What they mean by “soft skills”


When you start applying for a job or consider growing in your current position, you’ll start hearing the phrase “soft skills” being thrown around.



When you start applying for a job or consider growing in your current position, you’ll start hearing the phrase “soft skills” being thrown around. Now, it’s hard to make sure you have all the necessary attributes to be considered for the position if you aren’t even sure what it is they’re looking for when they say “soft skills”.   

Soft skills have a lot to do with your personal character traits that relate to how you communicate and build relationships with people. These skills are more about intuition than learned knowledge, but are essential in the marketplace of today. It doesn’t matter where you are doing business or what industry you’re in, the value of relationships is increasing, especially where customers are involved (which is everywhere).

Employers want to know that their employees are able to nurture relationships, not only with customers, clients and shareholders, but with fellow employees as well.

Examples of what soft skills are

Soft skills, however, are more than just communication skills. Here are the main categories of soft skills and what they entail:

Communication: Soft skill communication skills include the ability to listen, clearly communicate intentions, negotiate, have writing skills and “speak” body language.

Analytical thought processes: Business is all about finding new solutions and being quick on your feet when problems arise. These are also soft skills that employers will be looking for. Creativity, critical thinking, flexibility, resourcefulness, logical thinking and an eagerness to learn will all play in your favour.

Leadership: Leadership skills you learn about in school and sometimes you get an opportunity to step up and be in a leadership position. This experience will help you when it comes to your career as it’s another soft skill that companies look out for. How you deal with conflict, delegate, provide feedback, manage people and projects, and mentor others are all attractive leadership qualities.

Then there are soft skills in teamwork, work ethic and your overall attitude. Being confident, respectful, punctual, dedicated, reliable, motivated and organised will make you the better candidate.

How to develop your soft skills

Not everyone has the greatest communication or organisation skills. And, unfortunately, not all soft skills can be easily taught. There are general courses you can take, such as a business communication course to improve your communication skills in the business environment, but many soft skills will need to be learned through practice.

Building confidence, for example, can be done through a variety of ways. It’s all about changing your mindset, setting goals and achieving them. Even by getting through the smaller goals, you’ll gain confidence to go after bigger career goals.

Consider changing your daily work routine to something more productive and your overall soft skills can improve. For example, arrive to work every day at least 15 minutes earlier and use that time to catch up on the previous day or prepare yourself for the day ahead. Set a to-do list for the day and check it off as you work through your tasks. Make a point of greeting everyone you come across during the day and, during lunch, make small talk conversation with your colleagues.

Stay off your phone as much as possible throughout the workday, as well as online shopping or irrelevant websites. Set time aside every day to work on a “side project” you’ve personally undertaken in the business as a solution to a problem you’ve experienced (be it an error in business processes, a task to organise company files or planning a team building activity). You should also take some time during the day to update yourself with the latest industry news and see how you can use that to do a better job or improve the business.

Just those few changes to your work routine can make a huge difference in the eyes of your employer and can set your soft skills apart.

Why your career achievements rely on soft skills

What many people don’t understand is that you can’t only rely on your hard skills to get the job. Having a degree in Journalism won’t secure you a job as a journalist. Yes, it may qualify you for the position, but employers are looking for complimentary soft skills to go with it. Think about it, what good is a journalism degree for an aspiring journalist who doesn’t have strong verbal communication skills?

Your career achievements rely on your soft skills because it’s how you are able to contribute to a company beyond your qualifications. It’s how you, as a person, are able to grow and make a difference in your career. And growth means commitment and motivation to do your best, which is what employers look for in an employee.

Not to mention, the world revolves around creating worthwhile experiences and that’s where customers’ minds are when it comes to buying a product or service. Those experiences cannot be achieved in a business where soft skills aren’t highlighted and used to build relationships, encourage customer loyalty and maintain a positive business reputation.