Developing soft skills

Soft skills are becoming more and more essential in the world of work, with employers seeing these skills as paramount to getting ahead and ensuring business longevity.

A study conducted by Deloitte (Global Human Capital Trends report) revealed over 90% of people considered soft skills essential for keeping employees and developing a meaningful organisational culture.

Developing soft skills

10 tips for developing soft skills

1. Understanding what soft skills are

Soft skills encompass a wide array of personal attributes and qualities that influence your ability to interact effectively with others in various professional and personal settings. These skills go beyond technical knowledge, encompassing how you engage with people, communicate, collaborate, make decisions and develop creative solutions. Some common soft skills include communication, teamwork, adaptability, problem-solving, leadership, and time management.

To truly understand soft skills, it’s essential to recognise that they are not fixed traits but rather qualities that can be developed and refined over time. These skills are becoming more and more crucial because they greatly affect your ability to navigate the modern world of work.

One of the first steps in developing your soft skills is understanding what they entail. This includes honestly recognising the specific soft skills you possess and then identifying areas for improvement. 

The great thing about soft skills is that they are transferable across different roles and industries. Whether you’re a healthcare professional, a software developer, or a marketing manager, your ability to communicate, collaborate, and adapt will be fundamental to your success.

2. Embrace a learning mindset

Developing soft skills begins with adopting a learning mindset. Generally this will mean having a commitment to personal growth, a willingness to learn, and a dedication to continuous improvement. 

Here’s are a few ways you can cultivate a learning mindset to develop your soft skills:

  • Set achievable goals: Start by setting clear, achievable goals for enhancing your soft skills. This will help provide you with some direction on your journey of growth. E.g. If you want to improve communication skills, set relevant goals like “I will actively listen and ask clarifying questions in every team meeting.”
  • Seek feedback: A crucial aspect of a learning mindset is seeking feedback. Regularly ask for input from colleagues, supervisors, or mentors. Constructive feedback can highlight areas where you excel and areas that need development.
  • Learn from experience: Embrace every experience, both positive and negative, as an opportunity to learn. Reflect on your interactions and consider how you can apply the lessons learned to future situations. Each experience can provide valuable insights that you can use in your development.

Being open to change is a key part of having a learning mindset. Your skills will evolve with experience. As you experience and learn, be prepared to adjust your approach and behaviours accordingly.

3. Self-reflection

Self-reflection can be a powerful tool in developing your soft skills. It involves introspection and self-analysis to gain a better understanding of your own strengths and weaknesses. Here are a few ways you can use self-reflection to your advantage:

  • Assessing your current skill set: Begin by taking an honest look at your current soft skills (if you are struggling here you can use Clevry’s free assessment tool to find out your strengths and areas for development –  Ask yourself questions like, “What do I naturally excel in?” and “In which situations do I struggle with applying my skills effectively?” 
  • Gather Feedback: Self-reflection doesn’t exist in a vacuum. Seek feedback from colleagues, mentors, and friends who can offer insights into your strengths and weaknesses. 
  • Document your observations: Create a record of your observations during self-reflection. Maintain a journal where you can jot down specific examples of situations where your soft skills were put to the test. Note when you excelled and when you faced challenges. Documenting these instances can help you identify patterns and trends in your own performance.
  • Identify opportunities for growth: As you review your self-reflection notes, try to identify specific areas where you see opportunities for growth. Maybe you notice that you struggle with conflict resolution, or you excel in teamwork but could improve your leadership skills. Pinpointing these areas allows you to develop a focused plan for improvement.

In essence, self-reflection is the cornerstone of targeted soft skills development. By gaining a deeper understanding of your current skill set, seeking external feedback, and setting clear objectives, you can create a roadmap for improvement. This process not only helps you become more aware of your own skills but also enables you to take proactive steps toward growth and improvement.

4. Prioritise based on goals

Prioritising the development of your skills is crucial to ensure that your efforts align with your aspirations and the organisational culture of your workplace. Here’s how to effectively prioritise your soft skills development:

  • Define your career goals: Start by defining your short-term and long-term career goals. Consider the industry you are in, your desired role, and the organisations you want to work for. Each of these factors will influence the soft skills most important for your success.
  • Analyse your current skill set including gaps/areas for improvement: Conduct a thorough self-assessment to understand your existing soft skills. Identify your strengths and weaknesses (through our free Joy at Work personality test)  and relate them to your career goals. 
  • Create a development plan with clear objectives: Once you’ve determined your priorities, create a structured development plan. Try to pair each skill with a couple of actionable steps and milestones. For example, if leadership is a priority, your plan may include attending leadership workshops, seeking mentorship, and taking on leadership roles in team projects.

5. Explore learning & training opportunities

Developing soft skills often requires a combination of self-directed learning and structured training. To enhance your soft skills, consider a variety of learning opportunities such as:

  • Online courses: 
  • Workplace training programmes: 
  • Coaching and mentorship: 
  • Joining professional associations
  • Books and resources
  • Networking and collaborative learning
  • Interactive learning tools

Remember that soft skills development is an ongoing process, and there is no one-size-fits-all approach. Depending on your goals and learning style, you can combine various learning opportunities to create a comprehensive development plan. Regularly assess your progress and adjust your strategy as needed to continue developing your soft skills.

