There’s no doubt that the past couple of years have been stressful, testing employers and employees alike as they adapted to new ways of working during the global COVID-19 pandemic. This was followed by a shift for many to hybrid working models, with the working week split between home and office. Managers and employees alike can adapt to this new work environment, while successfully advancing their careers, by using the right soft skills in the workplace.
In this two-part series, six members from ICAEW’s Cyprus Younger Members Committee (CYMC) explain how their experience of using softs skills has shaped their career so far and why they perceive them as equally important to hard skills.
While so-called hard skills refer to the knowledge and technical expertise that is required to successfully perform a specific job, soft skills are related to interpersonal and communication skills. As Maria Ioannou, a manager in the Tax Advisory Department of PwC Cyprus, explains: “While you can always work on your hard skills by acquiring the necessary technical knowledge through practising and doing research, soft skills allow you to adapt and manage stressful situations.”
It's important to understand that “it involves more than just reading the book to successfully complete the ACA and advance your career”, adds Elena Vassiliou, a project manager for a real estate company in Cyprus and part-time lecturer. “That’s why I want to support students nowadays to teach them the difference between academic skills and professional skills, the latter of which consists of both hard and soft skills.”
And while hard skills are part of most educational and training programmes, soft skills are what many employers are becoming more focused on. Companies look for people who are good communicators – if you can communicate well, you are able to work as part of a team, take criticism on board and step outside your comfort zone. In simple terms, if you don’t possess soft skills, you won’t be able to progress in your career.
Admittedly, it isn’t as straightforward to teach these soft skills as it is other new skills, such as learning how to use a specific software, although dedicated training programmes can teach you various techniques. Ultimately, the best way to hone them is to observe your colleagues and superiors, as well as gain self-awareness of your own behaviour.
Here, members from ICAEW’s CYMC outline the specific soft skills that have helped them achieve their ACA and career goals.
Being able to manage your time is vital to successfully completing the ACA, as Vassiliou points out: “Of course, you can learn the whole book [to take your ACA], but if you don’t possess time-management skills as well, you’ll find it a challenge.” In fact, no matter whether goals are set for business or personal life, time management is one of the essential soft skills to achieve them.
Kyriakis Pattihis, an indirect tax manager at Deloitte Cyprus, notes: “During busy periods and in pressurised environments, this soft skill will help manage stress levels and consequently allow for a healthy work-life balance.”
It’s the key to avoiding “working endless hours” and ultimately risking burnout, adds Stalo Anastasiou, who works as a budget analyst at the Bank of Cyprus. She juggles a busy career with being a parent, so it has been essential for Anastasiou to focus on managing her time correctly in order to progress her career, while also being present for her young family.
Leading a team to success
Working on your leadership skills is essential, especially as you move into more senior roles – if you are leading a department, you should set clear goals and measure progress of these on a regular basis. Ioannis Mavrides, CFO at Steamship Mutual Underwriting Association Europe, says: “It’s also important to lead with example as this is the most authentic way to drive colleagues towards a specific set of behaviours and goals.”
Strong leadership skills are essential for dealing with challenging employees and difficult situations. Mavrides alludes to an example when he had to dissolve tensions within a department. “I explained that I expected professional behaviour and for everyone to pull their weight and work together to resolve tensions and achieve joint targets. As a business leader, I have zero tolerance of unprofessional behaviour.” He also used his leadership skills to mentor more junior staff, ultimately creating new leaders – one of the most important roles of a leader.
In the second instalment of this series, we look at additional soft skills that have helped members achieve their career goals.
Useful links and training courses for ICAEW members
- CABA personal development course
- Leadership Development Programmes
- Women in Finance: develop your soft skills
- Employability skills
- Leadership and personal development resources
Visit the ICAEW Academy for business partnering and impactful courses to enable you to influence your business more significantly. We are currently running a 15% off discount until 30 June on these courses with the code SUMMER15.
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