From good to great! Embracing soft skills will give you a competitive edge in this evolving job market. While technical skills lay the groundwork for our careers, it's crucial to recognize the power and potential of soft skills in the workplace. Although most employers look for a hybrid skillset of both hard and soft skills, it’s easy to prioritize our focus on the technical skills we all use at work every day. After all, we go to school, get certifications, complete training and degrees, and constantly deliver hard skills and specific job-related knowledge, which form the foundation of much of our careers. From effective communication to seamless collaboration and more, soft skills are often ignored so let’s explore how you can leverage these essential abilities to successfully impact your job search, interview, or work performance in any job or industry.
1 - What are soft or social skills?
Soft skills, aka people skills, as defined by Investopedia, are a set of character traits and interpersonal skills that describe a person’s relationship with other people and complement technical skills. Soft skills aren’t just limited to communication and include aptitudes like leadership, teamwork, organization, time management, problem-solving, creativity, and collaboration among others. These proficiencies aren’t tied to any one industry, job, or company. Instead, they can be transferred or carried over to any role at any time.
2 - Why are soft skills so important?
You may be asking, why do I need to go to the trouble of cultivating a whole other set of skills? Certainly, if I’m knowledgeable and competent in the different facets of my job, I shouldn’t need to worry about other skills. In a LinkedIn study of 5,000 talent professionals spanning 35 countries, 92% reported that soft skills matter as much as or even more than hard skills. So, while technical qualifications are very valuable, social skills carry more weight than ever with employers. How many times have you been asked a behavioral-based question in an interview like: “Tell us about yourself?” or "Give an example of your teamwork and leadership style?” Strong communication and interpersonal skills in any work setting are powerful tools for all sides. Efficient communication leads to fewer misunderstandings and greater productivity. Being good at your job and talented is great, but having excellent social skills will have a far greater impact on your career trajectory through your relationships with peers and managers, effective performance as part of a team, and your fit within the company culture.
3 - How can I improve my soft skills?
Given the myriad of benefits in developing strong social skills, a natural question would be, “How do I develop them?” Like any other set of skills, there’s a number of ways to practice and improve. Start small and focus on one or two soft skills at a time. Trying to change too many things at one time can be overwhelming so implementation is just as important as skill improvement. Spend time actively observing, engaging, and learning from social interactions at work. Don’t take shortcuts: turn your camera on for video calls and don’t sneak out early from meetings. Another way to grow these skills is to ask a mentor or peer for feedback on your progress. It can be hard to see what’s happening when you’re the one changing, so make sure someone you trust can let you know how you’re doing. Think of improving your soft skills like you would any type of professional development; a work in progress. You can participate in trainings and there are a multitude of free resources available as well. Lastly, set and monitor some goals, SMART goals, ideally. Like anything else you want to achieve, setting goals can really pave the way to success in this area.
In this competitive job market where artificial intelligence and other factors are impacting work stability, a solid combination of both soft and hard skills is vitally important. Soft skills are the area where machines can’t compete so showcase your interpersonal talents. It’s becoming increasingly clear that hard skills will help get your foot in the door but mastering soft skills will maximize your value and help supercharge your career.