To do your job effectively, you need hard skills; the technical know-how and subject-matter knowledge to fulfil your responsibilities.
But in a forever-changed world of work, lesser-touted ‘soft skills’ may be just as important – if not even more crucial.
These skills are more nuanced. Low-profile. Think personal characteristics and behaviours that make a strong leader or a good team member.
Strong Words. Softly Spoken.
Employers are increasingly considering a candidate’s soft skills as closely as their experience and explicit technical specialties.
For some people, soft skills are innate. For example, there are those for whom being a good communicator or analytical thinker, comes naturally.
But for others, developing soft skills can be more challenging. Yet it’s possible for everyone to sharpen these characteristics. And that, say experts, is something we should all be doing.
What are Soft Skills?
There is no definitive list of soft skills, but the term essentially refers to abilities beyond the technical.
Confidence with certain software, for instance, is a hard skill. On the other hand, knowing how to analyse different software packages to figure out what a company should be using requires critical thinking: a soft skill.
Another major soft-skill area is communication.
Effectively communicating with colleagues, clients and management requires dexterity and emotional intelligence. Empathy, teamwork and compassion are also skills that fall under that same umbrella.
Many soft skills are highly practical, like efficiency, prioritisation, organisation and time management – all traits that are becoming increasingly critical for remote and hybrid workers.
And soft skills aren’t merely useful at work – they’re generally invaluable. The same skills that enable workers to operate successfully within company hierarchy and rise to the top also breed successful interpersonal relationships, for instance.
A Notable Shift
As many of the highly technical parts of work are becoming increasingly automated, or replaced by technological tools, companies are instead looking for workers who can problem-solve, juggle larger responsibilities and work well with others.
Additionally, soft skills have become even more important in the post-pandemic, largely remote work landscape. For instance: communication can be much more nuanced and complex when workers don’t see colleagues face to face.
Adaptability, too, is a soft skill – and the past two years have called for a lot of it.
It’s not to say that technical skills have fallen by the wayside, but companies have increasingly come to realise emphasising the interpersonal skills that hold organisations together are what drives great results.
Global job site Monster’s The Future of Work 2021: Global Hiring Outlook revealed soft skills such as collaboration, teamwork, dependability and flexibility are among the skills employers most prize in workers.
We tend to be aware of our strengths, but honing interpersonal skills starts with soliciting feedback to identify your weaknesses and blind spots. Improving them may mean forcing yourself out of your comfort zone.
If you want to improve your imaginative thinking or problem-solving, for instance, try sitting in on brainstorming sessions with the company’s creatives.
Emotional intelligence can be increased, too, by developing social awareness and learning to regulate your own feelings and respond to others with empathy. On top of improving job prospects, research shows that people with high emotional intelligence are less likely to experience stress and anxiety.
As a result, employers are actively soliciting candidates who have these intangibles. Hiring manager may ask candidates to demonstrate soft skillsets, or this “moon-shot mindset”.
For example, they may be asked to show a real-life example of passion or commitment, prove their resilience in a particularly challenging situation, or provide evidence of continuous learning at work.
To best prepare for situations like these, candidates should identify their strongest soft skills in advance, and be ready to demonstrate them.
Of course, technical skills and experience on your CV will always be important, but in the changed world of work, they’re not enough: you’ll still need to convince recruiters you possess the softer skills that will help you be a leader.
This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of overwrite.ai and its owners.
Kate Morgan writes for The BBC Worklife
This story has been published from an article on 25th July 2022.
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