What does it take to be realized as a professional and build a career? The first thing that comes to mind is to get an education and gain experience in your specialty. Once upon a time, this was probably really enough. But nowadays, when the labor market has become highly competitive, soft skills are becoming crucial. Such skills are useful outside the professional sphere as well — a person who has managed to develop them is likely to be able to build happy relationships, make friends, play at the Bizzo Casino, and even deal better with everyday household issues.
A person with well-developed soft skills is in an advantageous position compared to someone who has honed only professional skills. Let’s talk about the types of soft skills and how to develop them. The good news is that it’s never too late to start!
What Soft Skills Are and Why You Need Them
Soft skills help you solve various life tasks and interact with people and the world around you. No matter what profession you choose, you will always need the ability to negotiate and resolve conflicts, develop critical thinking, self-control, and quick reaction. Soft skills begin to form in childhood and develop throughout life. They are closely related to emotional intelligence.
Learning to actively listen and pumping empathy, it will be possible to avoid many misunderstandings and conflicts. By strengthening the skill of teamwork, you can establish a closer and more trusting interaction with loved ones, unite and overcome the crisis together.
If still talking about work, soft skills are vital for those who are at the start of a career after college or preparing to move to a new place — for example, plans to take a managerial position or even change the profession. The ability to get out of difficult situations, stay calm in uncertainty, and overcome obstacles — all these are soft skills.
Hard and Soft Skills: What Is the Difference?
The terms soft and hard skills came into everyday life from the military sphere: in the 60s of the XX century in the USA a scientifically grounded approach to the training of servicemen began to be developed. The studies showed that it isn’t enough to know how to use equipment and weapons. Universal skills are also required for successful fulfillment of combat tasks.
Hard skills are the knowledge and skills that enable you to perform specific job tasks. They vary depending on the specialty. For example, for a musician, hard skills are a well-developed ear and professional mastery of an instrument.
Soft skills are paraprofessional skills, which characterize not a specialist, but a personality. For example, for the same musician, it can be the ability to build open and friendly relationships with other people, including ensemble members, concert organizers, the public, and the press. If you have this superpower, you have a better chance of a successful career.
Hard skills can be mastered in several months or years — it all depends on the complexity (you can learn to work with an electric jigsaw much faster than you can do engineering calculations). They can be objectively assessed and measured against specific technical parameters. Soft skills are more difficult to measure and assess, but psychologists know how to do it, for example, with questionnaires, surveys and specialized interviews.
Hard skills without soft skills no longer work. Even if a person is a super pro, they may simply not be hired for a position because of personality characteristics. Soft skills without hard skills don’t work either. Even the most open, friendly and understanding candidate will not take an attractive position in a company if his professional level is close to zero. Conclusion: a balance is needed.
Top 9 Soft Skills
- Systemic thinking: the ability to analyze, evaluate information, summarize data, draw conclusions and make predictions.
- Creative thinking: the ability to find non-standard solutions, to look at what is already known in a new way.
- Decision-making: the ability to soberly assess circumstances, weigh the pros and cons and find the best way out in a particular situation is of primary importance here.
- Teamwork: here the ability to establish and maintain connections, to cooperate, to find common ground with different people is important.
- Communication: the ability to listen and hear the interlocutor, to formulate your thoughts correctly, to speak convincingly.
- Social responsibility: making decisions not only from the standpoint of personal benefit, but also taking into account the interests of others.
- Self-management: the ability to act “with a cool head”, not to make hasty decisions dictated by emotions.
- Acceptance of others: empathy, understanding of personal boundaries, ability to build ecological interactions.
- Self-acceptance: healthy self-esteem, a sober view of one’s strengths and weaknesses, self-respect.
How to Understand What Soft Skills You Need Personally
It all depends on what life tasks you prioritize. For example, if you want to fit into a new team, effective communication skills will be useful. Those who are going through a personal or professional crisis should focus on boosting self-organization, the ability to prioritize, define true goals and turn them into plans. Freelancers who have found a business to their liking and made an “escape from the office” often suffer from a lack of self-discipline and work-life imbalance. Start-up entrepreneurs need creativity (e.g. to successfully fend off competitors at the start-up stage) and the ability to step out of their comfort zone (e.g. when negotiating with investors).
Creating a Personal Soft Skills Map
To figure out which skills you already possess to the fullest extent and which ones you only want to develop, do a little self-analysis.
Step 1: Take a Test
To assess your baggage objectively, you can use the experience of psychologists — it will show you what skills you already have. You can put them in your list of advantages.
Step 2: Determine the Most Common Soft skills in Your Area of Expertise
An accessible way to find out what soft skills are needed in your professional field is to look closely at what employers require of job seekers. For example, for those who work with people (bank tellers, sales consultants, service industry), stress tolerance and conflict resolution skills are important. Teachers and mentors need a strong self-presentation and public speaking skill. Marketers and financial analysts need the ability to think strategically. And so on.
Step 3: Define the Goal and the Set of Competencies You Will Need to Achieve It
Formulate what goal you want to achieve. Keep it as simple and short as possible, for example: to become the head of the department, or to win every negotiation, or not to work overtime anymore. Analyze what soft skills can help you achieve this goal (say, leadership, listening, time management, planning).
How to Develop Soft Skills
If you can identify exactly what skills are lacking, you can start to pump them up in a targeted way. This will require some professional support. This can be obtained by studying useful literature, such as leadership, personal effectiveness and self-development (based on the competencies you lack in order to achieve meaningful goals). There are also practice-oriented books that provide guidance on all the basic soft skill groups.
Work With a Mentor
An experienced coach can be supportive if you prefer the format of working with a mentor over self-study. A teacher can also be a colleague or friend who can teach you a useful skill through conversation.
Developing soft skills involves constant practice. Make the necessary “superpower” part of your daily life — this applies to all soft skill groups. It’s important to remember that change won’t happen in a couple of days, of course. It takes an average of two months for a new skill to take hold.