Soft Skills: How to Determine What You Have and Develop What You Don’t

Angie - Test Knowles, | February-24-12




How to develop your soft skills
Professionals in the environmental sector know what ongoing skill development means for their employment success. With rapid technological and regulatory changes, and a growing demand for management-type positions, the requisite competencies for environmental work are becoming both more diverse and more numerous.
In response to this trend, 71% of professionals have pursued at least one job-related course in the past year, according to ECO Canada’s Characteristics of Canadian Environmental Practitioners
Clearly, building and updating your skill-set is essential, but which areas are the most important to focus on?
The short answer to this question is soft skills
This skill category involves competencies that are readily transferrable from one job to another, and can be applied to environment-specific work even when these skills were originally acquired in another industry. Several of the most commonly used soft skills relate to:
  • Problem solving 

  • Project management 

  • Research and analytical thinking

  • Writing 

What makes soft skills so important is their powerful impact on long-term career growth. Education and technical qualifications may get you in the door with a particular employer, but it is your level of soft skill development that will determine how well you work with others on your team and how quickly you get promoted.
Building these critical competencies starts with identifying the soft skills that you excel at so far, and improving the ones that are not as well-developed.

Determine What You Have

It probably seems like a bit of odd advice to spend time considering the skills you already have, but this step is truly key. More often than not, professionals discover that they have developed more skills than they actually realize. 
This is especially true in the case of soft skills, such as writing or problem solving, which are used so pervasively that they can be misconstrued as innate abilities or talents, as opposed to discrete skills that have developed over time.
To help reveal the hidden cache of soft skills you have developed already, check out the link here for a quick self-assessment of potential skills that apply to you. 

Develop What You Don’t Have

For the soft skills that you want to develop further, there are a number of great resources out there. The blog post, 5 Soft Skills They Don’t Teach You in University, offers essential tips to help refine soft skills related to interpersonal skills, body language, and communication. Lei Han’s post on Be My Career Coach, How to Improve Your Soft Skills, outlines five considerations to keep in mind when approaching soft skill development.

What are the soft skills that you use most often in your work? Where do you think more training is needed?