When looking for new opportunities, knowing what skills to focus on can be a daunting task. Having worked closely with some of Austin’s top employers for over half a decade, we have the inside scoop on what soft skills employers are truly looking for in their ideal candidates, regardless of the specific functional area.
Business is not a linear equation. In today’s fast-paced world, most jobs change dynamically over time, and what may be a clear job description in one moment can pivot to a completely different job in the next. Similarly, a company’s (and a manager’s) priorities and responsibilities can shift in an instant. Handling quick shifts with grace without getting overwhelmed isn’t an easy feat for anyone – but it is an essential skill in any work environment today regardless of the function.
We’re all busy. While your colleagues and bosses should all be there to support you and answer any questions or address concerns you may have, employees who can prioritize responsibilities, problem-solve, and create work for themselves in times of ambiguity are a coveted resource for employers. The more confident you feel in being self-directed and autonomous, the higher likelihood that your manager will trust you instead of feeling the need to micromanage you – which is not an effective use of anyone’s time.
- Strategic thinking
Being able to evaluate the possible outcomes of decisions objectively and with both a short-term and a long-term lens in mind is a vital skill in the eyes of employers anywhere, regardless of the level you are hired into. Strategic thinking and decision-making involves the use of critical thinking, weighing possible outcomes, and detaching ego and emotions from ideas and solutions. It also could require stepping back and allowing ideas and projects to fade (regardless of the prior effort spent) when the strategic priorities of a company shift.
The workplace is more collaborative than ever. It is essential to be able to work effectively in teams. Every employee brings unique values and perspectives to the table. Being able to effectively harness these perspectives and allow them to contribute to a common goal rather than allowing them to become barriers is a critical skill for all professionals. Given today’s collaborative business environment, an employee that can’t thrive in a team essentially cannot thrive in an organization.
- Time management
Effective time management is essential to success for any employee. If you cannot delegate priority to your tasks and time block properly to accomplish your goals, tasks will easily fall through the cracks and it is more likely that you will feel overwhelmed and dissatisfied with your work – and run into headwinds with your manager and team. Find a task management process that works for you and stick to it!
These five key soft skills are highly indicative of an employee’s ability to lead, perform, make decisions, work collaboratively, and build trust within an organization. Understanding that in every recruiting interaction, employers are evaluating your mastery of these skills is essential to a successful interview. Provide interviewers with as many examples of how you have mastered these skills as you can – and you will become a highly sought-after candidate.
Need to brush up on your soft skills? The simulations used in the Invited MBA are a perfect sandbox to get some hands-on practice.