need more than technical qualifications to move ahead in your career.
By Larry Buhl, for Yahoo! Hot
In a 2008 survey of more than 2,000 businesses in the state of
Washington, employers said entry-level workers in a variety of professions were
lacking in several areas, including problem solving, conflict resolution, and
You'll likely see these "soft skills" popping up in job
descriptions, next to demands for technical qualifications. Employment experts
agree that tech skills may get you aninterview, but these soft skills will get you the job--and help you keep it:
1.Communication skills: This
doesn't mean you have to be a brilliant orator or writer.
It does mean you have to express yourself well, whether it's writing
a coherent memo, persuading others with a presentation, or just being able to
calmly explain to a team member what you need.
2.Teamwork and collaboration: Employers want employees who play well with others--who can
effectively work as part of a team. "That means sometimes being a leader,
sometimes being a good follower, monitoring the progress, meeting deadlines,
and working with others across the organization to achieve a common goal,"
says Lynne Sarikas, the MBA Career Center Director at Northeastern University.
3.Adaptability: This is especially important
for more-seasoned professionals to demonstrate, to counter the (often
erroneous) opinion that older workers are too set in their ways. "To
succeed in most organizations, you need to have a passion for learning and the
ability to continue to grow and stretch your skills to adapt to the changing
needs of the organization," Sarikas says. "On your resume, on your
cover letter, and in your interview, explain the ways you've continued to learn
and grow throughout your career."
4.Problem solving: Be prepared for the "How
did you solve a problem?" interview question with several examples,
advises Ann Spoor, managing director of Cave Creek Partners. "Think of
specific examples where you solved a tough business problem or participated in
the solution. Be able to explain what you did, how you approached the problem,
how you involved others, and what the outcome was--in real, measurable
5.Critical observation: It's
not enough to be able to collect data and manipulate it. You must also be able
to analyze and interpret it. What story does the data tell? What questions are
raised? Are there different ways to interpret the data? "Instead of
handing your boss a spreadsheet, give them a business summary and highlight the
key areas for attention, and suggest possible next steps," Sarikas
6.Conflict resolution: The
ability to persuade negotiates, and resolve conflicts is crucial if you plan to
move up. "You need to have the skill to develop mutually beneficial
relationships in the organization so you can influence and persuade
people," Sarikas says. "You need to be able to negotiate win-win
solutions to serve the best interests of the company and the individuals
it comes to soft skills, show--don't tell. How do you prove you're proficient at, say, and critical
observation? Demonstrating these soft skills may be more difficult than listing
concrete accomplishments like $2 million in sales or a professional
certification. But it is possible to persuade hiring managers that you have
what they need.
demonstrate communication skills, for example, start with
the obvious. Make sure there are no typos in your resume or cover letter.
Beyond that, enhance your communication credibility by writing an
accomplishment statement on your resume or cover letter, says Cheryl E. Palmer,
president of Call to Career. "Instead of stating, 'great oral and written
communication skills,' say, 'conducted presentation for C-level executives that
persuaded them to open a new line of business that became profitable within
Learn soft skills. The good news is that, like any skill, soft skills can be learned.
(The better news? Boosting your soft skills can not only give you a leg up on a
new job or a promotion--these skills have obvious applications in all areas of
a person's life, both professional and personal.)
Take a course. Some colleges are mixing
technology with areas such as effective written and verbal communication,
teamwork, cultural understanding, and psychology. Take a writing or public
speaking course to boost your communication skills. Look for a
conflict-resolution course or "leadership skills" class at your local
Seek mentors. Be as specific as you can
about your target skill, and when you're approaching a potential mentor,
compliment that person with a specific example in which you've seen him or her
practice that skill, advises Ed Muzio, the author of "Make Work
Great." "Then ask whether that person would be willing to share ideas
with you about how you might achieve the same level of capability," he
says. "Maybe it will grow into a long mentoring relationship, or maybe
you'll just pick the person's brain for a few minutes."
Volunteer. Working with nonprofit organizations gives you the
opportunity to build soft skills. And listing high-profile volunteer work on
your resume gives you an excuse to point out what you gained there. For
example, "As chair of the environmental committee, planned and carried out
a citywide park cleanup campaign. Utilized team-building, decision-making, and
cooperative skills. Extensive report writing and public speaking."