5 most sought after soft skills!

Big careers refresher 1

Soft skills are the people skills and personality traits that you build on throughout your life. They are just as important throughout your time at university as they are in the workplace, and you can develop and improve them in a range of ways. You’ll find that most companies value the same soft skills as they are transferable across every industry or sector. Essentially, soft skills are the tools you need to do your job. In this article, we’ll go through the most sought after soft skills, show you how you may have begun to develop these skills at university without even realising, and how you can improve them moving forward in your career journey. 

  1. Presentation skills 

Where could you have learnt this skill?

You may have done presentations as part of your university degree (or will be required to do them at some stage). Presentations during your degree are a great time to practice your presentation skills and present on subjects you're passionate about. 

How can you improve this skill?

There are loads of ways you can improve your presentation skills:

  • When you have the chance to present, make sure you always ask for feedback from your tutor or audience

  • Film yourself when practicing - you might be doing things that you didn’t even realise, like looking down, not smiling, not making eye contact or not pausing often enough - watching yourself back is a great way to spot these habits!

  •  When you are watching presentations, in real life or in videos such as TED talks, take note of things you like and dislike about the way people speak, their slides and how they interact with the audience

  • There are loads of videos on YouTube that give great advice on how to be a good present and improve your presentation skills - make use of this resource!

  1. Teamwork 

Where could you have learnt this skill?

You gain teamwork and people skills from doing group projects at university, which is usually required for most degrees. You will also need to work in groups outside of the lecture hall, such as in societies and in team sports.

How can you improve this skill?

After you complete group projects for university, reflect on your involvement in the project:

  • Did you initiate conversations and organise time to work together? 

  • Did you take more of a background role? 

  • Who put the project together? 

  • Who did the bulk of the work? 

  • Did you listen to everyone’s views and ask quieter group members for their opinions?

  • Did you run into any challenges? If so, how did you work together to resolve them?

Ask yourself these questions and then identify areas where you can improve, where you can delegate more and where you can push yourself out of your comfort zone. 

  1. Adaptability

Where could you have learnt this skill?

We know you are already building on this skill as you have adapted to a new environment by transitioning from school or college to university! You’ll continue to build on this skill throughout your university studies as you will be required to complete work and attend teaching hours on several different modules at once, which requires you to adapt between different specialisations. You’ll also need your adaptability skill as you juggle your course, societies and other extracurriculars. 

How can you improve this skill?

Improving your adaptability is all about forcing yourself out of your comfort zone. You can do this in several ways:

  •  Speak up more in tutorials

  •  Join societies

  • Apply for leadership roles

  • Go to elective lectures on subjects you don’t study

These are just some of the examples of ways you can improve your ability to adapt! The more experiences you add to your portfolio, the easier you’ll find switching between different types of tasks and using different skill sets. 

  1. Organisation

Where could you have learnt this skill?

Organisation skills are key to your time at university, where you will have to juggle multiple deadlines, projects and attending teaching hours alongside your social life and extracurricular activities. They are also a vital skill for life and cannot be underestimated!

How can you improve this skill?

Find an organisation technique that suits you and your weaknesses: 

  • If you find you are always losing your to-do lists, try switching to apps such as ‘Todoist’ or ‘Monday’

  • If you have a busy schedule, get comfortable using a digital calendar that you can update whilst you’re out and about, and make sure you have an automatic alert on for events so you’re always reminded of what’s coming up

  • If you get distracted easily, use extensions such as StayFocusd to block social media sites whilst you’re trying to get stuff done

Your phone and the internet have a myriad of organisational tools, test them out and find what helps you stay on top of everything you have going on!

  1. Communication

Where could you have learnt this skill?

You have been working on your communication skills for almost your whole life! Formally, by doing group work at school and university, and informally, with your friends and family. The ability to communicate effectively with your colleagues, wider team, bosses and clients is an important part of your professional skill set and adapting the way you communicate to different audiences is something we all do naturally.

How can you improve this skill?

Communication is a skill that is improved mostly by practice, but there are some things to keep in mind that can help you communicate more effectively:

It’s important that you take time to work on your listening as well as your talking skills 

  • Try and be mindful of how much you listen in conversations, in tutorials or group work, and if you find you do more talking than listening, think about whether this impacts your ability to summarise the conversation or relay information

Summarising complex, unfamiliar ideas to people is a highly sought after skill.

  •  You can practise this when revising for exams or trying to learn new information yourself - summarise ideas or concepts from your course out loud to friends or family and ask them what they understood and how you could have been clearer

When developing your communication skills, it’s also important to think about your audience. 

  • You naturally communicate differently, depending on whether you audience is your tutor, manager, friend or family member - actively thinking about what your audience needs from your conversation and the way they like to receive information will help you to communicate more effectively and build stronger relationships with different audiences as you transition into the working world

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