Equally important as hard skills, soft skills can still be learnt despite being personality-centred
Soft skills are essentially people skills involving your dealings with colleagues onboard or on shore. Being heavily certified in hard skills like in technology or technical-based competencies is not enough if you want to be in leadership, or just plain effective. Instead, having both makes a seafarer a more rounded employee, and is certainly effective managing both projects and people.
Most sea careers involve working closely with fellow crewmates and being deadline conscious. Therefore, leadership, communication and negotiation are some of the recommended soft skills for a seafarer to include in the portfolio.
Good is not enough
Even the best leaders would need constant polishing on top of their stellar sheens. Managing people in the office, at a port, on deck or in the engine room does need some customising. The key is to know your audience. The following are tips to develop your soft skills in a new environment:
- Tone of communication
Some jobs involve more written communications. Depending on the firm you work for, you could be interacting with casual or formal colleagues, even both. Observe the surroundings especially mode and tone of interactions; is the language used industry-specific, casual or formal?
- Talking is an art
How do you converse with your colleagues? It is not wise to import how you spoke onboard with your crewmates into the office – especially when dealing with C-suite. If you were in a position of power onboard, giving commands would be your routine. However, it does not work in an office setting.
- Be present
Maintaining eye contact is a reflection of your attention, in some cases your credibility. It is a known fact that not meeting someone’s eye when conversing makes you appear untrustworthy, or uninterested. In other words, spacing out. On the contrary, eye contact does not mean staring at someone. It can be moderated by intermittently making a gesture such as nodding your head or looking away for moment.
- Body language
How you carry yourself has to be customised according to your new environment. The way you stand, or approach people – do you come across standoffish or approachable, aggressive or friendly? This is crucial to forging good connections with colleagues. On the same note, your listener’s body language is also a reflection of their reception. Are they taking it well or rejecting it altogether?
Minding your Ps and Qs is equivalent to your branding. You might do your job exceptionally well but if you lack good etiquette, your career will likely get stalled with the crew hanging out at the water cooler.