Hard skills, soft skills, these are terms we often hear, especially once a person veers into the job seeking world, trying to compete for a spot in the most prestigious or recognized companies. But, what is a soft skill, exactly?
Nowadays, many career centers, motivation gurus, Youtubers, etc, throw around these terms, expecting everyone to immediately catch on to the meaning of these, but few people actually sit down and break them down for you. In the following article, I will explain to you their meaning in the real world, how you can develop them and how to implement them in your day-to-day routine, to increase the odds of being hired by your prefered company.
The Cambridge Dictionary provides us with the following definition: “people’s abilities to communicate with each other and work well together”. Seems pretty self explanatory, right? Well, it is.
Think of it as the following: in the present world, a recently graduated person must be constituted of two parts: the technical knowledge they hold of the career they have chosen (the ‘hard skill’) and the social capacity to interact with others, form work groups and satisfactorily carry out the tasks assigned to them without much issue between the group members (the ‘soft skill’).
I imagine you can see the difficulty in acquiring a ‘soft skill’. Technical skills can be acquired through studying, attending classes, asking lecturers, showing interest, searching for extra material in the Library, the Internet, textbooks, etc. But, a soft skill? It can’t just be taught in a college or university.
It’s the ability you have to communicate your thoughts, prioritize tasks, delegate them to the right people, to be empathetic of others and get along with your colleagues, to come up with strategies that help accomplish yours (and other people’s) goals, to reallocate resources accordingly, to make the best use of each colleague’s abilities and talents, etc.
In other words, they are social skills; acquired through interpersonal interaction, critical thinking, emotional maturity, discipline and focus.
Employees are increasingly looking for more and more candidates that demonstrate they possess soft skills in the current job seeking landscape. They all follow the same principle: technical skills are important, indeed, but what use is a candidate that’s uncooperative, unwilling to help others or let themselves be helped, irresponsible, disorganized and don’t help push the company even further?
On the other hand, a capable, yet proactive, organized and helpful employee will maintain the team united and elevate their productivity and overall sense of satisfaction in their careers. For example, a study done in Turkiye demonstrated conflict levels between nurses in their work environment significantly impairs teamwork, decreases efficacy, diminishes support between colleagues and, overall, nurses report job dissatisfaction (Fatma Akyüz, 2021).
I could go on with examples and studies all day long, but the point is crystal clear: cooperation, team making skills and teamwork is not just important, but imperative too. Employers recognize this and seek to minimize these risks by adding these ‘soft skills’ to their (already) long lists of requirements.
But here’s the catch: employers won’t ask directly if you have them or not. Rather, you must demonstrate it, tacitly, during the interview. More often than not, they will lay out a hypothetical scenario where they test your communication and teamwork skills. They are not just asking out of curiosity, they are examining how you’d hypothetically behave in this scenario. These include, but are not limited to: how to solve a dispute between colleagues, how would you approach an uncooperative team member, how’d you solve this obstacle, the ways to get around it as well as moral dilemmas.
So, without further ado, let me present you the soft skills you need to start growing by now:
If it wasn’t obvious already, I will reiterate it once more: Communication. Is. Everything. With it, a team can succeed in each and every one of the tasks set upon them. Without it, they are doomed. I am not being a sensationalist here: communication allows team members to voice out their perspectives, opinions, propositions, frustrations, clear up misunderstandings, and express their thoughts freely.
Being capable of articulating your thoughts in a respectful and tactful manner is indispensable, but needs working. Not everyone is naturally good at it and some people, regardless of their personal reason, might prove reluctant to voice out their feelings. Of course, to do this, the employee must also be in a democratic environment, one where every voice can be heard and listened to.
It’s understandable that, during the first days, it might take some time and work to adjust yourself to your new work environments. If it’s your first job, things will be naturally hard. If you have already worked in the field before, things might be a little different, but nothing too radical.
But, after a certain point of the team, employers (and the rest of your colleagues) expect you to be able to solve things on your own. We all need a hand from time to time and there’s nothing inherently wrong with that, but you are expected to work out relatively simple issues on your own.
But, how can you build reliability? By acquiring technical (‘hard’) skills. If you have studied enough, you will learn to recognize patterns and act based on your current knowledge. If you find yourself unable to navigate through an issue, you might need to investigate more and more to find your way around it.
This one is a bit more abstract than the first two, but just as important, nonetheless. By ‘creativity’, we don’t mean artistic creativity or the ability to come up with unique names, but the ability to think ‘outside of the box’. It applies to Medicine, Engineering, Physics, Mathematics, Laws, Social Sciences, etcetera.
Some answers are not easy to find, they require analytical thinking, the capacity to take your previously held knowledge and turn it upside down to find the correct way to approach a variable. As a matter of fact, some dilemmas may already have an answer, but that doesn’t mean it’s the only available answer, but there are other, easier, ways to crack it down. I know all of this sounds ambiguous and unspecific, but trust us, creativity is just as important as everything else.
Not just in your work, but in life overall. You see, if your life is a complete mess, with no proper schedule, it will also affect your work efficiency. In work, you need to learn how to manage your time, to prioritize tasks (not every one of them needs to be attended to immediately; triaging is the mother of all prioritizing skills) and more.
If you are a team leader, it also includes knowing whom to delegate the right tasks. Some services or departments are better suited with X rather than Y. On the other hand, another department might be more suited for X than Y. Resources management is another facet of organization. This includes time, personnel, money, materials and more.
This is a very subjective concept. What does being ‘committed’ to your business means? But, being committed means pouring your heart and desire to push yourself and your team. Of course, this doesn’t mean to let yourself be enslaved by the company, working excruciating long hours.
It means thinking of new strategies, of knowing how to pour resources in better ways, to exploit and elevate yours and your team’s potential to the fullest, to pour out your heart and expectations on your work. It’s very important to have commitment to the things you do, especially the things you enjoy doing for a living.
Soft skills are needed in the current job seeking landscape. It means social skills are indispensable, because knowing how to reinvent yourself, to think in creative ways, unorthodox, ways, to communicate your thoughts and expectations to your teammates and your superiors, prioritize your tasks according to the immediateness of the situation and more, is imperative.