions will demonstrate that you can handle – and excel in – your job.
While you may have a manager, companies don’t like to spend time micromanaging employees. They expect you to be responsible and do the job that you’re getting paid to do, which includes being punctual when you arrive at work, meeting deadlines, and making sure that your work is error free. And going the extra mile shows that you’re committed to performing your work with excellence.
In the 21st century, companies need to change at the speed of light to remain competitive. So they want workers who can also shift gears or change direction as needed. Also, while the economy may be recovering, many companies are not fully staffed, so they want employees who can wear more than one hat and serve in more than one role.
This is a broad category of “people skills” and includes the ability to build and maintain relationships, develop rapport, and use diplomacy. It also includes the ability to give and receive constructive criticism, be tolerant and respectful regarding the opinions of others, and empathize with them.
But suppose you don’t have these skills? It’s never too late to develop them. For example, you can learn a lot just by observing other people within the company who excel in these 7 areas. Also, offering to take on more responsibilities at work (serving on committees, planning events, etc.) can help you gain valuable experience. In addition, consider taking online soft-skills courses. Developing emotional intelligence will make you a more valuable employee, and increase your chances of career success.