What do you think makes a candidate for a government position stand out in the labor market?
Strange or not, employers in both public and private sectors are focusing their search on people with “soft” skills. Yes, the “technical,” hard skills are a must making your way into the public service. Staying there and building a career, however, requires soft ones.
This article is here to help you get started with developing your soft skills. Below, find great tips on improving them to increase the chance of succeeding as a public servant.
1. Written and Oral Communication
A public servant is involved in a lot of interactions with the public. That’s why everyone working in the public sector – from people working at top management positions to junior accountants and law enforcement officers – need to have exceptional communication skills.
Regardless of which career you’re looking to build, you’re expected to have good oral and written communication skills. They’re required for:
- Writing clear documents, memos, and emails
- Making impacting public speeches
- Communicating with colleagues effectively to accomplish your responsibilities.
One of the best ways to start improving your written and oral communication is to use online resources. Here are great options created specifically for the public sector:
- Mastering Communication course. A complete, free course for public servants that consists of two parts, Plain Language (written communication) and Public Speaking (oral communication)
- How to Speak the Language of Leading. An article that provides public speaking tips for people working at leadership positions
- 7 Best Online Public Speaking Courses for Government Employees. A collection of free and low-cost public speaking courses from the top-rated providers.
Empathy is quickly becoming one of the most sought-after skills in business, and there’s a case to be made in politics, too. Here’s an example: Let’s say you’re going to a voting station in your district. It’s the election day, and you’re ready to support your candidate. This is an important day, obviously, so you’re expecting the process to be super organized.
But instead of that, you encounter this – a mile-long line of people waiting to cast a ballot.
Already, there is a lot of frustration and people are arguing. On top of that, the polling station suddenly announces an unplanned break due to some problems. This leads to even more arguing, as people didn’t expect to experience such a horrible organization.
The reason for this experience is a poorly organized voting process, which is an outcome of the work of hundreds of civil servants. In this case, their ideas and decisions might not have considered people’s feelings.
The result? A lot of wasted time, money, and even more angry voters. The same outcome applies to any political decision-making, be it a decision to organize a small community event or a nation-wide election.
“To avoid negative outcomes, people working in public service should learn and practice empathy,” writes Marie Fincher, an international politics writer at BestEssayEducation. “In simple words, they need to analyze, predict, and understand the experience of those they serve.”
Fortunately, empathy is something you can learn well.
If you’re currently working at a government office, the first step is to ensure that you have regular contact with the community. Invite people for community meetings every week, especially those who are the most vulnerable.
Also, here are some great resources to get you started:
- Why is Empathy a Professional Trait? A story by Rachel White, a government worker from Montana, who explains the reasons why empathy makes better professionals
- The Empathy Academy. An online resource that provides free courses, learning materials, blogs, and guides for everyone learning empathy
- Empathy and Emotional Intelligence at Work course. A free online course by the University of California for professionals.
This is another soft skill that can make or break your career.
As someone involved in the public service, you’ll be doing a lot of negotiating during meetings with the community, press, neighboring municipalities and even diplomats. Even if you serve a small community, you might be surprised by how deeply divided it might be when it comes to certain issues.
But, you might already find a lack of resources for public servants. Not a lot of scholars and experts have decided to write a paper or a guide to mastering negotiation skills for the public sector. No worries, though: Learning this soft skill is something you can do. Let’s begin now, shall we?
To score the best negotiation result, you need unique negotiation skills. Why unique? Because public sector negotiation skills are a bit different compared to the private sector. This is something you’ll have to keep in mind while learning.
A good idea to start is to understand this difference. This simple explanation should help you get there.
|Private Sector Negotiations||Public Sector Negotiations|
|More competitive style, e.g., it’s okay to say no to every suggestion.||More collaborative style. The decision should be made based on the interests of the other party (the community) or with mutual benefits (neighboring municipalities, etc.)|
|A negotiator represents only one side||Might represent two sides, such as taxpayers and employees, to develop solutions that benefit both parties.|
|It’s more important to reach an agreement instead of maintaining a good relationship.||It’s more important to reach at least some agreement rather than no agreement at all.|
|Taking risks for greater results is often rewarded.||Taking risks is neither encouraged nor rewarded. The negotiator tries to avoid risks as much as possible.|
These resources will also be helpful:
- How to stop fearing negotiations. A collection of tips from Samantha Coley, a government employee, on battling the fear of negotiations for beginners
- Rethinking public-sector contract negotiations to secure value for taxpayers. A guide to key negotiation practices from McKinsey that focuses on strategies for cost reduction in public sector procurement.
The public service of tomorrow needs people with soft skills. There’s no doubt about it.
If you’re planning or looking to get ahead in your government career, focus on these three critical soft skills. They will put you in a better position to understand the needs of others and do your work more effectively.
Nicole D.Garrison is a content strategist, writer, and contributor at GrabMyEssay and a number of other platforms. She is a dedicated and experienced author who pays particular attention to quality research. In her free time, Nicole is a passionate runner and a curious beekeeper. Moreover, she runs her own blog LiveInspiredMagazine.