What are "Soft Skills" & Why are they important?


May 28, 2021

What are soft skills?
Soft skills are interpersonal skills and attributes that enable you to interact with others and promote productivity in the workplace. They are non-technical skills and may include how employees interact and communicate with colleagues. Individuals with good soft skills have a strong awareness of situations and emotional intelligence. 
Can you give some examples?
Some examples of soft skills include teamwork, adaptability, time management, critical thinking, conflict resolution, and communication. Critical thinking is about analysing information effectively and applying logic to find solutions to problems. It is highly valued and works in tandem with other soft skills. For example, faster problem solving due to effective critical thinking will help individuals improve time management. Effective communication is important for almost every type of job, as it is used every day. It includes verbal, non-verbal, and written skills, as well as active listening. 
But soft skills seem so ambiguous…
Unlike technical skills, soft skills are much harder to learn, measure and evaluate. This means it is important for you to demonstrate that you are a well-rounded applicant. Although employers may not directly ask for soft skills, they may present various scenarios and ask what you would do to assess whether you have soft skills.
Importance of soft skills
Given that soft skills influence how well you interact and work with others, they are vital for forming relationships, nurturing trust and working collaboratively. They are especially important for client-based jobs, as you will be in direct contact with clients and will need to communicate politely and effectively. Most jobs require teamwork, and it is, therefore, important to enhance your employability by demonstrating that you possess these skills. 
Why do employers value soft skills in the current climate?
Despite the COVID-19 pandemic and the rise of remote work, most firms still have cross-cultural teams. Employers value soft skills because they are transferable, and are not related to one specific job. Instead, they are general characteristics that help employees thrive in the workplace, regardless of the role or industry. Effective communication is even more important than ever before, as remote collaboration is more challenging than face-to-face interaction. Such skills also represent the abilities that will not be replaced by artificial intelligence and automation software, which will be particularly important for employers going forward. 
According to Linkedin’s 2021 Workplace Learning Report, the most important soft skill to have in the US, Canada, France, the UK, Australia, and New Zealand, is resilience. The pace of change has certainly increased this year, and resilient individuals are those able to cope with difficult or stressful situations effectively. COVID-19 is an extreme situation and has largely disrupted work-life. Resilient individuals are easily able to adapt quickly to this reality and can draw on lessons from such crises. During your working life, employees are subject to many disruptions. This can include redundancies, restructuring, budget cuts, and economic crises. As such, employers particularly value resilience as a personality trait, along with adaptability, which allows individuals to work effectively in stressful circumstances. 
How can you provide proof of soft skills in the application process? 
It is important to highlight your soft skills during the job application process, as well as more technical ones. You can include some of these in your CV, and it is helpful to compare your list of soft skills with the desirable attributes outlined on the job listing itself. You can add some of these to the skills section on your CV. 
Another way of highlighting your soft skills is to include them in your cover letter. Highlight one or two of these that are most relevant to the job at hand, and provide evidence that you possess these skills through examples. A good way of developing soft skills is through university societies, volunteering programmes, and even in your classes. You will most likely have already picked up a number of soft skills from school, university, and prior work experience. Highlighting these in the job application process can help you stand out to employers. 

Finally, you can demonstrate soft skills in job interviews! Be friendly and approachable during the interview, and listen carefully to the interviewer to show that you are an attentive listener. You can also draw on anecdotes from previous work experience and volunteering to highlight how you can effectively use soft skills in the workplace. Use the STAR method to explain the Situation, Task, Actions, and Results of your soft skills.

Written by Anu Jain. Anu is a freelance writer and a final year student at the London School of Economics and Political Science.

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels

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