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Jessica Mercedes for Codiga

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Don’t go soft on your soft-skills

3 steps to improve your soft skills and boost your career

While hard skills are the result of the training and how much you’ve grown technically during your career, soft skills are the skills you possess that go beyond your technical measurable abilities. They focus on your communications, problem facing/problem solving, leadership, social skills, personality, attitude, flexibility, motivation, and manners among others.

In my experience working with developers in the past 10 years and managing “Holberton School Colombia”, soft skills are usually 70% of your day-to-day. How you interact with others, work in a team, listen to your managers, etc. Is is in fact an essential skill to have, especially when you work (or want to work) in a large company.

1. Identify your soft skills

First, make a list of things (outside your technical skills) that you are really good at. And for each skill ask yourself the following:

  • Am I good at that? (this is a yes or no question)
  • When have I excelled at it? (a moment in time where this skill was put to use)
  • Would Someone recommend me for it? (Someone that you worked with that if asked can back this up) These 3 questions (if answered with honesty) will help you identify those soft skills that you are really good at, and those you need to improve.

The list of soft skills can be infinite, here¹ the top ones to consider if you are a developer:
Communication
like: Listening, Presentation, Public speaking, Social skills, Visual communication, Writing reports, proposals, etc.
Critical Thinking
like: Adaptability, Creativity, Critical observation, Critical thinking, Design aptitude, Desire to learn, Flexibility, Innovation, etc.
Leadership
Conflict management/Conflict resolution, Decision making, Delegation, Dispute resolution, Facilitation, Giving clear feedback, Inspiring people, Management, etc.
Positive Attitude
Confidence, Cooperation, Courtesy, Energy, Enthusiasm, Friendliness, Honesty, Humorous, Patience, Respectability, Respectfulness, etc.
Teamwork
Collaboration, Dealing with difficult situations, Dealing with office politics, Disability awareness, Diversity awareness, Emotional intelligence, Empathy, etc.
Work Ethic
Time management, Attentiveness, Business ethics, Dedication, Dependability, Following direction, Independence, Meeting deadlines, Motivation, Organization, Perseverance, etc.

2. Showcase your top skills

When you are looking for a job, or wanting to get a promotion showcasing your soft skills is a good way to get ahead on the pipeline. Include the ones most closely related to the job in your resume and cover letter, especially in the description of your work history, and have them in hand when you have the first meeting. Answering each one with an anecdote will help paint a clear image on that skill and how you master it.
Don’t be scared of mentioning the skills you are working on improving, it shows willingness and a goal of growth.

3. Work on your flaws

The first step is to accept you can’t be good at eveything, but that you can work on those you are not that good. There are many benefits to improving your soft skills, including relationship building with coworkers and career development. Here are a few steps to work on them:
1. Be open to feedback. Hearing your flaws is not easy, but it opens a window to understanding what you need to work on. Feedback when comming from a good source is a way to improve.
2. Communicate often. It could be to your mentor or supervisor, but sharing your improvement gives you accountability and a way to keep track on the progress.
3. Get ready to learn. Is not going to be an easy road and sometimes you are going to be out of your confort zone, so be open about trying new ways to and learning a lot about yourself and how to interact with others.
4. Observe others. Either to improve or to not make the same mistakes, observing others might give you a different perspective on how to improve a certain skill.

And finally, developing and maintaining your soft skills is not easy but it’s necesary. A workforce rich in soft skills is like having a code with no technical debt, working smoothly. With training and defined goals you can easily improve them in a short period of time.

¹based on the balance careers list of soft skills

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