Soft Skills to Help Land Your Next Job
Maybe you’re a great coach to your kid’s soccer team. Or perhaps you’re known for being an empathetic communicator who can see and recognize other points of view and make people feel heard. Or you are often the person who connects the dots and can simplify complicated ideas. These are soft skills, and yes, they can be leveraged in today’s workplace. Let’s look at why these sometimes-overlooked skills are getting more attention and how you can make the most of your soft skill strengths.
Even with the talent shortage, finding a job can be competitive. It’s essential to stand out, and you may feel at a disadvantage if you aren’t checking all the boxes. Those boxes are often known as hard skills—your technical abilities, certifications, and educational qualifications. While hard skills can help you get a foot in the door, your soft skills will increasingly help you secure your dream job.
Soft Skills vs. Hard Skills: What’s the Difference?
Hard skills are quantifiable and are usually acquired through formal education or on-the-job training. They are specific to each job and are often the basis of job requirements. Examples include proficiency in a foreign language, computer programming, or operating machinery.
Soft skills, on the other hand, are less tangible and harder to quantify. These “non-cognitive skills” are often described as personal attributes or interpersonal skills, and they can apply to a variety of roles across industries. Examples include leadership, teamwork, communication, problem-solving, and adaptability.
The Growing Importance of Soft Skills
In recent years, there has been a notable shift in employer priorities, with many organizations now emphasizing soft skills. This shift can be attributed to several factors.
First, the nature of work is evolving. The rise of automation and artificial intelligence has meant that many tasks that once required hard skills can now be automated. What can’t be automated, however, are the human aspects of work—the ability to empathize with a customer’s needs, to motivate a team, or to navigate complex negotiations.
Second, research has increasingly shown that soft skills are crucial for business success. For instance, a report by Deloitte Access Economics forecasts that soft skill-intensive occupations will account for two-thirds of all jobs by 2030 compared to half of all jobs in 2000. In addition, the report projected that the number of jobs in soft-skill-intensive occupations would grow at 2.5 times the rate of jobs in other occupations.
A Harvard University whitepaper suggested that employers are resetting degree requirements in a wide range of roles, dropping the requirement for a bachelor’s degree in many middle-skill and even some higher-skill roles. The paper suggests that as the degree requirement is dropped, employers instead replace it with descriptions of required soft skills, for example, communication, writing, and being detail oriented. Concurring with the Deloitte study trend, the Harvard whitepaper projected opportunities opening for people without a college degree, to the tune of $1.4 million jobs over the next five years.
How Soft Skills Benefit Both Employees and Employers
Soft skills are beneficial not only for organizations but for employees as well. For employers, a workforce with strong soft skills is often more adaptable, more innovative, and better at communicating, leading to improved productivity and a healthier work environment.
For employees, soft skills can improve career progression. A LinkedIn survey found that 57% of senior leaders believe soft skills in leadership, communication, collaboration, and time management are more important than hard skills. Developing these skills can help individuals navigate their career paths more effectively, negotiate better pay, and increase job satisfaction.
Highlighting Your Assets
If you’re a job seeker looking to make your mark, it’s essential to highlight your soft skills effectively. Here are a few tips:
- Show don’t tell: Rather than just listing your soft skills, provide examples of how you’ve used them in your work. If you’re good at problem-solving, describe a situation where your skills were crucial in finding a solution.
- Tailor your resume and cover letter: Make sure your resume and cover letter highlight the soft skills that are most relevant to the job you’re applying for.
- Prepare for behavioral interview questions: Many employers use behavioral interview questions to assess your soft skills. These questions often start with “Tell me about a time when…” and are designed to understand how you’ve handled specific situations in the past.
- Get endorsements and recommendations: Having others vouch for you can be powerful. Consider asking colleagues, managers, or mentors to endorse your skills on LinkedIn or provide a recommendation.
- Did You Know There’s a National Soft Skills Association (NSSA)? The NSSA publishes research on the importance of soft skills, recognizing their essential role in holistic education and the value they deliver to the labor force. Check out their website for stories about how people have made the most of their soft skills and additional research on the topic.
Sell Your Best Skills
While hard skills are undoubtedly important, your soft skills may help land you a role over the competition. Don’t sell yourself short; instead, ready yourself to talk about the value those skills bring to the table. Arm yourself with research, recommendations, and examples. By focusing on developing and highlighting these skills, job seekers can significantly enhance their employability and career prospects in the near term.
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