Soft Skills – How to Future-Proof Your Job

With the advance of AI and ML, many people feel threatened by the power of technology replacing their job. It is important to note that while technology can achieve many time-saving tasks with extreme accuracy, there are many things that computers cannot do. AI is biassed, has no critical analysis skills and no ability to be creative. While people are using new tools, such as ChatGPT, to streamline work or make ‘art’, it has proven only to be a tool that is an extension of human capacity. This fact does not protect people in their jobs. There are many employers who would overlook the value of a creative individual with skills and experience for the discounted cost of AI. Because of this, employees need to understand what essential qualities they possess and how their skills elevate them to a valued status above that of AI.

Soft skills, also known as interpersonal or people skills, are personal attributes that enhance an individual’s interactions, job performance, and career prospects. Unlike technical or hard skills, which are specific to a particular job or industry, soft skills are transferable and are valuable in various professional and personal contexts. These are the traits and learned skills that separate human employees from AI.

Common soft skills include communication, teamwork, problem-solving, adaptability, and emotional intelligence.

Communication

The ability to convey information clearly, listen actively, and express ideas effectively. This is a skill that is developed through experience and is not replicated by technology.

Teamwork

Collaborating with others, working well in a group, and being able to contribute to a collective goal. This skill is developed early in life and is often influenced by individual personalities. Some people are leaders, others are peacekeepers, and other people are workers. Computers cannot contribute to teamwork but only aid team activities by making sharing and refining easier and faster.

Adaptability/Flexibility

Being open to change, adjusting to new situations, and navigating uncertainty are all essential to being flexible and adaptable. Overcoming these challenges can only be achieved by technology when a human enters the correct parameters and tells the program to make changes – AI cannot do more than it is explicitly told to do because it does not have soft skills.

Problem-Solving

Analysing situations, identifying challenges, and developing effective solutions are skills developed often through life experience and honed in the workplace.

Critical Thinking

Evaluating information, making informed decisions, and solving problems with a thoughtful and analytical approach. AI cannot write an argumentative essay using primary and secondary sources in a critical manner. Many students wanting a shortcut have submitted work done by AI, and failed because attributions are incorrect or source material is factually inaccurate, such as historically critical dates.

Creativity

Thinking outside the box, generating innovative ideas, and finding new approaches to tasks is essential to all jobs. Your ability to find solutions, work within boundaries in a productive way and apply creative thinking is a valuable and salable skill that is highly valued by employers.

Time Management

Prioritising tasks, managing time efficiently, and meeting deadlines. While a computer can do this, it cannot make the instant changes and adapt to a shift in priorities, such as promoting a news story to breaking or elevating a medical status to critical care.

Leadership

Guiding, motivating, and influencing others toward achieving common goals is human. A computer cannot and does not have the programming to support your goals because they do not have emotional intelligence, and often the programmers coding AI do not have emotional intelligence either.

Emotional Intelligence

Understanding and managing one’s emotions, as well as recognizing and empathising with the emotions of others can take some people an entire lifetime to grasp and still never apply. Expecting this from a computer coded by white men interested in obscene wealth and hierarchy will not allow ML to anytime begin to learn basic skills of human kindness, consideration and mutual respect.

Conflict Resolution

Navigating and resolving conflicts effectively to maintain a positive and productive work environment is a requirement for all employees. Conflict is a natural part of working in a team, and can benefit project development when well managed and understood. Obviously, it can be detrimental if conflict is not resolved. AI cannot resolve conflict, but it can be a source of conflict for people who become frustrated with the binary nature of computer logic.

Developing and Applying Soft Skills

Making yourself a valued employee means developing not only the essential and expected job skills to fulfil your role, but working on the soft skills that make you an asset to an organisation. Remember, some workplaces will not value your commitment to skills development, but those that do will invest in you as an employee and use AI as a tool, not a replacement.

So how do you develop your essential soft skills?

Self-Awareness

  • Reflect on your strengths and areas for improvement. Understand how your actions and communication style impact others.

Continuous Learning

  • Seek opportunities to learn and develop new skills. Attend workshops, courses, or seminars related to soft skills development.

Feedback and Reflection

  • Solicit feedback from colleagues, supervisors, or mentors. Use constructive criticism to refine your soft skills.

Practise Communication

  • Practise active listening, clarity in expression, and adaptability in communication styles. Pay attention to non-verbal cues.

Team Projects and Collaboration

  • Participate in team projects to develop teamwork and collaboration skills. Learn to leverage the strengths of team members.

Problem-Solving Exercises

  • Engage in problem-solving activities, whether through work projects or extracurricular activities, to enhance your critical thinking and creativity.

 

Seek Leadership Opportunities

  • Take on leadership roles in projects or volunteer activities to develop and showcase leadership skills.

Manage Stress and Resilience

  • Practice stress management techniques and build resilience to handle challenges effectively.

Networking

  • Network with colleagues, attend industry events, and build professional relationships. Networking enhances communication and relationship-building skills.

Mentorship

  • Seek mentorship from experienced professionals who can provide guidance on developing soft skills and navigating workplace dynamics.

Cultural Sensitivity

  • Develop an understanding of cultural differences and practise cultural sensitivity in the workplace.

Set Goals

  • Set specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound (SMART) goals for your soft skills development.

 

Soft skills play a critical role in career success and professional relationships. As workplaces continue to emphasise collaboration and effective communication, investing in the development of soft skills can contribute significantly to personal and professional growth. It is a safeguard against AI that cannot compete with human interaction and creativity. This is essential for employers and employees to understand to ensure humans remain employed in key roles that require empathetic, creative and well-informed teams to fulfil tasks.

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