Business Journals Leadership Trust is an invite-only network of influential business leaders, executives and entrepreneurs in your community.
Every job and industry requires certain “soft skills” on top of needed technical or practical knowledge. Skills such as empathy, problem-solving and communication are essential if you want to form solid workplace relationships and best serve your company’s customers — and your teammates.
As many new professionals learn at their first post-graduate jobs, formal education doesn’t always teach you the necessary soft skills for success in the workplace. Therefore, you’ll need to hone them outside of the classroom. Below, 14 leaders from Business Journals Leadership Trust share the most important soft skills a person entering the workforce for the first time should study.
Decision-making is the ability to be empowered with a task and move it forward without unnecessary supervision. Those saddled with fear of failure are the opposite of decision-makers. People who actively participate naturally experience more frequent opportunities for growth — both personal and professional — and more challenging assignments. A higher level of trust develops easily and quickly. – John Quillen, Marque Engineering
2. Work ethic
I can attribute much of the success I’ve achieved, both academically and in the workplace, to my work ethic. I’ve probably never been the smartest person in the room, but I was always the hardest worker, by far. From my perspective, work ethic isn’t a genetic gift; it’s a choice. As it’s been said, “The only place where success comes before work is in the dictionary.” – Clint Padgett, Project Success, Inc.
3. Critical observation
Mastering critical observation skills sets you apart as an employee. The ability to analyze and interpret the constant flow of data and behavioral economics to make sound decisions provides companies with a fresh perspective. Is there a pattern here? Are there opportunities being missed? You cannot be considered a critical thinker without critical observation skills. – Jeffrey Bartel, Hamptons Group, LLC
Emotional resilience is the ability to adapt to adversity and difficult situations in the workplace — some of which may not be in your control. – Amberlee Huggins, CSI DMC
5. Willingness to ask questions
Listen and ask good questions with the intent to understand. Often, young professionals are afraid to admit what they don’t know. These soft skills help build strong connections with team members and clients and propel knowledge and skills development. – Lauren Parker, FrazierHeiby
6. Passion for your work
A learner mindset gives any new employee a great start, but the employee must be intrinsically interested in the organization (or the process) to excel in a given field. With that in mind, it’s not enough to be smart or motivated. You must also know yourself well enough to seek a position that will mean something to you and be more than “just a job.” Internships and career experience help. – Lara August, Robot Creative
Be humble, not fearful, and make fact-based decisions when possible. If you don’t know, ask questions. Your first impressions are lasting impressions, so don’t sit back — get involved and put your skills to the task. – Terry Moody, Alpha Packaging
8. A good attitude
Attitude is everything. When first entering the workforce, it is a dangerous trap to come in and be part of the problem rather than part of the solution. It has everything to do with attitude. If you want to move up quickly in an organization, master the ability to bring the right attitude into the workplace daily, and don’t get involved in anything that will hinder your professional growth. – Amber Duncan, Jackie
Being an efficient and effective problem-solver is a business skill that is universal to all industries. Predicting what obstacles may derail a task or project, as well as preparing to overcome such obstacles should they present themselves, go a long way toward minimizing the negative effects of problems. Prepare in advance to respond to predictable obstacles and roadblocks. – Mark Zinman, Zinman & Company
Communication is at the core of business engagement for employees at all levels. Whether it’s an email, a memo or a presentation, a strong mastery of writing, grammar and punctuation contributes to every aspect of being in the workforce. Critical to all professionals, strong written communication skills provide value in a variety of business settings. – Hinda Mitchell, Inspire PR Group
Individuals with a positive attitude see their energy translate into better performance. Positive-thinking individuals tend to be more solution-focused, thinking of how to accomplish their goals versus focusing on excuses. This boosts the effectiveness of the work environment, which leads to more wins for the business. – Scott Scully, Abstrakt Marketing Group
12. Time management
One skill that gets overlooked is time management. Communication is very important, but poor time management can make you really fall off and not hit your marks. If your time gets away from you, you could be missing out on so many more tasks that you have not completed. Make time work in your favor. – Brandy McCombs, IBC
13. Emotional intelligence
Entering the workforce for the first time can be quite a transition because there’s a lot to learn. You’ll have to deal with uncertainty and criticism, and you may be asked to solve complex problems and deal with different people. So all the skills that are necessary for emotional intelligence are extremely important — social skills, self-awareness, self-control, empathy and so on. – Solomon Thimothy, OneIMS
You need true self-reflection and dedication to self-improvement. If you want to be the best, you need to have a clear understanding of what your true skills are and your true weaknesses are. You need to find ways to be honest with yourself so that you take actions that are in line with your values and aspirations. – Brent Foley, TRIAD Architects
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