Do you wonder if your current role will survive the post-Covid fall-out? The challenges and disruption caused by the global pandemic has led many of us to reconsider our current employment and career path.
We all know that Covid has accelerated the rate of change in businesses, with lots of talk of new hybrid working models. Many employers have identified efficiencies during the Covid lockdown which have led to some roles merging, changing or sometimes removed completely. For example, a large multination announced the removal of 130 jobs, a shock to many of the staff who would have considered their roles with this established company very secure.
Thinking about your professional future, the important question is not ‘Is my role future-proof?’ but rather ‘Am I future-proof?’ I work with clients on a daily basis to identify the gaps in their skill sets to ensure they are prepared for the role or career path that they wish to pursue.
A recurring issue that I’ve experienced in my coaching practice is clients heading straight to job application and interview stage without engaging in a self-audit i.e. identifying who you are as a professional person, your key strengths, the value that you can bring.
The first step in the self-audit process is to engage in a self-discovery assessment. This is not a test with right or wrong answers, but rather an opportunity for careful, honest reflection. For self-discovery to be effective, it should take into account your work-related values, interests, personality type, and aptitudes. All of these characteristics make up who you are, so it’s important to consider each one and be mindful that your opinions and desires may have developed or changed over time.
This process will help you to decide your suitability to a particular industry or career. Career pivots are increasingly common and far more socially and professionally acceptable. In fact, some employers will actively seek individuals from other industries who possess the right ‘soft’ skills and can bring fresh perspective to the business. Technical or ‘hard’ skills can often be learned on the job.
Hard Skills V Soft Skills
If you haven’t looked at your profile or CV for a number of years, it’s likely that it’s focused heavily on technical skills. Of equal importance are the transferrable or soft skills you possess, your strengths, the abilities that relate to how you work and how you interact with other people.
Having the technical or ‘hard’ skills for a particular role is of course important, but employers are increasingly interested in candidates who can demonstrate the appropriate, behaviours and ‘soft’ skills, which will enable them to thrive in their company structure and culture, not just simply ‘do the job’.
The vast majority of people applying for any given job will possess the basic hard skills to perform it effectively. If necessary, hard skills can be taught; it is simply a matter of time (and sometimes money). Candidates with the necessary soft skills to make them a perfect cultural fit are much harder to find.
Soft skills have been overlooked and undervalued for many years, mainly due to the fact that they are hard to gauge and difficult to pinpoint. However, that is now changing and more and more employers are thinking of and using ways to assess a candidate’s soft skillset at the recruitment stage.
Identifying transferrable skills
Some of these transferable skills are relatively obvious, such as having good interpersonal skills, a strong work ethic or good time management ability. Most prospective employers would expect a candidate to possess these skills as a starting point.
However, others are less ubiquitous, and demonstrating that you are skilled in areas such as critical thinking, teamwork, leadership, empathy, patience, data analysis, creativity or stakeholder management will really help you stand out to a prospective employer.
In today’s dramatically altered working climate, probably the most important soft skill you can exhibit is resilience, the ability to adapt to changing working conditions and demands without losing focus or becoming overwhelmed.
When people move up the ladder in an organisation, they typically develop the data skills to do their job however senior positions require leadership, stakeholder management, networking skills and strategic thinking. Some employees can be found wanting at this stage.
Businesses want to future proof themselves by hiring individuals with the potential to develop into senior roles organically. Developing and communicating soft skills, like resilience can help to differentiate yourself in any type of career at any level.
Analyse previous roles and experiences
A self-audit will help you to identify who you are as a professional person, your key strengths, the value that you can bring i.e. your value proposition and your transferrable skills. Analysing past roles to identify the soft skills linked to the processes involved is important, but it’s also beneficial to take a wider view and consider other transferrable skills from non-professional experiences.
Membership of clubs, sporting pursuits, hobbies and travel experiences can all play a role in demonstrating traits such as team work, empathy, communication, problem-solving and leadership. Communicating these skills to a prospective employer through the application process, i.e. CV and interview, will in itself demonstrate your aptitude in this area.
Review your social profile and CV
Having identified your soft skills and your value proposition, you need to make them stand out on your social profiles, CV and at interview stage. The best way to do this is to thread your transferrable skills throughout your CV, particularly in descriptions of your work history through achievements and impacts. You can also highlight these skills in your cover letter, giving examples of times you have demonstrated these traits.
Of course, nobody is perfect. We all need to work to become a better version of ourselves and soft skills can be improved upon just like everything else. Feedback from friends or close colleagues is a great place to start to identify areas that need work. Whether it be by means of formal performance reviews or simple reflection activities.
GAP analysis and training
Perform a GAP analysis on yourself to identify what needs to be adjusted or fixed. Once you’ve identified any work-ons, you’ll find that some things are merely a small tweak, fixed by means of a small LinkedIn learning or You Tube tutorial. Some wider gaps might require a workshop or maybe a professional course.
There are numerous courses available to help you develop your skills, both online and in person through a variety of institutions. A consultation with a good business coach would prove helpful in highlighting the soft skills you already have and working with you to identify and improve on any you may lack.
Coaching will help you to build tangible plans. I find the GROW model particularly useful for clients, i.e. What is the Goal? What is the Reality of where you are? What are the Opportunities? And what is the best Way forward?
The self audit can and should be a challenging process, but ultimately it will save you valuable time by ensuring you’re putting your energies into pursuing the ‘right’ job for you and demonstrating your complete skill set. As soft skills are often transferable across industries and careers, you may also find that you possess many of the required skills for a position outside of your initial search area, ultimately broadening your career horizons and opportunities.