The future of work is changing and those entering the workforce are expected to have a greater number of different careers and jobs in their lifetimes compared with previous generations.

Even those training for jobs at present might find their skills obsolete when technology takes over, forcing future workers to adapt and change career paths in a hurry.

The good news is that a number of “soft skills” can be transferred from one career to another, eliminating the need to work your way up in a new profession from ground zero.

Soft skills include communicating well across different types of technology, engaging with teams made up of different cultures and abilities, showing initiative and enterprise, knowing how to learn new skills and collaborating and negotiating in the workplace. Soft skills are also working well under pressure, accepting responsibility, being flexible, managing your time, being creative and showing leadership skills and commitment.

Pat Cody, principal adviser career knowledge at Careers New Zealand, an organisation that provides resources and advice to guide young people in their career decisions, agrees, even though he doesn’t like the term “soft skills” because it infers the skills are easy to master and less important than other attributes and skills.

“I believe the opposite is true,” says Cody. “These skills are developmental and difficult to master and research has proven they will actually determine how successful a person will be in their career.”

He believes many of these skills are underpinned by emotional intelligence (EQ), where self-awareness, the ability to understand others and manage emotions (with others in mind) are extremely important.

Cody built up his own EQ over many jobs and roles including picking up rubbish, working in forestry, working as a town planner and later a security guard. He has also done voluntary work and says all the opportunities have contributed to his career development – nothing has been wasted.

“Strangely, skills and attributes do transfer over from town planning to career planning,” says Cody, who believes in practising life-long learning. “I retrained to study in careers and counselling and now I am doing further postgraduate study in information design.”
And while there’s always been change in the workplace, what’s different now is the speed of the change.

“It can be more disruptive than in the past (creating volatility) and therefore the labour market can be more turbulent,” says Cody. “To develop the softer skills, look for roles that make you understand yourself and how you work with others.”
These opportunities don’t have to be career-based. Instead, look for voluntary roles, sports and even social media groups as a supplement to your current role. Part-time work and work experience are also more formal environments to learn these skills. Structured programmes in New Zealand that have a youth focus include Gateway and Work Inspiration for high school students to gain access to the workplace.

“It’s good to include soft skills on your CV. I think employers are very interested in how you will fit into teams, communicate with others, work with others from a different culture, and they are also interested in how you self-manage in the workplace (including time and project management),” says Cody.

“It’s totally okay and should be encouraged to put personal attributes on your CV,” says Cody. “For example, talking about a role where you have shown a contribution through leading a team, working with others or managing a budget. These are valid transferable skills.”

Another way to gain soft skills is to look for workshops offering to develop emotional intelligence, as well as reading books on the topic. Observing a role model is another way to learn the soft skills.

“These skills are developmental and their importance is becoming more and more important as work becomes more complex – requiring collaborative solutions,” says Cody. “We often tell people about the job but not the underlying, and often unspoken, rules and expectations of the workplace. It’s about making the expectation and hidden rules explicit and giving people the opportunity to develop towards those expectations.”

No matter what the future of work looks like, one thing is certain, gaining soft skills will always be a necessary skill to master for career success.

Source: New Zealand Herald

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