Soft skills are qualities that reflect what kind of employee you will be. In reviewing job posts, I found that employers are looking for employees who are self-motivated. Here are a few suggestions of ways to present yourself on resumes and in interviews as an employee who doesn't need to be told what to do.
1. Tell a story that begins with these words: "I took the initiative to. . ." or "I volunteered to. . ."
2. Talk about a time you saw a problem and fixed it.
3. Use the word the employer is looking for: "Demonstrated leadership and self-motivation by . . ."
Every boss dreams about having employees who know who to do the job and care about what they do. If you can communicate that you are this type of person (and you have the right kind of experience and hard skills), you will get the employer's attention and be well on the way to a job offer.
I’m very happy with my job. However, one thing that does frustrate me is the occasional client who has ideas about the job search or resume writing that make no sense. These people frequently say things such as: “I’ve heard,” “Somebody told me,” or “I read somewhere.” This type of phrase indicates a total lack of critical thinking. I don’t mind discussing any issue with someone who has thought about what they are saying or has evidence to support their claims. People who follow superficial ideas are more likely to be doing things that will hurt their job search and make it harder to find a new job.
One of the great things about the Internet is that we can quickly research anything we hear or read. Instead, too many people grab onto the simplest solutions, never questioning if the claim is true. For example, at least one client a week tells me she is worried about having her resume screened by a computer program. These clients are also worried about having the right key words. This fear is legitimate only if it’s not thought through. I screened resumes some years ago while I filled several other duties at a small company. I’m sure I missed details because I was “multitasking.” The computer will actually give a job applicant a consistent review. As far as key words go, it’s impossible to know for sure what a company is using as its key words, but it’s common sense to think that job postings would be based on what the company wants to see.
My advice to clients is to challenge anything they read or hear, including advice they get from me. Ask why the claim is true. If someone can’t give you a reason beyond “that’s the way it is” or “those are the rules,” don’t be too concerned about that “expert.” The job search is always a difficult process. Don’t waste your time following bad advice. When in doubt, think critically.
A client recently told me that she uses LinkedIn to learn more about her field and navigate the job search. Her idea is great, but it needed a little discipline. I suggested that she start tracking the information using MS Excel. Save a file under a name like “job search data.” Then create three worksheets. One to track potential employers. One to capture job titles. And, finally, one to record key words. Excel will let you sort these terms, which is especially important for key words.
Each of these worksheets needs a different kind of follow up. The employer list can be used to build a favorites folder, which should be checked once a week. The titles list will be a guide for online searches of job databases. Finally, most importantly, the key word list will be vital for writing and updating your resume. This is the one area where I would recommend going beyond LinkedIn. Find 10-15 job posts for positions you would want to apply to. When a word or phrase is repeated more than 3 times, consider that a key word and add it to your worksheet.
Treat your job search like a sales campaign. Most good sales campaigns begin with market research. Using Excel, LinkedIn, and job posts, you can develop a good tool that will give you more control over your job search. It will also give you better results. Hit the target!