Many job applicants still believe that the most valuable skills are the ones they learned in school or specialized courses. But the truth is quite the opposite. Soft skills are what sets apart the best employees and allow them to thrive in the workplace. And while technical skills rely on knowledge and training, soft skills cannot be taught and are part of one’s personality.
What Are Soft Skills?
Think of soft skills as your character traits – abilities you have always had, not ones you acquired through training. Soft skills are natural traits that can hardly be taught. They often consist of “people” skills that affect how well you get on with others. They are not technical and are transferable. That is to say; they are not specific to any one job or field, but rather useful in all areas of work. A good set of soft skills can help you thrive and succeed in any workplace, regardless of the industry or seniority level.
Top Soft Skills for Workplace Success
1. Communication skills
Communication skills are useful in the workplace and during the job search and the hiring process. Effective communication should be relevant to the situation and setting you are in and get your point across in an efficient manner. Regardless of whether you are speaking to a client, a colleague, or a hiring manager, you should be able to adjust your style and tone. Not only does this help to convey your message effectively, but it also inspires further conversation. As one of the most critical soft skills, communication consists of more than verbal expression. Writing and active listening are both vital in fostering collaborative, productive communication.
2. Time management skills
Developing strong time management skills can increase not only your productivity but also the quality of your work. Working under pressure or in a rush can often lead to mistakes. But, with proper time management, you can focus on all the details and deliver high-quality work on time. There are many components of appropriate time management, such as prioritizing, delegating, and setting goals. While time management is valuable in every industry, it is especially vital for project managers and legal field roles.
3. Decision-making skills
Quick and effective decision making is one of the most valuable soft skills. It entails collecting information and analyzing the options and all the possible outcomes. Also, decisive employees take responsibility for their decisions and adapt their solutions if they prove to be flawed.
4. Leadership skills
Leadership is one of the most sought-after soft skills for almost every position. Because leadership cannot be taught, it is valuable when employees have this skill naturally. And while communication and teamwork both play a part in leadership, the critical aspect is the ability to motivate and inspire those around you. All in all, having strong leadership skills means being able to inspire trust and integrity, and plan and delegate efficiently. Leadership is one of the most transferable skills that are invaluable in every industry and position.
5. Creativity skills
Creativity consists of many other soft skills as well as technical skills. In essence, creativity allows employees to find new solutions, opportunities, and improve workflow. In doing so, employees use innovation and experimentation to find more effective ways to work. Creativity is a transferable skill that is useful in any position.
6. People skills
While the term “people skills” includes a broad set of soft skills, at the heart of interpersonal skills is active listening. Almost all people skills, such as leadership or teamwork, require patience and understanding. Through active listening, you can understand others’ points of view and avoid and solve a conflict. Apart from active listening, these skills also include empathy, patience, public speaking, and humor. People skills are most important for employees in customer service, sales, and other client-facing roles.
7. Problem-solving skills
Problem-solving requires more than analytical and creative thinking. Above all, this soft skill relies on a pro-active mindset and level-headedness. After all, approaching a problem rationally with a cool head usually leads to faster, more efficient solutions. Apart from that, problem-solving also often involves teamwork and communication. In brief, problem-solving is invaluable as it can help provide long-term, scalable solutions.
8. Self-motivation skills
Working efficiently without much supervision is one of the most sought-after soft skills in the market. Self-motivation skills show that you are reliable, committed, positive, and can take the initiative. Also, it proves that you can operate effectively without constant supervision. In essence, self-motivated employees take the initiative and put new ideas in place without waiting for someone to tell them to do it. In turn, they are more productive and thus valuable to the employer.
9. Flexibility skills
Being flexible means embracing new challenges and tasks with calmness and excitement. Flexible employees make a great addition to any team. After all, only they can help out wherever needed, adapt to changing plans, and take on new responsibilities without a fuss. Flexibility is thus a vital skill that proves you have an upbeat attitude and a willingness to adapt.
10. Adaptability skills
At its core, adaptability is all about embracing change. In fast-paced environments, this skill is the key to success. Employees who can adapt to new processes, tools, or situations are invaluable across all fields. But this skill is especially important for employees in technology-driven industries and marketing.
How to Highlight Soft Skills During the Job Search
Highlighting your soft skills during the job search can help you get ahead of the competition and stand out. When applying for jobs, remember to mention your soft skills in your resume and expand on them in your cover letter and interview.
In your resume, have a section dedicated to your hard and soft skills. When tailoring your resume, ensure you include skills that are relevant to the role. While you should focus mainly on your resume’s hard skills, your soft skills can comprise a third to a half of your skill section.
Your cover letter can expand on your soft skills and why they are relevant to the position. For example, you can relate your skills to the company’s values or mission. Doing this will provide context about what makes you the ideal addition to the team and the company.
When preparing for the interview, think of examples of the times you used your soft skills. These could be significant professional achievements as well as basic accomplishments. For instance, juggling deadlines in college may have taught you excellent time management skills.
How to Improve Soft Skills
Many employers consider soft skills more valuable than technical skills, as they cannot be taught. Thankfully, with time, experience, and practice, you can sharpen any skill. If you know which skills you want to work on, commit to consistent practice. If you’re not sure which skills employers look for, refer to the soft skills list above, or identify the positive skills in others. Quite often, observing those who are successful in a position like yours can help you determine which skills are vital. When practicing skills, set specific goals, and hold yourself accountable. Finally, search online for learning resources such as podcasts, videos, online courses, or e-books.
Remember: To get ahead in your career, it is crucial to work on these non-tangible skills. While they may be immeasurable, people can sense them, and they can set you apart from other employees. Possessing valuable soft skills will make you the kind of employee that companies want to keep and promote. By improving the skills mentioned in this soft skills list, you can boost your career and begin to thrive in your job.