Key Data Analyst Soft Skills


What soft skills should you develop to become a successful data analyst? 

What will help you better position yourself among others?

How to develop these soft skills? 

Let’s begin with the terminology. What are hard and soft skills?

Hard skills are professional skills that can be taught and can be measured. To acquire hard skills, you need to undergo a learning process and the quality of your study can be checked with the help of an exam. I will give you some examples: writing, reading, math, Python programming, etc.

Soft skills are universal competencies that are much more difficult to measure with quantitative indicators. Soft skills can be applied in multiple areas. Sometimes they are called personal qualities, as they depend on the character of the person and are acquired with personal experience. For example communication, teamwork, getting along with other people, creativity, punctuality, etc.

Soft skills cannot be easily learned during training or courses. They are mainly laid in childhood and developed throughout life. That is why employers especially value people with developed soft skills.

Your hard and soft skills should complement each other in order to help you solve a variety of tasks of different complexity. 

So, what soft skills are necessary for mastering by the data analyst, and how to pump them? 

Communication. 

Communication is the process of transmitting or exchanging information. Your work will not have much meaning if you won’t be able to communicate the result to the stakeholders. Data analysts should have excellent communication skills, including written, verbal, and visual. You may be also required to report your conclusions to a group of stakeholders, so public speaking and presentation are valuable skills as well. 

In the foreseen future, people will definitely communicate with each other, so communication skills will be relevant regardless of changes in communication methods or tools.

How to improve?

Use every opportunity to develop these skills: meet new people, broaden your horizons, join a debate club, or sign up for courses. You may also organize discussions and business games with friends or colleagues. Try to communicate more with a specific purpose, such as making a presentation. 

What will help?

Books:

Collaboration by Morten Hansen

Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life by Marshall B. Rosenberg

How to Win Friends & Influence People by Dale Carnegie

Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In by Roger Fisher

The Collaborative Habit: Life Lessons for Working Together by Twyla Tharp

Training and Courses:

Toastmasters International

Working in Teams: A Practical Guide

The Art of Negotiation by Chris Voss

Problem-Solving.

Many things fail because of poor problem-solving skills. The ability to solve problems should become a fundamental part of your skillset. Problems are at the center of what data analysts do at work every day. 

So, being a strong problem solver is really important to your success, and can make a huge difference to your career. The scale of the problems that you are able to solve is defining the size of your remuneration. 

How to improve?

Problem-solving is aimed at overcoming barriers to achieving goals and obtaining results. It may include the following steps:

Identification of the problem

Definition of the obstacles

Exploring possible solutions

Making a decision

Implementation

Receiving feedback

You need to practice! Identify the problem in your life. What are the main obstacles? Search for 30-50 solutions within 2 hours. Which of them (individually or in combination) might work? Set a deadline and try to implement the solution. Monitor the result. If you can’t solve the problem, come up with new ways to deal with it.

What will help?

Books:

The Ideal Problem Solver: A Guide to Improving Thinking, Learning, and Creativity by John D. Bransford, Barry S. Stein

Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman

Problem Solving 101: A Simple Book for Smart People by Ken Watanabe

And Suddenly the Inventor Appeared: Triz, the Theory of Inventive Problem Solving by Genrich Altshuller

The Thinker’s Toolkit: 14 Powerful Techniques for Problem Solving by Morgan D. Jones

Stop Guessing: The 9 Behaviors of Great Problem Solvers by Nat Greene

Training and Courses:

Creative Problem Solving

Effective Problem-solving and Decision-making under Pressure

Emotional Intelligence.

All of us are different. We have different needs. We show our emotions differently. Emotional intelligence is your ability to understand your own emotions, as well as emotions, motivation, and intentions of other people. It is your ability to recognize how your emotions and your actions affect other people, how your behavior is influencing them. It also involves your perception of others: when you understand the mood of other people and predict how they’re feeling before they tell you.

High emotional intelligence will promote your success in almost everything as you will be the one that other people want to deal with.

How to improve?

In order to improve your emotional intelligence, you need to develop empathy for yourself and other people. Interact with different people from a range of backgrounds. Get to know how they think. Observe your emotions and the emotions of others, how you may affect each other. Evaluate yourself. Examine your reaction to stressful situations.

What will help?

Books:

Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ by Daniel Goleman

Master Your Emotions: A Practical Guide to Overcome Negativity and Better Manage Your Feelings by Thibaut Meurisse

Emotional Intelligence 2.0 by Bradberry Travis and Greaves Jean

Primal Leadership, With a New Preface by the Authors: Unleashing the Power of Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman

Emotional Agility: Get Unstuck, Embrace Change, and Thrive in Work and Life by Susan David

Training and Courses:

Empathy and Emotional Intelligence at Work

Inspiring Leadership through Emotional Intelligence

Critical thinking.

