Soft Skills Are In Demand – and First Responders Already Have Them


First up, let me say that I’m not a big fan of calling these skills “soft” – so I’m going to refer to them as “transferable”. Seeing as we’re going to be talking about the benefits of positive, active language, we might as well start using it here too. A subject we come back to again and again when working with people leaving the emergency services is skills and the value those skills can bring.

Transferable skills, as the term suggests, are skills that can be mapped across from one industry to another, in promotions or in striking out on your own. They are the key to bridging the gap from what you do right now to what you’re capable of – and can help you pick your way through the classic job application minefield of “relevant experience”. Calling these skills soft plays down their importance and places them as secondary to technical, “hard”, expertise. Which they aren’t.

According to a LinkedIn Learning blog, the top five most in-demand in 2020 are:

1. Creativity

2. Persuasion

3. Collaboration

4. Adaptability

5. Emotional Intelligence

The top four remained unchanged from 2019, so this is no flash in the pan. What’s interesting is the appearance of Emotional Intelligence for the first time. We’re constantly learning new tools and technologies that promise to make our lives easier while threatening to remove the human element in many processes – the recent explosion in video conferencing is just one example. The key point is that however powerfully technology can think, it isn’t capable of feeling (or more importantly making us feel) and that is the true power of human connection.

Hopefully, if you’re reading this as a police officer, paramedic, firefighter, teacher, nurse, prison officer – anyone on that key frontline of society – you’ve scanned that top 5 and told yourself “I’ve got those”. If not, you need to. Each one could have a book written about them (and most do), but I’ll try to give an overview.

Creativity

In the current climate, many of us have been fortunate enough to have the opportunity to rediscover creative pursuits of art, language, jigsaw puzzles, anything you’ve found to pass the time or pacify the mind, I suppose. Doing creative things fuels our own ability to see problems differently, and that’s the point here – creative problem solving. How many times per day are you faced with something unfolding in front of you that doesn’t fit into to any linear guidance or operating procedure? You apply creative and lateral thinking to solve it. The world is an uncertain place and those who can cope with that are in demand in any sector.

Persuasion

Not sure this needs a lot of explaining but persuading, influencing and negotiating are core elements of any first responder’s toolkit. Selling ideas to others who perhaps don’t want to listen, explaining why your plan will work – all under intense pressure. That pitch to the board on your new operating model or contract agreement with a new client is no different.

Collaboration

In recent years every emergency or public service has gone in for a “multi-agency” approach, whether through desire or necessity. This translates directly to any other role. Starting your own business? You’ll need to co-ordinate all sorts of partnerships. Moving into a large

corporate? You’ll need resources from many other parts of the business who may not have any immediate personal investment in your project. How will you get them on board?

Adaptability

You are coming from an environment where things change constantly, and your success depends on your response. Being able to innovate and act swiftly within a strict regulatory framework and based on ambiguous information is hugely valuable to many organisations.

Emotional Intelligence

Again, this is an everyday fundamental. You cannot get very far in policing, healthcare, education and so on without the ability to relate to others, including those who are nothing like you.

There’s a brilliant book on this by Carmine Gallo called Five Stars. Having worked with and interviewed many of the World’s top CEOs, athletes, astronauts, investors and lots more, he clearly shows that communication is the key. Being able to understand your audience, translate technical concepts into engaging messages, build relationships that last and deliver mutually beneficial outcomes… these are essential but surprisingly rare abilities that will only become more sought-after in future.

As we move towards a working world that will be uncertain, changeable and volatile for years to come, these transferable skills will continue to represent opportunity and progress. You already have them – all you need to do now is harness that power.

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