published Sunday, August 12th, 2012

Use these soft skills to land, keep a job

In today's economy, it takes a lot more than meeting job requirements and possessing technical skills to get and keep a job.

Director of Career Services Ricardo Estevez of The Art Institute of Washington, provides tips for identifying and utilizing your soft skills, whether for an interview or on the job.

Soft skills are really, really critical, says Estevez, who has worked in both career services and recruiting in the DC Metro area. "When talking to students and graduates, I call it the ŒIT' factor." It's a way for Estevez to generalize the cluster of personality traits, social graces, communication skills, personal habits, friendliness and optimism that employers look for in a candidate.

Here are some tips for job seekers and job-keepers alike:

Listening: Watch for cues and use simple techniques such as asking yourself, "Am I talking too much, or too little?" Repeat to your manager or co-worker what you think was the important message of a conversation to ensure you understood an action request. Your listening skills go hand-in-hand with another soft skill: receiving criticism. Listen intently and don't react right away to criticism. Take your time to process, even if it takes several days, and then respond.

Communication: Be honest and genuine while being tactful all at the same time. If you're yourself, you will be less likely to give what sounds like a pre-recorded answer or stutter in an interview.

Critical thinking and decision making: Given a set of challenges, go out and get creative to produce solutions based on research. Fine-tune by checking back with managers or team members where appropriate to course-correct and stay on track. Feedback on large-scale projects can save you time and money.

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