Soft Skills

Learn more about critical skills for your career success

What are Soft Skills?

Soft Skills is a term used to describe personality traits needed to have success on the job. In contrast to hard skills, which are to be understood as functional skills or know how required to perform a specific job, soft skills, also called essential skills or people skills, are relevant for all professions and even in private life.

We roughly divide professional skills into four groups:

  1. Personal competence are abilities that define how we deal with ourselves, including self-discipline, self-confidence and self-observation, resilience and flexibility, active learning.
  2. Social skills determine how we communicate and interact with people, thus are also called interpersonal skills or communication skills. In this category fall such competencies as emotional intelligence, active listening, conflict resolution ability, working in teams, leadership.
  3. Methodological competence encompasses problem-solving skills, critical thinking, creativity and initiative.
  4. Technology competence covers how we use, monitor and control technology and defines the individual level of digital fluency. It does not mean that everyone is expected to be an IT expert. However, with greater adoption of technology some basic ability to leverage technology to solve specific tasks has become indispensable in professional setting as well as in everyday life.

Why are strong Soft Skills important?

Career experts unanimously confirm that hard and soft skills are important for professional success. Interestingly, research shows that 85% of career success actually comes from having well-developed soft skill!

As all of the above mentioned abilities can work for your benefit irrespective of the job profile, they are also called transferable skills. Investing in your transferable skillset is your best insurance from any economic crisis or changes in the labor market. Why? With the right soft skills your professional value will remain constantly high no matter what career you choose to pursue.

Soft Skills in the workplace

For companies it is crucial to recruit both skilled workers and workers with developed non-technical skills. In fact, recent data shows that key soft skills are four times more in demand than the top hard skill. That’s why questions around non-technical abilities are a key element of any interview process, along with the candidate’s work history and overall professional experience.

But why exactly do human resource management teams chase candidates with the best soft skills? First, success of any company depends to a large extent on its workforce and employees’ interpersonal relationships. Only effective collaboration is able to produce quality results. Second, due to the high pace of change in the world companies need employees who can not only adapt quickly but continue to innovate and come up with creative solutions under stress.

According to the World Economic Forum’s Future of Jobs Report, top soft skills include:

  1. Analytical thinking
  2. Active learning
  3. Complex problem-solving
  4. Critical thinking and analysis
  5. Creativity

Can you improve Soft Skills?

When we speak about soft skills, we speak to a large extent about character traits. So you might be wondering whether you have any influence over your personal habits and abilities. Rest assured, you are able to learn soft skills, even though your approach will not necessarily be the same as when you learn hard skills.

Tips how to develop soft skills:

❇️ Assess your level. You can use any of the self-assessment tools like StrengthsFinder 2.0, Myers-Briggs-Test, or Mindtools.com.

❇️ Identify your areas for improvement. When you search for relevant job postings, look out for hidden clues in the Work Tasks or Requirements sections. Like that you can have a better idea of the relevant skills you need to bring to the table. In addition, soft skills employers always look for include strong communication skills (both oral and written communication matters) and ability to collaborate with team members.

❇️ Make a plan. You can combine elements of formal education, like reading books, completing a course, attending webinars with career coaching as well as discussions with your family and friends.

❇️ Practice, practice, practice. Good soft skills don’t come to you over night. It is important to dedicate time to self-reflection and remain open to feedback.

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