Unlike #Hard-skills, which describe a person's technical skill set and ability to perform specific tasks, soft skills are broadly applicable across job titles and industries. It's often said that hard skills will get you an interview but you need soft skills to get -- and keep -- the job.
Good manners, optimism, common sense, a sense of humor, empathy and the ability to collaborate and negotiate are all important soft skills. Other soft skills include situation awareness and the ability to read a situation as it unfolds to decide upon a response that yields the best result for all involved.
Another important soft skill is adaptability. An employee with this attribute has the ability to work in various situations equally well and move from one situation to another with ease and grace. The ability to be diplomatic and respectful even when there are disagreements is also a key soft skill. This skill requires the employee to maintain a professional tone and demeanor even when frustrated.
An employee with a high level of emotional intelligence has good communication skills. He can clearly articulate goals and can work in a team. He knows when to take a leadership role and when to sit back. He knows when to speak, when to listen and when to suggest a compromise.
What are Soft Skills?
The phrase ‘soft skills’ is often used to describe the skills which characterize relationships with other people, or which are about how you approach life and work.
Others phrases that are often used for these types of skills include: ‘people skills’, ‘interpersonal skills’, ‘social skills’ or ‘transferable skills’.
The Relative Importance of Hard and Soft Skills
Job-related expertise is essential in any profession and in many other careers. However, over the last twenty to thirty years, understanding has grown that perhaps the soft skills may ultimately be more important in determining levels of success.
That is, the hard skills are a basic minimum necessary in order to operate in that particular workplace. Whether or not you are successful in your career may depend on how you relate to other people and to work: the so-called soft skills.
DEFINITION of 'Soft Skills'
The character traits and interpersonal skills that characterize a person's relationships with other people. In the workplace, soft skills are considered a complement to hard skills, which refer to a person's knowledge and occupational skills. Sociologists may use the term soft skills to describe a person's "EQ" or " Emotional Intelligence Quotient" (as opposed to "IQ")
BREAKING DOWN 'Soft Skills'
Soft skills have more to do with who we are than what we know. As such, soft skills encompass the character traits that decide how well one interacts with others, and are usually a definite part of one's personality. Whereas hard skills can be learned and perfected over time, soft skills are more difficult to acquire and change.
The soft skills required for a doctor, for example, would be empathy, understanding, active listening and a good bedside manner. Alternatively, the hard skills necessary for a doctor would include a vast comprehension of illnesses, the ability to interpret test results and symptoms, and a thorough understanding of anatomy and physiology.
Three characteristics of a soft skill – . This is the definition I used to determine what should be included in my soft skills list.
1. Added more in-depth descriptions for each soft skill and why they are essential to your career success and fulfillment
2. Eliminated three soft skills from the original list and added three new skills
3.Split out the Soft Skills List for People Skills into two sub-sections – Conventional and Tribal.
To me, for a skill to be considered a soft skill, it needs to have three characteristics.
1. Rules for mastering this skill is not black and white – Unlike hard skills, like math, where the rule for doing it perfectly is always the same, how effective you are at a soft skill changes depends on your emotional state, external circumstance, and the type of people you interact with.
2. This skill is portable and valuable to any job/career – Because soft skills are about your inner strength and interpersonal effectiveness, as long as you work with people, these skills are valuable to your career.
3. Mastering this skill is an ongoing journey – You can reach a level of competency in it but you can always encounter new situations or people that will test your soft skills and push you to learn more.
The Workforce Profile defined about numbers "soft skills", which employers seek. They are applicable to any field of work, according to the study, and are the "personal traits and skills that employers state are the most important when selecting employees for jobs of any type."
Soft Skills List – Self Management Skills
Self-Management Skills address how you perceive yourself and others, manage your emotions, and react to adverse situations. Only when you build an inner excellence can you have a strong mental and emotional foundation to succeed in your career.
1. Growth mindset – Looking at any situation, especially difficult situations, as an opportunity for you to learn, grow, and change for the better. Focusing your attention on improving yourself instead of changing others or blaming anyone.
2. Self-awareness – Knowing and understanding what drives, angers, motivates, embarrasses, frustrates, and inspires you. Being able to observe yourself objectively in a difficult situation and understand how your perceptions of yourself, others, and the situation are driving your actions.
3. Emotion regulation – Being able to manage your emotions, especially negative ones, at work (e.g. anger, frustration, embarrassment) so you can think clearly and objectively, and act accordingly.
4. Self-confidence - Believing in yourself and your ability to accomplish anything. Knowing that all you need is within you now. “Those who believe in themselves have access to unlimited power” – wisdom from Kung Fu Panda
5. Stress management- Being able to stay healthy, calm, and balanced in any challenging situations. Knowing how to reduce your stress level will increase your productivity, prepare you for new challenges and supports your physical and emotional health, all of which you need for a fulfilling, successful career.
