Each quarter, my company has a meeting that every employee attends. During this meeting, each of the individual business units provides an update. This requires folks from each business unit to stand before the entire company and give a brief presentation.
We specifically ask our youngest staff members to take part in these presentations. These are individuals who have little or no experience with public speaking. These presentations allow them to develop the soft skill of public speaking and standing before an audience.
The ability to give a great presentation before an audience is an important soft skill. It’s also one of the most difficult and can take years to learn. Fortunately, other necessary soft skills need less training and practice to develop.
When starting a new job, a new project or working with a new team, soft skills are visibly and immediately on display. There are certain soft skills generally expected of any employee or co-worker.
When these soft skills are absent, co-workers and peers will notice immediately.
There are four soft skills every young professional should prepare to present in an acceptable manner on day one. These particular soft skills may require some level of training. Most importantly though, they require focus and self-awareness about behavior and attitude.
1. Communicate in a professional manner. Communication is the ultimate soft skill. How we communicate with others, in a variety of settings, dictates how others perceive us. The ability to state your point in a tactful manner; to be concise and specific; and to choose your words carefully is necessary. Great leaders have always been great communicators. However, many leaders find their career success limited if they are unable to improve their skills in this arena.
2. Organizational skills. Great talent and high intelligence will never overcome poor organizational skills. Organizational ability provides a level of control of your professional workflow. It is the ability to manage paperwork, keep an organized workspace, maintain a schedule and be on time. All these traits are expected in any professional setting. Organizational skills are further demonstrated by preparing for meetings and conversations.
3. Responsiveness. Lack of responsiveness is often cited as the number one item managers say they cannot accept. Whether not replying to a colleague’s email or not responding to an appointment, neither is an acceptable trait. Lack of responsiveness is further demonstrated by not following up on a commitment or being late with assignments. Even if the response is to say there is not yet a response, this is always better than to not respond at all. My experience has shown that lack of responsiveness is often the first reason cited for firing an employee.
5. A Positive Attitude. Work is difficult. It does not need to be more difficult by someone who constantly complains or is critical of decisions. When a co-worker has a negative attitude, it wears on the rest of the team. A negative attitude will erase every contribution someone makes to the job. Negativity can serve a purpose when analyzing risk or understanding consequences. A consistently negative attitude will only serve to create alienation among a team.
Excellent soft skills are what separate average performers from great performers. Most can learn and perfect soft skills through training and practice. Professional communication, organizational abilities, responsiveness, and a positive attitude are soft skills that most young professionals know and understand on their first day of a new job. To that point, they are often taken for granted. This is a mistake. These four soft skills should remain a focus every day, consistently improving. Never underestimate the power of these four soft skills, and the impact they will have upon a career.