Soft Skills

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Soft skills is a term often associated with a person’s “EQ” (Emotional Intelligence Quotient), which is the cluster of personality traits that characterize one’s relationships with other people.

It’s hard to judge which soft skills are most important, but this list is broadly what employers mean when they talk about good soft skills and the skills which are most likely to enable you to build constructive working relationships with others, or to be a constructive and helpful employee.

  1. Communication Skills

Communication skills are always top of the ‘essential skills’ list in any job advertisement. People with strong communication skills can build relationships (from the initial building rapport through to a longer-term relationship), listen well, and vary their communication to suit the circumstances.

If you spend time on nothing else, work on your communication skills.

  1. Making Decisions

Valued by employers for many reasons, being able to make decisions is key to getting on in life. Sometimes the actual decision doesn’t even matter; what matters is that you have made one and moved on.

  1. Self Motivation

People who are self-motivated get on by themselves. They don’t need close supervision and they are good to work with because they are generally positive about life and can be counted upon to keep going. It also helps to work on your personal resilience and adaptability to change.

  1. Leadership Skills

These are the set of soft skills that we least expect someone to develop by themselves. There are many leadership training courses available and much has been written about how to develop your leadership skills.

Our leadership skills pages describe many of the skills needed for effective leadership and how to develop your leadership style.

5.Team-Working Skills

Like leadership skills, there are many training courses to teach you how to work well in a team. However, there is also plenty of thinking to suggest that good communication skills, particularly good listening skills, together with an ability to build rapport will go a long way to support your ability to work well in a team.

  1. Creativityand Problem Solving Skills

Creativity and problem-solving skills are highly valued because they are hard to develop. There are many people who believe that creative thinkers are born, not made, and there are certainly some people who find these skills much easier. But, like other skills, you can develop them if you work to do so and our pages on these topics will give you some ideas about how to do this.

  1. Time Managementand ability to work under pressure

Many would say that these two skills, which often go hand-in-hand, are more an attitude than a skill. However they can also be developed and honed, which is why we include them as skills. Highly valued by employers, they are also very useful for organising a family or a team, and for making sure that the job gets done.

When I researched on Google for a “list of soft skills”, the top article listed is The Top 60 Soft Skills at Work from Rediff.com published in 2007.  The article is pretty good, but the actual list of 60 soft skills is quite confusing.  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 valuableto 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.

Based on these three criteria, I would only categorize a few of Rediff’s 60 skills as “soft skills.” For examples, #60 – Communication skills, #29 – Interpersonal skills, # 30 – Motivational skills.  The rest of the soft skills list seem to be a mixed combination of the following

  • Hard skills–  Math (#1), Grammar (#5), Advanced Math (#18), Ability to Measure (#25), Knowledge of Fraction (#36).   See my post Hard Skills vs. Soft Skills to better understand the distinction.
  • Basic professionalism– Courtesy (#3), Good Attendance (#22), Good personal appearance (#39).
  • Work attitudes – Willing to work second or third shifts (#51), Good attitude (#14),  Wanting to do a good job (#40)
  • Too Broad– Work Experience (#24), Understanding what the world is all about. (#53).

Below I offer you my own soft skills list.  There are 28 soft skills that every professional should develop – 10 Self-Management skills and 18 People Skills.  No matter what type of work you do, you will find value, advancement, and fulfillment in developing these 28 soft skills in your career.

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 toforgive 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. Persistenceand 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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. Skills in dealing with difficult personalities– Being able to still achieve the work result needed while working with someone whom you find difficult.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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…)

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?

Soft skills are general skills—like the ability to accept feedback, work collaboratively, manage your time, etc. These are skills that will help you in a wide range of jobs, not just the target job you’re applying for.

Here are the top ten soft skills in demand for today’s job market:

  1. Communication skills: It’s more than just speaking the language. Communication skills involve active listening, presentation as well as excellent writing capabilities. One highly sought-after communication skill is the ability to explain technical concepts to partners, customers and coworkers that aren’t tech savvy.
  2. Computer and technical literacy: Almost all jobs nowadays require basic competency in computer software, but many job seekers fail to provide this section because they think it’s implied. If computer skills are relevant to your field, insert a “Technical Skills” or “Systems Proficiencies” section to your resume.
  3. Interpersonal skills: The ability to work in teams, relate to people and manage conflict is a valuable asset in the workplace. This skill is important to get ahead–and as you advance in your career, the aptitude to work with others becomes even more crucial. Personal accomplishments are important on your resume, but showing that you can work well with others is important too.
  4. Adaptability:Don’t underestimate the ability to adapt to changes and manage multiple tasks. In today’s technology driven and rapidly evolving business environment, the ability to pick up on new technologies and adjust to changing business surroundings is important. Display your relevancy in the workforce by referencing an example of how you adapted to a sudden change at work in your resume.
  5. Research skills: With Google at the tip of your fingers, it’s easy to find answers to common issues. However, hiring managers seek employees that are skilled at assessing situations, are able to seek multiple perspectives and gather more in depth information.
  6. Project management skills: Organization, planning and effectively implementing projects and tasks for yourself and others is a highly effective skill to have. In the past, this was a job in itself. Nowadays, many companies aren’t hiring project managers because they expect all of their employees to possess certain characteristics of this skill.
  7. Problem-solving skills: The ability to use creativity, reasoning, past experience, information and available resources to resolve issues is attractive because it saves everyone at the organization valuable time. Highlight this skill by listing an example of when your organization had a sticky situation and you effectively addressed it.
  8. Process improvement expertise: The number one goal every company has in common is to save money. Optimizing business procedures can save a company time and money. Quantify results in your resume by listing the before and after facts of projects that you took on.
  9. Strong work ethic: Employers are looking for employees that take initiative, are reliable and can do the job right the first time. Managers don’t have the time or resources to babysit, so this is a skill that is expected from all employees. Don’t make the hiring manager second-guess by sending a resume with typos, errors and over-exaggerated work experience.
  10. Emotional Intelligence: Although you will most likely never see this in a job description, EI is a highly sought after skill that relates to your social skills, social awareness and self-management abilities. Emotional intelligence is usually something that is revealed through actual interactions with the hiring manger, but you can hint that you have it with a strategic resume the addresses areas where your experience and skills are lacking relative to the job requirements.