When you are navigating your career, it’s essential to have the right technical skills. Technical skills can enhance your learning and introduce you to a range of new and exciting opportunities.
However, there is another set of skills that can help you progress in your chosen career too – soft skills.
In this article we will look at what soft skills are, examples of popular soft skills and how you can supercharge your skillset.
What are soft skills?
Soft skills are what are known as ‘people skills’. These are the intrapersonal skills that you use to build up relationships with colleagues and customers.
Soft skills are also known as ‘transferable skills’ or ‘employability skills’.
Why are soft skills so important?
Even though they are not talked about as much as technical skills, soft skills are more important than you might think.
According to an article by LinkedIn, 92% of recruiters say that soft skills are equally or more important to hire for than technical skills.
Soft skills can say a lot about a person. A person with experience in a wide range of soft skills is more likely to:
- Work well as part of a team
- Build strong relationships with other people
- Be more productive
- Help grow the business
- Stay with the business for longer
- Thrive in a leadership role
Soft skills can often be the deciding factor when it comes to recruiting people. If you have two candidates with the same qualifications and experience, which one are you more likely to hire? The candidate with a positive and flexible approach to work, or the stubborn and pessimistic one?
Examples of in-demand soft skills
There is not an exhaustive list of soft skills available.
However, these are some of the skills that we have found are popular with employers across a wide range of industries.
- Communication – being able to articulate your thoughts to others clearly, whether verbally or in writing
- Teamwork – being able to work well with other people, especially those who may be in other roles or have a different personality to you
- Negotiation and persuasiveness – being able to convince people to come around to your way of thinking, or to reach a compromise
- Critical thinking – being able to analyse facts and information to come to a clear and reasoned judgement
- Self-awareness – being able to understand your own strengths and weaknesses and having a solid sense of self-worth
- Time management – being able to manage your workload efficiently and complete tasks on time
- Creative thinking – being able to solve problems in new and different ways – ‘thinking outside the box’
- Decision making – being able to make thorough decisions. You may sometimes need to make decisions in a short timeframe or without support from senior staff
- Stress management – being able to respond well to high-stress and challenging situations
- Adaptability – being able to adjust to new situations quickly with minimum disruption
- Conflict resolution – being able to deal with difficult people and resolve issues that other team members may be having
- Positivity – being able to be optimistic and see solutions rather than problems
- Empathy – being able to understand how other people feel
- Leadership – being able to lead or guide others, either in an official or unofficial capacity
How can I improve my soft skills?
If you want to improve your soft skills, the first step to take is to see where there may be gaps in your skillset.
Take the time to assess your strengths and weaknesses in the workplace. Alternatively, ask a trusted colleague or manager to let you know where you excel and what you could improve – this is sometimes known as a 360 review.
When you have this information, you will know what you need to work on.
Certain people have a natural aptitude when it comes to soft skills. For example, if you identify as an extrovert, you may find it easier to work as part of a team than if you see yourself as more introverted. Some people naturally handle stress better than others or are more creative thinkers.
Don’t be disheartened if you don’t have substantial experience across all soft skills. It’s rare for people to be skilled at them all!
However, the good news is that it is possible to learn soft skills. Here are our top tips:
- Get experience in areas you struggle in. If you want to improve your communication skills, offer to present your departmental report at the next management meeting. Stepping outside your comfort zone may be challenging, but it’s an excellent way to build up your skillset
- Join a club or take a class. For example, if you want to become more of a team player, joining a sports team or drama club will help you learn valuable skills you can apply to the workplace
- Ask to work with a mentor. A good mentor can identify how you can improve and help you fill gaps in your knowledge
- Consider professional coaching. A coach will work with you to develop your soft skills and offer techniques that you may find useful
- Take online courses. For example, if you want to improve your time management skills, there are short courses you can take. These courses can be paid and free
- Look at a professional qualification. Some courses have a strong focus on soft skills as well as technical development. For example, a project management qualification like PRINCE2 will help you sharpen up your critical thinking and leadership skills
Sometimes having a positive mindset can help you improve your soft skills. It may be that your abilities are already there; you just can’t see them yet!
Although technical skills show that you can carry out the work required of you, soft skills show that you have the intrapersonal abilities needed to thrive in the workplace.
It’s always good to know your strengths and weaknesses when it comes to soft skills. Take the time to review your skillset and where you need to improve.
Fine-tuning your soft skills could open the door to a range of brand new opportunities.