Soft skills are increasingly important in the workplace, especially for those starting out in their careers.

A recent survey of UK employers found soft skills are prized more than technical knowledge in graduates. But if you have just left school, college or university, you may feel that your soft skills are not as developed as you may like.

As Soft skills tend to develop with experience, a great way to start developing these skills is to do some volunteering. The kind of skills that are classed as ‘soft’ include the following:

  • Communication skills
  • Flexibility
  • Good time management
  • The ability to be a good leader
  • Problem-solving skills
  • Creativity
  • Being able to work well under pressure
  • Having the ability to make decisions 
  • Being a good team player

Be a volunteer

Many people think volunteering is only for retired people who have time on their hands. But as well as being a great way to give something back to the community, volunteering can be a helpful way of boosting your employability.

For instance, doing voluntary work during your free time or gap year can show potential employers that not only are you motivated but you also have initiative.

Most volunteering opportunities involve working with other people, which allows you to build on your team working abilities. And whatever you do, it’s inevitable that you’ll be faced with problems, obstacles and challenges at some stage – all of which allow you to develop your practical skills as well as your problem-solving and creative thinking skills.

If you volunteer with an organisation that places you in direct contact with members of the public, the experience will give you plenty of opportunities to fine tune your communication skills. You’ll meet lots of new people, and your co-volunteers may well come from different walks of life, which can be invaluable for boosting your interpersonal skills.

But that’s not all. Working with a diverse mix of people is a chance for you to become more flexible and adaptable, as well as helping you to improve your ability to work towards common goals. And there’s every chance that someone you meet while volunteering may become a valuable business contact later on.

Test the market

In certain circumstances, getting work experience through volunteering could give you the opportunity to test out different types of employers before you start applying for full-time jobs. This may be ideal if you’re not sure about the type of company you want to work for.

Finally, it goes without saying that doing voluntary work can help you to feel more valued by those you work with, as well as the individuals or organisations that benefit by what you do. It may also help you to prove to yourself that you can have an impact. These things can do wonders for your confidence and self-esteem, both of which may significantly improve your chances of getting the job you want (and are arguably even more important than having the perfect qualifications).

You can search online for volunteering roles by sector or by location at icaewvolunteers.com, or to find volunteering opportunities where you live, go to your local Volunteer Centre or visit www.do-it.org.uk.

Our 10 free professional and personal development courses can also help you develop your soft skills. As a CABA course delegate you'll also be entitled to 3 free personal coaching sessions with one of our trainers.

For advice and information call +44 (0) 1788 556 366 or chat to an advisor online 24 hours a day.

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