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Soft Skills for Getting and Keeping a Job

10 Soft Skills for Job Success

1. A Strong Work Ethic

Having a strong work ethic means understanding the importance of work and of being diligent or working hard. A person who does not care about work won’t have the strong work ethic that employer’s value.

One of the best ways to teach the value of work is through chores at home. Make a daily chore list of what you expect youth to do. Explain that every member of a household has a responsibility to pitch in and help.

Any time a child or young adult practices setting a goal and completing it, the youth is learning about having a strong work ethic.

2. Dependability

Employers want dependability. They want to be able to rely on their workers to do what they say they will do and be on the job regularly and on time.

There are many opportunities to teach dependability at home and at school. Teach youth the skills to manage their own time so that they can do things like getting up and ready for school on time, getting to classes on time and being where they need to be on time and as independently as possible.

3. A Positive Attitude

Employers say that an employee who shows up to work with a positive attitude can often be taught a skill he or she does not already have. A positive attitude shows when the employee smiles, is friendly and is willing to learn or to do what is asked.

The most powerful thing parents can do is to model having a positive attitude. Lead by example, and show youth you are willing to learn new things even when it is challenging. Talk to them about your own work experiences, and how having a good attitude at work has helped you.

4. Self-Motivation

Self-motivation is the ability to do what needs to be done without influence from other people or situations. People with self-motivation find the reasons and strength to complete even challenging tasks without giving up or needing another person to encourage them. Self-motivation skills are essential when working on a job.

It is important to note that we all are often more motivated to do things we find enjoyable or to do things we care about in some way. Parents can help build self-motivation skills by finding things that interest their child or young adult and then helping them experience the success that comes from the efforts they make when they are motivated.

5. Being a Team Player

“Employers like a person who works well with others. At almost every job site, employees are expected to work with co-workers and to be a team player. There are many opportunities to practice being a team player at school and at home. Working on this skill can be especially fun and rewarding.

All youth should have access to extracurricular school activities that can provide opportunities to be a team player.

Help a young adult learn to be a team player by helping him understand differences people have. Introduce him to people who are different from him by taking part in activities like community festivals that feature different cultures, various places of worship, or through books, magazines, film, television, or the internet.

Give youth many opportunities to enjoy working on group projects.

6. Organization

The ability to be organized is a key to job success. School is a great place for youth to learn to keep information organized. Using a calendar or daily organizer of some kind can help youth understand how being organized helps them to be prepared.

7. Working Under Pressure

The ability to work under pressure is important since sometimes work will be stressful, and there will likely be multiple demands placed upon a person at the same time. Both school and home environments present many opportunities to develop skills for being resilient and coping under pressure.

One important skill for working under pressure is to know how to ask for help. Children and young adults can also learn skills for managing their stress. We certainly want to prepare our children and young adults so that work is not stressful to the point that it is harmful to their physical and mental health.

8. Communication Skills

Employers want people who can communicate well whether it is being able to ask and answer questions clearly or the ability to actively listen and participate in conversations. Youth also need to be able to judge when they should speak with supervisors about issues that come up.

An important part of developing IEP transition plans should be determining what communication skills your youth needs to work on.

9. Flexibility

Flexibility will go a long way toward helping youth have success on a job. Consider how well your young adult adjusts to change. Workers on the job often need to adjust to changes in assignments or schedule changes.

Cognitive flexibility includes two skills: flexible thinking and set shifting. Young adults who are able to think about a problem in a new way engage in flexible thinking, while young adults who get stuck in their ways tend to engage in rigid thinking. Set shifting refers to the individual’s ability to let go of an old way of doing something to try a new way.

Having a variety of experiences and activities will help all youth develop more flexibility, confidence, and ability to cope with change.

10. Confidence

Confidence or self-esteem is a feeling of appreciation for one’s own abilities. The teen years are a particularly important time for youth to build up their self-confidence. Developing healthy self-esteem and confidence is essential for obtaining and keeping a job and for overall life success and happiness. Parents have a critical role in helping youth to develop a healthy sense of self-confidence.

All youth benefit from appropriate honest praise and recognition of their efforts and hard work and from a positive uplifting environment at home.

All youth also benefit from learning social skills. Knowing when they are acting appropriately builds confidence. The very basic social skills are things like how to make eye contact, how close to stand to another person and how to shake hands.

Success Stories

Soft Skills for 3 different Ability Levels

Tips for Teaching Soft Skills

High Functioning Youth with Disabilities

Tips for Teaching Soft Skills

Mild to Moderate Youth with Disabilities

Tips for Teaching Soft Skills

Youth with Significant Disabilities

Tips for Teaching Soft Skills

Soft Skills in the “Summary of Performance”

Summary of Performance

Schools are required to provide all youth in special education with a Summary of Performance (SOP). This summary of a youth’s academic achievement and functional performance should also include recommendations on how to assist the youth in meeting his or her postsecondary goals.

Disability Disclosure

The ability to make appropriate Disability Disclosure is a very important soft skill for young adults moving into employment situations.

Featured Resources

A short video explaining what soft skills are.

A video about finding and keeping your first job for individuals with disabilities. The video discusses barriers to employment, how to overcome them, the labor market, soft skills, and tips for success:

A video from an employer on what kinds of soft skills they look for in an employee

“The Transition to Employment: What Parents Can Do” is an informational handout for parents:

“Skills to Pay the Bills”, is an entire curriculum to teach youth all about soft skills for employment.

Utah Parent Center Fact sheet on teaching soft skills at home

We at the Utah Parent Center wish you the best as you work to help your family member with disabilities create the life he or she dreams of. Be sure to access our website at utahparentcenter.org to see our extensive resources and training related to transition from high school to adult life. If you have concerns or questions, please give us a call and speak with one of our knowledgeable parent consultants.

5296 S Commerce Dr., Suite 302, Salt Lake City, UT 84107
Phone: 801.272.1051
Toll-Free in Utah: 1.800.468.1160
Email: info@utahparentcenter.org

This page was funded by a grant from Interagency Outreach Training Initiative at Utah State University’s Center for Persons with Disabilities.