No matter what industry you work in, soft skills are used and undervalued. The modern workplace is interpersonal - you’re always actively listening, learning, interacting, presenting, and collaborating in some way shape or form.
So why is it that when it comes to self-reflection and thinking about the skills you possess, soft skills are often forgotten about? If a developer was asked “what skills do you possess?”, they are likely to respond with the programming languages that they are competent in. The World Economic Forum recently reported that by 2025, complex problem-solving, critical thinking, creativity, people management and emotional intelligence would be among the most important skills required in the workplace. 👇
1. Emotional Intelligence & Empathy
Emotional intelligence is a highly-ranked soft skill that is key when dealing with different stakeholders, including clients and colleagues. A ‘one size fits all’ policy needs to be rethought in most circumstances, in order to truly understand how another is thinking or feeling.
If you can empathise with colleagues, you’re more likely to build more meaningful relationships. Who doesn’t want a more meaningful relationship with their colleagues? This will bring lots of positives - the biggest being a better working environment! By creating mutual understandings and boundaries with team members, you will be able to work more collaboratively on projects, understand each other's perspectives and more effectively deal with any problems that may arise.
If you work directly with clients, it can be hard to understand what they are truly asking for. Empathy will allow you to put yourself in their position, gain insights into their pain points, and ideas and therefore deliver an exceptional service. The work you create may be great for you, but always keep in mind your clients and users. Is it what they’re really looking for?
It’s pretty much guaranteed that you will have to work as part of a team at some point in your career. To be successful, developers will need to work with other developers and potentially designers throughout the duration of a project. There are various tools that developers use to stay in contact with other team members, for example, Slack and project boards like Asana and Trello. Working alone and isolating yourself can create unnecessary pressure.
Working with others in a team can not only help to alleviate pressure but can also aid in learning new skills that you may not have discovered whilst working alone. Not only the ability to work in a team, but the ability to communicate effectively in a team - if someone is struggling and needs help, it’s important to ask for it. This leads us nicely onto soft skill number three...
Communication skills go hand in hand with teamwork and empathy. You may not be a confident speaker, and that’s okay, but some important factors to keep in mind are to speak clearly, allow others to understand you better, and talk with conviction (even if you aren’t confident) as others will be likely to pay more attention. It’s also important to never interrupt someone speaking, that’s just rude. Your time to voice concerns and opinions will come - so maintain respect!
Check out one of our Developer Stories from Yusuf, a recent graduate and React Native Developer. His soft skills helped him land his first job out of uni.
4. Time management
We all have the same 24 hours in a day, but knowing how to use that time effectively is up to us. How much time do you spend sleeping, coding, planning or working as a team on projects, or in meetings? Prioritising your time is crucial.
As a developer, it can be difficult to prioritise your time, as you never know how long something is going to take! A relatively simple-looking bug fix could end up in hours trawling through forums for help and advice. Get rid of distractions.
We can all get thrown off track by meetings, colleagues chatting, social notifications as well as general procrastination. It takes around 23 minutes to regain focus after a distraction, no matter how big or small it may be. Imagine having multiple distractions whilst working on a big project, how much longer will it take you to complete?
How can I improve my soft skills?
By developing your skills you will put yourself in a better position, both in your career and personal life. So how can you improve these skills? The key is to remember that being uncomfortable is GROWTH.
Learning how to work as part of a team and more effectively requires some self-analysis, in terms of what roles you naturally take. Trying to take on a role you’re uncomfortable in will help. If you’re always the one who sits back and listens, try to speak up more. It’ll help develop a more complete soft skill in both your communication and teamwork.
If you find you're naturally quite disorganised with your time - try a few days of sticking to a rigid routine and see what fits. Stepping out of your comfort zone is important in order to grow and develop skills. Your skills will become more rounded as a result of it.