Every job requires a certain amount of soft skillsets, no matter the industry. What are soft skills? Soft skills are defined by Oxford Languages as "personal attributes that enable someone to interact effectively and harmoniously with other people". These skills are especially important in IT, and even more important now that most of us are working remote.
With more and more people looking for fully remote positions, companies are beginning to pay better attention to candidates' soft skills. But why now? Well, the answer is simple and redundant: everyone's remote. It doesn't matter what industry you work in, or what your title is, or even how many years of experience you bring to the table. It is a fact that it's harder to communicate and get things done in a short period of time when your team isn't right next to you.
Now you may be thinking: my position is individualistic. I have a certain amount of tasks that need to be done in a certain amount of time, and they don't require actions from others. Listen, if this mindset has worked for you - more power to you! Feel free to save yourself the additional 2 minutes and stop here, but if you want to give yourself an extra edge, read on.
Top Skills We're Seeing and Why They Matter
It's true. Many positions that are remote typically don't require a lot of collaboration. That's why they're remote. However, a successful company: will always include work that impacts someone else. This is where an individualistic, or as I'd call it: an "all me" mindset can be incredibly dangerous and even a liability to your employer. To put this into perspective, it will help if we have some examples of soft skills. Below are a few of the top soft skillsets our clients are looking for, and why they matter so much, even if you're working 40 hours by yourself.
- Time-Management - Time management needs no introduction. In fact, I'd bet that almost every job description includes "time-management" in it in one way or another, and for good reason. Time is money when it comes to business. Being able to estimate how long something will take you is an invaluable skillset, as it allows your team to set realistic expectations, and adjust goals accordingly.
- Teamwork - Another that needs no introduction, and is truthfully very self-explanatory. If you cannot work with other people, not only do you eliminate yourself from consideration for most roles, but you burden yourself with responsibilities that may not be best assigned to you. Oftentimes, the hardest part about working with a team (especially in the tech industry) is letting go of control. You want to be thorough, precise, and consistent because that's what this industry demands, but there needs to be a happy medium. If you cut off working with your team, you hinder both your ability to get things done and the amount to which you can contribute.
- Decision Making - Decision making. Everyone's favorite... When you think of decision making, you usually Invision imagine 10 guys, up in a tower, in a conference room deciding the fate of the company. First off: would not want that job. Second: it's not just the key "decision-makers" who make decisions. We all do. Every day. You decided to get out of bed and read an article on soft skills. Decision-making, at its core, is having the ability to prioritize what is most crucial and most beneficial for all parties in the organization. I'd take it one step further and say: true decision making, is being able to do that at any time. Having the ability to make quick, crucial decisions is... well crucial. Decision-making is a reflection of your ability to adapt, prioritize and execute, not only with yourself in mind, but those around you. If you cannot make decisions, they fall on other people - costing them time, money, and energy.
- Communication - Communication, my favorite. Though I'm biased as a Communications major. Communication is defined by Webster's dictionary as "a process by which information is exchanged between individuals through a common system of symbols, signs, or behavior". So, what does that mean? It means being able to get your idea from point A, to point B. In order to understand how fundamental communication is, and how detrimental miscommunication is, just play the telephone game with some friends. What started as "Mary had that problem too", is now "Mary wants to sue you". Now imagine that but on the Fortune 500 scale. Once again: communication is fundamental.
- Creative Problem-Solving - Creativity, I'd argue along with communication, (and a sense of humor) is the soft skill that will take you the furthest. I chose to partner creativity with problem-solving because, well let's be honest, setting the house on fire to cook bacon is creative, but it doesn't solve the problem. Creativity, to me at least, is why our market exists and thrives. Especially the IT. The foundations of both IT & Life Sciences are built on creative problem-solving. If you need any more proof that creative problem-solving has the potential to move mountains - just look at Bill Gates.
How to Showcase Your Soft Skills
The hardest part about soft skills? Well, there are two hard parts. First: you can't really teach soft skills. They're usually acquired over time, but only if an individual has prioritized and recognized them. (Another soft skill that I should mention here is self-awareness). Individuals with high emotional intelligence and self-awareness typically pick up these skillsets much faster. Take communication, for example, it is a skillset layered with small nuances, habits, and traits that stem from someone's upbringing. And unfortunately, the age-old adage is true: you can't force someone to learn something that they don't want to learn. As a former recruiter, I have talked to many people who have had double the time on this earth to learn communication and still do it poorly. It just wasn't and isn't a priority. And that's fine! Unless it's a requirement...
The second hardest part: (on that dismal note - don't worry, it gets better), is that it's hard to showcase your soft skills, especially while interviewing remote. So, how do you showcase soft skills when you're interacting with someone 50 miles away from you? The answer is to dedicate yourself to the little things. When we can't be in-person engaging with one another, we're going to notice the little things: eye contact, posture in video interviews, smiles when introducing yourself, eliminating filler words like "um" and "ah", your pacing between your words, the way you elaborate on answers, and the way you pivot when you don't have an answer, spelling on your resume, being on time for appointments. All of these things are reflections of your soft skills, and go a long way when someone is considering adding you to their team.