We are in a unique period of history. Success in our work today is not necessarily defined by our ability, but by the skills that set us apart. We are expected to be more adaptable, pivot quickly, and become effective remote employees while also focused on achievement and career success. We need to be flexible, working around the schedules of children and spouses who also need to be efficacious as remote workers and students. Unemployment numbers are rising while there is a pervasive message to “work harder.” This is a challenging environment to work and live in.
So, what can you do? Continue to develop and refine your soft, hard and hybrid skills.
Soft skills are interpersonal abilities you use to interact with other people. For example, communication, listening, empathy, agility, and teamwork. These skills are transferable and valuable in any job or industry. Soft skills are often skills that we acquire through experience and tend to develop over time. You learn communication skills through interactions with family members, friends, teachers, and our managers. For example, you tend to be more empathetic if we have received empathy from others and have seen it modeled for you.
Soft skills are essential because they impact our interactions with every person we meet, whether at work or in our personal life. In the current pandemic, focus on enhancing your Zoom etiquette, electronic communication, and empathy skills. And, we are all improving our flexibility and agility skills.
Hard skills are technical capabilities you use to perform a task related to a specific job. For example, accounting, data analysis, SEO marketing, information technology, or copywriting. Hard skills are often required for the completion of a job. For a research analyst to be successful, they must be effective at data analysis. And a CPA will not advance in their career without strong accounting skills.
During the coronavirus pandemic, develop a variety of hard skills to set you apart. For example, I have friends pursuing certificates in GIS and in advertising. One is a geologist, and one is a public relations manager. Both of these women have extremely impressive skillsets, but have chosen to take this time to develop new skills that might set them apart from other candidates with similar interests applying to similar jobs. These new skills also make them more effective at their current jobs and lets them quickly adapt to changing industries.
Hybrid skills are skills that are a combination of both hard and soft skills. For example, a customer service representative would need exceptional communication and conflict resolution expertise, soft skills, as well as proficiency with a customer relationship management software program, a hard skill. Hybrid skills are the ones that make you an expert in your industry. For most of us, hybrid skills are also the ones that take the most time to develop.
At this time, you can find opportunities to develop hybrid skills by talking with mentors and requesting detailed feedback. This helps you improve your job performance and continue to grow in your industry.
Soft, hard and hybrid skills are important perhaps now more than ever. Develop new capabilities so you can own your career and make your work WORK for you.
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Carson serves as a consultant to executives at Fortune 500 companies. The author of Work Simply: Embracing the Power of Your Personal Productivity Style, and the upcoming Own It. Love It. Make It Work: How To Make Any Job Your Dream Job, her views have been included in Bloomberg Businessweek, Fast Company, Forbes, Harvard Business Review blog, and The New York Times.