3 Soft Skills to Put in Your Resume for Young Professionals in 2023

Career

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jotham.lim

Companies seem to place a strong emphasis on hard skills in the workplace—which is evident in most job descriptions I come across online.

For every engineer, there’s Node JS or Python; every creative, the Adobe suite. The more advanced the position, the more niche and obscure the toolkit.

To their credit, it’s a great way for companies to sieve through hundreds of candidates finding the right person for the job. However, it’s not a great compass to guide aspiring job applicants on their learning journey.

🗺️ Importance of Roadmaps

In the past, I wanted to be a hacker (🙄 I know), a 3D modeller—and my most recent endeavour, a product builder. But for someone without a UI/UX background to jump straight into learning Swift, it was a soul-crushing journey.

The cycles of YouTube tutorials were endless, and the initial burning passion I had was quickly snuffed out. The same basic video guide, over and over again; and I still had no idea what was going on conceptually. If you’ve ever asked yourself, “maybe this is not right for me”, you know exactly what I’m talking about.

This is why having roadmaps is important. Skills are built in stages; in skill trees rather than isolated nodes. You can’t “effort” your way into mastering a skill without fully comprehending the prerequisites surrounding it.

Therefore, I’m grateful to have taken a postgraduate degree that provides pre-requisite courses before I fully enrol into the program. It builds the foundational skills needed for the remaining parts of the courses to make sense. I’m just pointing it out here, because there are courses out there that do not have a pre-defined learning path—throwing students off into the deep end to fend for themselves.

♟️ The Primordial Skills

This got me thinking, what exactly are the “pre-requisites of the pre-requisites”? What are the skills serving as “score multipliers” in life?

I might not be an expert, but I come from a multi-disciplinary background—from IT, graphic design, journalistic writing, project management, to marketing. Reflecting back, it all boils down to the three skills listed down below.

Having these three skills makes gaining new abilities easier than the previous one; mastering each of them also makes you more desirable and less indispensable within the workplace.

🔍 Diagnosing

Celebrity graphic designers have good taste. IT wizards can troubleshoot PC problems quickly, systematically and accurately. A seasoned programmer can spot bad code with just a glance.

What do they have in common? They are experts at diagnosing situations, problems and products—a skill built on top of countless hours of immersing themselves within their domains in deep work.

Mastering diagnosing skills: – Helps people understand the mechanisms and theories operating behind the scenes. – Helps people prioritise what to fix, and what to ignore, preventing cognitive overloads. – Marries technical and creative skills, because both have its roots in problem solving. (A melody that doesn’t “feel” right is similar to settings that aren’t configured properly)

Diagnosing skills is relevant in any work environment. Job descriptions may differ, but I believe that the bulk of the time spent within the workplace is spent on “creative problem solving”. Some colleagues can fix the same problem in a few hours, but others might take days—despite having the same qualifications.

Everyone has their own unique way of building their diagnosing skills.

I’ve honed mine by learning how to unbrick my computer and phones after jail-breaking them and screwing with the OS. I spend my teenage years trying to get video editing software and AAA video games working on my ancient, under-specced PC. I’ve spent more time learning how to install mods rather than playing them before plug-and-play solutions came into the scene. (Try modding pre-pre alpha Minecraft.)

Great diagnosing skills go beyond just the workplace. My commute back home is how I “diagnose” my personal life. Am I happy the way I am right now? Where do I want to be? How do I get where I needed to go? (🚗 Figuratively, not literally, of course.) It has helped me achieve work-life-study balance, and helped me spot friction within my personal productivity systems.

Diagnosing requires a never-ending cycle of curiosity, understanding, researching and tinkering—which leads to the next skill:

🔨 Persistence

If diagnosing skills are used to identify problems, we need persistence to actually solve them. Together, they are known as troubleshooting.

Persistence is the ability to look at an ugly piece of design, or a frustratingly nonsensical error message, or a badly strung-together piece of code—and after diagnosing, somehow at the back of your mind, come up with a series of steps to solve them.

