When you are applying for a job, you shouldn’t just focus on your technical ability to perform in the role. You also need to show the employer your behavior and characteristics are the right match for the company – you need to show you have the soft skills to help in your career.

In this guide, we’ll outline what these soft skills are and why they matter so much in the modern workplace. We’ll then reveal the five soft skills you need to have to make it and to help your career hit the big time.

WHAT ARE SOFT SKILLS?

Let’s start by examining the definition of soft skills. What makes a specific skill a soft skill instead of a hard skill? In the context of the workplace, soft skills are character traits and interpersonal skills, which characterize how the person behaves with other people. They are, essentially, about what kind of person you are rather than what kind of knowledge you have about things. Soft skills are more often intangible and non-technical.

They can be sometimes referred to as transferable or personal skills. Soft skills are less specialized and they are not rooted in a specific vocation – they are useful in all profession and anyone, regardless of the profession, will benefit from them. They are often personality-driven and relate to your attitudes and intuitions.

Because soft skills are less technical and closely connected to your personal characteristics, they can be harder to obtain than hard skills. It’s not quite as easy to perfect soft skills – indeed, it’s not possible to be a master of a soft skill in the same technical way as it is in terms of a hard skill such as welding.

What are hard skills?

Hard skills, on the other hand, are specific, teachable abilities people can possess and learn. They can be measured and defined in detail.

An example of a hard skill would be things like reading, cooking, accounting and so on.

WHY DO YOU NEED TO CARE ABOUT SOFT SKILLS?

Hard skills are, of course, important in order to perform well in a given job. You can’t really be a great surgeon unless you know how to use the scalpel and you can’t be a good taxi driver if you don’t know how to drive a car. Does this mean soft skills don’t matter?

Soft skills are actually crucial for succeeding in any job – you will need to get along with other people in all sorts of tasks and therefore, your characteristics and behaviors will play a key role. In fact, there is a lot of research to suggest employers are extremely focused on their employees’ soft skills. Here’s a summary of some of the studies and surveys showing employers care about soft skills:

  • Employers prefer soft skills over technical abilities, according to research done by The Society for Human Resource Management.
  • Majority of companies in a CareerBuilder.com study said soft skills are equally important to hard skills.
  • The American Psychological Association has found that bosses prefer the candidates who are likeable and friendly to those who are self-promotional. Essentially, bosses want people who have a good grasp of soft skills.
  • A study published in the Journal of Education for Business showed how managers are now paying extra attention to communication and analytical skills, both of which are counted as soft skills.

The above shows that when you are participating in the job market, the employer is not going to just look at your technical abilities. Your education, work experience and expertise matters but it’s also important to showcase your characteristics as well.

The bottom line is this: human interaction is required to some extent in all professions. You can’t find a role where soft skills wouldn’t play a role – certainly, it can be more important in others (customer service roles, for example) but your characteristics will be important in all jobs. Therefore, it is important to understand what the important soft skills are in the modern job market and how to improve your skills.

THE 5 CRUCIAL SOFT SKILLS TO HELP YOUR CAREER HIT THE BIG TIME

So, employers pay more attention to soft skills in today’s job market. But while employers are looking for candidates with soft skills, they are not finding them to be as abundant as it might seem. In a LinkedIn survey, hiring managers revealed how 59% of them believed soft skills are hard to come by in modern employees. If you can highlight soft skills, you might have an advantage in your job hunt.

So, what soft skills are the most important? Where should your focus be? Based on the LinkedIn study and another one conducted by Monster.com, the following five soft skills are the ones you want to focus on.

Communication skills

In almost all research into soft skills, communication skills come out as the most important skill. Communication skills include both oral and written skills – your ability to express things in writing and speaking. It isn’t a big surprise, as communication skills are universal. You can’t really succeed in life if you aren’t good at expressing and explaining things.

For the modern job candidate, the ability to communicate is essential in boosting your chances of landing a job. You need to be able to communicate clearly and politely. It’s important to get your message across in ways that different people can relate to and understand.

