What are some of the so-called “soft skills” that employers seek when hiring? What are the personal values, personality traits, characteristics, and internal abilities, and one’s overall individual thinking processes? Yes, the employer may want you to know various software packages, have expertise utilizing the computer, be a Six Sigma Black Belt, and have the education to back it all up.
But wait, there is more. What happens when an employer looks deeper, looks at what is sometimes referred to as soft skills. Obviously these may vary from employer to employer, yet there is a common desire on the part of employers that potential, and present, employees possess these important attributes.
Work ethic: Employers need someone who will put out the extra effort, and work hard. They want someone who cares about the job, and performs it with efficiency, dedication, dependability, and reliability. The employer needs to know that you’ll be there Monday through Friday from 8am to 5pm with one hour off for lunch, that you won’t call in sick when the surf is up.
Positivity: Have you ever noticed that you’re attracted to people with a positive attitude? We all appreciate someone who is upbeat, optimistic, and performs quality work with panache. That kind of person is good to have in a work force. That kind of positive attitude translates to flexibility, and the ability to adapt when needed.
Self confidence: People are attracted to and appreciate someone with confidence. Leaders have self-confidence, that’s why we follow them. Conversely, we are not attracted to people who are insecure, weak, doubtful of their abilities, and indecisive.
Integrity: Webster defines integrity as “completeness, wholeness, unimpaired condition; soundness, honesty, sincerity.” But it is more than that. Employers value employees who maintain a sense of honesty and trustworthiness. An employer wants to trust employees to perform the tasks that they’ve been given, and to be honest in dealing with customers, fellow employees, and management.
Individual employees must use their own individual sense of moral and ethical behavior when working within the requirements of their position, and all areas of life. We always admire people who have integrity and those that we can trust.
Self-motivation: Good employees know what is expected of them. Self-motivation is the completing of the task at hand in a timely and professional manner without the need for constant supervision.
What is self-motivation? Here’s an example: In 1899, Elbert Hubbard scribbled off a very short recitation called “A Message to Garcia.” The President of the nation at that time was McKinley, and he needed to get a message to General Garcia who was in the mountains of Cuba. Someone said to the President, “There’s a fellow by the name of Rowan who will find Garcia for you, if anybody can.” Rowan took the letter. He did not ask “Where is he?” Or “Was that what I was hired for?” Or “What’s the matter with Charlie?” Or “What do you want to know for?” He simply did what he was asked to do. He simply delivered the message to Garcia. Google the wonderful essay “Could your employer rely on you to take a message to Garcia.”
Professionalism: A true professional is one who learns every aspect of the job, and who exhibits appropriate behavior at all times; who works to the best of his or her ability; who looks, speaks and dresses according to the image of someone who takes pride in his or her work; someone who is loyal to the company and seeks to fulfill the duties and responsibilities in a professional manner.
Communication: How often have we seen “must have strong communication skills, both written and verbal” in a job description? It is a requirement for virtually every position and inherent to success. A good communicator asks questions, listens, is polite, uses good manners, and is able to get his or her point across in a diplomatic manner.
Civility and manners: A harmonious work atmosphere is a productive work atmosphere. Where cooperation, concern, and good manners are present, the work atmosphere is greatly enhanced.
Teamwork is always better when individuals go out of their way for each other. When team members are genuinely concerned for each other. When they encourage each other. When they assist and help each other. Dale Carnegie, one of the world’s leading proponents of utilizing strong interpersonal skills often talked about the power of praise. “Gee you did a great job with that!” sounds a lot better than “What the #@ took you so long!”
Imagine an individual who consciously works on developing each of these criteria. Wouldn’t that be the type of colleague you desire to work with the most? Isn’t that the type of leader you want to work for, to go out of your way for, to complete quality workmanship to please a leader such as that?
But what are the benefits to the individual who adopts these concepts? Is an individual who possesses a strong work ethic, positive attitude, self-confidence, has integrity, honesty, self-motivation, professionalism, communication skills, and civility a successful and appealing individual? Yes. Adopt these concepts into your thinking and people will be attracted to you. Opportunities will come your way.
Whether one is young, middle-aged, or old; it makes no difference. These are thought processes that can be adopted at any age.
Richard M. Knappen is president of Chessmen Career Movers, an outplacement, career management, and consulting firm that is one of the oldest and largest locally-owned companies of its type in Southern California.