12 Ways to Build Up Your Soft Skills Repertoire

See also: Transferable Skills

Has a prospective employer or mentor ever told you that you need to work on your soft skills? If so, take the advice in a positive, constructive way. In effect, the suggestion means your technical abilities are in good shape, but there's room for improvement when it comes to managing your workload, resolving problems, and interacting with others.

Fortunately, while soft skills are often hard to define, you can learn them through practice, role playing, and self-analysis. Plus, unlike hard, technical skills, the softer ones don't call for years of expensive schooling or months of arduous study.

In fact, anyone can enhance their soft skills repertoire by simply working their way through a 12-point checklist that takes a grand total of about 15 minutes per day for a couple of weeks. There's no particular order or hierarchy to the list below, so feel free to begin wherever you think you need the most improvement. But, try each one so you'll be sure to identify your personal weak and strong points, focusing additional effort on your bigger challenges and less on skills that you already feel comfortable with.

Find Adaptation Opportunities

Look for everyday interactions where you have the chance to adapt your behavior for social or business purposes. A pertinent exercise might be to not use informal language during the work day, or to make an effort to dress right for every occasion during a designated week.

Practice On the Spot Critical Thinking

Taking part in online trading of precious metals, even on a very small scale, can be an effective way to acquire critical thinking acumen. For example, spend an hour studying the current state of the gold market. Then, use an online brokerage platform to capitalize on short-term price movements via CFD (contracts for difference) trading. Stick with the top trading platforms in South Africa, Europe, Asia, or the U.S. and see how much you can learn in a short period. This kind of activity boosts all your critical thinking skills and, who knows, you might even earn a profit in the process.

Resolve a Small Conflict

Everyone's life includes conflict. Your job is to find a small one for the purposes of practice. Taking baby steps can build up your resolution expertise slowly but surely. Consider settling a minor disagreement between friends or actively, and politely, confronting your boss or coworker about an issue that needs to be resolved.

Role Play Communication Challenges

Anyone can learn to communicate better, and role playing is a fun way to get the job done. One popular strategy is to ask a close friend to play the part of a prospective employer with whom you are interviewing. Have your friend ask random questions about the hypothetical position and give you feedback on how you did in the mock interview.

Solve a Simple Problem

Pick something in your daily life that has been bothering you. Make it a minor thing, like how to fix something around the house or how to organize items on your desk. Write down what the problem is, and make a list of steps you will take to deal with it. Then, spring into action and see how it feels to problem solve.

Play a Creative Thinking Game

One of the softest skills of all is creative thinking. Try out a few online games that call for creativity, like interactive crossword puzzles, mazes, or basic world building contests. Or, just take 20 minutes to write a short story about an imaginary person who's facing a major life challenge.

Motivate Yourself to Complete One Task

Identify one chore you've been putting off and write down three reasons for finishing it as soon as possible. Focus on a job you can complete in less than an hour. Review the list you've made and use it as a starting point for motivation to complete the task immediately.

Rehearse Dependability Skills

Book a social appointment with a friend for a specific time and day. The goal of this exercise is to inculcate dependability by being exactly on time for the commitment. It's okay to be a few minutes early, but aim to arrive at the precise moment. At first, you'll feel silly playing a time game like this, but it actually serves as a starting point for enhancing your general level of dependability.

Read a Book on Time Management

There are plenty of informative books on time management, and it's smart to begin by reading about the theory behind the topic. Find a short time management book you like and study it as if it's a text for a required class. Take notes and remember to do any assigned exercises at the end of the chapters.

Set Work Hours and Stick to Them

Want to instill a stronger work ethic in yourself? Try setting specific work hours and sticking to them for at least two weeks. During the prescribed time, don't do anything but your job. It's fine to take breaks, but be sure to list them in the original schedule and return to work at the appointed time.

Adjust Your Attitude

Attitude improvement is best practiced on minor things. Remember that you're doing this for the sake of boosting your ability to think positively. Many people have luck with a technique called building a great day. Spend five minutes sitting, with eyes closed, soon after waking up but after eating breakfast. Actively envision the day ahead as you would like it to be. You'll likely be surprised at how powerful this simple attitude adjustment is after doing it for a full week.

Use Sports or Games to Learn Teamwork

There are dozens of exciting, fun, healthful ways to learn teamwork. Choose a sport of game you enjoy, but make certain it's one that is team-oriented. Online or in-person sports are perfect, as long as success is dependent on several people in a group working together for a common goal. Apt choices, either online or real, include bridge, team bowling, basketball, relay races, and team trivia.

The Skills You Need Guide to Personal Development

Further Reading from Skills You Need

The Skills You Need Guide to Personal Development

Learn how to set yourself effective personal goals and find the motivation you need to achieve them. This is the essence of personal development, a set of skills designed to help you reach your full potential, at work, in study and in your personal life.

The second edition of or bestselling eBook is ideal for anyone who wants to improve their skills and learning potential, and it is full of easy-to-follow, practical information.

About the Author

Drew Allen is a financial enthusiast, seasoned blogger, music and sports fanatic. He enjoys spending time outdoors with his wife and daughter fishing and boating. He is dedicated to his 20+ year career in the banking, mortgage, and personal finance industry.