Soft skills—what are they and why should you care?

September 25, 2018

Soft skills are also known as “people skills.” These are the character traits that set you apart from the masses. They are what make you an awesome employee and person, outside of your technical job skills. For job seekers, soft skills are often what make or break the deal. That’s why it’s important that you develop your soft skills, as well as work to acquire new ones.

The first step to developing better soft skills is to do an honest assessment. As with any skill set, we all have our strengths and weaknesses. There are many online assessments you can do, or you can simply think about the soft skills that you think you’re good at. Some to consider are:

  • Communication
  • Negotiation
  • Problem-solving
  • Time management
  • Critical thinking
  • Teamwork
  • Leadership
  • Empathy
  • Team building
  • Collaboration

When you read through this list of common soft skills that employers seek, which resonate with you? Similarly, which are the ones you know you need to work on developing? Soft skills are sharpened with experience, so the best way to work on your soft skills is to start using the ones where you feel you are deficient. For example, if you’re a chronic procrastinator, start committing to getting things done on a rigid timeline. You could sketch out a mini project plan to help keep you on task, or you could try setting a timer and working on a task for a defined period of time. Similarly, if you are always a team member but never the team leader, you could start volunteering for high-visibility projects. Don’t wait for projects to be assigned to you—take the lead.



Why soft skills matter

In a digital world filled with automated solutions for just about everything, soft skills are what differentiate you. They’re what sells. If you are in career transition, you know this to be true. Potential employers have little problem finding candidates with the right technical skills to do the job. What is difficult to recruit for, and challenging to evaluate in an interview, are the soft skills. You need to be able not just to say that you’re a team-builder. You need to be able to demonstrate it. It’s not enough to state that you’re a strong communicator. You must show that you are. When you’re doing your interview preparation, think about wrapping up your technical experience in a complementary soft skill. Soft skills are in high demand, and they are ultimately what will sell you to a potential employer.

For more information on developing soft skills, click here to download my e-book.

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