Sure, you’re a whiz with a spreadsheet, accounting is old hat and you could manage vendors in your sleep—but is that enough?
In today’s marketplace, it’s not. Soft skills—those intangible personality traits and qualities such as organization, flexibility and confidence—really separate an exceptional employee from an average one.
CareerBuilder recently conducted a survey on soft skills and found 77% of employers surveyed valued soft skills as much as the hard skills, such as knowing how to use a specific computer program, that are specific to certain job functions. Sixteen percent said soft skills were more important than hard skills. The survey found the soft skills most desired by employers are a strong work ethic, dependability and a positive attitude. Other desired traits include being self-motivated, a team player and a great communicator.
This list comes as no surprise to Robert Hosking, executive director of administrative staffing firm OfficeTeam. “Since administrative professionals are often the first point of contact for clients, customers and vendors, it’s critical to display top-notch, both in written and verbal communications.”
And, he adds, a customer-service mindset, tact and diplomacy will all serve you well, especially if you’re dealing with confidential information.
The ability to multitask was also near the top of the most-valued soft skills in the CareerBuilder survey. “Employers need administrative staff who can switch gears easily when juggling multiple assignments. This requires excellent organizational and time-skills, flexibility and a positive attitude,” Hosking says.
If you aren’t sure whether you have all these qualities, ask, Hosking says. He recommends seeking honest feedback from a trusted mentor, manager or colleague. Ask what you can work on and then follow through. The things you’re already doing well? Keep at them and keep a record of your successes.
It’s key to have actual examples of these traits if and when you look for another job. “Saying that you’re a team player is not enough; you have to show it,” Rosemary Haefner, vice president of human resources for CareerBuilder, said in a statement. “Provide an example of how you worked on a team to accomplish a particular goal. Provide an example of a high-pressure situation that you handled with ease. Try to make the intangible tangible.”