6. Resilience – Being able to bounce back after a disappointment or set back, big or small, and continue to move onward and upward.
7. Skills to forgive and forget- Being able to forgive yourself for making a mistake, forgive others that wronged you, and move on without “mental or emotional baggage.” Freeing your mind from the past so you can focus 100% of your mental energy on your near and long-term career goals.
8. Persistence and perseverance – Being able to maintain the same energy and dedication in your effort to learn, do, and achieve in your career despite difficulties, failures, and oppositions.
9. Patience – Being able to step back in a seemingly rushed or crisis situation, so you can think clearly and take action that fulfills your long term goals.
10. Perceptiveness – Giving attention and understanding to the unspoken cues and underlying nuance of other people’s communication and actions. Often times, we are too busy thinking about ourselves and what we are saying, we leave little room to watch and understand others’ action and intentions. If you misinterpret other’s intention, you can easily encounter difficulties dealing with people and not even know why.
Soft Skills List – People Skills
People Skills address how to best interact and work with others so you can build meaningful work relationships, influence others perception of you and your work, and motivate their actions. I have split them into two sections – Conventional and Tribal
Conventional – List of people skills you can find in most job descriptions and you will be assessed on some or all of these in your performance reviews depending on your level.
1. Communication skills – Being able to actively listen to others and articulate your ideas in writing and verbally to any audience in a way where you are heard and you achieve the goals you intended with that communication.
2. Teamwork skills – Being able to work effectively with anyone with different skill sets, personalities, work styles, or motivation level to achieve a better team result.
3. Interpersonal relationship skills – Effectively at building trust, finding common ground, having empathy, and ultimately building good relationships with people at work and in your network. This skill is closely related to Communication Skills. AsMaya Angelou said “I have learned people will forget what you said. People will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you make them feel.”
4. Presentation skills – Effectively presenting your work results and ideas formally to an audience that captivates their attention, engage their input, and motivates them to act in accordance to your desired outcome. While presentation skills is a form of communication skills, I decided to list it separately given the ability to present plays a huge role in any business profession especially as you move up in your career.
5. Meeting management skills – Leading a meeting to efficiently and effectively reach productive results. At least 50% of meetings today are a waste of time.
6. Facilitating skills – Being able to coordinate and solicit well represented opinions and feedback from a group with diverse perspectives to reach a common, best solution.
7. Selling skills - Building buy-in to an idea, a decision, an action, a product, or a service. This is not just for people in sales.
8. Management skills – Creating and motivating a high performing team with people of varied skills, personalities, motivations, and work styles.
9. Leadership skills – Defining and communicating vision and ideas that inspires others to follow with commitment and dedication.
10. Mentoring / coaching skills - Providing constructive wisdom, guidance, and/or feedback that can help others further their career development
“Tribal” – List of people skills that you will not find in any job descriptions. They are also essential to your career success. I call it tribal because they are more “insider knowledge” that you gain from work experience or from mentors. Some people can go through their entire career and not be aware of some of these skills.
11. Managing upwards – Proactively managing your relationship with your boss, his expectations of your work, and his perception of your performance. Whether you are challenged, given opportunities, or recognized at work heavily depends on your ability to communicate, manage expectations, and build a good relationship with your boss.
12. Self-promotion skills – Proactively and subtly promoting your skills and work results to people of power or influence in your organization and network. It is not enough that your boss knows you do great work. You need to subtly build your reputation with all key people that can influence your performance review. This is because hard work alone does not guarantee success.
13. Skills in dealing with difficult personalities – Being able to still achieve the work result needed while working with someone whom you find difficult.
14. Skills in dealing with difficult/unexpected situations – Being able to stay calm and still are effective when faced with an unexpected or difficult situation. This includes being able to think on your feet and articulate thoughts in an organized manner even when you are not prepared for the discussion or situation you are in.
15. Savvy in handling office politics – Being able to understand and proactively deal with the unspoken nuances of office and people dynamics so you can protect yourself from unfairness as well as further your career. Office politics is a fact of life. If you don’t choose to play, it can play you.
16. Influence / persuasion skills - Being able to influence perspectives or decision making but still have the people you influence think they made up their own minds.
17. Negotiation skills - Being able to understand the other side’s motivations and leverage and reach a win-win resolution that you find favorably, satisfies both sides, and maintains relationships for future interactions.
18. Networking skills - Being able to be interesting and interested in business conversations that motivates people to want to be in your network. The bigger and stronger the network you have, the more easily you can get things done (e.g., find a job, get advice, find business partners, find customers, etc…)
How many soft skills do you possess?
I know this is a daunting list. Don’t worry if you don’t have all of them. Most of us don’t. The important thing is to understand why these soft skills are important to your career success and then ask yourself – what soft skills do you already possess and which ones do you want to develop next?