6. Practical application

Practising your soft skills is a critical component of your development journey. It’s through practice that you turn knowledge and theory into tangible, real-world abilities. 

  • Simulate real-life situations: Practise your soft skills in settings that closely resemble real-life situations. This could involve role-playing exercises, team projects, or group discussions that mimic the dynamics of your workplace. For example if you’re working towards improving your conflict resolution skills you may seek out opportunities to try and mediate and resolve conflicts in your personal and professional life. Or you could just start a random argument for the sake of it and see if you can talk your way out of it (a joke – please don’t actually do this).

Practical application not only helps you build and refine your soft skills but also provides you with the confidence to apply these skills effectively in real-world scenarios. The more you practise, the more natural and proficient you’ll become, making soft skills an integral part of your professional toolkit.

7. Patience and persistence:

Developing soft skills requires patience and persistence. These qualities are vital for consistent growth and improvement. Here’s why they matter:

  • Complex change: Soft skills development often involves fundamental changes in your personality, habits, and behaviours. These changes are complex and may take time to fully integrate into your life. Be prepared for this gradual transformation.
  • Steady progress: Personal development doesn’t follow a linear path. You will likely encounter setbacks and challenges along the way. Try to maintain a long-term perspective and focus on steady progress rather than quick fixes.
  • Consistent effort: Consistency is key to mastering your skills. Developing soft skills is an ongoing journey that requires consistent effort. Dedicate time and energy to your growth, even when it seems slow or challenging.
  • Reinforcement and habit formation: Your personal development will involve reinforcing positive behaviours and forming new habits. This process can be slow, as it requires repetition and practice to solidify these behaviours into your day-to-day life.

Embracing the journey of soft skills development with patience and persistence ensures that your efforts yield lasting results. Remember that the transformation is gradual, but the rewards are substantial. By staying committed to your growth and maintaining a positive, patient mindset, you will steadily enhance your soft skills and achieve professional success.

8. Remember your why:

Motivation will play a crucial role in your soft skills development. Remembering why you are committed to improving your soft skills can provide the inspiration and determination needed to stay on course. 

  • Purpose and direction: Knowing your “why” gives you a clear sense of purpose and direction. It helps remind you of the ultimate goal you’re working towards, whether that’s career advancement or something else. 
  • Competitive advantage: Developing soft skills sets you apart from your competition. As the job market becomes more competitive, your dedication to enhancing these skills gives you an edge over others. Employers value candidates who demonstrate strong soft skills, making you a more attractive hiring prospect.
  • Career growth: Improving your skills will open many doors in your career. Leadership, communication, and problem-solving are highly sought after skills in managerial positions. Remembering your “why” can fuel your ambition to ascend the career ladder.

Keeping your “why” at the forefront of your mind can serve as a constant reminder of your motivation for soft skills development. Whether you seek career advancement, personal fulfilment, or the ability to positively impact those around you, your “why” provides the fuel needed to stay dedicated to your journey.

9. Feedback:

Feedback can play a crucial role in developing your skills, as it provides valuable insights into your strengths and areas for improvement.

  • Helps you gain new perspectives
  • Easier to measure your progress and track your development
  • Highlights areas where you excel and areas that need improvement.
  • Allows for continuous growth

To make the most of feedback, create a feedback-friendly environment where open and honest communication is encouraged. Regularly engage in feedback exchanges, ask for specific input on your soft skills, and offer constructive feedback to your colleagues. This mutual exchange accelerates your soft skills development and benefits everyone involved.

10. Showcase your soft skills:

Effectively showcasing your soft skills in your CV, job interviews, and professional interactions is vital for career success. Here’s how to make your soft skills stand out:

  • In your CV: When crafting your CV or resume, highlight your soft skills in a dedicated section. Provide concrete examples of how you’ve applied these skills in past roles. Instead of stating, “Strong communication skills,” say, “Led cross-functional team meetings, improving collaboration and achieving project milestones.”
  • In job interviews: Prepare some specific examples that demonstrate your soft skills in different areas. When answering interview questions, draw on real-life experiences that showcase your skills. For example, if asked about your teamwork skills, share a story about a successful team project and your role in it.
  • Social profiles: If you have a social media presence, such as LinkedIn, make sure your soft skills are well-represented. Use endorsements and recommendations from colleagues to back up your claims.
  • References: When selecting references, choose individuals who can speak to your soft skills. Their testimonials can reinforce your claims during job interviews and discussions with potential employers.

Effectively showcasing your soft skills is not just about listing them on paper; it’s about providing concrete evidence of your abilities. When you can offer specific examples of how you’ve applied your soft skills to achieve success, you make a compelling case to potential employers and colleagues. By doing so, you’ll be recognized as a candidate or professional who is not only aware of the importance of soft skills but also capable of putting them into practice.

In conclusion, developing your soft skills will be a long journey of continuous improvement. It begins with understanding the significance of these skills, embracing a learning mindset, and reflecting on your current abilities. 

Prioritising your development based on your goals, exploring diverse learning opportunities, and actively practising your skills are all essential steps. 

By showcasing your soft skills in various professional contexts, you set yourself apart as a well-rounded and adaptable professional, ready to excel in the world of work. The development of your skills not only enhances your career but also positively impacts your personal and professional relationships, contributing to your overall well-being and long-term success.


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