If you’ve ever enrolled in a career-readiness workshop, you have most likely been introduced to the terms “hard” and “soft” skills. These are often used to describe a section on a resume/CV, or the types of skills & traits that an employer is looking for in potential candidates. The unique thing about “hard” and “soft” skills is that there are so many examples of each category, and the desired skills and traits can vary according to industry, employer, and individual.
It would be wise to begin by explaining exactly what these two terms mean. A hard skill is often categorized as ‘a skill that one can learn and develop through education and training’. Some examples of hard skills are language proficiency, technical skills, or a specific college degree – really anyone could obtain these skills with enough practice and time, and that’s the key to what classifies a “hard skill” – practice.
In contrast, soft skills are more ‘personality traits and relate more to social and emotional intelligence’. Soft skills are less about practice and learning and are more related to behavior that a person exhibits in various situations. Some examples of soft skills could be teamwork, problem-solving, responsibility, and critical thinking.
Many examples can be drawn for both hard and soft skills and many of these would be very helpful to a person in their career. As stated before, each industry likely has different skills that may be required or highly suggested. In this blog, we are going to discuss the top 5 soft skills that we believe will stand out to most employers in 2020.
Being open-minded is an incredibly-important trait to have not only as a professional but as a person as well. Open-mindedness is the ability to be receptive and open to new ideas, thoughts, and opportunities.
This trait comes into play a lot in the professional world, as you will no doubt be exposed to many different people, ideas, and opportunities in any job setting. When someone shares their ideas with you, it is pivotal that you are able to consider their thought process and weigh this against your own ideas and thoughts. Especially when it comes to problem-solving, there are many different ways to achieve a goal, and it doesn’t always have to be the idea that you yourself came up with!
Open-mindedness can also come up when new job opportunities are presented to you. If your boss approaches you to see if you’re interested in collaborating with another team on a project outside of your department, an open-minded person would jump at the opportunity! Even if the project is far outside your realm of knowledge, it is great to sometimes take on things that will challenge us to research and learn more, and be open-minded to the possibilities of different areas of work!
When an unforeseen situation arises, are you the type of person who gets easily flustered, overwhelmed, or even angry? Or, do you have the skills to adapt and adjust to new surroundings, responsibilities, and even team members? Amongst the numerous changes brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, many companies have had to rely on their employees’ adaptability skills in order to continue to operate.
Being able to adapt to changes is a valuable skill in both work and life. After all, it is likely that you will face many changes as you progress through your professional career – changes in positions, changes in coworkers, changes in location – the list goes on and on. Being able to keep your focus and stay calm and collected when things may change is an extremely valuable trait that every employer is looking for.
Being able to “step into someone else’s shoes” and understand their perspective, behavior, and feelings – that is what it means to be empathetic. In addition to being a trait that many people value in friends and potential partners, it is also a very valuable trait in the workplace. People want to work with colleagues who look out for each other, genuinely care about their well being, and are able to see things from different perspectives.
Empathy is especially valuable in a remote work setting. Things may happen that cause people to react in different ways, both good and bad, and many times these reactions can bleed into the workplace. For example, if your colleague is suddenly unable to attend a meeting because her child is ill, having empathy is incredibly important. Instead of scolding her for having to miss a meeting last-minute, think again about why she had to take the action of missing the meeting. If one of your colleagues is suddenly very on-edge and acting grumpy towards everyone, try sending them a quick message to ask them how things are going and if they’re doing ok. You may discover an underlying reason for their behavior, such as going through a divorce or breakup. Empathy is understanding what another person is feeling or experiencing from their frame of reference.
Another time empathy can come into play is when a coworker decides to leave your company for another job. While it may be easy to have hard feelings towards that person for “abandoning your team”, try to think instead of why that person left. Are they taking on a much better-paying opportunity, or a job closer to home? If you were in their shoes, would you be making the same decision to leave?
Discipline & Self-Motivation
Are you able to operate in a way that is efficient, effective, and allows you to get your work done? How about doing this when no one is looking over your shoulder every 5 minutes, and you are the only one holding yourself accountable? Do you find yourself easily distracted and getting off task, or can you maintain strict discipline in your work routine?
Motivation is our drive to achieve, to succeed, and to keep moving forward. Staying motivated in a remote work setting with many distractions can prove difficult, but when you do have the trait of self-motivation, you will stand out to any employer. Motivation is an interesting trait in that some people simply have it, and some people do not. Everyone knows people in their life who lack discipline and motivation – these people may be unable to hold a job, lack the discipline to stay focused, or lack the motivation to act on changes that will improve their life and career.
Many experts say that setting a strict routine and sticking to it can greatly improve your discipline and self-motivation. When you are aware of deadlines and tasks that need to get done and are able to drown out distractions and stay focused, there is really only one thing left to do – get it done.
Chances are you will be assigned to many team projects throughout your professional career. This could mean collaborating on planning an event, putting together a budget plan, or working to analyze your company’s current performance as a member of a task force. Teamwork is one of those skills that you will surely need to utilize at one point or another, so those who possess great teamwork skills are certainly valuable to a company.
Working in a team can be very difficult – having to coordinate with other people’s schedules, understand their ways of thinking, and make decisions for the betterment of the group are sure to cause some disagreement. An example of a good team player is one who listens to everyone’s perspective and is not quick to shut down an idea simply because it doesn’t align with their way of thinking. Team players are cooperative and know how to compromise, and are also sure to engage all members of their group while helping to support the team’s success.
Unless you are a single-person company, every organization is a team made up of individuals with their own unique skills, experiences, and perspectives. While the “higher-up” members of the team (CEO, President, COO, CFO, etc) may be considered the “team leaders”, the success of a company (and therefore, the success of a team) rests on each members’ own ability to be a team player.
Overall, there are many other soft skills that could be added to this list. Depending on the type of position/company you are going for, try to research some of the skills that are known to be extremely valuable in that industry. Employers often look for well-rounded employees who possess a diverse array of both soft and hard skills, so make sure you showcase your unique skillset during your next interview!
Interested in building up your existing skill base and learning more about the skills needed for job success? Enroll today in a Virtual Internship program!