Over the last two decades, the number of university graduates has grown to nearly 30% of Canadian adults. Moreover, Canada welcomes around 300,000 immigrants per year. It means that when companies are on the hunt for new talent, technical skill and knowledge are merely a prerequisite rather than a distinguishing factor. Instead, something is known as "soft skills" is a growing means of differentiating yourself from the competition.
Soft skills are distinct from hard skills, often associated with technical knowledge specific to an industry, such as typing speed. Soft skills are much harder to define and measure; they include personal attributes, personality traits, inherent social cues and communication abilities. Unlike hard skills, soft skills aren't overly emphasized in education, so you might not even recognize your strengths!
A study made by the Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism at the University of Southern California (led by Ernest J. Wilson) showed that companies are looking for five types of soft skills when they want to hire or to promote an employee:
The Canadian workplace is changing rapidly from new technologies that support working remotely to new work cultures that embrace diversity and inclusivity. Now more than ever, the ability to adapt, that is, to remain comfortable in ambiguous, unstructured environments, is a powerful skill.
Employers want individuals who are flexible and willing to grow into their roles. Stubbornness and one-sided thinking make it very difficult to envision a long-term future for an employee. Every workplace has different needs, and you need to be able to respect and adapt to those.
In interviews, try to emphasize how you overcame a challenge by adjusting your way of thinking. For example, maybe you were challenged by a new obstacle and then learned that it could become a springboard for success. Moreover, evidence of new learning on online platforms like Coursera is an excellent sign of your commitment to continuing to embrace new ideas.
The Canadian workplace is very multicultural, so it's essential to recognize that not everyone wants to be treated identically. In addition, others are often approaching the same problems from very different perspectives. Therefore, it's crucial to have strong cultural competency.
Generally, this means that you have mature emotional and cross-cultural intelligence. It involves working inclusively, respectfully, and effectively in cultures or organizations with different values, norms, customs, language, or terminology.
Don't worry. You don't have to be an expert in every culture in the world. However, that would certainly be an achievement! A big part of cultural competency is your willingness to ask questions and learn about your fellow team members. Still, more importantly, it's about carefully listening when someone describes an unfamiliar perspective. Try to avoid making too many assumptions and be conscious of your own bias.
Have you travelled outside of your native country? Then be sure to emphasize to potential recruiters how exposure to new cultures has taught you how to be more inclusive and understanding. It makes you a much more attractive candidate.
Most people are familiar with the concept of empathy. It involves understanding the needs, goals, feelings and priorities of others. However, you might be surprised to learn that this is a critical skill in the workplace.
A large part of empathy is your ability to actively listen to others and seek clarification. You can understand where someone is coming from. Using this skill, you can more efficiently understand the information shared with you. Then, you don't need to be constantly reminded of a context you should already know. By understanding the needs of others, you can tailor your efforts to address them directly and not have to rely so much on guesswork. Moreover, it allows you to recognize the individual strengths of your peers and thus assign tasks more effectively.
Having a strong sense of empathy is an integral part of contributing to a positive work environment. It can be challenging to be satisfied with your work if you feel isolated or misunderstood. Empathy helps connect people, decreases the stress of misunderstandings and generally builds a greater sense of community.
Adaptability and intellectual curiosity go hand in hand as the decisive soft skills for growing into a new role. This skill is all about assessing your appetite for further information, knowledge and understanding. In other words, how much do you challenge yourself to learn new things?
Intellectual curiosity can take many forms. Maybe you're an avid reader who continually picks up new tidbits for improving your productivity, or perhaps you're in love with gathering data and can learn from your performance. The key is that you're curious and take the time to investigate something which intrigues you.
How you respond to change mainly falls into the realm of adaptability, but how you make change is often the realm of intellectual curiosity. That's why this skill is so essential for evaluating how much a potential employee will contribute to their company. Developing these skills means that you embrace novel opportunities which may revolutionize how they do business, but it also means that your output is more lively and inspired.
Continuing education is an excellent opportunity to demonstrate your intellectual curiosity. Further, on your resume and during an interview, be sure to emphasize how you contributed something new to the organization you worked for. For example, maybe you updated their archaic file system or suggested using a new organizational app; either way, you demonstrated your ability to learn and innovate.
Daunting deadlines or other forms of pressure can have you working through tunnel vision. While that's great for focusing on smaller tasks, it often becomes problematic when working as a larger team. That's where 360-degree thinking comes in. It's all about your ability to take a holistic and multi-dimensional perspective to problem-solving. Those proficient in this skill can zoom out and see the big picture to reflect on what needs to be done and how best to do it.
Just as cultural competency allows you to understand how others might perceive you, 360-degree thinking will enable you to reflect on how you might address your problem-solving more objectively. Often you'll find that something which seemed entirely irrelevant a second ago is beneficial for solving the current issue.
360-degree thinking is an almost essential skill for leadership positions. It allows you to make unusual connections between team members that can significantly boost productivity, and most importantly, it can give you a sense of future direction. Zooming out allows you to see more significant trends that might very well be relevant to your upcoming ventures.
Just starting to think about developing soft skills instead of strictly developing your technical abilities is a significant first step in growing a more holistic mind.
How to get further?
Personal development and professional development are no longer mutually exclusive fields. Canadian recruiters pay more attention and spend more time evaluating your behaviour, abilities and personality to make sure that you'll be an excellent fit for the company's culture and prosper in your role for the foreseeable future.
Therefore, while it's not necessary to master all five abilities, each of them will help you build a better version of yourself and will get you ready to succeed in your interviews and your career. The first step is to recognize which skills need more attention and then plan measurable goals to achieve growth. You can develop even something as general as adaptability by challenging yourself to adapt to new routines. Don't forget to also focus on what comes naturally to you. For example, maybe you have an enormous appetite for knowledge so that you can emphasize your strengths in the interview.
Each of these five skills can take very different forms depending on the working environment and culture. If you wish to get more information about how these skills might look in Canada or what to generally expect from companies when hiring talents, schedule an hour of Face-to-Face with one of our experts; this offer is available for all Canada Talents' members for free. So sign up today, and let us help you achieve your goals.