You must focus on your speaking and writing skills. You can find great communication tips from the below YouTube video by Brian Tracy:

But it’s also important to focus on the non-active communication skills. This means improving your listening skills – you need to be able to give people space to talk and you must be able to listen actively rather than just waiting for your turn.

Furthermore, communication skills also include non-verbal skills. Your body language can have an important role in how perceptive people are to your message.

Organization

Employers also emphasize organizational skills and things such as punctuality and detail-orientation. The modern workplace is a complex place and employees need to be able to stay focused and work effectively in different types of conditions. You need to be able to take the initiative and stay focused on the tasks without constant supervision or guidance.

Job descriptions have become more complex and employers want to find employees who are able to take on a variety of tasks. Workplaces are operating on tight schedules and limited resources – you need to be able to perform well even when you are under pressure.

Furthermore, employers want punctuality. No one wants to hire someone who doesn’t stick the schedules, show up on time and who isn’t able to manage time efficiently.

Teamwork

Of course, the modern workplace isn’t just about being able to work under pressure on your own. Today’s work environment can include people from different generations, sexualities and backgrounds. Getting along with different people and showing respect is the key to succeeding in the workplace. You must be polite, friendly and respectful even to people you might not agree with.

Even in many solitary roles, you will need to be able to show you are working for the team. The team might be the larger organization or the client – you can’t just think about yourself.

You want to be one of those people who work for the greater good and who aren’t afraid to help their team members or going the extra mile for clients. People who are good at mentoring and helping others are valuable for the modern employer. These people offer to help new employees, assist those who are struggling and those who aren’t afraid of sharing their skills and knowledge.

Critical thinking

Some have argued we now live in a post-truth world. Fake news is on everyone’s lips and it isn’t any wonder employers are looking for employees with good critical thinking skills. Employers want employees who are able to see the facts and think for themselves. You are entering a workplace, not a day-care centre.

What’s valuable in the modern world is an employee who is able to take a critical look at things around them and to solve problems without someone telling them what to do. You need to be someone who is able to step back, evaluate a situation and then come up with the right solution.

You can’t be afraid to take action but you must also be able to take the right action – you can’t do things based on a hunch but knowledge. You shouldn’t rush decisions or tasks, even when you are working on a tight schedule. Take a breather and spend time analysing the situation – it will help you solve the problem quicker in the long run.

Adaptability

Finally, the surveys show employers are looking for employees who can adapt and be flexible. As mentioned above, the modern workplace is incredibly complex and in a constant flux. If you are not able to adapt to the changing times, you won’t be able to last. Things like technology are continuously making changes to industries from taxi driving (Uber and self-driving cars, for example) to cooking (takeaway systems and 3D-printing, for instance).

You must be resilient and flexible to navigate in an environment like this. If you are afraid of change and not able to adjust to it, you won’t be a valuable member of the team. Employers don’t have time to waste and time to wait for people to adapt with the times.

This kind of flexibility also means you have to be a creative person in a sense. You must be able to think outside the box and to see what lies ahead before it’s clear to others. If you are able to be an employee who not just adapts and embraces change, but is at the forefront of it, you will find many opportunities in the modern workplace.

It’s important to stay hungry in terms of knowing your industry inside out. You should be constantly looking to improve your skills and develop your own thinking. If you do this, then you will automatically become more flexible and creative – you will understand that there are always different solutions and outcomes.

SOFT SKILLS CAN HELP YOUR CAREER REACH THE NEXT LEVEL

The importance of soft skills is immense in the current work environment. If you want to elevate your career or make it easier for the employer to hire you, you need to pay attention to your soft skills – you need to show you are a good fit in the workplace and that your characteristics will benefit the team.

Just as you want to ensure your technical skills are what the employer wants, you also want to highlight your soft skills. These little details like your ability to communicate and solve problems that can give you an edge over other candidates. You might all have the same skills to write code but you might not all be as good in helping the team to succeed – that’s why soft skills matter.

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