Research by LinkedIN determined that 92% of hiring managers see soft skills as more important than hard or technical skills. From this same group of hiring managers, 89% also said bad hires were typically the result of a lack of soft skills.
Padding your resume with certifications, degrees, and various work experiences are always a nice foundation. But having an understanding of soft skills will not only make you more hirable but should allow you to become a better co-worker and team member. Hard skills can get you a job, but soft skills allow you to keep it. Soft skills can ultimately help you move up faster in your career.
If you’ve heard of soft skills but have never quite understood what they mean … here’s what you should know in 5 minutes.
What Soft Skills are
For the sake of simplicity, soft skills are attributes that make you easier and more enjoyable to work with. Because this is inherently a bit murkier than knowing how to use a certain software or code a certain language, there is a misconception that soft skills can’t be taught—you simply have them or you don’t.
Not true. Soft skills can very much be taught. But before doing so, it’s helpful to know specifically what some of the most important soft skills are.
Do you know what your personal strengths are? Have you thought about why you have these strengths opposed to being strong (or stronger) in a separate area?
Being self-aware of your strengths and weaknesses will not only make you more hirable in the eyes of recruiters and hiring managers but will help you end up in a workplace where you’re less frustrated and can be yourself.
Collaboration and Communication
Conceptually, collaboration used to strike images of gathering in small teams and problem-solving face to face, but 2020 went ahead and mailed that in. Today, while collaboration is almost entirely done digitally, the principles have not changed.
- You need to be a great listener
- Being a good listener means you actively want to better understand someone’s point of view. Communicating via cameras and telephones has made it even more crucial to hear someone’s perspective and to show them you are listening. Since it’s now challenging to be physically present for someone, being direct with our listening (following up with them, re-iterating what they’re expressing, routinely checking in) is more imperative than it’s ever been.
- You seek diversity
- Collaboration means you are not only open to new ideas but that you are actively seeking them. Good collaborators realize that they may have prejudices and/or may not have had the same experiences as others, and are open to listening to others so they can acknowledge other’s needs.
- Tight, effective communication is key
- We are communicating now via the written word (email, slack, and sixteen other messaging systems) in a way we never have before (to think that roughly 90% of the population was illiterate two hundred years ago). Re-reading everything and asking yourself “are you being as clear as possible” (when applicable) is incredibly important, as it’s very easy to misconstrue intentions without any non-verbal indicators.
Resiliency was one of the first soft skills lessons I taught incarcerated students while teaching in prison. Something I recognized about these students was their ability to explain “resiliency” in plain terms. I suppose that when resiliency is something you need to strive for everyday, it becomes very easy to define what it means to you.
Numerous studies identify our concept of happiness with the ability to cope with situations that are beyond our control. If coping means to manage stress, resiliency is the ability to learn from it…and use it to your advantage.
Introvert vs. Extrovert
It’s difficult to improve your soft skills without identifying what personality type you relate with. This is one of the reasons why “introvert” and “extrovert” are words that get mentioned quite often when discussing soft skills.
Identifying whether you’re introverted or extroverted will help guide your approach in improving your soft skills. The bad news is defining the differences between introvert and extrovert takes much longer than five minutes to explain.
Teaching Soft Skills
Some people think soft skills are something you’re born with or grow up around (nature vs. nurture). But with the following, it’s possible to improve your soft skills.
Simply recognizing what soft skills are and how they relate to your skill set is a great first step in improving your soft skills.
Have an open mind
In my experience, you’re not going to improve on anything, let alone your soft skills, if you aren’t open to change in some capacity. This change could be in the way you decide to approach learning a new skillset, or just making the choice to make a change at all.
Building soft skills will give you an awareness of what you do well and what you need to work on, in addition to better understanding the needs and points of view of those around you. Having these skills in your tool-belt will allow you to view change not as a challenge but as an opportunity. While others are uncertain of how to handle change, you have a better understanding of not only your environment but of the environment of others. This will allow you to adapt quickly and find success in newer surroundings.
Entire courses are taught on improving your self skills. But a quick assessment can help make sure you don’t become one of the “bad hires” mentioned at the top of this article. Carefully assess what you do and don’t like about your current or previous work environments. Think about what makes you a good co-worker. And most importantly, be prepared to answer questions on a job interview that ask more than why are you capable, but what makes you a good fit.