Critical thinking is your ability to take a balanced approach to the processing and consumption of information. It is your ability to ask questions, analyze facts to understand a subject thoroughly, and to go above and beyond the task at hand. 

In today’s world, we are constantly exposed to a huge flow of information. Therefore it is easy to get confused, lose focus, and become a victim of manipulation. You should analyze information systematically rather than emotionally or by instinct. Critical thinking helps you to verify information, find out the relationship between facts, think rationally, and make the right conclusion.

You should be aware that people don’t think critically all the time. Critical thinking is a step by step process that involves rigorously using information, experience, observation, and reasoning to guide your actions and your beliefs.

How to improve?

Always develop logic and observation. Remember that it’s very important to keep logic over emotions. Emotions may lead you to irrational action. Improve your subject-specific skills and knowledge to make it easier for you to identify and analyze problems. Learn to ask more questions. Look at data from different perspectives. Do not limit yourself with further investigations. Consider yourself a researcher.

Once you understand the theoretical part, all it takes now is perseverance and practice! Try to play games that require critical thinking skills or practice critical thinking techniques when you are reading the news.

What will help?

Books:

Tools of Critical Thinking: Metathoughts for Psychology by David A. Levy

Thought and Knowledge: An Introduction to Critical Thinking by Diane F. Halpern 

A Field Guide to Lies: Critical Thinking with Statistics and the Scientific Method by Daniel J. Levitin

Suggestible You: The Curious Science of Your Brain’s Ability to Deceive, Transform, and Heal by Erik Vance

Critical Thinking: Your Guide to Effective Argument, Successful Analysis and Independent Study by Tom Chatfield

Elements of Critical Thinking: A Fundamental Guide to Effective Decision Making, Deep Analysis, Intelligent Reasoning, and Independent Thinking by Albert Rutherford

Critical Thinking Across the Curriculum: A Brief Edition of Thought & Knowledge by Diane F. Halpern

Training and Courses:

Scientific Thinking and Communication by Neil deGrasse Tyson

Creative Thinking: Techniques and Tools for Success by University of Michigan

Critical thinking by Wireless Philosophy

Self-Learning.

Self-learning is your ability to acquire new knowledge in order to apply it in your life. Ideally, that includes the following steps: diagnosing your learning needs, setting learning goals, identifying necessary resources, managing your learning plan, and evaluating the result.

Nowadays, traditional education is understood as incomplete. Because instead of trying to provide students with the knowledge they probably will need, the role of education is to equip students with the tools and skills for self-learning. In other words, the set of specific competencies you need is no longer chosen by an educational institution, but by you. And this defines the main change in today’s time – the need for self-learning. 

If you want to succeed, you need to learn throughout your careers, if not life. And remember, it is important not only to collect concepts and theories but also to apply them in practice, turning them into full-fledged competencies. 

How to improve?

Be curious. Learning something new should become your habit. Start with a good learning plan, select the knowledge you want to put into practice, filter out the necessary resources. Reading is the most reliable way to get knowledge. 

Note that it is essential to apply in real life what you learn. For instance, if you are learning a new programming language – join the project where you can immediately apply it. Collaborate with other learners. Each learner is also a teacher, so it’s a great idea to become a part of a supportive learning community. Give back to the community. The more you teach, the easier it is for you to cement the knowledge in your memory. Knowledge is the only thing that increases when it is shared with others! 

What will help?

Books:

The Science of Self-Learning: How to Teach Yourself Anything, Learn More in Less Time, and Direct Your Own Education by Peter Hollin

The Personal MBA: Master the Art of Business by Josh Kaufman

Self-Directed Learning by Malcolm Knowles

Edgy Conversations: How Ordinary People Can Achieve Outrageous Success by Dan Waldschmidt

The Art of Self-Directed Learning: 23 Tips for Giving Yourself an Unconventional Education by Blake Boles

Training and Courses:

Learning to Learn by Dr. Neil Thompson

No doubts that soft skills are the competencies of the future and the key to your long-term, productive, and sustainable careers. Most likely from the team of data analysts the one with the most developed soft skills will become more successful.

Mastering the soft skills will help you to expand your horizons, expand communication in various professional groups, and open new opportunities regardless of your age or career stage.

And yes, it will not only improve your professional life but also your personal one!