You’ve got the professional skills down pat, so you should be set for career success, right? Not so fast! While technical know-how is essential, today’s employers are looking beyond just the hard skills and giving additional weight to qualities like adaptability, communication, flexibility and collaboration – better known as soft skills (or ‘people skills’ if you prefer).
What’s the difference between soft skills and hard skills?
You’re probably familiar with the hard skills, these are the accolades that populate resumes and decorate LinkedIn pages. (You’re amazing at Excel! You’ve got a diploma in graphic design from a highly reputable university! You’re a wiz at coding! That kind of thing.) It’s the technical credentials; the training you’ve had and the learnable skills you possess.
Then, on the other hand, you’ve got the soft skills. The people skills, your interpersonal attributes. Basically, the unquantifiable stuff that you didn’t major in at college, but should certainly be a part of your professional repertoire nonetheless.
This is by no means an exhaustive list, but here are some of the most in-demand soft skills employers are searching for in 2022:
- Time management
- Interpersonal skills + networking
- Flexibility + adaptability
- Collaboration + teamwork
- Emotional intelligence + empathy
- Attitude + work ethic
Why do I need soft skills? I’m highly trained and experienced in my field, shouldn’t that be enough?
Well, for starters, soft skills are super transferable, which is awesome because it means they’ll come in handy in pretty much any job, in every industry. Individuals with strong soft skills are considered to be more resilient, communicative and more likely to advance professionally within an organization – and they’re also in increasingly high demand in today’s job market.
Looking to wow during the interview stage? According to this article, 93% (!!!) of employers say that soft skills “play a critical role” in their decision of who to hire, so showcasing your soft skills (alongside your technical abilities, of course) is a must. Show up for the interview prepared to share examples of times your soft skills came in handy in a previous position – it’s a great way to stand out from the crowd and make a lasting impression on the hiring manager.
Hoping to score a big promotion at work? Successful leaders have to possess a strong set of soft skills, allowing them to build strong relationships, manage conflict, motivate their team and communicate effectively – and what better way to demonstrate your leadership potential than to prove that your people skills are on point?
I’m worried I may be lacking in the soft skills department – is there anything I can do?
While it would be great to be a naturally gifted networker or an all-star public speaker, that’s not the case for many of us. Luckily, there are lots of opportunities out there for people who want to improve their soft skills.
First things first, decide which skill you want to develop. While you may have a bunch of things you’d like to improve on, t’s a good idea to focus on one at a time so you don’t get overwhelmed or discouraged.
Once you know which area of your skillset you’re going to work on, give some thought to which learning method works best for you. If you’re someone who has a tough time focusing for extended periods, it’s probably a good idea to avoid signing up for a three hour long webinar.
Do a little research into what types of classes and training is available, you’ll likely find both in-person and online options, ranging in price points from free to, well, considerably less free. Keep in mind that some employers offer soft skills training as part of their internal development programs, so that might be something to consider, too.
Give yourself a pep talk, and a pat on the back while you’re at it! It’s not easy to put yourself out there, and learning a new skill requires both vulnerability and dedication.
Finally, like any hard skill you’ve mastered, soft skills require patience and practice if you want to see improvement. Stick with it – you’ve got this!