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The thought of applying for a job often conjures images of resumes replete with professional experiences and technical skills. The stereotypical scene also showcases interviews with HR reps and hiring managers that revolve around one’s level of expertise in operating equipment, understanding software, or any other hard skill that qualifies a candidate for a particular position.
However, there’s another important element to the job-hunting game. It’s something that is increasingly getting more attention these days: a candidate’s repertoire of soft skills. Things like proper communication, adaptability, problem-solving, and teamwork are all major factors that hiring teams look for in potential candidates.
It’s a trend that isn’t going away, either, as companies increasingly focus on intangible elements like interpersonal skills and employee satisfaction.
As companies continue to turn soft skills in the hiring process, it behooves savvy homeschooling teens to sharpen their interpersonal tool chest in preparation. Here are a few suggestions for how you can make sure to both develop and then emphasize soft skills as you go about looking for that first job out of high school.
Practice Your Interpersonal Skills
While you can always craft ways to sell yourself on a resume or in an interview, if you can’t deliver on your promises, you’ll eventually get into trouble down the road. That’s why the first place you want to start with soft skills is developing the skills themselves.
For instance, you can claim that you’re a team player all day long, but until you actually join a team-oriented group and practice the skill of working with others, you’re going to have a hard time putting theory into practice. You can do this in a few different ways. For instance, look for a local community sports organization that you can join or consider joining or even creating a band. Also check your local school district’s team sports regulations. Many districts open their after school activities to homeschooled students in the district.
Some of the best soft skills that you can work on as you interact with others are your interpersonal skills. These include things like:
- Practicing active listening.
- Showing positive reinforcement.
- Being sensitive and empathetic to others.
- Public speaking.
- Working to bring people together as a mediator.
- Expressing positivity, gratitude and appreciation on a regular basis.
Making a point to practice social skills like these can be as valuable as any hard skill certification or course that you take in high school. In fact, if you graduate with the ability to communicate and work with others positively, you’ll have an edge in every interview.
Craft Your Resume
Of course, having well-honed interpersonal skills won’t do you much good in a job hunt if you can’t demonstrate them to recruiters. That’s why the next step is finding ways to integrate your soft skills into the front line of your job-hunting efforts: your resume.
The good news for a high school graduate is that soft skills provide an excellent way to fill out what can often be a rather sparse catalog of your understandably short professional career. In other words, emphasizing soft skills throughout your resume can both fill in the cracks and showcase your ability to function within a workplace.
These days, it’s common practice to tailor your resume based on each job description. As you go about tinkering with your resume for each application, make sure to emphasize as many of your soft skills as is reasonably possible. Along with hard skills like programming, writing, or administrative training, add things like how well you lead teams, your ability to work with others, or your natural penchant for quality communication.
Make sure that you focus, in particular, on the soft skills that complement each job. You can often find this by reading the job posting and looking for attributes that a company is particularly looking for. If it’s a manager position, for instance, focus on leadership qualities. If it’s a job in IT, make sure to mention your attention to detail.
As a general rule, make sure to sprinkle in a good mixture of hard and soft skills throughout your resume.
Learn to Network
Networking is constantly touted as an excellent way to grease the wheels for your professional career. One benefit to networking that is often missed, though, is its ability to sharpen your soft skills as well.
As you seek out professional venues like conventions or job fairs where you can interact with others within your field, take advantage of them as opportunities to put your soft skills into action. Try to communicate well, really listen to conversations that you’re a part of, practice creativity and problem-solving, and work on your time management.
Learn the STAR Method
Finally, when you find yourself actually in interviews, try using the STAR method of interviewing in order to help yourself shine. This method involves a specific way of answering behavioral questions that interviewers pose in an attempt to learn about you as a person. The acronym stands for the following:
- Situation. Set the scene of a story where you practiced the behavior in question.
- Task. Define your role in the situation.
- Action. Showcase your strengths through your actions in the situation.
- Result. Conclude the story by outlining the outcome and why your actions helped.
Emphasizing Soft Skills
As you’re preparing for a job search, it’s always important to keep your soft skills in mind. Hard skills become dated quicker than ever these days, and it’s often our soft skills as living, interacting human beings that keep us competitive in the modern workplace. Time invested in your soft skills is time well spent and will likely pay you back in spades as you enter into your professional career.