Soft Skills for an Extra Edge

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Being a university professor, I spent more than forty years among the youth.  As I taught English, I often had to act as an informal consultant for my students and even colleagues. One of their most common concerns was, how to improve their English. They all wanted to be fluent in spoken as well as written English. Needless to say, the desire was in addition to their prescribed English language course.

Language forms an important ingredient of communication skills, and communication skills are a major component of Soft Skills. Soft skills actually refer to those skills, qualities that give you an extra edge in obtaining a decent job as well as pursuing a glorious career. They are key to success and make your life a lot easier and happier. But what exactly those skills are?

Awareness, it is said, is the first step towards success. With respect to soft skills, you have to first learn about what they are, how can they be obtained and how to use them to your best advantage.

Some of the important soft skills include – communication skills, especially language skills; inter-personal skills; skill in building positive, fruitful relationships; skill in influencing and persuading others; skill in resolving crisis; skill in working in teams; and ultimately, leadership skills.

It is not necessary to go for each of the above mentioned skills in a copy-book manner, seeking classroom lessons for each. You may already be possessing many of them. So you need to identify and focus on those alone in which you are deficient. Then? What should be your approach towards this crucial skill enhancement programme?

To start with, you need to take a stock of your strengths and weaknesses as well as where you stand with respect to those. In other words, you should make a self analysis to assess your requirement, i.e., pinpoint the skills you are deficient in. Here, you may take advice from knowledgeable folks like peers, parents and relatives, teachers etc..

Once you have arrived at a definite set of skills you need to sharpen, you have to find out from where and in what manner you can acquire them. You have to approach it in a systematic manner. It usually involves four main aspects or components:

  1. Knowledge – First and foremost, you have to acquire knowledge about the particular skill. Take the example of communication skills, if you are not confident enough about your conversational skills, you should try to fill up the deficiency in whatever ways you can. Remember, you have to do it before it is too late and it becomes a permanent handicap with you.
  1. Attitude – Having an attitude gives you a focus to get at something and when you do so, you reap benefits. So make an attitude of keeping yourself constantly upgraded and updated in the skills you need.
  1. Application – All learning without application is futile…a waste. So keep your soft skills in constant practice. That way your skill would be getting automatically sharpened. After all, practice, you know, makes perfect.
  1. Habit – Habit makes us internalize a practice. Once you make a skill your habit, it will come into operation automatically. For example, look at the skill in influencing and persuading others. See how a salesperson applies it in his/her bid to sell his/her product to you. His habit makes him overcome the usual hitches and clinch the deal to the satisfaction of both.

So, after getting to learn about the existence of soft skills and the role they play in making you a better, more dynamic you, it is high time to make a deep assessment of yourself, identify the skills you need to enhance and go for those full throttle. All the best!


Ashok Misra



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