The most common skills employers encourage their teams to pursue today are soft skills. So knowing your strongest key soft skills and which soft skills fit best with certain jobs and company cultures is very important. It gives you a head start in any job interview and makes your CV and your cover letter stand out to employers. What are those soft skills exactly, which ones are most important and how can you improve your soft skills?
what are soft skills?
Hard skills are technical skills you need to do your job. They are learned abilities that you acquire through repetition, training and practice and study.
Soft skills are characteristics and attributes that enable you to interact and work well with other people in any specific setting. These skills illustrate your emotional intelligence and show whether you are capable of working with other people.
Soft skills are fundamentally human skills, the fabric of all social interactions — and as such, it makes sense to think of soft skills as skills that are passively learned, rather than actively taught.
Another important thing about soft skills: They generally aren't specific to any one job, but are value-adding abilities that can be applied in virtually any role or capacity.
typical soft skill examples
- empathy and understanding
- strategic thinking
why are soft skills important?
While your hard skills are specific and unique skills that help to match you with specific jobs and job requirements, they are usually meaningless unless you also possess soft skills. Soft skills enable you to work with other people. These key skills are more personal and are what make a person well-rounded and highly sought after by potential employers.
Why? As a result of automation and artificial intelligence a bigger proportion of jobs will rely on soft skills. Thanks to very innovative technology, work that requires hard skills steadily declines. That evolution makes soft skills key differentiators in the workplace.
the 7 most important soft skills
The following are the key soft skills that employers look for when searching for new talent.
Confidence is a timeless key soft skill that employers value in their employees and in their potential employees. Being confident shows that you are intelligent, capable of doing your job, and that you are capable of doing the job better than the next candidate. This key skill can give you an advantage in your job search and put you ahead of even the most skilled individual when applying for a new position.
Passion is arguably the most important thing that employers and companies look for. Passion shows that you care and shows that you are doing something that you love and are willing to do anything to get the job done.
While everyone wishes to earn a living doing something that they love to do, this is not always going to be the case. However, passion can be shown even in the smallest forms such as showing up with a good attitude or putting all your effort into even the smallest projects. Show that you are passionate, and employers will be drawn to you.
As organizations are focusing on improving workplace cultures and employee engagement, they’ll be searching for job candidates who display positivity and enthusiasm in their communications with the company.
While it is important to be able to do one thing well, it is also extremely important to employers that you are able to do several things at the same time and adjust swiftly to numerous situations. Adaptability is a key soft skill because it shows that you can work well under pressure and in a wide variety of different conditions. Your ability to adapt could be what sets you apart from the next candidate.
A key skill that you should continue to have throughout their life is curiosity and the drive to always want to learn more. Employers proactively screen people for this soft skill. You might think that you know all there is to know about a field of work, but this is the 21st century and things change really fast - it is always a good idea to strive to learn and stay relevant.
You don’t need to be a brilliant writer or public speaker to have strong communication skills. But your communication skills are your most important asset, and one of the soft skills most commonly identified as important by recruiters and HR professionals. Improving your communication skills will ensure you’re ready to not just talk about your abilities and qualifications, but to also have a clear and thoughtful conversation about the company, the industry, and other influencing factors of business with a recruiter.
Team working skills go hand and hand with the key skill of communication. In most workspaces, you are not working alone. Being able to work in a team is an extremely important soft skill that employers value when looking for new talent and when evaluating current employees. Being able to communicate and participate as a team leads to a better work atmosphere, and as a result, better overall work.
If you’ve been in the workforce before, you likely understand the value of having colleagues you can collaborate with and depend on. From working on a project together to supporting each other to get tasks completed, good teamwork can make or break a modern business.
Recently, Google conducted an intensive survey and analysis to discover what makes a team work well together. Psychological safety was one of the key elements required to foster better teamwork. In short, being nice is a soft skill that will help carry you from interview through your tenure with a company as you work on teams to achieve goals.
Machines have come a long way. They’ve outwitted humans when it comes to specialized logic-based tasks. But humans are able to achieve an infinite number of goals and objectives in a huge variety of settings and environments. So while technology may be able to solve very specific, pre-determined problems, humans remain better at big-picture thinking and broad problem solving with unforeseen factors. Strategic thinking therefore is a very important soft skill that helps you to be future proof.
improving your soft skills
While for some people, soft skills such as the ones mentioned above might seem to come naturally, there are always ways that you can work on and improve these skills. The following are some tips that may be helpful for working on your soft skills for the workplace.
- to improve your confidence and communication and teamwork skills, try stepping outside of your comfort zone and joining communities to practice your public speaking and communication skills.
- for curiosity, it is always good to stay up to date on the most recent trends, especially the ones that are most relevant to your intended career path. Never stay stagnant and never stop seeking to learn more.
- it is also possible to build your aptitude for adaptability as a soft skill. Career coach Jeff Boss recommends taking an improv class to learn how to fill the gap of uncertainty and react quickly to whatever comes your way. Another way to teach yourself adaptability is to stay curious and up to date with the latest trends across your job, and open to trying new things and using new technologies to your own work.
- although strategic thinking might be a tough soft skill to improve, it is a very important onel. There is no quick fix to becoming a more strategic thinker. It requires constant, steady change over time and might require breaking old habits and patterns. To improve strategic thinking skills, begin by examining what you know and how well you apply it to your job. Try these few easy techniques to become a more strategic thinker:
- Take more time to make decisions. Instead of relying on a gut feeling, leverage information and data you have to make informed decisions that will serve you better in the long run.
- Make learning and analysis a regular part of your life. Strategic thinking doesn’t happen organically. Like building any new habit, you must make enough time for it.
- Engage with a mentor. Ask your manager for a reference, or reach out to someone you believe thinks strategically and request a few minutes of their time. If you spend time engaging with someone who thinks strategically, it will begin to feel normal to ask “why” and think more strategically to challenge the status quo.
Make sure that you do a little digging into any company you wish to join to find out what key skills they value the most so that you can showcase these. If you are unsure of what your strongest soft skills are, it is a great idea to consult friends, family or colleagues and ask them what they think your strongest attributes are, you might be surprised by their response!
Whatever you do: don’t underestimate the value soft skills add to your resume (CV), their importance during your job interviews and your professional future in general.
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