After our last podcast, where we talked about the skills needed in order to succeed in a career as a designer, many of our listeners asked us to talk more about the subject.
So we decided to bring you more information on behavioral skills, also known as "Soft Skills."
But first, let's quickly address the Hard Skills
Hard Skills are the technical skills necessary to perform a role/profession.
In case you are more UX-oriented, the Hard Skills cover, among other things, the understanding of:
If your business is more UI and Visual, skills in the area could be:
There are also technical skills more focused on project management, like Agile Philosophy and Lean UX, among others.
Our goal in this article is not to discuss these technical skills/Hard Skills. But if you want, you can check out some interesting articles:
- How To Create Valuable User Personas That Will Actually Matter?
- Desk Research: How To Conduct Secondary Research Efficiently
- Scrum: Organize, Collaborate, Iterate
What are Soft Skills?
It's not only technical skills that make a difference in a designer's life.
Professionals are also evaluated according to their Soft Skills or behavioral skills, which is where many professionals encounter difficulties.
In some cases, such skills may be the reason why designers with the same education, years of experience, and portfolio quality, advance differently in the job market.
One finds success, works on amazing projects, and takes on leadership positions, while the other struggles to stay in a project for very long and is always complaining and unsatisfied.
How do I develop Soft Skills?
What makes a person thrive in their career? Certainly, the combination of various behavioral and technical skills will dictate the path of a professional.
Contrary to what many believe, technical skills are actually easier to develop. Of course, you need to have a goal and focus on your studies.
However, to develop Soft Skills, you need to change your behavior. And that, my friends, can take years of therapy to master.
Moreover, if you wish to learn a new soft skill, you'll have to observe yourself and reflect upon your behavior and choices. Question yourself, how does your decision process take place?
The truth is that you'll be practicing soft skills throughout your life and career.
It doesn't matter if it's to present your work, talk to executives, leverage your current position, ask for a favor or negotiate your salary: soft skills will save you from a lot of trouble and regret. More than that, they will unlock doors for you.
It's important to point out that the Soft Skills companies look for will vary from context to context. Some value teamwork more, while others want a more autonomous professional – or both. Even the meaning of these skills can vary in different scenarios.
Therefore, it is important that you analyze the opportunity and company you are interested in, observe which Soft Skills are essential in that situation, and then try to develop the ones you don't master yet. In general, this is called cultural fit.
According to our understanding, we have compiled a list of 5 soft skills that are in great demand by most companies.
1) Good communication
A good communication skill includes both the active part – communicating – and the passive part – listening with attention.
A professional with this profile is one who not only communicates well but especially who seeks to promote communication with collaborators (your team, users, customers, etc.) to align the project.
Collaborators and companies hate to arrive at the end of a week to find out that you haven't made any progress because you got stuck on a detail that could have been easily solved.
In remote teams, communication is essential to have a perfect understanding of the project's objectives and execution.
An excellent way to promote communication is to always ask for feedback, clear up doubts, and keep an open dialogue with the team.
Good articulation skills are also part of good communication. If you want to create something, you must be able to articulate the idea clearly and practically.
To lead a team, you must communicate assertively, engaging and motivating others. If you have to defend a project or decision, you need to articulate your idea or strategy.
Therefore, articulation is the basis for effective communication. How to develop it?
You can create pitches or short speeches to defend your ideas, write them down, share them with your colleagues, and ask for feedback.
In addition, to communicate well, you must have the power of synthesis, the ability to synthesize information and focus on what is essential. The clock is ticking, so you'll need to be direct and focus on what is necessary when sharing information.
The power of synthesis helps you focus on the information that really matters.
It is not unusual to have your project conceived one way, but suddenly it changes completely. Usually, this happens by the time it is presented to stakeholders or validated with users.
Even if your design is eye-catching, it may not work in practice. And this is when you must practice detachment from your ideas, preferences, and creations.
Be prepared to let go of everything you have done, to have an attitude of no-ego and zero vanity to rethink and start all over again, doing it differently, because, after all, what matters is the user's satisfaction.
To achieve this detachment we are talking about, it's essential to have an analytical eye to evaluate your own work. And this is nothing more than the ability to view a problem, an opportunity, or pain from many different angles.
3) Autonomy and teamwork (that's right, both)
It may seem a bit contradictory, but these Soft Skills include both the ability to work with little or no supervision, but also with a team.
The ideal professional we are talking about is the one who quietly develops their activities alone, respects deadlines and project specifications, without the need for a superior to tell them what to do or how to do something all the time. At the same time, when they get together with the team, this professional fits in and dialogues well with the other areas.
Therefore, the autonomous professional is not the one who puts on headphones, goes to the corner, and comes up with the miraculous solution (we have already talked about good communication, right?), but rather the person who has the initiative to solve problems – or even find them – without needing to be told to do so by someone else, generating value within the team as a whole.
Empathy is the process of putting yourself in someone else's shoes. In design, it's a crucial Soft Skill as the designer needs to feel the user's pain to bring an adequate solution (instead of generating more pain, which is what happens when you don't have the qualities we've talked about so far).
Professionals should always create products, designs, or features from the user's point of view and not based on their own perceptions. If you wish to improve the quality of life of your customers and solve real problems, don't rely on your own judgments.
Methodologies like Design Thinking revolve around a process that seeks to develop empathy and combine it with practical solutions.
Just as it is important to empathize with the user, empathy is essential when dealing with the team. Great professionals empathize with their team members along with other co-workers (programmers, commercial department, marketing, among others) to create something feasible for everyone involved in the process.
You should always think of projects as something that reaches the goals of the company as a whole, not just the design department (maybe try to rename that Layer 531 in your design file).
After all, it's no use having a great design from a technical point of view if it's not profitable. And this is where empathy toward company goals comes in.
Reading Tip: Why Is Empathy Essential For UX Design?
Curiosity is the root of intelligence, a sense of humor, and even connections between people. It's the starting point from which design emerges, and it's essential in exchanging information. Without curiosity, we are not able to create something new.
But how can you develop curiosity?
Become a true questioner of things and yourself, and try to discover the origin of information and processes. And when I say to become a questioner, it is not in the sense of questioning opinions and people, but to find out where each piece of information came from. This way, you will sharpen your curiosity and develop your empathy.
Calm down, don't panic!
The 5 soft skills we have listed here are essential, but they are not skills to develop in a week or month. These are behaviors that you will develop throughout your career. It's a constant learning process that takes a lifetime.
However, it's good to keep an eye on them, reflect on them, and, whenever possible, put them into practice in your daily life. Developing these Soft Skills in parallel with your technical skills is essential to have a successful career.
Practicing your Soft Skills
During your journey as a designer, you will often question and evaluate yourself, and this is very important. So always do this mental exercise and ask yourself:
- Am I communicating well?
- How empathetic am I being?
- Can I let go of my opinions when proven wrong?
- Am I being autonomous and taking the initiative?
- How do I interact with my teammates?
- Am I curious and inquisitive?
By doing this, you will surely become a much better professional – and probably a better person.