Collins English Dictionary describes ‘soft skills’ as ‘desirable qualities for certain forms of employment that do not depend on acquired knowledge: they include common sense, the ability to deal with people, and a positive flexible attitude’.
Certainly, the connotation is that someone who has common sense and a positive attitude is thought of as having good ‘soft skills’. But it can and does go deeper.
Well, think of hard skills as the technical ability to actually do the job. You can be trained and coached to achieve a competency level and these are necessary to get the job done. You can improve and become adept and even expert at ‘hard skills’.
What are soft skills, then? ‘Soft skills’ go further and can be seen as how you relate to yourself and others, how you organise yourself and how you gather and apply life skills that get you noticed. I like to refer to them as your ‘unique selling points’; they are what make you…you!
So, why are soft skills important? Well, they can be a differentiator between you and every other person. Imagine you’re going for that new job. Your skill sets are just as good as other applicants. You have the same experience and technical competence. What will differentiate you from the others?
It could be the way you sell yourself to the interviewers. The way you communicate your plans for how you will drive their company forward or how you build rapport with the interviewers and their company.
All these points can be considered ‘soft skills’. You could think of them as the essential skills needed in order to build constructive relationships with others. What are the soft skills that will make that difference?
Consider these to be some of them:
What job have you seen advertised that doesn’t have ‘communication’ in the list of desirable skills? What this means is the ability to build relationships, get on with teammates, have great listening skills and employ good problem-solving skills. Everyone can improve their communication, so this is an area that can be worked on continuously.
Most jobs require you to be good at solving problems, but it’s how you go about building those skills and developing the way you deal with concerns and obstacles that will show how well-developed your soft skills are. Again, these can be developed with practice.
This can be seen from two perspectives; how you motivate yourself and how you motivate others.
Soft skills are important in both these elements because they can make or break a project or a campaign or a team. Motivation is the driving force behind what makes people do what they do, so by developing the soft skills of motivation, you prove yourself to be valuable to yourself and others.
Teams rely heavily on each member being good with soft skills because all teams need to have elements of communication at all levels. As teams progress on projects, the use of hard skills becomes less important than soft skills, because, without them, the team suffers from a lack of progress and obstacles take over.
Nothing can drive soft skills further and develop them quicker than having a positive attitude. If people can see the positive outcome in all they do, they start to approach problems and challenges from an attitude of ‘solution-focused’. This positivity can be developed, as can all soft skills, through practice and applying results. With a positive outlook, solutions appear clearer and the ability to apply all other soft skills becomes easier.
We can see why soft skills are important in every aspect of life, and the great thing about them is…we will never be perfect! We can always improve, and the more we practice, the more we will show our value to others.
Find a list of management training courses to complement your soft skills with MTD Training.
Originally published: 6 March, 2019
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