The gravity of persistent troubleshooting can’t be understated. For large B2B projects, not persisting through a problem costs resources and man-hours (and the ire of the higher ups). For the medical industry, not persisting with a diagnosis can cost people’s live.

  • How to persist is both a science and an art form. For one, it needs to be done systematically, and requires some level of creativity. From my personal experience, there’s always solutions to problems, but each has its own likelihood of success and an associated cost.

I point this out, because it relates to the idea of cutting corners. In both coding and video editing, I often have to make a calculated decision to patch something up together quickly, which, in theory, works as intended. However, the product is so janky that:

  • Nobody else other than myself knows how it works.
  • There is no room for customisation, because reconfiguring one tiny portion will break the entire project.
  • Most likely, it is not resource efficient.

We can get away with cutting corners sometimes, but at least be aware of the tradeoffs here.

For instance, as journalists, we could ask for comments the “formal” way—such as following up on PR agencies, countless back and forth, scheduling a time, and more. However, sometimes a tight deadline requires me to get the target person’s contact details through unscrupulous means, bypassing red tape, and even adopt a “write first, ask permission/consent later” approach instead.

Sure! The story got out on time. Everyone was happy, and nobody was in trouble. But I didn’t build the solid foundation of rapport and trust needed to push out a great story in the future. Persistence is a necessity, but the strategy surrounding it is subject to circumstances, resources, and willpower.

🗣️ Pitching

Pitching is every introvert’s nightmare, but unfortunately, it is a pre-requisite to change management—both in your circumstances and in your workplace. What do I mean by this?

You could be the star performer in your team; but you won’t get that highly coveted salary increment if you don’t ask for it. But asking it the “right way” involves preparing argument points, research and documentation, to make the case of why you deserve that pay rise.

Perhaps you dislike something about your workplace that is obviously stupid and is easy to fix. You could either throw your hands up thinking “it ain’t my job to fix this” and continue suffering under the circumstances… or you could pitch to your peers, your bosses, and change something about it, improving the lives of everyone around you.

Many people cringe at the idea of pitching, and I get it. Countless salesmanship books paint a picture of persuasion, manipulation, or even deception. I view pitching as a skill in your toolbox, and whether you use it for good or evil depends on you.

I won’t go too deep into pitching, since it is a whole subject on its own—but I do want to highlight a few takeaway points:

  • Pitching isn’t just an extrovert’s game. There are gifted people that can graciously pull stuff out of their asses. But for us mere introverted mortals, we can pull it off through proper, in-depth planning. I’ve done it for years, and it is still just as scary as it did the first time. But pitching once or twice trains you how to manage that fear effectively. There is no escaping the ring of fire, but you can prepare some fireproof armor beforehand.
  • Pitching is unique to you, and you alone. There is no template for pitching because it involves expressing your stance, your arguments, and your thought process before. I have peers requesting a copy of my slides, my PDFs & my emails as templates before, and it made little sense to me.
  • Pitching does not have its roots in deception, but rhetoric instead. Ethos, logos, and pathos are not just stuff you learn in high-school English class. Even writing this article is a form of pitching. To me, pitching is the key ingredient to make your existence in this world worthwhile. This is done through via the impact you make through the work produced or the values that you believe in. Keeping these to yourself and have it disappear along with you are just ideas in the void, and in a way, “syok sendiri”. (Self-absorption)

🧠 Closing Thoughts

The best part about these soft skills is the low barrier of entry and the ease of justification. You don’t need to pay for a certification; You only need stories. And chances are, you probably already have several real-life examples on hand.

Share some testimonials in your cover letter. Squeeze it into your job description on your resume. Have examples prepared for your first interview.

I can’t speak for others, but these are the values I hold dear as a manager. I would sooner trust someone who can demonstrate their diagnosing, persistence and pitching abilities. Because what use is a padded resume with certifications if they can’t get the job done?

Hopefully, this article gives you some kind of food for thought. Stay awesome.

Cheers,

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