Many people think that the hard skills they’ve developed are what will bring them success on the job. Recent studies, however, suggest that it’s the soft – or people – skills, that may be the key to success.
And it all starts with the interview. A survey of 400 HR/hiring professionals conducted for software provider iCMS in mid-2017 found that 75 percent of recruiting professionals have ended an interview early because the candidate didn’t demonstrate the soft skills they were seeking.
Although that may be true, once someone secures a job, soft skills are even more important.
But what exactly are these soft skills, and how do you learn them?
Soft skills are people skills
Soft skills are people skills that allow you to get along with and communicate with others effectively, manage situations and show leadership.
In fact, workplace expert Alison Doyle lists more than 150 of them in an article she wrote for thebalancecareers.com. Doyle divides soft skills into categories and includes all the supporting skills for each category. These categories are:
- Communication – Communication skills are essential to getting along with a boss and co-workers. They include speaking, listening and writing, among others.
- Critical thinking – Critical thinking is becoming increasingly important in a rapidly changing world and includes the ability to be creative, flexible, and innovative and to problem solve and troubleshoot.
- Leadership – Although everyone is not in an official leadership role, leadership qualities are still needed to make decisions, manage conflicts and inspire and motivate the people you work with.
- Positive attitude – People like to work with others who are friendly, happy and easy to get along with.
- Teamwork – As more and more companies are dividing their employees into teams, such skills as collaboration, interpersonal skills and learning how to deal with difficult coworkers are skills that will help people do well in their jobs,
- Work ethic – Companies value workers who are dependable, punctual, organized and can work well under pressure.
Soft skills can be rare among employees
A survey of 291 hiring managers conducted in the U.S. in 2016 by LinkedIn revealed that 59% of them considered soft skills difficult to find.
If soft skills are so hard to find, you can set yourself apart by developing some of the most important ones. Think about the job you are looking for and the industry it’s a part of. What soft skills are important to carry out that type of work?
For example, soft skills are particularly important in customer service jobs, whether it’s being a server at a restaurant, working in retail or providing tech support for a product.
While some of the skills are innate personality traits, many of them can be learned and practiced. But how do you that?
Ways to learn soft skills
There are many ways to learn soft skills. These range from community college courses to online tutorials. You can also improve your soft skills by reading books or joining organizations.
Community college courses. Check out the course offerings of your local community college. Many community colleges offer entire course curriculums on soft skills and job readiness.
Toastmasters International. To learn to be a better communicator, you may want to join your local chapter of Toastmasters International. This is an international organization that promotes communication and public speaking skills and has chapters in 141 countries.
Udemy. Online educational company Udemy offers a series of courses on developing soft skills. They’re not free, but the prices are affordable for most people.
Soft Skills Training: A Workbook to Develop Skills for Employment. Frederick A. Wentz wrote this book, which alternates articles and stories about people’s successes with exercises that make students think about the importance of soft skills.
YouTube. YouTube offers many videos on developing soft skills.
Your local public library. Check with the librarian at your local library for suggested books to read and any online complimentary resources they offer.