Careers

Levelling up your CV with soft skills

Jun 10, 2020

Do soft skills matter during this uncertain time? Sinead Smith tells us that productivity, prioritisation and people skills are key when it comes to an efficient transition back to the workplace.

The spread of COVID-19 has dictated that we adapt almost every element of our lives. For many, the most drastic change has been in learning how to work remotely. Gone is the structure of an office, the presence of a team and the productivity pathways that we’ve so carefully laid. Instead, we are working in isolation, at makeshift desks, trying to find the same ability to focus and achieve.

While it has been tough, there have been opportunities for growth through autonomous decision-making, developing relationships and dictating your own course. However, it has possibly also thrown some areas for improvement into stark clarity, with productivity, prioritisation and people skills being cited by one Big 4 firm as common struggles for employees.

Productivity and prioritisation

Improving productivity should be considered a lifelong process. As the demands of work and life change, so too should your productivity levels. Learning how to evolve your productivity and prioritise during challenging times is a skill worth honing and one you can draw on later to demonstrate your work style.

"How do I decide what is important when everything is important?” I’ll bet this sounds familiar to you. Poor prioritisation is the single biggest threat to productivity but, once you understand how to improve on it, you will find that your stress decreases and your output increases.

There are many time-management courses available, but one of the most accessible tools is the Eisenhower Matrix. Developed by 34th US President, Dwight D. Eisenhower, a man considered to be one of the most productive presidents of all time, the Eisenhower Matrix is a simple box system designed to separate tasks. Tasks are sorted into four categories: urgent and important (do immediately), important not urgent (schedule), urgent not important (delegate or postpone), neither urgent not important (wasted time – move on).

Dividing the workday into these four categories provides a visual representation of where to start and where to finish. It alleviates the pressure of deadlines and enables us to give concrete timeframes for deliverables.

People skills

It is likely that you have already seen the importance of good communication over the last 12 weeks and it would be wise to continue to work on this. Whether managing a team, brainstorming with colleagues or liaising with clients, if you can learn to communicate effectively through the distanced nature of video calls, it can only have a positive impact on your in-person communications going forward.

Consider the questions you are asking: Are they purposeful? Will they net the information you require? Listen more intently and work on your listening responses to show that you are engaged, interested and present. Make room for empathy and understanding in your conversations.

When well-honed, these skills will buttress every facet of a finance career. Taking the time now to upskill in key areas like these will not only support a more efficient transition back to the workplace, but will also benefit longer term career progression.

Sinead Smith is the Director for Newly Qualified Accountants at ACCPRO.