If you feel your career is stalling, it may be time to pick up a book! Whether you’re in accounting or the creative field or anywhere in-between, reading of any kind can help improve the soft skills employers look for in their employees. According to a paper entitled “What Reading Does for the Mind” by Anne E. Cunningham and Keith E. Stanovich, frequent reading typically results in “positive cognitive consequences.” In other words, you’re strengthening your mind and acquiring more knowledge when you pick up reading as a long-term hobby.
Arguably, readers are often more successful in their careers as a result. Here’s why:
- They write well. People who read often pick up on the tricks of a writer’s trade, whether or not they often write, themselves. Rather than having to memorize complex literary terms and grammar, readers tend to intuitively know how to properly structure a sentence, a paragraph, and beyond. Writing skills are a critical part of communication skills, a highly sought soft skill that’s universally desired by employers across industries.
- They are emotionally intelligent. A good book will cause a reader to stop, think, and reflect after turning its last page. Conversely, if the book wasn’t so great, the reader will often identify and examine why that particular read didn’t work for them. These practices of self-awareness and reflection are big components of emotional intelligence, another in-demand soft skill highly sought in today’s job market.
- They’re more creative. Reading gives us ideas and broadens our horizons. Whether someone is reading about recent developments in their industry or getting lost in the fictional world of a novel, they’re spending time exploring new things. This enhances creativity, which is always a plus in any professional capacity.
- They’re skilled problem solvers. For a story to be engaging, it has to spark questions that the reader wants answered. This is what keeps the reader turning the pages: often, he or she is imagining possible scenarios and eager to see if their answer matches up with what really happens. These habits sharpen the problem solving skills that help professionals work through kinks at work.
- They’re well-spoken. Cunningham and Stanovich’s study contains a list of words (Table 2) that do not appear often in oral language that are commonly found in written language. These examples are used to show the expanded vocabulary readers are exposed to in contrast to the limited vocabulary non-readers have access to. Since readers experience a broader range of words this way, they are often more well-spoken and able to present themselves professionally.
- They’re goal-oriented. Many readers often set reading goals for themselves. These goals can be as large-scale as “read 50 books this year” to as small as “finish chapter 10 before bed.” Either way, this helps them build goal setting skills that are crucial in any career.
- They connect to others. For a reader to care about the characters in a book, he or she needs to be empathetic. These usually aren’t real people the reader has a deep connection with; they’re often fictional characters with no direct effect on the reader’s life. This kind of empathy is one of the key players in interpersonal skills, another set of skills that, like communication skills, is crucial to effectively communicating and collaborating in the workplace.