In today's competitive job market, soft skills are critical for professional success. Although they can be as crucial for jumpstarting a successful career as technical skills, young employees often overlook them. But what exactly are soft skills?
“Soft skills have more to do with who we are than what we know.”
In job descriptions, employers almost always ask their future employees for a combination of hard and soft skills. Hard skills are abilities learned and developed through education and experience like computer literacy, marketing, foreign language knowledge, etc. On the other hand, soft skills are a set of personal qualities, personality traits, interpersonal abilities, and social behaviours that determine how you interact with others. “Soft skills have more to do with who we are than what we know,” says Marcel M. Robles, Assistant Dean and Chair of Faculty at Eastern Kentucky University (US). But why are soft skills so important?
Soft skills, also known as people skills or interpersonal skills, are becoming more and more important in the eyes of employers. This is because soft skills are the foundation upon which all other skills are built. In a sense, soft skills are those very important qualities that allow you to have effective communication, collaboration, and interaction with others. In combination, hard and soft skills work together to give professionals the necessary abilities to do their job with precision and drive. As Hult International Business School MBA graduate Goke Olagbemi explains: “To succeed with data analytics, you need to be able to identify the point where business soft skills meet technical hard skills. Making good use of this combination is critical for effective business as well as problem-solving.” Some examples of soft skills are emotional intelligence, critical thinking, adaptability, leadership, interpersonal skills, etc.
So, now you must be wondering which soft skills you should prioritise. Which soft skills are most important for today's employers?
Key soft skills worth developing
According to several recent studies and articles, the most important soft skills valued by employers are:
- communication and interpersonal skills
- collaboration and teamwork
- emotional intelligence
- critical thinking
- conflict resolution
As we can see, soft skills like communication, teamwork, and adaptability hold more significance than others.
Communication skills are important for employees regardless of their field of expertise. The ability to express ideas clearly, and adapt them depending on your audience is crucial for achieving effective collaboration and avoiding misunderstandings.
In today's work environment, employees must be able to work together and as a team. Employers understand that employees who can work well with each other not only contribute to a positive work environment but also boost productivity and creativity within their company or organisation.
Adaptability is a vital soft skill that employers seek in today's fast-paced and ever-evolving work environment. Employees who can accept change or new situations and quickly adjust to them are in great demand.
We can talk all day about the importance of each individual soft skill, but, of course, it is important to remember that we can't be good at everything and master all these skills. Some people are better at communication and being leaders, others are better at emotional intelligence, and so on. But this fact shouldn't stop you from exercising and practising these skills, or at least some of them, especially if you are a graduating student. Even if you have already graduated, it is never too late. You can try to improve your soft skills in your Masters programme.
Overlooked soft skills that matter
And for your peace of mind, there are so many soft skills that you may already possess. Here are some other soft skills that are also in demand, but mentioned less frequently to us:
- listening skills
- commercial awareness
- time management
- continuous learning and improvement
- resilience and perseverance
- coaching mindset
“[…] It was important for me to learn more about leadership and management as I was managing a department of some 100 IT professionals. Having the spirit of continuous learning is important from the management’s perspective,” says Yong Wah who graduated from the National University of Singapore EMBA programme.
In conclusion, soft skills are important for creating a positive work environment. This is especially true in team-based settings, as the ability to work with others is essential for success. People with strong soft skills are often better at resolving conflicts and understanding the needs of their colleagues. This can lead to higher morale and increased productivity in the workplace.