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Developing Your Soft Skills
Sarah Brodsky / JULY 06 2021
Summary

You need soft skills to succeed in almost any hospitality role. Soft skills include communication skills, teamwork abilities, and problem-solving know-how. You use these skills whenever you collaborate with coworkers or interact with a guest.

Although soft skills are very important in the workplace, many schools don’t have a curriculum in place to teach them. It’s often just assumed that people will pick up soft skills on their own, without dedicated instruction.

But developing soft skills doesn’t happen automatically for everyone. Sooner or later, lots of people realize that they’ve never really focused on these abilities before and that their interpersonal and critical thinking skills could use a boost.

Here’s how to level up your soft skills.

Set goals

First, think of a few specific skills you’d like to improve. And consider what you’d like to be able to achieve after honing those skills.

For example, you might want to work on your confidence and conversational skills so that you feel more comfortable chatting with teammates you’ve just met or speaking in front of a small group of coworkers. And maybe you want to get better at time management so that you get all your daily tasks done at least 15 minutes before the end of your shift and you aren’t rushing at the last moment.

Practice striking up conversations

If your goals involve communication, you have many opportunities to work on that in daily life. Look for openings to talk to people around you. For example, you might initiate a conversation with someone else who’s working out at your gym, start up a discussion with the people sitting next to you on a bus, or talk to the cashier at the grocery store. Not only is this great practice, but research shows that small talk with strangers can brighten your day.

Start with bite-sized interactions, like asking someone how their day is going, commenting on the weather, or talking about a popular local sports team. 

You can also work on communication skills virtually. Look through your FaceTime or Zoom contacts for acquaintances you haven’t connected with in a while, and ask them for a quick call to catch up.

Try out a new skill through pretending or role-playing

Working on soft skills may feel awkward if those skills don’t factor into your view of your personality. For example, you might think of yourself as someone who’s content to follow others’ ideas and who doesn’t have the confidence to be a leader. Building your confidence might seem like trying to be someone you’re not.

If working on your soft skills is taking you out of your comfort zone, you might benefit from role-playing or pretending to have the skills you want. Think of yourself as an actor playing a part. Even if you don’t feel you can morph into a confident person, you can probably act the way a confident person would for a little while. It may help to act out an imaginary scene with a friend, or if you really want to get serious about this technique, you could participate in an improv group.

Once you’ve experienced a skill through role-playing, you can access it at any time. You now know what it feels like to use that skill, and you can apply it when you choose. Think of it as adding another tool to your toolbox. 

Enroll in a class

It can be helpful to take a class on a soft skill you want to improve. Teachers of soft skills typically offer step-by-step instructions on how to master a skill and examples of how to use the skill at work. 

There are many professional development courses covering soft skills available through adult education centers, community colleges, local libraries, and online learning platforms like CourseraUdemySkillshare and edX. And some libraries provide cardholders with free access to selected online courses.

Work with a coach, therapist, or mentor

If you’d like some one-on-one guidance, you may want to work with a coach or therapist who specializes in personal development or to meet with a mentor. They can give you an individualized assessment of where your strengths and weaknesses lie and help you decide on a plan to develop your desired skills.

Volunteer

Volunteering gives you the chance to implement many soft skills in a friendly environment where your career isn’t on the line. Find an organization whose cause you care about so you’ll be motivated to do your best.

Try to pick a volunteer role where you’ll get to use your target skills. For example, if you’re volunteering for a food bank, you might work on organizational and problem-solving skills as you help the organization upgrade its inventory system or create a fundraising campaign. To strengthen your interpersonal skills, you could take on a task like greeting clients or answering the phones.

Remember to review your goals regularly to check on your progress. You may be surprised how much your skills can improve in just a few months.