In my years of experience as an executive assistant and as a trainer for the administrative profession, I have established a firm belief that not only are soft skills vital in the corporate world, but they are the backbone, the foundation, and maybe the most important skillset you can invest in to further advance your career. In fact, if you had to choose only one area of focus to improve yourself and grow professionally and personally, I would advocate for soft skills. It is why they are such a crucial part of one of our most robust designation courses for executive assistants: World Class Assistant. I am going to explain to you what soft skills mean exactly, what they are, and why they are crucial for your career and everyday life.
What Is a Soft Skill?
Let’s start by defining what exactly soft skills are. Some people refer to them as people skills or social skills. As of 2023, however, these skills have been more frequently referred to as power skills, which more accurately describes them as they give us a competitive advantage. These skills are the interpersonal and intrapersonal skills that are applicable to every industry. They pertain to the way we process and perform tasks and are needed for enhanced emotional intelligence, which encompasses your ability to manage your own emotions and those of others.
When I say “manage,” it’s important to understand that you should not repress, divert, or try to ignore these emotions. Rather, think of it like this: a person with a strong set of soft skills can dig deep and understand the root of emotions, address them, and influence the causes for better outcomes. Think of how incredibly valuable that is.
In a corporate setting, an employee with strong communication skills, persuasion, and collaboration skills (all topics taught specifically to executive assistants in World Class Assistant) is a leader. Success follows them because they can influence others because they can understand others and themselves. In our personal lives, we can form stronger relationships, open more doors, and create a better community that can ultimately change our lives.
Types of Soft Skills
There are numerous types of soft skills. Time management, leadership skills, and critical thinking are all common ones that fall under this category. However, there are a few in particular that we teach at Office Dynamics International that I feel are some of the most important. So, let’s outline them here.
One of my team members at ODI introduced me to a book titled The Culture Code. The book examines highly successful groups of people and what makes them work well together. What really caught my attention when she shared this with me was the need for successful collaboration within each of these groups. Please listen to me when I say that no matter how talented you are, there is always someone else better at you in something who will be able to bring something else to the table. The old adage “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together” is true. Being able to collaborate well with others is vital for success in any industry.
Critical Creative Thinking
We like to take creative thinking and critical thinking and combine them for a couple of reasons. First, we want to move past “problem-solving” when listing valuable soft skills. It’s a weak attempt to explain the heart of what we are getting at. Also, it does not get to the root of what makes a powerful skill to possess. Therefore, we say “critical-creative thinking” to explain the strategic and out-of-the-box thinking that is expected of powerful assistants. Critical refers to the ability to evaluate information with discernment, while the creative part is the ability to form a well-thought-out plan. Both of these are necessary skills for a strong professional.
This is one of the most highly requested skills we find assistants request to improve when they enroll in our training. The decline in communication skills can be seen in every industry in our corporate world. With the large influx in remote work, many people have forgotten how to conduct powerful moments of interaction in person. In addition, employees have become lax when working remotely, and it has transferred to their communication skills. Being able to communicate well in different mediums (in-person, video chat, email, text, etc.) is an indispensable skill. If you learn how to communicate well, you will go far as a leader and an influential person.
While time management matters, we like to teach people the value of energy management instead, which is your ability to cultivate and disseminate your own energy for maximum productivity. There are many impacts on our energy. Our health, including the amount of sleep we get, the exercise we do, and what we eat will severely impact our energy output. Emotional well-being will also impact our ability to focus and produce high-quality work. This is why it’s so important to live well-rounded, balanced lives, and employers are looking for these healthy individuals. Further, knowing your own self and what time of day you work best, taking regular breaks, limiting distractions, and your ability to manage your output are all related to energy management and will all impact your productivity.
Resiliency and Adaptability
Expect the unexpected. Eventually, in your career, there will be a time when your company is bought or merged, your CEO is replaced, or you are forced to look for a new position. I don’t say this to scare you, but to prepare you. This is why building your resiliency and adaptability skills future proofs your career—let me explain with an analogy.
If you are running a race and told in advance that at any point, a wild animal could dart out and cross your path, you are going to be more alert and less hindered because you expect it. If you are not made aware, though, the sudden surprise will startle you and take you longer to recover from. Don’t live in fear, but make an action plan that prepares you for events like this ahead of time, and you will be able to adapt more quickly.
One’s ability to persuade should never be used to manipulate. It should not merely promote selfish wants or desires. Rather, persuasion is the ability to allow others to see and support a valuable point. When you can successfully persuade, you can open other’s minds to comprehend a new perspective. It inspires others to take action and support an initiative. Having strong persuasive skills means you must also be able to understand another person’s frame of mind and alter your communication in a way that makes sense for them. It’s an extremely valuable skill.
Strategy and Working In Tandem with AI
I want to end this list on an extremely relevant point as to why these soft skills are vital. Technology, specifically AI, is on everyone’s mind, and it’s not going away. AI takes shape in the corporate world in the form of tools that impact the way we manage emails, process data, and handle routine tasks. You need well-developed soft skills to strategize with tech well.
In our course, Digital Efficiency for Administrative Excellence, what really sets this course apart is our focus on teaching people how to be tech explorers. The ability to think strategically, another focus area in the World Class Assistant course, is a crucial soft skill in the age of AI. Technology is going to continue to change and rapidly grow. If you then can prove your strategic ability and are capable of adapting, learning, and figuring out how to work with new systems to deliver results, you will be invaluable.
Why Soft Skills Matter
Soft skills, now defined as power skills as mentioned above, are in high demand in the workforce. Employers are looking for people who can conduct themselves well and bring out the best in people, as well as strategize well with the tech they have. This is great news for those who seize the opportunity; with a strong set of soft skills, you will be able to be not only a competitive candidate in your career but also stand out in many areas of your life.
Invest In Your Soft Skills
Soft skills can make or break your career. While extremely pertinent to the administrative profession, they are needed in virtually every career field. The strategic thinkers who can manage others well and invent creative solutions will be the standouts in any field. They are the thought leaders; the trendsetters. When you are able to develop these well, you will see a shift in not only your personal life but also in taking steps to future-proof your career.
If you are an administrative professional looking to take the next step and invest in strengthening your soft skills, consider our course, World Class Assistant, where we unpack the above-mentioned skills in detail and guide you through how to strengthen them and reach your full potential in your administrative profession.
Remember, the best investment you can make is in yourself, and doing so will yield great returns over time.