What Are Soft Skills? Definition, Examples, and What Skills Employers Want in the Workplace
So much of our lives are spent obtaining skills to make us more successful and marketable in our lives, at school, and in our career. When it comes to the professional world, we tend to focus on technical skills, degrees, and certifications to attain and prove our abilities to others in order to be successful. However, those hard skills are not the only ones that matter. Though soft skills don’t get as much attention, they are needed to create a well-rounded and successful individual in any capacity.
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What Are Soft Skills?
The term “soft skill” is defined as a skill someone may have that is less rooted in a person’s education or training, and more rooted in their personality and ability to work within a company. Soft skills are less specialized and refer to a person’s disposition or attitude. They tend to be universal and, therefore, are highly transferable skills. Examples like multi-tasking or being punctual are relevant in many different settings, making them highly beneficial to obtain and relay to prospective employers.
Hard and Soft Skills
Though hard and soft skills are very different, both are important. Many employers may request specific hard skills in order to be qualified for a position, but soft skills can be just as essential to your success. Some examples of hard skills include technical or computer skills. Things like proficiency in a foreign language, machine operation, or coding are all additional examples. However, being able to apply soft skills like patience and organization would also be imperative to your success in nearly any position.
The Importance of Soft Skills in the Workplace
Soft skills are important in how they compliment the hard skills you can provide. Often, when a hard skill is missing, you can highlight a soft skill that can help offset it. For example, you may not be proficient in a certain software program, but you can draw attention to your ability to learn things quickly along, with your other technical abilities, to assure your prospective employer that you’ll be able to learn the missing hard skill with ease.
Likewise, with so many college graduates entering the workplace, there can be a lot of people with degrees and certifications representing their hard skills, but they may lack the soft skills to fully make use of their training or knowledge. Soft skills like critical thinking or working well with others can take technical knowledge and turn it into meaningful results on the job.
In a world where there is so much competition in the job market, soft skills can help you stand out in a crowd of other nurses, copywriters, developers, etc. It doesn’t matter as much that you’re a whiz with Google Analytics if you miss deadlines, can’t work with a team, or can’t think critically. These soft skills shape how you’ll showcase your hard skills, so having one without the other isn’t ideal.
Soft Skills Examples: Top Soft Skills to List on Your Resume
The list of soft skills that are important on a resume are seemingly endless and may vary depending on the type of job you’re applying for. However, some of the most popular or in-demand among employers typically fall under a few different categories.
Communication is a broad category, but at its core it explains how you interact with others. Being a good communicator can mean speaking to a crowd, or sending an appropriate email. It’s about tone, being able to listen, relaying ideas, or helping others to comprehend instructions. It can mean being timely, helping collaboration, or writing in a concise way. Communication ties directly to leadership as well as teamwork. Be sure to highlight specific ways in which you communicate effectively on your resume and showcase it in an interview.
Responsible soft skills include showing initiative, being reliable, following deadlines, showing work ethic, and working well under pressure. Responsible soft skills show an employer that you take your job seriously and that doing it well is important to you. Other responsible soft skills that prove your dedication to doing your best include organization, persistence, and being detail oriented.
Being able to collaborate and work as a team is imperative in many career settings. If you’re a great team member, highlighting that on a resume is extremely helpful. Teamwork requires good communication skills, humility, flexibility, and the ability to negotiate. It’s knowing when it’s best to take action, and when it’s best to take direction. You need to be able to take feedback, and practice conflict resolution. Teamwork also ties into your attitude at work as well as being respectful, celebrating diversity, and being empathetic. Teamwork has a lot to do with how you get along with your coworkers and make a good fit in your company culture. Those who are great in a collaborative environment can see the big picture of a company’s needs, and that is a highly important skill.
Those who are great at teamwork may also be great leaders. Leadership is also one of the top soft skills that recruiters are looking for. Showing leadership demonstrates to an employer that you can take some of the weight from their plate and put it onto yours. Leadership isn’t for everyone, but it shows an understanding, appreciation, and ability in all of the other soft skill sets. Leaders like to motivate, inspire, organize, and teach. It’s important to note that leadership isn’t always about managing others, but about stepping in when others may be struggling with direction, motivation, or conflict.
Critical thinkers are people who offer a different approach to a problem. This soft skill can turn a company upside down and offer different views and problem solving abilities that can create a lot of change. It’s a soft skill that allows a person to keep a level head and look at a problem from different angles. It’s also a skill that some recruiters find is in short supply. It’s not always easy to find different ways to get to a solution, but critical thinkers tend to find a way. They can be creative or analytical, but possess a curiosity that can see things that others may not be able to see. They are troubleshooters, innovators, resourceful, and quick learners. Employers today constantly talk about the need for critical thinking skills, and complain that otherwise qualified workers with impressive credentials and training lack this essential skill set.
Soft Skills Training
Though soft skills tend to be less about credentials, degrees, or certifications, that doesn’t mean you can’t learn more soft skills. Many of them have to do with behavior and attitude. Taking personal inventory and being honest about the soft skills you lack will help you to focus on the soft skills you need more training in. More training can mean taking an actual class, such as a public speaking course. It can mean practicing those skills in real life situations and gradually obtaining more experience with these soft skills. It’s about practicing empathy, asking for honest feedback from others, or utilizing tools that can aid in soft skills. These tools might be related to time management, communication, or scheduling.
You probably don’t have a degree or certification in your soft skills, but that doesn’t mean that they don’t matter as much. Your soft skills will decide how your hard skills will work within a company. You may be the most skilled in a certain practice or be the best with a software program, but none of that matters if you wont work with a team or adapt to certain situations. Your soft skills set you apart, and often make up for hard skills you lack.
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Chelsy is a writer from Montana who now lives in Boise, Idaho. She graduated with her journalism degree from the University of Montana in 2012. She enjoys talk radio, cold coffee, and playing Frisbee with her dog, Titan. Follow Chelsy on Twitter @Chelsy5
This post was updated October 17, 2018. It was originally published September 13, 2018.