Essential soft skills

These six soft skills are essential for applicants

Social skills are becoming more important in job advertisements and working life. It’s not just your professional qualifications that need to be right. Companies also expect soft skills like team skills and empathy from their employees. Which abilities are behind the each skill and how can applicants train them?

Professional knowledge is not enough, what are known as ‘social competencies’ or ‘soft skills’ have become key qualifications in recent years. Soft skills like social, intercultural and emotional competence count more and more in everyday working life. In most companies, communication and team work have grown more significant. At the same time, hierarchies have become flatter and technical communications options more varied. This means new requirements for both employees and applicants. Find out here what counts and how to train these soft skills, so that you know how to prove your social competencies in your application and in the interview during your job search. And how to use these competencies for a more promising career. Soft skills are often the deciding factor between two equally well-qualified candidates for companies

Communications skills: managing the flow of information

What is expected: Efficient communication appropriate to the situation and the person you are communicating with.

Applying the soft skill in everyday working life: There are many different communications situations in everyday working life. They range from the daily comparison of information with your team colleagues to project updates for your boss and presentations in front of the whole department or customers.

What counts: Well-presented information must reach the target person at the right time. This requires that you stick to the essentials so as not to confuse the person receiving the information. Polite and confidential dealings are a basic prerequisite. For example, you must not give the impression that you are holding back information for your own advantage.

Training communications skills: When the communications culture in a company is still new to you, you should observe it carefully. How do your colleagues and superiors communicate? Make precise agreements regarding deadlines and ask whether everything has been understood at the end of a conversation. In this way, you will recognise lack of clarity in your communication and automatically improve your qualification. Use opportunities like presentations to get into a routine and expand your skills.


Self-awareness: know what you can and can’t do

What is expected: A realistic understanding of your own performance abilities and qualifications.

Applying the soft skill in everyday working life: Your boss must know how much responsibility they can give you. You must know your own strengths and weaknesses. With customers, expectations must be adjusted.

What counts: It is important to know the limits of what you can do so that you are neither under worked or overworked and work on tasks that you are best at. With a healthy degree of self-assessment, you know when you should ask your boss for more or different tasks and more responsibility or for other colleagues to take some work off your hands.

Training self-awareness: Observe yourself in your day-to-day work. For example, estimate the amount of time it will take you to complete a task when you start it. Then check if you were right afterwards. Get the opinions of colleagues and your boss too. Your judgement of your own performance can sometimes be a little distorted.

Team skills: working together in a team productively

What is expected: Knowing your role in the team and working for the team’s success.

Applying the soft skill in everyday working life: In most tasks and projects, colleagues work together within a department or with other departments. Optimum results will only be achieved if this cooperation works.

What counts: The goal is to interact with other people in groups productively and constructively. For this it is important that you integrate into a group to the appropriate degree. In every team there are various different roles. That’s why you must both know and accept your own role as well as the roles of your team colleagues. Furthermore, you must always bring your own goals into alignment with that of the team.

Training team skills: You can improve your skills as a team player through regular discussions with your colleagues and the team leader. Allow other team members to express their opinions, this will help the team achieve the greatest success.

Empathy: put yourself in other people’s shoes

What is expected: The ability to put yourself in the role of your boss, your colleagues and people under you, and to look at things from their perspective.

Applying the soft skill in everyday working life: In order to work productively with other people, you should question your own position and be able to allow different perspectives. Why does your colleague do their work in a different way from you? Why does your boss communicate some things briefly and others very comprehensively? If you understand the wider context, you can manage your daily processes more efficiently and adapt to each situation. This not only increases productivity, but also improves the mood in the team.

What counts: You must take on board that different people handle situations in different ways. The aim is not to push your own ideas, but to achieve the smoothest possible work process and good results. Compromises are necessary for this.

Training empathy: Regular discussions with colleagues help to understand the way they work. A good time for this is after finishing a project. Don’t be afraid to ask direct questions. This encourages a mutual learning process. While new employees can profit from the experience of more senior colleagues, experienced employees should also be inspired by the fresh perspective of younger colleagues.

Dealing with criticism: handling feedback properly

What is expected: The ability to deal with criticism in a reflective manner.

Applying the soft skill in everyday working life: In the follow-up to projects, at regular feedback meetings and also in daily work, you must be able to react to criticism from colleagues and superiors. The aim should always be to improve working processes and team work.

What counts: You must be able to assess criticism properly on the one hand, and react appropriately on the other. Never take criticism personally. Think about whether it is justified.  Improve the way you work with justified criticism and reject unjustified criticism with factual arguments. First try to accept the criticism without reacting immediately with explanations or justifications. Take some time to think about it calmly and then draw your conclusions.

Training your ability to deal with criticism: The more often you repeat the steps described in the last section, the more confidently and calmly you will react to criticism.

Being proactive and self-motivation: do more than the bare minimum

What is expected: The ability to motivate yourself and contribute productively.

Applying the soft skill in everyday working life: Managers are there to motivate the people under them. But as an employee, you should also know how to motivate yourself. Being motivated means that you have the desire to do something. When you know your own goals, this in turn generates motivation to achieve them. For example, if you have your professional goals clear in your mind and you divide them up into smaller milestones that you tackle week by week. This frees up energy, enabling you to surpass the expectations of your colleagues and superiors. Instead of working away in silence, point out how projects could be done more efficiently in your view.

What counts: Don’t just do the bare minimum. If you identify with your work and do it with enthusiasm, you'll also be fully committed to any task. Make it your goal to improve processes rather than conforming to the old way things are done. Think about what could move your company forward? In order to generate the necessary energy, you must know how to bring your own goals into alignment with that of company.

Training proactivity and self-motivation: These skills are more than anything a questions of attitude. You must know your own goals and know what motivates you. Furthermore, you must know what is important for your company and what will help move it forward. Finally, you can identify the common goals from both areas.